TED Conversations

Tim Colgan


This conversation will close in 1 days, 4 hours and 3 minutes, on March 17, 2011 at 11:42:39.

Has religion outlived it's usefulness?

I'd like to start this conversation with a quote from Richard Dawkins:

"Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!"

The Guardian, October 11, 2001

So my question is - assuming religion ever did serve a useful function for humanity, is it perhaps time that we get beyond religion and develop other tools to provide for human needs?

NOTE: To people making comments - I encourage you to not only give a brief response to the main question but also try to respond to one or more of the other comments. Keeping it brief, respectful and perhaps phrased as a question will help generate a true conversation. Thanks. And come back and visit when you can.


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    Mar 5 2011: What I'm going to say is for the sincere and honest persons who are atheists:
    This are tow points about where we shouldn't look after God(the God from christianity):
    1. if God exist we can't find out too much about Him from science because science is dealing with what God have created (the science is COMING from He's creation).... How could someone say that I don't belive in the existence of God , because I didn't find anything in science about Him?(of course you didn't)...it isn't the science business to say if God exist or not because science is about He's creation not about Him ...........so all the scientists are talking rubbish about it if they say us that God doesn't exist.
    2. Let's turn now to philosophy........ the philosophy is created by the human mind(by our thinking) ok? but the human mind is very limited (I think it's obvious that) while God(if there is one) is perfect , is unlimited and from it results that we can't rely on philosophy to say us if God exist or not........our mind is very limited while God is perfect......how could we understand Him?how could we find out about Him there? .......so from that results that we can't conceive God and all philosophers are talking rubbish if they say us something about the existence of God relying on philosophy then.
    And not forget the science isn't against the Bible.
    To say something like: "I'm relying on science and on philosophy when I'm saying that God doesn't exist" ........that's the most unscientific thing that you ever could say, because I repeat again isn't the science business to say something about the existence of God .
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      Mar 5 2011: So you're saying that there's no evidence either way and so the existence of God is just an idea over millions of ideas that somehow has a lot of backing? For if philosophers and scientists are talking rubbish about God, who is left to make a case for God? (I personally do think scientists and philosophers have a case to make but let's ignore that for the sake of addressing your argument)

      I mean everyone can have an idea that isn't backed by anything and that's fine, until you let it actively guide your life in a way that affects others. Evangelicals trying to convert, Creationists using religion to deny science, people denied the simple right of freedom of expression because of so-called blasphemy, homosexuals being condemned (not to mention any of the horrible deeds of the past)...if you have an idea, for which the evidence is void, you should not expect more respect from others than people who believe in ghosts or psychics.
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        Mar 6 2011: "For if philosophers and scientists are talking rubbish about God" maybe what I gonna say will seem (bu just will seem because it isn't) very hypocrite : scientists and philosophers are talking rubbish just when they are saying us that God doesn't exist( the reasons for that statement are said above)
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        Mar 6 2011: noone ............ God make for Himself.
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          Mar 6 2011: he's not making any case for himself seeing as the Universe can be seen to run without him. I rest my case, if the idea of God is but an idea, there's no reason why this idea of the Universe should trump all others. You're basing your life on a single unprovable idea. Oh dear.
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        Mar 7 2011: this "unprovable"(I repeat by science methods) gives the most obvious proof about God, and there are yet some scientific proofs ........but many of them depend from what perspective you look at them.
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          Mar 8 2011: Nonsense, unprovability is not proof at all. In computer science and maths there are many problems that are qualified as undecideable because one outcome is unprovable. Does a program P terminate? It's possible to prove it terminates, because when the program terminates it can output yes. It's impossible to prove it doesn't terminate, because it can never output 'no' because it runs indefinitely in that case (you'd have to wait forever just in case it prints 'yes'). Does that mean we somehow assume by its unprovability of termination that it terminates? Of course not, makes no sense.

          Equality, God's unprovability is proof of nothing at all. It's completely illogical. Scientific evidence doesn't vary depending on perspective, that's the point of scientific evidence. If you've got some scientific evidence, bring it forward.

          Also you never answered my post where I ask you what you mean about the universe being as quantum as it can be...which again...doesn't...make...sense...

          Also I've provided backing to my "this is false" statements about the old testament. Please reply to that too. I'm genuinly curious how you fit your old testament literalism with modern science.
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        Mar 8 2011: Unprovability now is a very big proof because as I said we are talking now about supernatural.......it's a wrong to compare that with any normal things (like computer science or maths).Sorry I didn't see your post but
        ok I'll answer you now, I've said there about the creation of the univers being like the most quantum that could ever be : " And God said, Let there be..........." "And God said, Let there be.." that's the most quatum that could ever be : to say and to appear.(and I know enough about quantum mechanics).
        "It says the Moon is a source of light" it don't say that (have you ever read the Bible ar the Genesis at least).
        "the Earth being a circle is another simple one" again the Bible have never said that the earth is a circle (this was said by the some churches).
        and now man, we have to clarify something, you all the time use evolution as explication (and seems to me that you confuse the evolution with the science , sorry if I'm wrong) for me evolution is another wrong worldview so I please you to explain what you wanna say from a more neutral perspective as I'm doing..........you can praise the evolution theory but from a more neutral state, ok?(thank you).
        AS I said the creation was just a matter of days( I'm speaking now from a creationist perspective) and thus don't matter too much who was created first.
        "The theory of evolution is also the reason why you cannot have two people, Adam and Eve as progenitors of a whole species." the evolution theory isn't a reasoon for me ,( I thought you noticed that) so please give me another reason for which the Adam an Eve couldn't be our ancestors.(about incest ....was a different situation then and thus it can't be called incest, think at that situation ).
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          Mar 8 2011: If unprovability is proof, invisible unicorns are in fact real. Would you agree?

          Saying some gibberish and then saying you understand quantum mechanics doesn't mean you understand quantum mechanics. The world cannot be "quantum" as "quantum" refers to an amount not a state. that's like saying the world is as light-year as it could be. I don't believe one second you understand anything about quantum mechanics.

          The passages I refer to are actually in the Bible:

          Genesis 1:16-17 "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night."

          Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers."

          The argument about Adam and Eve remains the same. Incest leads to an increase in lethal pairs of genes. It's a known fact. Unless you also want to deny the field of genetics as you do with evolution.

          Now that I know you are a Creationist, I know I've wasted my time. You claim that your God does not deny science and yet you embrace the views of Creationism which go against the well-established theory of evolution (which is not a worldview, it's science). If you're a young Earth Creationist, I'd like to point out that the theory of relativity proposed by Einstein does conflict with your views as this theory sets a limit at which matter can travel (the speed of light). Given that we receive light from stars that are millions of light-years old, how can you fit that with your view that the Universe is a mere 6,000 years old? If that were the case, many star's light would not have reached us yet. how has it reached us already given Einstein's strict laws of relativity? Geology also does not fit into your view. Radioactive decay is also in conflict with your views (I bet you're not a fan of carbon dating and the like).
        • Mar 9 2011: Thus illustrating my point about what happens when people are in ignorance as to how to read the Holy Bible.

          Theists and atheists alike tend not to understand how to properly read it in order to comprehend it, and the result is the Tower of Babble. Everyone argues and no one learns.

          Genesis tells us that God created in six days; these are not six of our 24-hour days, they are six of GOD's days, which are timeless; there is no measure for them. God is not limited by time or space as we are.

          If you understand how to read the Bible allegorically, you know that this is proven twice via allegorical reading.

          Genesis tells us God created for six days; how long is a 'day' for God?

          2Peter 8 "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord ***as*** a thousand years, and a thousand years ***as*** one day.

          [This means that one of our 24-hour days would be 'as' or 'like' a thousand years compared to one of Gods days ... not saying it "IS" a thousand, but it's "like" a thousand years.]


          Psalm 90:4 "For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch of the night."

          These are Biblical 'proofs' explaining the timelessness of one of Gods days.

          One day of God is not a twenty-four hour day.
          One day of God is not a thousand of our years.
          One day of God is as long as eternity and as short as a blink, because God is not restricted to the constructs of time as we are.

          If Biblical proof is not enough, scientific proof backs it up. This is why I say that science is yet another language which proves the truth of the Word of God.

          Bottom line, the Bible proves it; science proves it. Anyone who 'believes' all of creation took place within six 24-hour days needs to get on board the common sense train.
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          Mar 9 2011: "The smallest unit of time is a kaashta which is 18 times the amount of time it takes to blink an eyelid. 10 kaashtas make a kshanam and 12 kshanams constitute a muhoortam. 60 of these muhoortams constitute a day."

          "In the realm of the Devas or the Gods, a human year constitutes a single day. The brighter half of the year Uttarayanam makes up the day time hours of the Devas while the darker half Dakshinayanam makes up the night time hours."

          "Bhrahma in Indian mythology is referred to as the creator. A thousand catur yugas are said to make up the daylight hours of a single day of Bhrahma's life. Another thousand make up the night time of a single day of Bhrahma. Thus, a single day in Bhrahma's life spans 2000 * 4,320,000 ie. 8,640,000,000 human years."

          The concept of Time can be traced back to so many GODS in numerous mythological stories of so many other cultures. The above is taken from ancient Indian mythology. I don't see how your particular 'God' is so exceptional and extraordinary compared to all the other ones. Or maybe your 'God' and his prophets stole the ideas from India? Plagiarism is a 'sin' in the modern world, by the way.

          If you would like to deem the 'absoluteness' of your particular 'God', it looks like you will need more evidence than just a few nebulous verses on how to interpret mythical hours and imaginary days (at least in India, people are rational and intelligent enough to give exact units to back their story).

          So Kathy, who's being "ignorant" here?
        • 6 days ago: "So Kathy, who's being "ignorant" here?"

          Since you asked ... you are the ignorant one here, Birdia. Just to be clear, by 'ignorant' I mean uniformed; lacking knowledge; lacking comprehension. You are guilty of all three; you are thrice ignorant.

          If you'd have bothered to follow the actual thread, you might have seen that the conversation was not a comparison of religious texts with regard to "the concept of time".

          The gentlemen were discussing the Bible, specifically, and Matthieu stated "... how can you fit that with your view that the Universe is a mere 6,000 years old?"

          This is what my comment addressed, specifically. It was supporting this particular comment as 'provable' via both science *and* the Bible, because it was directly related to the length of a 'day' of 'creation', as *per* the Bible, specifically.

          It has been my observation that many a theist and atheist alike have only a very basic, 'fundamental' understanding of the Bible; they know the 'stories' but not their deeper level(s) of meaning. If I can provide some insight as to how to comprehend it, it is within my right to offer it.

          This is why I used the particular illustration I did; to show how Biblical allegory works. Because so few people, seem to be aware of this particular level of Biblical comprehension.

          Therefore, the reason my comment referenced the Bible, specifically, is because the conversation I commented to was referencing the Bible, specifically, and quoting the Bible, specifically.

          Do you understand?

          Meanwhile, as far as your ignorance goes, you are once again proving it by making hugely erroneous assumptions about me and what my actual beliefs are.

          Yesterday you were "assuming" me to be a Jehovah's Witness.

          Today you state:
          "I don't see how your particular 'God' is so ... "

          "... Or maybe your 'God' and his prophets ... "

          "... the 'absoluteness' of your particular 'God'..."

          This is evidence of your ignorance.
        • 6 days ago: 2.

          All religions have the same foundations, the same roots. Here's a little information about the roots of the Abrahamic God of Judaism and how it relates to the Hindu Brahama, since your mention of Brahama reminded me, I thought I'd share this little tidbit.

          Jews call themselves the 'children of Abraham'.

          Consider the name "Abraham"; if you take the letter 'A' from the beginning and add it instead, to the end of the word, we have "Brahama".

          The letter 'A' in front of a word (or name, in this instance) means "without". Case in point; theist/atheist.

          "Abraham" therefore, means "I am not Brahaman" - the ‘A' means ‘without'; aka, they are Jews, a new religion, not Brahmins.

          Got to love synchronicity.
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          6 days ago: I like your lengthy replies, Kathy.

          And I like how the way you view me or anyone as 'ignorant' for not believing in your 'God' or interpreting the 'holy' book in your way is being published here. Of course we have to be 'ignorant', we are only slightly evolved from the chimpanzees without the "spark of eternal conciousness" that you have, those are your words, remember?

          In my comments to you yesterday, I didn't mention anything about 'Jehovah's Witness', you yourself brought it up and I wonder why. My knowledge of this group is only limited to a link Budimir posted here some days ago. Why? Do you not like the group? Is there something about them that you disagree with?

          Your comment:
          "All religions have the same foundations, the same roots."

          Does that mean your religion share the same roots with 'Jehovah's Witness', too? And if you happen to dislike or have a problem with a religious group that share the same foundation and same roots as your own religion, wow, that is a highly intense situation, isn't it?
        • 1 day ago: "I like your lengthy replies, Kathy"

          Great - then you'll love this. :g:

          Your sarcasm notwithstanding, I reserve concision for those with actual comprehension skills.

          Show me your ability to comprehend what I'm actually typing without adding your slanted perspective to words and their meanings ....

          Show me that you can comprehend what I type without twisting it to suit your agenda ....

          Show me that you are capable of reading what I'm actually saying instead of that which you want to see ....

          Then maybe instead of spending all my time in the tedium of explaining things to you and showing you the err of your thinking, maybe then this can become an actual conversation worth having.

          Until then, don't anticipate concision.


          "And I like how the way you view me or anyone as 'ignorant' for not believing in your 'God' ..."

          Since I've never suggested anyone is "ignorant for not believing in God", this is just more evidence of how convoluted your thinking is. It shows how you twist things in your mind. It proves your thought process to be seriously lacking.

          What I actually said, was "... when people are in ignorance *as to how to read* the Holy Bible" and I quite clearly referred to *theists and atheists alike*.

          How you twist this in your mind to result in claiming anyone is ignorant for not believing in God is something for you to consider as evidence of your own dysfunctional thought process, Birdia.

          I've seen many of your other postings and I do not see you treating anyone else with the open animosity you exhibit towards me ... it seems as though you've made up your mind about me to such an extent that you cannot see straight when it comes to my postings, as you do not comprehend them at all. You twist what I say and make invalid, erroneous claims and rather than having a conversation, I end up spending my time showing you the err of your comprehension, as with your misuse of certain words themselves, such as "wisdom".
        • 1 day ago: 2.
          Now here you are again ... not bothering to consider my comment or the context of the thread to which I posted ... you just pounce on whatever I say and try to make an argument out of it.

          It appears to me as though you're so full of animosity that it's blinding you to what I'm actually saying.

          "... or interpreting the 'holy' book in your way is being published here."

          It is not 'my way' of interpreting the Holy Bible, Birdia; it is the *proper* way of interpreting it.

          There is a formula for the proper way of reading Holy Scriptures; particularly the Holy Bible. You needn't take my word for it - just look up "PaRDeS" if you don't believe me. Educate yourself. Look up Hermeneutics. Learn something before shooting your wholly uninformed missiles at me.

          Just because *you* are unaware of how to properly comprehend these holy texts, does not mean everyone is.

          Study the Zohar; the Torah, the sacred Hebrew alphabet and the Kabbala ... then talk to me about "my way" of interpreting the Bible.

          On second thought ... don't. If you cannot even comprehend what *I* say without twisting it, I fear to imagine how you must misconstrue scripture.

          "Of course we have to be 'ignorant', we are only slightly evolved from the chimpanzees without the "spark of eternal conciousness" that you have, those are your words, remember?"

          Actually, I never said anyone was "only slightly evolved from the chimpanzees"; those are *your* words, not mine. This is how you choose to perceive what I wrote. It's a perfect example of how your twisted mind works ... you are seeing anything I type through your warped perception. It shows more about you than it does me.

          What I actually said to Budimir in response to his chimpanzee link was:

          "YOU may think you're a 'cousin' to the chimpanzee, in fact you well may be; this would certainly explain that which separates the atheist from the theist.

        • 1 day ago: 3.

          "... Perhaps the atheist is nothing more than a chimp's cousin ... this would explain the failure to evolve spiritually. ::smile::"

          Keyword: :::smile:::

          So, not only are you putting words in my mouth, you're taking the comment WAY too seriously ... because you're choosing to see it as negatively as you possibly can.

          Need proof? It's right there after my comment. See that "::smile::"? It's indicative of friendliness, which I followed with something else you seem to have missed entirely:


          Do you know what facetiousness is, Birdia? "Playfully jocular; humorous."

          Maybe you have no sense of humor; maybe you just don't 'get' or like my sense of humor. That is beside the point now, as this is just another proof of your poor comprehension skills, because between the "::smile::" and flat out stating it to be "[Facetiousness.]" the proof stands, as I clearly indicated that my comment was of a lighthearted, playful nature, and you still failed to comprehend it as such.

          So blinded were you in your desire to find my comment to be as hateful as your own, that you didn't even notice the smile or the indicator stating my comment to be 'facetiousness'. If you insist on taking it personally or negatively, that's on you ... that's your perspective, not mine.

          So next time you want to see something in me, Birdia, know how it reflects on you.

          But thank you for proving my point with regard to perception and deception.

          "In my comments to you yesterday, I didn't mention anything about 'Jehovah's Witness', you yourself brought it up and I wonder why."

          You wonder why your detailed description of the practices of Jehovah's Witnesses caused me to think you were referring to Jehovah's Witnesses?
        • 1 day ago: 4.
          You said "I have very good friends who belong to various religions including yours."

          Except, I do not belong to any religion, Birdia. But don't let facts stop you ... which religion are you 'including' as being 'mine'?

          You said "In the city I'm currently living in, representatives of your faith ..."

          My faith? Again, you do not even know what 'faith' that is, so once again, you are making assumptions ... and you know what they say about people who *assume*. So what 'faith' is it you're assuming me to be a part of?

          You continued with: "...have been for years carrying the 'holy' book around, stopping pedestrians on the streets, knocking on people's doors, intruding on travelers' activities in public parks while they enjoy the sun sitting by the lakes, preying on drug-addicted teens and old people in impoverished areas, asserting their churches' importance and superiority over all other non-aggressive religions on the landscape."

          This is a spot-on description of the practices of Jehovah's Witnesses.

          To further illustrate my point, you went on to say "... how would you like it if ever a buddhist knocking on your door and trying to convince you that the Buddha is more important than you, your friends, and your family, and you should worship and bow to him only?"

          Sure sounds like JW to me.

          In either case, I've stated it before ... I am not affiliated with any religion, so you can stop with your ludicrous and prejudiced assumptions about my 'faith' and my 'religion' and find something else to assign your anger to because this is a case of displaced anger if ever I've ever seen one.
        • 1 day ago: 5.
          "My knowledge of this group is only limited to a link Budimir posted here some days ago. Why? "

          You claim limited knowledge of the group, yet you described their practices so aptly. Are you claiming it's not JW?

          "Do you not like the group?"

          Wow, you're actually asking me a question instead of making assumptions! Atta girl.

          "Is there something about them that you disagree with?"

          This is not about me, or what I agree/disagree with. It's about clarity of mind. If you cannot comprehend something, how can you make an informed decision about it?

          This is my point with regard to the doctrine upon which religions are based. Believers and non-believers alike fail to comprehend the doctrine itself.

          Perspective is the lense through which the mind tricks us. Being 'aware' of our thought processes, what motivates us, what 'triggers' our emotions, et cetera, requires self knowledge and mindful discipline.

          Either your mind controls you or you control it. Whether we refer to it as spiritual awareness or conscious awakening - it requires that we first comprehend the depths of our own psychology. It requires that we first learn how to think properly.

          When comprehended beyond the 'story' level, Genesis describes the formation of the psyche and it's corresponding attributes within it's physical manifestation; the brain.

          Holy Scripture speaks in a language of symbolism ... people who only read it at the 'story' level are only seeing the symbols, and not understanding what they represent.

          "5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

          What is the light? The light is wisdom; the light is ever-increasing higher levels of consciousness. What is the darkness? The darkness is our conscious mind, which rules the instinctual and intellectual level of cognizance.

          Without understanding our own psychology, our own sub-conscious, the 'darkness' of the 'conscious' mind cannot comprehend the 'light' of higher levels of consciousness.
        • 1 day ago: 6.

          See all the fun you're missing by failing to comprehend holy scripture? ::grin::

          If you are not in control of your thoughts, then you are held captive by them; held captive like the 'Jews' were 'enslaved in Egypt'. See how these metaphors work?

          When it comes to levels of psychological consciousness, these levels (instinct, intellect) relate to the physical portion of our being; they are the lower, or 'outward' levels of our consciousness. We must delve (seek) deeply within our own psyche in order to 'find' enlightenment.

          These lower levels of consciousness are in 'darkness' as they cannot comprehend the 'light' of higher consciousness. Ergo "... the darkness comprehended it not." Meaning we are (intellectually) unaware of the depth of our own psychology.

          Being 'aware' that you are incarnate and able to think is but a function of the intellectual mind; it is not being 'awakened' or 'enlightened' within the higher levels of consciousness.

          At the root of religious doctrine are the truths of life. They are all connected ... they are all rooted in wisdom. They are all worth getting to know.

          "Does that mean your religion share the same roots with 'Jehovah's Witness', too?"

          Again, I am not affiliated with any organized religion. But yes, all religious doctrine share the same foundation. How people misconstrue these doctrine is another story.

          "And if you happen to dislike or have a problem with a religious group that share the same foundation and same roots as your own religion, wow, that is a highly intense situation, isn't it?"

          "My own religion" ... once again, your assumptions are getting in the way of truth.

          That is your erroneous perspective. If you have a problem with ANY thing, the real problem exists within yourself and your own mind, your own psychology.

          PS - FYI: No need to fret over the length of my postings ... I'll be deleting my posts in a day, before this conversation officially closes.

          Happy now?
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          1 day ago: Firstly, my happiness doesn't depend on fighting for any faith, so I have no answer to your "Happy now?" question. But swimming and rock climbing make me happy, if you're curious to know.

          Secondly, deleting your posts in a day? Why? You are one of the children of God, are you not? So why not let God's words manifest through you and let them be the 'wisdom' for all of us who are too 'ignorant' to recognize them?

          Kathy, it's taken you 4 days and 6 posts to justify your position and reply to my one comment. I respect that. And I noticed you've maybe seen a lot from my comments in the other conversations and utilized them after your careful 'interpretation' for the sake of your argument here, which is fine. To be honest with you, I couldn't read your 6 posts carefully, I've only skimmed through them, as my life doesn't allow me to spend too much time to fight over God, I'm very sorry but it's the truth. I admire spirituality in general, but I find religion trivial.

          To be honest, this type of religious debates are very common around me as I love philosophy, I don't take them anymore than a mere exchange of words as they hardly have any impact on how I feel about myself, my life or how much I love my religious and non-religious friends in real life. The only difference is, while my religious friends love me enough to let me challenge their faith incessantly, they are also aware that I have not a single faith for them to challenge, so how can I be 'wrong' in realm of faith?

          Let's go back to the my first reply to Tim's question, "Has religion outlived it's usefulness?":

          17 Feb 2011
          "To get to the root of the problem, ultimately one has to ask: why would anyone need a god, or any god, to make his/her life seemingly more meaningful and destiny more certain?"

          In your opinion, was there any judgement in this question? or was it only a challenge?

          In my experience, this is the type of questions that would set off the 'fire' in any debate that involves 'the absolute God'.
        • 19 hours ago: In your 'skimming' did you miss my question?

          If you weren't describing Jehovah's Witness as the religion to which you assumed me to be a part, then which religion were you ascribing to me?
        • 17 hours ago: 17 Feb 2011
          "To get to the root of the problem, ultimately one has to ask: why would anyone need a god, or any god, to make his/her life seemingly more meaningful and destiny more certain?"

          In your opinion, was there any judgement in this question? or was it only a challenge?


          Given that you first referred to, then subsequently dismissed religion as 'a problem', there is no 'challenge' as it is simply a judgmental statement.

          Referring to God as 'the root of the problem', is not a challenge, but a judgement.

          Religious doctrine, properly comprehended and sincerely applied, is enlightening.

          Religious doctrine, when misunderstood and misrepresented by those whose minds are impure and disorganized, is the 'problem'.

          Therefore, the 'problem' with religion is not God; and the 'problem' with God is not a person's "need" to make their "life more meaningful and destiny more certain".

          The 'problem' is in the mind of mankind, and these religious doctrine exists to help mankind improve the mind and become enlightened beings, and that is what true 'religion' is for ... it's a 're-union-' with our higher consciousness(es) through which, we can directly access our 'Father' ... because God is the 'Father' of all consciousness.

          When you witness the 'problems' within 'organized' religions, you're witnessing what happens when people are unaware of the power of their own minds ability to connect with God. You're witnessing what happens when people put their faith in man instead of God.

          So the problems that you see with religion is not the doctrine of the religion itself, and it's not God, it's all within the mind of man.

          But you just blame it all on God and religion, thus absolving mankind. It simply does not work that way; it is, in fact, quite the opposite.
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          14 hours ago: Look at the title and the description again. If you can pose an argument against the idea being discussed, others can also pose an argument supporting it. That only means we are engaging in a public debate. Many links have been posted to support the religion/war connection, but I wouldn't say anyone is "blaming" anyone else here.

          TED is not a church, people can openly discuss the pros and cons of religion in this conversation, however, if you have any issue with this openness, you can flag the entire forum.

          There are better ways to engage people in reading your comments such as keeping them concise with a less frequent use of asterisks.
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          13 hours ago: Regarding your 'assumption', I'm posting my previous comment here in case you missed it:

          "In my comments to you yesterday, I didn't mention anything about 'Jehovah's Witness', you yourself brought it up and I wonder why. My knowledge of this group is only limited to a link Budimir posted here some days ago. Why? Do you not like the group? Is there something about them that you disagree with?"
        • 9 hours ago: I made no assumption.

          There you go again, proving your failure to comprehend. You defined the practices of Jehovah's Witnesses without naming them. I've asked you many times, if you did not mean JW, then who?

          You aren't answering, you're circling.

          Thanks for proving my point.
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          8 hours ago: Hmm...

          You comment:
          "There you go again, proving your failure to comprehend. You defined the practices of Jehovah's Witnesses without naming them. I've asked you many times, if you did not mean JW, then who?"

          What are you talking about? What practices did I define? Please be more specific.

          Would you like to start a new conversation on Jehovah's Witnesses? That will be interesting, I know very little about this group, let alone their practices.
        • 8 hours ago: Posting #4 above, Birdia

          .Perhaps your comprehension would improve if you actually read it, instead of skimming.

          Give it a try.

          Oh, by the way ... I don't have a 'problem' with the 'openness' of TED; what I take issue with is your judgmental comments against that which you have only 'philosophized' about.

          You appear to have no practical experience with religion, you know nothing about the actual doctrine and yet you make comments as if you're an authority on the subject, when it is clear you know nothing about either.

          All you're doing is proving your prejudice against those who do.
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          8 hours ago: So, are you saying their 'holy book' is the same as yours? I certainly have never implied that, but from what I know, there are many religious texts that are considered 'holy' out there.
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          8 hours ago: I noticed you've added on to your comment, and here's my response.

          Your comment:
          "You have no practical experience with religion, you know nothing about the actual doctrine and yet you make comments as if you're an authority on the subject, when it is clear you know nothing about God or religion.

          All you're doing is proving your prejudice against those who do."

          All my life, I went to private schools that were established by one church or another, so perhaps I'm just a natural repellent for anything faithful people claim to be 'holy'. It is true, I think 'God' is a joke. Is that considered a blasphemy? Will I land in hell for it?

          If I would indeed land in hell or considered 'ignorant' or less 'moral' for not believing in 'God' and the 'holy text', then that would be regarded as a prejudice, but certainly not one that had come from me.
        • 7 hours ago: Yes, I added the words 'appear to' ...and I did so immediately upon re-reading my post, so sue me.

          Still haven't answerd the actual question, Birdia ... which religion were you describing?
        • 7 hours ago: If you want to know what I believe, ask me. It's rude of you to continue to make these assumptions, particularly knowing I've told you time and again that I ascribe to no organized religion.

          Or did you just 'skim' over that, too?
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          7 hours ago: Calm down. I just missed your post, that's all.

          I guess you have never gotten my point since you take the matter so personally, but it's only natural for faithful people. Ok, I'll spell it out for you:

          All religions and their doctrines as a whole.

          (Besides, I'm no more ruder than people who think they are superior than others simply because they consider themselves "spiritual". I consider Gandhi spiritual, and I doubt he would ever make the kind of comments you've been making here.)
        • 6 hours ago: Oh, I've gotten your point, Birdia ... it's not that difficult.

          Your thinking is convoluted. I've proven it time and again yet you continue to fail to comprehend.

          No wonder you think God is a joke ... you're unable to think straight.

          When you ascribe certain attributes to me which are false, I have every right to take it personally.

          All religions as a whole do not go knocking door to door.

          You specifically described the practices of Jehovah's Witnesses's, assumed me to be one and when I labeled the definition you gave, you claim ignorance of that which you described.

          Yet somehow, you don't see this as convoluted?

          How convenient for you.
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          6 hours ago: Hahaha :) You are really bothered by "Jehovah's Witnesses", aren't you?

          The door-to-door thing was one example describing to what extent any religion can be both invasive and intrusive to people's personal lives; thus supporting the argument: the danger to mingle religion with politics (the description of this topic). It's up to you if you would like to take it up so personally.

          Besides, throwing me all the insults won't make your position more 'holy'.
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        Mar 8 2011: Matthie to give you scientifics proofs right now is imposible here , if you really want more details visit :
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          Mar 8 2011: Eduard: I watched some of the videos on that page and they seem to argue in favor of the Big Bang theory and creation over more then a few days.
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          Mar 8 2011: Or you could debate instead, which is the reason why we're here in the first place. Why don't you do what I do and read your own material so that you can use it in argument? Sending me links just looks like the ultimate cop-out.
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          6 days ago: Thanks for the posting though. I like seeing the various viewpoints.
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        6 days ago: Unicorns........I don't know , but they have nothing to do with what I said.
        And I wasn't talking about a state , I'm really interesting how you understood that.(I was talking about that very less intuitive particles way of taking values , I tried to bring the Bohr principles to extreme.......anyway.. .... ).
        Genesis 1:16-17 "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.".....but here isn't say anything about the fact that moon is a source of light , it say just that the moon lights govern the night.
        Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers." how I understand, here it is said about the circular surface of the earth, not about the fact that earth is a circle.(i
        Adam and Eve have had a lot of children including daugthers and in Mesopotamia at that time wasn't something unusual to get married with your sister.(look at the archaeological evidence from Ur ,Uruk and others localities) and in the Bible are mentioned and others posibilities.
        I never said that I'm a creationist , I've just said that creation is in my opinion more plausible than evolution(with other words of course)...... evolution is a worldview rooted in science , more exatcly it rest upon the scientific facts interpetations.
        From creationist perspective it's easy to give an answer to this so called problem with this huge distances between earth and other stars. Look an explication: at the beginning God have created as it is said in the Bible all celestial corps , and it's posible that the light to reach then suddently on the earth withuot traveling all the distance , it's what I call the God-hand ,and from then the light is traveling ( then was the beginning and then when the things was created was set and the natural laws including what say us relativity) ..........this could be an explication .
        I accept the carbon dating , what I don't accept is the interpetation of this scientific facts
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          6 days ago: I'm trying to illustrate a point with the invisible unicorns. If the unprovability of a concept is the ultimate proof of something, the existence of invisible unicorns is ultimately proven by its unprovability using your argument.

          Genesis 1:16-17 the light of the Sun (which in both case is what illuminates Earth) is treated as two different lights. The Moon is treated as its own light which it isn't.

          Isaiah 40:22, in what way is the surface of the Earth circular? There is nothing circular about the surface of the Earth. The Earth is a spheroid. That much is true. But given that the surface of the Earth wraps around in all directions, there really is nothing circular.

          In the case of Adam and Eve, the fact that Adam and Eve had a lot of children or that incest was somehow alright back then (so you accept moral relativism?) doesn't change the fact that genetically, they probably could not make it past 2-3 generations because of genetic similarity and lethal pairs of genes (if we have two copies). Everyone has copies of recessive genes which are lethal. If you aquire a pair of these genes you die. Obviously, if you reproduce with someone who shares the same parents, you will have a very high chance of aquiring lethal pairs and this will increase with following generations. All of Adam and Eve's grandchildren would be either extremely sickly or dead.

          Evolution is not a worldview. Opinions don't count with science, only evidence. The theory of evolution follows the rigorous scientific methodology and to go against it is to deny so many known facts in biology.

          Your explanation of how light trumped the speed of light at some time before the laws of nature were instaured contradicts so many known facts about the Universe such as the fact that many of the stars that we see in our sky that are millions of years old are 2nd generation stars, that is, stars that were formed from the explosion of the first stars. They were bound by the speed of light and yet we see them.
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          6 days ago: Besides, if that were even the case, the light from all these distant stars would immediately dissapear the moment the speed of light was put into action. Your scenario, apart from being high fantasy solves absolutely no problems. I bet you don't accept the Big Bang theory either for convenience.

          Carbon dating has been cross-correlated with other methods of dating closed-systems, you cannot just pretend that somehow nature gets its quantities wrong just to fit your idea of a young Earth.

          Your understanding of science is extremely poor, but I suspected that already, especially when you said the world is as quantum as can be (which doesn't mean anything in the English language). You cannot go from a fixed conclusion and search out some convenient premise, you start with premises that lead to a conclusion.
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        6 days ago: "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
        and its people are like grasshoppers.
        He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
        and spreads them out like a tent to live in." I think it's enough clear that here it isn't said anything about the earth having a circular form. ....(and the same for the case with the moon)
        "Your understanding of science is extremely poor, but I suspected that already, especially when you said the world is as quantum as can be (which doesn't mean anything in the English language)".....I said the creation is the most quantum that could ever be and who knows something about quantum mechanics will understand what I wanted to say. "You cannot go from a fixed conclusion and search out some convenient premise, you start with premises that lead to a conclusion." .............(lol) ..........according to the God very essence the science begin from Him , He's the source of the science.( it was in my mind all the time and all my arguments rest upon it )...........I won't say anything more because I think that at least this statement provide enough light for understanding what I said.
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      Mar 5 2011: Eduard - Your god sounds like a pantheistic god. Is god simply everything?
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        Mar 6 2011: no Tim , I don't know why do you have the impresion of a pantheistic god because I didn't meant that.
        All what I said is that science can't tell us if God exist or not , because its object of research is the creation of God not God Himself (the pantheists say us exact what's opposite)
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          Mar 6 2011: If god is not everything, is he finite?
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          Mar 6 2011: Eduard: I'm trying to understand your conception of GOD.

          Tell me if this agrees with your understanding:

          GOD is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. GOD is everywhere and came before all things. GOD is incomprehensible in his entirety by humans since the mind of a human is finite and GOD is infinite. However GOD is manifest in all we see and think. He is the creator of all things.
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        Mar 6 2011: "However GOD is manifest in all we see and think." that's the pantheistic part and it's false (God in his essence is good , all we see and think isn't all the time good=a childish argument but it reflect what I wanna say).
        "GOD is everywhere" he's omnipresent......He's like a spirit............yeah that is what I wanted to say but not that was the central point there.
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          Mar 6 2011: How about this:

          GOD is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. GOD is everywhere and came before all things. GOD is incomprehensible in his entirety by humans since the mind of a human is finite and GOD is infinite. He is the creator of all things.
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          Mar 6 2011: Correct Tim; you got it.

          He also came to earth & introduced himself to us, died to pay for our sins, & resurrected to prove his power over death. He is a real historical character. The only candidate as far as I know. It is true that we cannot be certain he was here scientifically, but that would make Julius Caesar a bit iffy as well. At least we can check the evidence & decide for ourselves.

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          Mar 6 2011: The word G-O-D is a word consisting of three letters G, O, D. Words in a way are metaphors. They don't have meaning in themselves but serve as placeholders for something beyond themselves. Try my last post with "GOD" replaced with "the universe" and "he" replaced with "it" (plus my final addition).

          The universe is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The universe is everywhere and came before all things. The universe is incomprehensible in its entirety by humans since the mind of a human is finite and the universe is infinite. It is the creator of all things through the process of evolution (eternal change).

          Now I agree that a personification of the universe is a bit easier to think of. But in any case GOD is not a person. And people seem to be drifting away from the conviction that GOD is a "he".

          I totally agree with you that it "isn't the science business to say something about the existence of God".

          When the word GOD is defined properly (and we must have some definition if we are going to discuss the concept), then "his" existence is a tautology. If GOD is what you define him as then if anything exists then GOD exists. The debate over GOD's existence is immaterial.

          What we do need to debate though, is how literally we should be interpreting the bible. Especially since those who claim to know the true meaning seem to exploit that conviction to control others.
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          Mar 6 2011: Is God so omnipotent he can change his omniscient mind?
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          Mar 7 2011: Hi Tim
          "The universe is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The universe is everywhere and came before all things.:
          The universe cannot be omniscient as it has no brain.
          The universe cannot be omnipotent as it's power is finite.
          The universe is only omnipresent within itself. Even I can claim that.
          Current science assumes the universe is finite, not infinite.
          If the universe arose by itself, then it would be an effect without a cause; not scientific.
          "GOD is not a person" If we are talking about the Christian God; yes He is.
          This way of looking at things does get a mention as the attitude towards the end of the world.--

          Romans 1v5 "Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself,"

          I would question that bible believers are more prone to control than the rest of humanity. I don't think Gadaffi, or Mugabe are big bible fans. Surely if the bible is taken literally then the 'true meaning" is plain to all. Isn't exploitation more likely when a Guru is necessary to explain it to you. Aka the Roman Catholic church holding services in latin, & the priests becoming the Gurus ?
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          Mar 7 2011: Man Peter. Just when I think I've got you cornered, you come back for more. Don't agree with your reasoning, but sure do admire your fortitude.

          My use of the word "universe" was unfortunate. What if we use the word "totality" to mean all things, all ideas, all thoughts, all universes and all creators. That would include all knowledge, all power and be everywhere. How does that differ from your conception of god?
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          Mar 7 2011: Hi Tim

          That's a very slack set of attributes from someone coming from the 'scientific' camp. We are in territory which is totally unknowable. (Is that a word ?)

          God is a spirit, now also incarnate in a man. He is all the 'omnis'. That's as much as He choses to reveal, & it is more than we can understand. As I have said before, "does your goldfish understand your occupation?"

          Sometimes we're just out our depth. He loves you & wants to care for you; that's as much as I know. Not enough ? That's your choice.

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          Mar 7 2011: No debating that :-(
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          Mar 8 2011: "God is a spirit, now also incarnate in a man. He is all the 'omnis'. That's as much as He choses to reveal, & it is more than we can understand. As I have said before, "does your goldfish understand your occupation?"

          Sometimes we're just out our depth. He loves you & wants to care for you; that's as much as I know. Not enough ? That's your choice."

          I'm very sorry, Peter, it sounds like a ghost story parents would use to scare their children into behaving and not questioning anything. It is giving me the creeps.
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          Mar 8 2011: @Matthieu "Is God so omnipotent he can change his omniscient mind?"

          Think of your thought as the current state of your brain. Think of God's thought as "the current state of everything".

          Can you change your mind? Or does it change on it's own? Does that make you impotent?
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        Mar 7 2011: Hey Tim read in every dictionary , look in philosophy, seek wherever you want .........GOD IS A PERSON.(or at least a supernatural power).
        "I totally agree with you that it "isn't the science business to say something about the existence of God"." I'm very glad that you accept it.................and now : What base do you rely on when you say that God doesn't exist?
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          Mar 7 2011: From my understanding (see above), if god is defined properly arguing existence is a tautology. By definition god exists.
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          Mar 8 2011: Hi Tim

          So you agree that God exists, but not as a person ? You see the universe as God ? Also God (being the universe) has no brain ? You're really just calling matter God; I guess that's materialism, which is fair enough.

          Consider Mt.Rushmore. We have all the natural resources to carve the presidents heads. We have wind, rain, blown sand, & as much time as you like. Would a materialistic hypothesis stand ? Not likely, it is obvious that there was an intellect behind the formation.
          However consider the four presidents themselves; billions of times more complex; & we have a full blown materialistic scientific theory for their manufacture. I find that a bit bizarre, don't you ?

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          Mar 8 2011: Peter: I'm sure you know this one.

          If man is so complex he must have a creator, then wouldn't the creator be even more complex and need a creator?

          Where does that logic get us?

          Glad to see you hadn't given up on me Pete. Had me worried there.
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          Mar 8 2011: Hi Tim

          Give up on you ? You seem interested & respectful, you deserve respectful replies.

          I suppose the same logic is used by Dawkins with Panspermia. Is it called "Infinite regress"?.

          As close as I can understand the logic is this. If God is material then he is created & by default would require a creator. As God (my one) is spirit, He is non material. As he has existed eternally & non-material He is the only candidate for the ultimate creator. Because he has always existed He requires no creator. This is the logic I use to understand the One eternal spirit God of the bible. I am a flawed human, so I'm probably wrong. I'm not going to mention goldfish.


          & Birdia

          Certainly didn't mean to give you the creeps. It is a difficult subject to explain, as it does go beyond our understanding. So does building a universe, it is all a bit supernatural. Sorry about that, not meant to be scary.

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          Mar 8 2011: Thanks Peter, that's reassuring.

          Hope you don't mind me asking:

          • Is this 'God' a ghost (as you described him as a spirit)? The words such as "Holy Ghost" and "Holy Spirit" are used all the time in the religious context. How is this "Holy Ghost" different from the ghosts we see in scary movies?

          • Panspermia? How is a theory on space bacteria related to 'God'? Sounds like a bit of a stretch, no?

          (Sorry, I'm not so ready to be as "respectful" as Tim here)
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          6 days ago: Hi Birdia

          The God of the bible has three facets. Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. We too have three facets, Body, Mind, & Spirit. It is our Spirit that is made in God's image. It will survive the death of our body, whether we believe or not.
          If & when we ask God to come into our lives, His Holy Spirit joins with ours & guides us. This is the best I can explain it in simple terms.
          Holy Spirit & Holy Ghost are just different names for the same thing. The movies take advantage of our sub-conscious knowledge of the fourth (spirit) dimension to scare & entertain us. I don't want to get into whether scary ghosts exist or not. It is an interesting study, but unlikely to raise any enthusiasm among those who don't even acknowledge a spiritual dimension to life. The Holy Ghost however has nothing in common with scary ghosts (if they exist at all).

          Tim was making the point about any god needing a more powerful god to create him, who in turn would need a more powerful creator etc.....ad infinitum. This is the infinite regression argument , & of course cannot be true, as eventually we need a creator who was not created.
          Dawkins postulates panspermia as a possibility for life's beginnings. However this does suffer from the infinite regression problem. The God of the bible is, as we said, a spirit; ie He has no material being, no atoms. As such He is not affected at all by the passing of time. I believe this agrees with the latest science. So we have a non-created (How can one create something with no atoms ?) being who lives in a timeless eternity. If that being had the power to create our universe, then the bible would make a lot of sense.

          I know it's a stretch, but we are hear, we are magnificent, & we've got this book that spells it all out. The only problem we have is we don't realise just how dumb we are. We seem to think that it's all very simple & we've got it all almost worked out. Bad mistake !

          I find you just as respectful as Tim.

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          6 days ago: Hi Peter, thanks for the in-depth explanation of the "spirit/ghost" in your religion. It is indeed a fascinating story, I agree with you and can certainly see how "dumb" people can be in thinking any book written by men of limited knowledge can serve as the ultimate explanation of the cosmos, nature and life with all of their complexities.

          Given our knowledge of so many variants of the creation story in different cultures, your information there doesn't seem to provide enough evidence to support the 'absoluteness' of this 'God' you are talking about here as the 'ultimate creator' of all things in our universe.

          Would you mind eleborating on this with more concrete evidence?

          (And please let's not stretch as far as panspermia and the theory of space bacteria this time. Thank you Peter.)
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          6 days ago: Peter: Just to correct one misconception. I don't think we will ever get it all "worked out". Think of science this way. The universe (the totality if you will) is an infinite plane. Our knowledge is a circle on that plane. As our knowledge grows, the the edge of that circle keeps getting bigger making us more and more aware of how little we know. But that's a wonderful (full of wonder) thing.
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          6 days ago: Hi Tim
          I like that way of putting it. As the song said "The more I find out, the less I know".

          Hi Birdia

          How wonderful it would be if I could give you concrete evidence. No-one can say how the world came to be with any certainty. The present scientific "Best Shot" is the Big Bang. Think about it. Nothing exploded & produced masses of Hydrogen/Helium that shot off in all directions. Boyles Gas Law states something like 'Gas expands to fill space'. However in direct contradiction of this law we are told that the gas 'clumped together' under gravity to form stars. There is nothing 'scientific' about that.

          The DNA in our bodies contains what amounts to a computer program which instructs the cells how to make a person. This program is mind-boggingly complex. With all our knowledge we can only scratch the surface of it. The obvious explanation is that some intelligence greater than ours put it together. The scientific community is telling us otherwise, but of course cannot demonstrate this in the lab. There is nothing 'scientific' about that.

          The whole big bang - evolution scenario is a possibility; the god scenario is another possibility. If you go the god route, then there is a choice of gods. If you go the evolution route there are also different choices. I believe that the bible is the key, because it makes sense in the light of history. I am convinced that I am right. Each one of us must decide on the evidence. Not on the opinion of others; no matter how qualified.

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          5 days ago: Peter,

          I find your reply puzzling and didn't address any question I've asked. I'm not a scientist, but out of the observations of everyday life, here's my reply to your 'claims'.

          • "The present scientific "Best Shot" is the Big Bang. Think about it. Nothing exploded & produced masses of Hydrogen/Helium that shot off in all directions."

          – Think about the dormant quality of gunpowder, the blackpowder that explodes into colorful and beautiful fireworks. Different make-ups, similar effects.

          • "The DNA in our bodies contains what amounts to a computer program which instructs the cells how to make a person...The obvious explanation is that some intelligence greater than ours put it together...There is nothing 'scientific' about that."

          – Think about genetically modified food. If there's "nothing scientific" about that, no scientists (humans with mere genes) can modify nature, which, according to you, is created by this omnipresence deity so 'holy' and 'sacred'. If mortals made up of matters can modify and create other matters, I can see nothing 'holy' and 'sacred' about this deity your mind is so much attached to.

          • "I believe that the bible is the key, because it makes sense in the light of history. I am convinced that I am right. Each one of us must decide on the evidence. Not on the opinion of others; no matter how qualified."

          – If that's the case, what makes this group of 'writers' and their followers qualified to impose their biased reports to others as 'truths' that are in fact nothing more than a myth-ridden account that breeds misogyny and racial hatred for the sake of making themselves look more powerful and special in a sea of mortals?

          Now, it's my turn to urge you:

          Think about it, Peter, why do you need to attach yourself to a deity in order to love and feel safe in the world? Can you not marvel at the wonders of this universe with a dignified aloneness as an individual among other individuals? What are you afraid of?
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          5 days ago: Hi Birdia.

          I am not a scientist either; I am a mechanical engineer. I have a great hunger to understand how things work. I have a Harley Davidson motorcycle, & know how that works. It was made in a factory covering many acres by many thousands of skilled workers. there was no other way to make it.
          Imagine, if you will, a HD motorcycle with a factory "inside" the motorcycle; which must still be the same size to operate effectively. Now that HD is capable of producing the whole HD range of engines, colors etc. As it is being ridden it collects raw materials from the environment & produces regularly new motorcycles.
          With such complication there are bound to be mistakes, so we need fault diagnosis & repair to be built in as well. We now have a product that is far outwith human abilities. Now a HD is a simple machine, could we imagine a self-replicating Space Shuttle ?
          You see where this is going. This is called a Von Neumann Machine. This is what you & I are.

          I am not afraid of God, or no-God. I am in awe of the engineering I see around me. I know for a fact that such things can never be the result of 'natural forces'; intelligence is required. To me it's just common sense. I have looked for persuading evidence from the evolution lobby, but it's just not there. Everything is an interpretation of the evidence, which could equally well be interpreted in another way. I will continue to look; what convinces you that there is no God ?

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          5 days ago: I love motorcycles!! :)

          Thanks for the story, Peter.

          Your comment:
          "I am not afraid of God, or no-God. I am in awe of the engineering I see around me. I know for a fact that such things can never be the result of 'natural forces'; intelligence is required. To me it's just common sense. I have looked for persuading evidence from the evolution lobby, but it's just not there. Everything is an interpretation of the evidence, which could equally well be interpreted in another way. I will continue to look; what convinces you that there is no God ?"

          Personally, I don't mind if there is any 'God' or 'Gods', because no 'God' has ever had any influence on how I want to live my life or my sentiments/reasonings on things. However, I do have a problem with it when a 'God' come out of a book, any book, festering on the minds of naive/good people and propel them to think that they are superior than others whose opinions differ, to hate, fight and kill in his 'Holy' name. Because when that happens, many people's lives are made hell and it affects the overall sense of well-being of everyone else in the world. Don't you agree?
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          4 days ago: Hi Birdia

          At least we agree on motorbikes :}. I can only speak for the bible, I do agree that there are "Holy" writings which are causing havoc in the world. However it is the people who cause the real havoc; a book is only paper & ink. There is nothing in the bible that would cause me to harm anyone. I am told to love everyone; including those who hate me. That I endeavour to do.
          What I understand is this. There are forces for good & forces which are for evil. I can feel these forces within me. Many times it is more convenient to tell a "white" lie to get over a problem. Often I am tempted to break the speed limit when no-one is looking. I often watch movies which are "iffy". We all indulge ourselves, knowing full well that there are children starving in Africa. We all have a constant battle to try and do the "right" thing.
          Recently our UK politicians have been caught enlarging their expenses. I can sit in judgement on them, but what would I have done if I had their temptations ? So to me it is no surprise that some people give in to the pressure on them and commit atrocities. It all depends on what influences are on each person.
          Jesus said that we would know people "by their fruit". People on the right path would have good fruit, & people on the wrong path would have bad fruit. So if we have people who are following a "Holy" book, we are at liberty to judge the book by the fruit of it's people. Having said that, we are all capable of good or evil, but in general it works.
          If God is good, then the good guys have the truth. If God is evil, then the evil guys have the truth. Jesus died & rose again to point us in the right direction.

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          4 days ago: Hi Peter. I appreciate your time in replying.

          As in many debates on religion that take place everywhere on earth, the holy books are held in high esteem by religious people due to the moral values one can derive from the text, and thus are often used as arguments by the religious party to justify the 'holiness' and 'truthfulness' of these books.

          However, the fact is: morals are morals, religious or not.

          The lack of moral teachings as a separate subject from religion has much to contribute to this confusion in education and in many societies.

          One cannot disagree that one can be just as moral without the teachings of the bible or any religious text. The sense of justice, equality, love and compassion one feels is guarded by one's actions and the reasonings behind such actions, and therefore, religion does not equal morals.

          Based on this fact, your argument on linking moral values to the bible does not hold.

          In regard to Jesus, I do not know him in person. However, if indeed he ever existed, I believe he would have been just as flawed as any other religious/spiritual figures who have ever walked this earth, regardless of what he taught.

          Nothing can make me feel that this Jesus is in anyway more special than any other religious/spiritual figures, who are dead or alive, just because he was linked to an imaginary 'God' whom is considered to be the absolute reality in a book written and followed by a few faithful people.

          If people continue to think religion equals morals, the problems associated with religion will have no ending.

          Ultimately, religion and superstitions only have power over those who lacks the ability to embrace uncertainties, loneliness, death, and fears. The benefits for encouraging people to be more open in discussing these universal emotions should not be underestimated.

          Peter, I thank you for our debate in the past week, however, this is all the time I'm willing to give on this matter.

          Thank you again. Best wishes to you.
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          4 days ago: Thank you Birdia, may catch you later.

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        Mar 8 2011: Tim when you say that the word"god" is a tautology you rely your afirmation on the idea that 'god' is the creation itself(if I understood corect); that's a very matted problem (and Hegel has said that) but look a reason that prove that this idea is wrong: in univers there is a clear difference between good and bad(I could argue very favorable for that),more than that some things from the univers are good and others are bad (good and bad are two very very opposite conceptions, states of being....) but God is just one (that noun is at singular) , He's a whole, ..how could be God and good and bad in the same time? how could be what's good and bad piled in the same "thing"? they are two opposite "things"....... it's imposible.
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      Mar 6 2011: Sounds more like he's making God vague to evade argument. Which would be fine by me if that was how all religious people spoke of God all the time.
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      Mar 6 2011: Eduard,

      Your argument necessarily is and thus relies in philosophy. Does that mean that philosophy has permission to argue for a god, but not against?

      Then if you are talking about a specific god, such as the Christian god (which you suggest in a semi-unclear way at the beginning of your argument), how do you know that you are talking about the Christian god? What does distinguish this god from any other god? The point is, an undefined god is beyond anybody to test and/or prove/disprove. At the same time, such a god is in the very same category as anything imaginary as long as it is defined in a way that it is beyond our reach. Thus, such a god can easily be dismissed as mere and useless imagination. If you actually define a way to distinguish this god, then you might have to retract your claims of unreachability. For instance, Pete thinks that his version of the Christian god is the author of an infallible book(s), claims that the book convinced him because of its accuracy, yet, when tested, the accuracy most of the time is either read into the text, or the independent data and evidence are dismissed in favour of the text. That makes Pete's god too obviously false regardless of how strongly Pete holds to this belief. (Sorry Pete, and hello after all this while!).

      So, which version of a Christian God do you believe, and how do you know this from any other gods? How do you distinguish this god from anything imaginary?
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        Mar 7 2011: Hi Gabo

        Long time no see. Did you not get saved yet ? I like your style; you apologise for telling me I'm wrong. I appreciate that, some folks give me a hard time you know.

        I think you will find Eduard has the same god as me, but doesn't take the 6-days or the worldwide flood literally. That right Eduard ?

        I have never come across any other god bothering Dawkins & Co. It's always Jehovah/Jesus of the Old & New Testaments. I wonder if there's a reason for that. Even Allah doesn't attract the same venom.

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          6 days ago: Hey Pete,

          Well, it might be that there is nothing to be saved from. ;)

          Also, well, I saw a few videos where Dawkins was attacking some muslim stuff going on in England. Take it this way Pete, if Christianity if what an atheist sees everyday, which religion would this atheist attack mostly? Since there are lots of muslims moving into England, their turn comes in proportion, I guess. Also, you seem to dismiss the many references to sex-mutilation, most of which happen under religions other than Christianity. Maybe your perception is mainly a combination of two things: (1) of course, Dawkins would choose first to attack the religion he knows best; (2) you notice the references closer to Christianity better than those to other religions because that offends you, or concerns you, more personally.

          Best as always!
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          5 days ago: Gabo........if you will read again what I said you'll see that I said that we can't know God by scientific methods , ok? but we know God (we who belive in Him) and to can know Him it's possible just beliving (the procces is reverse after beliving it's possible to know Him.) .......and the procces is so, just becasue He is incoprehensible scientifically.........and it constitute a reason of His singularity and divinity.
          "but did not say many of the things attributed to him"....you can't be serious (if you know what are you talking about) He said a lot of things about Him , all his life He've done it.
          "there's many more options"........if you'll study Him and his life you'll find out that there aren't at all many more options.
          "I can dismiss yours because it contradicts itself in its book(s)" He never done it (and of course you can't share me no example).
          "...............science to criticize their gods, but their gods are "perfect thinking" and "beyond" you to understand. This is proven "by revelation" in their god's books" man, I ever talked just about a God (read again and try to connect the dots better than you've done) because there is no other god there is just One(maybe I've mentioned the word "god or gods" but just like in in the last part of this last sentence and with the same mean).What do you think that I accept the truth of the Bible and in the same time I'm talking about the existence of other gods?(or you don't know anything basically from the Bible).
          "But I bet you think that the popolvuh is subject to philosophical and scientific scrutiny." of course ,you are right , and if you will try to connect the dots better in what I said you'll find out why I'm saying that you are right .
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        Mar 7 2011: "your argument necessarily is and thus relies in philosophy. Does that mean that philosophy has permission to argue for a god, but not against?" ....I like it man : and the answer is yes because :
        1. they are talking against God , I'm talking about a method .
        2. God is the perfect thinking (you could imagine Him like a thinking power) ,He's Himself the perfect philosophy(He couldn't be otherwise, all what is otherwise is a lie I could argue about it) and thus to philosophize against Him it's very absurd , it would be like to cut the branch from beneath your feet.
        I'll begin with that:
        "At the same time, such a god is in the very same category as anything imaginary as long as it is defined in a way that it is beyond our reach. Thus, such a god can easily be dismissed as mere and useless imagination": the answer is:He can't because it is exatcly the opposite way in reaching to know Him that is to say from Him to you(He's revealed).
        I already said two answers at these questions:"how do you know that you are talking about the Christian god? What does distinguish this god from any other god?" an namely:
        0.the revelation.(through Bible)
        1.I know because as He is described in the Bible can't be imagined by noone......it's something that you(and anyone)never could imagine .
        2. He say about Him what no another god, man , philosopher ...anyone could ever say.(how he describe Himself it's something the noone could invent).
        3. Others gods in what they say contradict themselves, in fact all other gods do that(you just have to study their books) .
        4. He said about Him that He's the perfect thinking.
        5. Jesus Christ have said what noone could ever say.(there's just two choices: or He's the craziest man that has ever existed (and will) or He's what he said that is ).
        Anothres gods are lies and because they are anothers...........
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          6 days ago: Eduard,

          You kinda missed the point. If your god is beyond imagination, philosophy, and science, then you would not be able to claim that it is the Christian god. You could only claim that there is this incomprehensible thing out there. Once you claim that your god is the Christian one you attach it to something, and it becomes subject to every scrutiny we can think about as per your own method against other gods.

          The very same way you dismiss other gods because they "contradict themselves in their books," I can dismiss yours because it contradicts itself in its book(s). Thus, anybody can claim that what happens is that you are using philosophy and science to criticize their gods, but their gods are "perfect thinking" and "beyond" you to understand. This is proven "by revelation" in their god's books. Man, the popolvuh has almost no contradictions compared to the bible. But I bet you think that the popolvuh is subject to philosophical and scientific scrutiny. All you did is produce useless assertions that vanished once you attached your god to its supposed revelation.

          In 5 you say: "there's just two choices: or He's the craziest man that has ever existed (and will) or He's what he said that is." Or a person on which these fables are based existed, but did not say many of the things attributed to him, or was well-intentioned, but failed at conveying the ideas properly, or someone else wanted him to be presented and sold as the son of "God," or was a very successful quack as many "religious leaders" of our time, or there was no Jesus whatsoever ... there's many more options ...

          Sorry, but you wrote utter nonsense. I don't think this can go anywhere from here, other than, as just happened, showing the inconsistency and inherent contradictions in your main claim.
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        6 days ago: Hey Gabo

        I saw that program where Dawkins had a go at the muslim guy re the penalty for leaving the 'faith' (ie death). I give him full marks for that, & was right behind him. Political correctness has an iron grip at present, & freedom of speech is a thing of the past. Dawkins showed a lot of courage.

        It could be that Christianity is what he knows best. He is obviously concerned; as we all are; about the atrocities committed in the name of Allah. So why are his sights on Christ ? Could it be that he thinks Allah & Jehovah are the same guy ? This is a common misconception among non-christians. It is a mistake to tar all beliefs with the same brush. The fact that there are lots of different religions out there may point to one being true, rather than there being a lot of religions for no particular reason.

        I take it you mean circumcision by "sex-mutilation". That is a Jewish command from god, & ensures sincerity if nothing else. It does no harm, some doctors even say it's a good thing. I wouldn't pierce my navel or tattoo "Harley Davidson" on my arm, but lots do & that's ok.

        Death is what you; & all of us; need saved from. It's 100% effective.

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          2 days ago: Hey Pete,

          Remember that there have been atrocities committed in the name of Christ too. I don't think that Dawkins thinks that Jehovah and Allah are the same guy, simply because he does not think any of them exists. But he might think, for very good reasons, that they are both versions of the same fantasy and that yours would be just another version. I don't see why would this be a misconception. If your god existed Pete, why would this god be a different one because the Jews, for instance, or the muslims, did not believe that Christ was this very god incarnate? How would that suddenly transform the first god into something else? How would your acceptance of Christ as a form of your god invalidate the past god? Suppose Christ is not your god incarnate. Would that mean that your basic god is not the same as the basic god of the Jews? People have different ideas of who I am, and some of those ideas might be about what they knew about me when I was in high school. They don't know that now I am a scientist. That might make my image in their minds wrong, but I am still the same person.

          In any event, I doubt that such a thing matters to Dawkins, he would be as critical of all of them if they derived from independent religious roots. He opposes religion as inherently irrational, not only because they can be dangerous.

          There are other examples of sex mutilation that are not as harmless as the tattoos you are talking about. But I was mentioning them as examples of critiques made by Dawkins to religions other than Christianity. I needed no explanation about them being harmless or not. Also, you decide if you want a tattoo, religious sex mutilation is not decided by the babies.

          Best my friend.
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    Mar 5 2011: @ Kathy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh0F4FBLJRE Here he is dispelling a myth.

    @ Peter Law

    It's impossible for creationists to win in any serious debate. They have no scientific evidence of a creator, by default they fail to provide burden of proof. If creationists really had a case for creationism, you would see publications on it in peer reviewed journals. If the science community is not putting out too many journals on it then it means the scientific community doesn't consider it to be credible science. It's that simple.
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      Mar 5 2011: that's the evidence: we don't have too much "scientific" evidence about our Creator because He's the Creator.......we haven't how to find out too many things about Him just looking at his creation (all what we could find out is about He's creation not about Him) ok? it's like yo say that we'll find out a lot of things about an engineer just looking at the house that he had built............but we human beings ,we still have a proof : the morality.
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        Mar 5 2011: What is this hang up on creationism? Even if we accept the concept of god, might "he" not create through the process of evolution? The creation myth seems to be one of the most metaphorical of all the stories in the bible. Or is there some need to believe in the fantastical?
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          Mar 6 2011: Tim is absolute neccesarly that God to be the Creator because:
          Let's look at what we can understand better: at the most developed being :the genius. A genius is very intelligent , clever...........and so on.......but besides this what make him to be a genius is his capacity of create (E.g. Newton, Enstien, Kant , Plato,Socrate we look at their creation that have remaind us )...........more exatcly a genius can't be genius if he don't create, his capacity to create gives him the title of genius (look everywhere you want and you'll find it out or better read Schopenhouer.)
          So God who is perfect perfect genius can't be so without to create. He's in the nature of God to create.............a true God create, of that the Bible say us about creation.
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        Mar 5 2011: Eduard, you cannot possibly use all of nature to posit the existence of God if other equally (if not more) probable possibilities exist. A rock could be the product of an abstract artist's chiselling or it could just be a rock. That's not conclusive proof of a chiseller. If one can make a case for something else than God with the same statement, you can't really be making a case at all.

        As for morality, people need to stop pretending like this is an entirely religious construct that has not undergone decades of serious psychological and biological study. Chimpanzees display quite a complex sense of morality to which we as humans can only boast to have added words to really. Even better, the mirror neurons that play such a crucial part in our sense of empathy (and there's a TEDtalk about it actually) were first discovered in a Capucin monkey. Besides, not all morality is objective, a lot is relative and given that the Catholic church, among many religious institutions, has had to update its morality landscape countless times along with the rest of society (sometimes lagging behind), one can hardly say that religion is the prime deliverer of morality. When the least moral of believers can display more morality than the most moral of non-believers then a case could be made that morality can only flow from religion. Until then, it's another false proof.
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          Mar 6 2011: Matthieu I agree with your argument for normal things (rocks, even human beings...) but I disagree with it now because here we are talking about something supernatural (God..) and exatcly that there aren't too many proofs (scientifically) about His existence prove that God exist.(if have existed too many proofs God would ease to be god; I mean if we could discover God through scientifics methods).
          "As for morality, people need to stop pretending like this is an entirely religious construct " I never pretend that the morality is a religious construct because isn't.......it is God construct .........and regarding the monkeys, you should make a distinction: morality isn't just an instinct (as you described) it is something like the conscience and no animal have conscience or something like that(morality).The morality is very objective think just at its nature and look in moral philosophy for more details.........but I think that morality in my mind means something and in yours something else so we should described both what we mean by morality if we wanna make any sense..............(I've tried to do that on "How important is religion").
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        Mar 6 2011: Well see that is not true at all. Many Apes have consciousness and moreover have self-consciousness. This has been tried and tested many times. Their moral behavior may not be as sophisticated as ours, but that is simply because we have words to put to that morality. There are also many examples of chimpanzees showing culture the way Human beings do with behaviors that are only observed in one family of chimpanzees in one remote part of the world, eliminating the possibility of instinctual behavior.

        I would conversely argue that a fair part of our morality is instinctual, especially when it comes to empathy and mirror neurons which we share with many Apes and Monkey (we are related after all). When you see suffering and this suffering affects you, you didn't exactly chose at some previous point to feel bad, you just get that melancholic feeling, a deep rooted instinct that comes from our evolutionary heritage as social animals.

        I think that to posit that all animals are somehow 100% instinctual machines while Humans have this added depth of consciousness all to his own is ludicrous given that we come from the same evolutionary process.
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          Mar 6 2011: I'm really mystified about what you understand by morality and consciousness(if you want to say me would be very well).
          Look, that is fully accepted by everyone :"Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is a sense of behavioral conduct that differentiates intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and bad (or wrong)"(that's from wikipedia)in other words the morality say to our reason what's good and what's bad , without the reason ,morality would have no sense. And now you say that morality is something instictual , but it isn't because the instincts are good or bad depending on situations, but morality say us what's good or what's bad so it can't be niether good nor bad , it's something above good and bad , it's like a judge.
          Suppose you see a man who's going to drown, one of your instinct in that moment will say you to help him(the herd instinct) , another will say you to run away because is dangerous there and you could also drown (the instinct of survival) but morality now will judge between these two instincts and will say you what's the good insitnct (so the morality can't be also an instinct because it judge between instincts)...................the chimps haven't something like that, more than that it haven't reason (and we know now that without reason the morality have no sense)..........and so on.
          "..........eliminating the possibility of instinctual behavior. " an possible explication here could be that the chimps react different at the same instinct.
          And I repeat you again : don't interest me at all something like "this have been tested...." "I think that ....." please give me reasons.
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        Mar 6 2011: You talk about the instinct of helping someone, a behavior that people would deem moral, so you must agree there is an instinctual facet to morality. Also you can look up the vast amount of work that has been carried out on animals and consciouness, you clearly aren't up to date on that.

        For the chimp case I'm talking about behavior adopted by one chimp and mimicked by other members of the same group by example. This behavior is then taught to the younger generations and carried out. Orang-Outangs have also been seen wielding tools to aid themselves. You need to watch more animal documentaries, you underestimate non-human animals so much.

        Ever heard of Washoe, the chimpanzee who was taught sign-language and then taught it to her Son? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washoe_%28chimpanzee%29

        There's also that Gorilla Michael that painted its dead pet dog and the mother Koko who in this video expresses her sadness at losing her pet kitty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqTUG8MPmGg

        How could you seriously think that only humans have consciousness, it makes no sense for us to be the only animals endowed with it!
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          Mar 7 2011: ........first of all I'm not animal , I'm human being, ok?
          Matthieu I've just said you : The morality and the consciousness have no sense, are useless without reason and the animals have no reason (that's very well-known by everyone)......so it's obvious the result of what I said.
          "there is an instinctual facet to morality" the morality have no instinctual face , it judge between instincts.
          very interesting about the chimps but this still don't prove anything about morality ....just maybe it prove that chimps could be tamed more that any animal.
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        Mar 8 2011: Human beings are animals Eduard. Better, human beings are classified as Great Apes (family that includes, Chimps, Gorillas, orang-outang and bonobos). We all evolved, why would human beings have their own class separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, its senseless...

        "The morality and the consciousness have no sense, are useless without reason and the animals have no reason (that's very well-known by everyone)"...so screw my animal psychology lectures from a notoriously good UK university, screw all the biology books I've ever read, screw everything I've learned about animals ever because in your weird worldview, non-human animals are 100% instinctual beings incapable of reasoning. Back your statement up damn it! (you can't by the way, its patently untrue).
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          Mar 8 2011: "Better, human beings are classified as Great Apes " classified by who?.......that's subjectivism.
          Hey do you wanna say that animals have reason?.........And in my turn man , I screw all the philosophy that I ever read and is imposible for animals to have reason (read Kant , Hegel , Nietzsche, Plato.....) and the definition of reason don't let you to say that animals have reason:"The faculty of reason (sometimes also called rationality or the faculty of discursive reason in opposition to "intuitive reason") is a mental ability found in human beings and normally considered to be a definitive characteristic of human nature.[1] It is closely associated with such human activities as speech, science, art, mathematics and philosophy."
          ...........and think at least at the consequences of having animals reason....... are too huge too immoral .
          THE REASON AND THE MORALITY ARE ARE JUST FOR HUMAN BEINGS CATECORICALLY.More than that there is no scientist (and never was) who say that animals have reason and morality.......they are just for humans , they make us human beings...........and that's a reason for that I'm saying that I'm not an animal.
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          Mar 8 2011: Eduard - I think you are right about reason, my first thought was, as Matthieu seems to argue that, all animals have some form of reason. But reading through the wikipedia page (plus the wikipedia "talk" tab which has an interesting debate), it seems as if reason has historically been essentially defined as "the kind of thinking which only humans do". Which seems to me unfortunate, but a common anthropocentric way of analysis which would be nice to overcome.
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          Mar 8 2011: The issue of morality seems to be more open to debate.

          From wikipedia:
          "Biologists contend that all social animals, from ants to elephants, have modified their behaviors, by restraining selfishness in order to make group living worthwhile. Human morality, though sophisticated and complex relative to other animals, is essentially a natural phenomenon that evolved to restrict excessive individualism and foster human cooperation."

          and from "Animals can tell right from wrong":


          "Prof Bekoff, who presents his case in a new book Wild Justice, said: "The belief that humans have morality and animals don't is a long-standing assumption, but there is a growing amount of evidence that is showing us that this simply cannot be the case"
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          6 days ago: No Tim this "have modified their behaviors, by restraining selfishness in order to make group living worthwhile" or something like this do not prove that animals have morality, morality isn't about modify behaviour(it is more than that ), I've tried to explain that in a answer to Matthieu.
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        Mar 8 2011: It's not subjectivism, it's the natural classification as revealed by the theory of evolution, to deny our relatedness with all Great Apes is to deny evolution.

        Furthermore, my argument was that many animals are endowed with consciousness and certain forms of morality, you accomodated reason in this and declared that consciousness and morality were redudant without reason thus implying that instict and reason form a dichotomy. Given the definition of reason you adopt, this cannot be true as much of observed animal behavior cannot be categorized as being the product of instinct or (by wikipedia's definition) the product of reason. Congratulations on naming a few famous philosophers, most of whom (if they ever said anything about animals at all) lived prior to the publication of "On the origin of species" and all that followed.

        Please back your statements with evidence and argument rather than caps. lock (especially if you're going to make bad spelling mistakes). It's rude and it's strongly discouraged (check the terms and conditions of TEDConversations if you don't believe me).

        "More than that there is no scientist (and never was) who say that animals have reason and morality"

        That's a bold claim. Not one? How about, Frans De Waal? There you go. The simple power of Google.

        If you cannot accept the simple fact that Human are animals then it might be pointless to even continue. It's basic biology.
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          Mar 8 2011: "classification as revealed by the theory of evolution" exatcly what I said=subjectivism.Kant , ......... they are philosophers not biologists , they have talked about morality not about animals for obvious reasons.(thank you for congratulations (sarcasm)) ...........Frans De Waal(I don't know too much about him)....... hm.....but if he is talking about something like :
          ""The possibility that empathy resides in parts of the brain so ancient that we share them with rats should give pause to anyone comparing politicians with those poor, underestimated creatures."[3]
          "I've argued that many of what philosophers call moral sentiments can be seen in other species. In chimpanzees and other animals, you see examples of sympathy, empathy, reciprocity, a willingness to follow social rules. Dogs are a good example of a species that have and obey social rules; that's why we like them so much, even though they're large carnivores."[4]
          "To endow animals with human emotions has long been a scientific taboo. But if we do not, we risk missing something fundamental, about both animals and us." he prove again that I'm right because I was talking about morality not about moral sentiments and not about emotions.(not about emphaty . sympathy.......).
          And yes , I cannot accept this very simple so called 'fact' that we are animals.(read again my posts if you still didn't notice the reasons ).
          You see, none of my arguments rest upon biology because I don't think that we are animalsa and because I think that ohters sciences are more able to talk about thems like morality , reason , conciousness.......in other words about human beings.
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        6 days ago: Well if you can't accept facts for what they are such as the fact that humans are animals, I think there's no point arguing with you. If empathy, altruism, cooperation and all manner of behaviors that take in account the importance of others is not to be classified as morality, then I'm afraid to say that morality must not represent all that much. Unless you mean that the exact same behavior in humans is morality and isn't in animals and that just seems ridiculous.

        I don't really argue anything about reason, I'm mainly arguing that regardless of whether we consider animals to have reason or not, the way morality and consciousness expresses itself in certain animals cannot be argued to be purely instinctive behavior.

        My final reply to any of your posts.
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          6 days ago: even though we aren't at all good parteners in conversation thank you for sharing your ideas..........I'm afraid that you again didn't understand what I said (neither my English don't let me to be more clear in saying my ideas)...........anyway ..........
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      Mar 5 2011: Hi Budimir

      That's an in-house myth. Creationists don't believe we are descended from any other creature.

      And the link to the debate won by the Evolutionist is..............?

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        Mar 5 2011: Is there something about the cohesive power of myth that the more bizarre it is the more it unites the group? Is this why the debate on creationism is so important?
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          Mar 5 2011: "the cohesive power of myth that the more bizarre it is the more it unites the group"

          Religion. Superstitions. Cults.

          My speculations:
          • They all originated from myths
          • They all share similar qualities
          • There is always one or more objects that are considered "Holy"
          • Somewhere along the line, they all somehow spell out denial and the fear of the unknown

          If anyone disagrees with me, please kindly come forth with explanations, logic and reasons. I would very much like to learn of a point of view which is different from mine.

          Thank you.
        • Mar 5 2011: The literal interpretation of the bible is a relativeley new idea, I think it got going in the late forties or fifties. Before this and still now theologians considered the bible almost entirely metaphorical. Evolution is accepted in the Vatican with many biblical scholars composing new ideas about God as originator rather than creator. I think to question evolution now is to ignore the reams of research and the tons of physical evidence. Like Tim I am surprised people feel the need to predicate their faith on creationism.
        • Mar 5 2011: Tim ": Is there something about the cohesive power of myth that the more bizarre it is the more it unites the group? Is this why the debate on creationism is so important?"

          No 'myth' alone has the 'power of cohesion'. Truth is the underlying factor under all these 'myths'. Truth is a powerful force which draws people together.

          "Both read the Bible day and night,
          but thou'st read black, while I read white." ~William Blake

          Try 'seeking' ... searching beyond the literal, fundamental story level and you will find wisdom.

          As with anything, one tends to get out of it what one puts into it.
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          Mar 6 2011: Hello Kathy, I agree with some of your points.

          My perspective:
          • Myths are very beautiful and they are the foundation of all ancient civilizations.
          • Truth is everywhere if one cares enough to explore and experience it.
          • Wisdom inspires admiration and respect, it is a light when one is lost in the sea of apathy, ignorance and confusion.

          I have tremendous respect for Blake's work. But my question for you is:

          While individual spirituality can lead to joy, love and compassion, do you not at least agree with me to a certain degree that when faith becomes a tool to manipulate, when doctrines lead to slavery of the mind, when worship consumes sensibilities and good judgement, the world can become quite a dark and miserable place, don't you think?

          How do you think the Crusades are different compared to the current Iraq war? How do you feel about the rape victims who are denied the right to abortion? Did it somehow make you feel the need to raise objections to a faith that had led to hundreds of children being molested by the keepers of that faith?

          Besides your urge to win this debate for the sake of protecting that piece of divine wisdom you firmly believe in, does it ever occur to you that no wisdom is worth anything if it only breeds conflicts and doesn't bring peace?
        • Mar 6 2011: "... when faith becomes a tool to manipulate, when doctrines lead to slavery of the mind, when worship consumes sensibilities and good judgement, the world can become quite a dark and miserable place, don't you think?"

          Faith is not the tool used to manipulate; fear is. Faith is what guides us through the fear.
          Doctrines do not lead to slavery of the mind; ignorance does.
          Worship does not consume sensibilities or good judgement, it enhances them.

          Oppression of any kind is the result of ignorance and greed. Ignorance is the 'dark and miserable' place; what is needed to relieve the darkness? Light. Light is a metaphor for wisdom. Wisdom is a higher octave of intelligence, which is a higher octave of intellect, which is a higher octave of instinct, and so on.

          When we, as individuals, accept personal responsibility for our own individual actions and individual level of awareness, and individual enlightenment, only then can we 'come together' in peace, or 'collective consciousness'. Peace begins with the individual ... only then can it grow exponentially between us.

          Do you remember 9/11? By 9/12, suddenly the line between Democrats and Republicans was gone; you could not walk a block down any street in America without seeing the flag on display in the majority of homes and businesses, and we were - if only for a brief moment in time - truly a UNITED country. United in 'spirit'.

          It was a very powerful force, this unity of spirit ... it was palpable. The entire country joined in this unity, it literally created a 'force field' and THAT is what gave us comfort as a whole. "One nation, under God, indivisible" ... suddenly held deeper meaning, because it was not just felt, it was 'experienced'.

          Yet it was born of fear. We were afraid as individuals, but as a group, when we truly united, we became a powerful force. This is how many people 'experience' their 'religion' when en masse within their belief system.
        • Mar 6 2011: 2.
          It is not limited to religion; it's the same sense of 'one'ness people share when their political leader wins; it's the same sense of 'at*one*ment' a room of atheists experience when Dawkins goes on his anti-religion rant.

          What 'unifies' one group can easily enflame another. Assigning 'blame' is literally 'pointless'; when we point the finger of blame at someone or some thing, it is wise to remember that three more fingers are pointing back at us.

          Historically, we see that mankind always turns to war. We can blame it on politics, blame it on religion, blame it on the 'a-a-a-a-a-alcohol', (lol) ... the true nature of 'war' comes from within each of us.
          This is what we need to 'conquer' in order to attain 'world' peace. Conquer the enemy within our own 'world'; our own mind.

          When our mind is balanced and strengthened, no one can manipulate us; no government, no ideology, (no professor) ... nothing. Therefore it seems to me that the real enemy in the world of man is mans own ignorance of his own inner world.


          How do you think the Crusades are different compared to the current Iraq war? How do you feel about the rape victims who are denied the right to abortion? Did it somehow make you feel the need to raise objections to a faith that had led to hundreds of children being molested by the keepers of that faith?

          There have always been atrocities in the world, and unless and until mankind transforms itself, there always will be.

          "Besides your urge to win this debate for the sake of protecting that piece of divine wisdom you firmly believe in, ..."

          1. There is no 'winning' this debate, nor is that my motivation for taking part in it.
          2. Divine wisdom does not need protection; nothing can destroy it.

          "... does it ever occur to you that no wisdom is worth anything if it only breeds conflicts and doesn't bring peace?"

          Wisdom does not breed conflict; ignorance does.

          Ignorance is the enemy here.
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          Mar 7 2011: Kathy, thanks for the reply. so I guess you pretty much agreed with what I proposed up there, except you changed a few words and tried to turn it into an insight of your own. Although I was hoping for something more original, that's fine with me as long as you recognize the underlying 'wisdom' of what this debate is all about.

          And back to my point:
          "Besides your urge to win this debate for the sake of protecting that piece of divine wisdom you firmly believe in, does it ever occur to you that no wisdom is worth anything if it only breeds conflicts and doesn't bring peace?"

          I believe the photos, articles and links Tim just posted had said it all. It looks like that piece of 'divine wisdom' is very much linked to ignorance and the breeding of conflicts at this moment (as in many other moments in history).

          Perhaps it is time to ponder on it, hard.
          Better yet, question it.

        • Mar 7 2011: Wisdom is the cure for ignorance. If you consider that a link, so be it.I repeat:

          Widsom does not breed conflict, ignorance does.

          As for that which breed conflicts, your intimation that it's time (for me) to 'ponder on it hard" and "question it" is right in keeping with the cause of conflict, Birdia -- having ignorance and projecting it onto others.

          Question that, before you speak of 'peace'.
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          Mar 7 2011: No one is against wisdom on this page.

          • The topic: "Has religion outlived it's usefulness?"

          • The argument: how dangerous it is to have religion interfering with the politics and governance of a society.

          • Case study: the current Iraq war.

          Let's stay on the topic.
        • Mar 8 2011: You have a unique way of phrasing (twisting) words and their meaning, Birdia. Like how you stated "if anyone disagrees with me, please kindly come forth with explanations, logic and reasons."

          ... and if no one comes forth with any, you get to presume no one disagrees with you. Very cagey.


          "... I guess you pretty much agreed with what I proposed up there, "

          Did you actually read my response or did you just fail to comprehend it?

          No, Birdia, I found [most of] your comments to be convoluted because you used words as if you had no idea of their meaning, which is why I used the same words you did ... within their proper context and *actual* meaning.

          That you would view this as 'agreeing' with you indicates your propensity to twist things in your mind to suit what you want to see.

          "... except you changed a few words and tried to turn it into an insight of your own."

          See, this is what I mean. I didn't "change a few words" ... in fact, I deliberately used the same words you did, only I used them in their proper context and in accordance to their actual meaning.

          If you call that insight, so be it; I call it clarification via proper English.

          "... Although I was hoping for something more original, ..."

          [Condescending, much?] When you exhibit an ability to comprehend what I actually write, without twisting it to suit your logic, then we'll move on to originality but for now let's work on that comprehension.

          [How's it feel?]


          "... that's fine with me as long as you recognize the underlying 'wisdom' of what this debate is all about."

          The debate is *supposed* to be about whether or not religion has outlived its usefulness. How does your abuse of the word 'wisdom' as a replacement for the word 'religion' make your case?
        • Mar 8 2011: 2.
          "The argument: how dangerous it is to have religion interfering with the politics and governance of a society."

          Apparently this has something to do with some link(s) Tim provided that somehow changed the course of the 'argument'. As I typically do not click on links, I must have missed the turn in the conversation. When I scrolled up to look for links within this thread, I didn't see it, so, if it's that important to you, kindly re-post the links.

          Without having seen them, all I have to go on is your comment and all I can say to it is that it's easy for a politician or government to manipulate 'organized' religion ... they do the same thing with science. Should we question whether or not science has outlived its usefulness because it is also manipulated by politics and governments?


          "And back to my point:
          "Besides your urge to win this debate for the sake of protecting that piece of divine wisdom you firmly believe in, does it ever occur to you that no wisdom is worth anything if it only breeds conflicts and doesn't bring peace?"

          Again, use the word 'wisdom' properly, Birdia. Wisdom cannot breed conflict.

          You're trying to replace the word 'religion' with 'wisdom' and while one *can* lead to the other, for you to misrepresent the word renders your argument completely ineffective.

          Also, you're trying to make this about me; "Besides your urge to win this debate ..."

          Seems like projection; Perhaps you are the one who needs to stay on topic?
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          Mar 8 2011: Kathy. Thanks for all the pages of replies (they are always so long!!!)


          Clarification: the word *wisdom*, if you look back to my recent comments including the ones on this thread, I usually put it in quotes, referring it to 'your meaning of the word' instead of what it truly means by definition. Since you have referred the bible as 'wisdom' time and again, I think you are the one who is abusing the word by interchanging it with the piece of 'religious text' in question here just to make it sounds more noble for the sake of your arguments, so you are the one who is twisting and abusing words, not me, please don't accuse me of your 'sins', so to speak.

          I think that's the real problem here, and that explains the other fallacies in your reply. If the 'book' means 'the absolute truth' to you, anything associated with it (including wars and hatred) will ultimately be justified and made good. Everyone else who doesn't think of the book as 'wisdom', will automatically fall under the 'ignorant' group. That's the PROBLEM of religion and what we mean by DOGMA. Need I say more?
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          Mar 8 2011: And in regard to Tim's links on religious foundamentalism and the Iraq war, they are still there, and I saw your comments on them. Scroll down, take a look, and let your memory be refreshed.
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        Mar 5 2011: The evidence that the theory of evolution has won the 'debate' (as though there seriously ever was one) can be found at your local Waterstones or any book store near you. Not everyone relies on youtube and other laymen links for their evidence.
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        Mar 6 2011: Harvinder: I appreciate your input, but just wanted to expound on one point. Although there was some opposition to Darwinism since the time of Darwin, in the US I believe it really got going with the Scopes trial (the "Monkey Trial") in 1925 lead by the politician William Jennings Bryan. Bryan was a populist and, from what I've read of him, appeared to be a compassionate person. Realizing that Scopes (the teacher who was the defendant in the case) was really not at fault, he offered to pay his fine. Bryan didn't concern himself with the science behind evolution. His fear was that if society believed in survival of the fittest, they would be less compassionate towards one another. In a way his fears were manifest in the implementation of the Nazi racist policies. Personally I don't think that suppressing science is the proper way of dealing with the conflict between science and religion, but historically others thought differently (viz Galileo).
    • Mar 5 2011: @ Budimirre: re: " www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh0F4FBLJRE Here he is dispelling a myth."

      This is just more of his drivel and dispells nothing.

      YOU may think you're a 'cousin' to the chipanzee, in fact you well may be; this would certainly explain that which separates the atheist from the theist. Perhaps the atheist is nothing more than a chimp's cousin ... this would explain the failure to evolve spiritually. ::smile::


      My heritage is and always has been that of a human being; the animalistic physical human body animated by the spark of eternal consciousness.

      But thanks for the laugh.
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        Mar 5 2011: What animates a physical animal body?
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          Mar 5 2011: Maybe a *spark* of mortal consciousness from Kathy?

          Kathy, what do you think?
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          Mar 6 2011: Maybe a *spark* of mortal consciousness from Kathy?


          It sure gets me going.
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          Mar 7 2011: Kathy: Was just a metaphor used in jest. No desire to offend. You do stimulate the conversation. That's a good thing.
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          Mar 7 2011: Kathy, this is not a crusade, no force is being joined to go against you.

          • Your comment:
          "My heritage is and always has been that of a human being; the animalistic physical human body animated by the spark of eternal consciousness."

          • Mark's question:
          "What animates a physical animal body?"

          • My guess to Mark's question:
          "Maybe a *spark* of mortal consciousness from Kathy?"

          Basically I was making a guess based on your 'logic', at the least I would expect your appreciation of my efforts in trying.

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        Mar 6 2011: Ladies and gents, on both sides of the table, please let's not turn this into a spew fest. My intention was only to show that people can challenge eachother's ideas with integrity and sincerity by asking honest questions, no matter how much disagreement may exist.

        Here's some thoughts:
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          Mar 6 2011: Great video Mark. I think that everyone involved in our conversation here is seeking to transcend their personal boundaries in some sense (why else would they be here?). The video gives some good tips.
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        Mar 8 2011: You're welcome Kathy, thanks for being so cooperative. Way to represent faith.
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        Mar 8 2011: And Kathy, this is for your information:

        I myself am not a fan of Dawkins and I have very good friends who belong to various religions including yours. But I like his lectures on the evolution theory and I admire his courage for speaking up and questioning such a 'powerful' religious dogma. The one point Tim quoted as part of the question to initiate this debate: "Dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!", had actually led me into my participation in this conversation.

        Let me tell you why:

        In the city I'm currently living in, representatives of your faith have been for years carrying the 'holy' book around, stopping pedestrians on the streets, knocking on people's doors, intruding on travelers' activities in public parks while they enjoy the sun sitting by the lakes, preying on drug-addicted teens and old people in impoverished areas, asserting their churches' importance and superiority over all other non-aggressive religions on the landscape.

        Out of politeness, nobody bothers to say anything. However, the truth is, most people simply think it is darn right imposing and intrusive.

        Let me ask you this question: how would you like it if ever a buddhist knocking on your door and trying to convince you that the Buddha is more important than you, your friends, and your family, and you should worship and bow to him only?

        But this scenario is very less likely, because most buddhists understand that 'wisdom' cannot be imposed, nor can it be used as a coercion to manifest its truthfulness. I can only hope the followers of 'God' can also understand this one day.

        I hope this clarifies my position. Thank you for reading.
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          Mar 8 2011: To add, the way I see it, there is even nothing inherently disrespectful about challenging someone's beliefs. No doubt it can be done out of extremely disrespectful intentions, but also out of highly respectful intentions.

          Ultimately, if no belief (in the broadest sense of the word) were ever challenged, then no truth could ever be ascertained. Reasoned discourse (with oneself or with others) is the only way to get to any answers and solutions, and understanding between people in many cases. Jesus himself certainly must have known this all too well. And so engaging in such a discourse for that purpose is probably one of the most respectful acts imaginable, provided no hidden motivations.
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        Mar 8 2011: Mark, I agree. Thank you.

        (Additionally, I'm very angry at this whole situation where many religious people are often too caught up in defending their gods that they would close an eye on the misery religious dogmas have brought on to the world, while speaking righteously of whatever piece of 'wisdom' they might have and boasting about their morals as if no one else has except them. The gods always get in the way of any debate, there's no logic, no reasoning, and therefore hardly ever any solution to benefit anyone. This is simply fatuous.)
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          Mar 8 2011: I completely understand and know the feeling. But then that could easily become a hidden (and not so respectful) motivation for challenging someone's beliefs ;).

          By the way, I think it's wonderful to be able to see that frustration in oneself in addition to others, because then it can be recognized for what it is. And for every person who recognizes this at any given instant, it makes one less person in the world reinforcing the reactionary game of passing judgement. After all, Gods don't get in the way, people do.

          That's also why I posted a link to that video, because obviously "religious people" aren't the only people who are getting too caught up in defending their own position. Less reactionary games, and more reasoned discourse, is the only productive way to address exactly that which triggers the same frustration in everyone involved.

          I know I'm preaching to the choir here, if you'll pardon the pun, but the choir are not the only ones reading this :).
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        Mar 8 2011: Hahaha thanks for the reminder :)

        But I know I'm not the one knocking on doors preaching gods to anyone, and I am not a scientist who is proving any theories here. The world and its problems are something everyone can see, and there's no shortage of evidence in proving the cause of these problems. I belong to no choir, any songs that are sung here are from each individual person. My comments may not sound "respectful" enough for you personally, but I did not participate in this debate to receive any lecture on psychology and morals. TED is welcome to censor my comments if it is fair to do so.

        (Besides, you are the one who seem to have a 'hidden motive' for saying what you said to me here, because usually it is the people who are the most 'motivated' would try to shut others up with unusually kind words. Very sorry for pointing this out to you, hope my words are respectful enough this time.)
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          Mar 8 2011: Apologies if I appeared to single you out. That wasn't my intention, and besides that, most of your comments that I've come across look plenty respectful to me.

          If anything, I'm just trying to add my 2 cents to the whole debate, not trying to interfere from any sort of authoritative perspective. I don't have one ;)
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        Mar 8 2011: Good. Apologies accepted. If you'd like to add your "two cents" to the "whole debate", I recommend starting a new thread addressing to everyone instead of one particular person. Thank you.
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        Mar 8 2011: Kathy:

        Your comment:
        "Oh yes, it clarifies your position ... and your hostility towards me, as you clearly assume me to be a Jehovah's Witness. / You know what they say about people who 'assume', yes?"

        Sure, I know. I also know what they say about people who 'assume' the following:

        (Another one of your comment)
        "YOU may think you're a 'cousin' to the chipanzee, in fact you well may be; this would certainly explain that which separates the atheist from the theist. Perhaps the atheist is nothing more than a chimp's cousin ... this would explain the failure to evolve spiritually. ::smile::


        My heritage is and always has been that of a human being; the animalistic physical human body animated by the spark of eternal consciousness."

        Do you?
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    Feb 17 2011: To get to the root of the problem, ultimately one has to ask: why would anyone need a god, or any god, to make his/her life seemingly more meaningful and destiny more certain?
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      Feb 21 2011: Agreed Birdia. Do you have any inputs on how to convince others to rely on rational thought vs dogma?
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        Feb 25 2011: Hi Tim. Thanks for sharing the ideas. I think there is a huge difference between appreciating the mysteries of life and relying on the blind belief of having one ultimate 'God' or gods who created the world and look after everything and everyone. While it is important to show respect for the powerful forces in nature or the wisdoms left behind by our ancesters, it is also very important not to follow the blind faith of thinking that all of our troubles in life can be prayed away. It is a good thing to have faith in life, oneself and others, but when inspirations and appreciations become rules that forbid questioning, we are trapped and freethought is undermined. I believe that's what you meant by rational thought vs dogma?
        • Feb 28 2011: Hi Birdia, Im Nick from the UK, ive only just joined this site, and i certainly have not read all the letters on this subject, so please excuse if im repeating what some else has said. Im with Kathy K on this subject, but the point i wish to make is that to believe in God is not necessarily 'blind faith'. The universe was either created by chance [big bang] or it was'nt. To believe as i guess most atheists do that there was an explosion out of absolutely nothing, 'by chance' seems to me less logical than to believe in a creator. Perhaps us trying to understand God is like gold fish trying to understand how the fridge works [smile]
          I think a lot of people treat God like a 'magician' who will put all their errors right, But i find if for example one prays for patience, 'life' will throw at you many chances to have exactly that.
          Ultimately 'nothing' can be proved 100% , one cant even PROVE we exist !! [i believe we do] so i guess we all need to have a certain amount of faith.
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        Feb 26 2011: @Tim: the trick about your question is the word "rely."

        To rely on dogma when evaluating facts is a recipe for disaster. But relying on rationalism when trying to create meaning in one's life is fruitless.

        I'd suggest rewording it:
        "How do we convince others to rely on rational thought for discovering reliable facts?"
        "How do we convince others to use the power of myth and storytelling to give their lives meaning without disregarding these tools just because they are not rational?"
        • Feb 27 2011: Hi Jack. Tell me one thing Jack. I experienced once a person that was what I called "clairvoyant" and that person told me things about my past and my future that they had absolutely no possibility of knowing. I repeat... absolutely no "physical" possibility of knowing certain things about me and my life. I had never met this person before... never seen this person before... and none of my friends had "ever seen or met this person before" Tell me now... what is your theory for the fact that that person "knew" so much about me and my personal life.... I am really a quite sober person. Very stable... wife and children... hardly ever sick.... I'm actually about as solid as a person can be. Down to earth. Both feet on the ground....never hallucinated... May I ask again....How did this stranger know so much about me and my life? If you have never had such a meeting with a "seer" than I suggest you look one up. You may find one in your local newspaper adds... but watch out... there are many out there who are just after you money... Hadn't these things actually come true in my life (or already were true) than I too could write off the whole phenomenon as BS... but the fact is they were true. And furthermore there were lots of other people in the room that can verify this..... so what is your explanation Jack??
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          Feb 27 2011: hey man I'm a christian and I'm relaying just on rational thoughts (I ignore some of 'irationa thought' until I work them out ) but a lot of things (the most in my opinion) are very rational.

          of course are a lot of methaphysical things in a christian doctrine but they can be comprehend also , at least some of them......and methaphysics is an science as I know (ironie)
        • Feb 28 2011: If the reality is quantum, there is no conflict between "rational thought" and "spirituality". Rational thought and spiritual thought are absolutly nessesary as a complex quantum particle called a human being. The quantum world reserves at least half of the experience at any given time to be unknown, and the other half known. You need both views to see the wonder of it all but you can only use one to the exclusion of the other!

          I Love quantum reality, half of it is wonderful, and I don't know much about the other half. Sounds a lot like a lot of religions to me, just not as beautiful.
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          Feb 28 2011: @daniel -- cold reading?
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          Feb 28 2011: Jack: Have really enjoyed all your posts (very thought provoking).

          Agreed - both rational thought and learning from myths have value.

          Why do you think that people are so drawn into taking myth as fact?
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        Feb 27 2011: @Kathy, I can understand your objection and how you might have perceived my comment as an attack on your faith. Please don't take it personally. From my perspective, I just don't see how it is possible for me to readily accept the existence of a 'God' simply because an old book or the priest told me so.

        (While I admire the skills and devotion Michaelangelo had in painting the magnificent murals on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, I would not be so easily convinced that the stories being beautifully depicted there are the unquestionable truths though.)

        (I also happen to find mysticism incredibly inspiring and fascinating, however, rationally speaking, I wouldn't use the story, for instance, of a mystical dragon misbehaving and inflicting misery on a village by causing a flood, to explain to my children what a flood is or how it comes about when we see in the news how floods kill thousands of people each year.)
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        Feb 28 2011: This is in reply to "daniel hehir" above (the reply system is broken, no?):

        Daniel: thank you for sharing that experience. Please know that I have no desire to minimize the power that that had in your life. I believe you had that experience and I'm glad for it.

        But when people who claim to be clairvoyant are tested they are, as a rule, found to be frauds. Otherwise the Pentagon would have found a way to weaponize such talents (the economic argument: http://xkcd.com/808/)

        "I had a profound mystical experience that affected me" isn't a problem. But systematizing it is. The benefit of religion is limited to personal growth, only science can provide us with facts that are equally true for each of us.

        What would you think of a large social movement that tried to rely on clairvoyance for determining important matters like who should be elected to Congress and how income should be distributed?
        • Feb 28 2011: "What would you think of a large social movement that tried to rely on clairvoyance for determining important matters like who should be elected to Congress and how income should be distributed?"

          That would not be wise. Reason and knowledge must be employed even if you are clairvoyant. If you accept the idea as a rational person that quantum mechanics and quantum anomalies exist, then you must also accept that the entire universe is a quantum system of reality. The anomalies we observe in the lab are a direct observation of the fundamental rules of this reality.

          These rules allow for such phenomenon as is typically assigned by rational minds to mysticism or psi. These things are not necessarily bogus if the rules of quantum mechanics and quantum physics are applicable everywhere and at any time.

          By this logic then, we are free to rationally explore the stranger forms and events of our experience that do not necessarily fit into what is known of the physical world. Faith and clairvoyance are possible. But you must test your information against your knowledge or you are just guessing and believing rather than understanding.

          So electing a government by Psi is probably not a good idea for most of us, even though it worked for the Dali Lama. The Dali Lama was chosen by experienced psi experts. I think they did a good job, I just don't know how they managed it.
        • Feb 28 2011: Hey Jack. These threads are hard to follow. I don't like this new system at all.
          I'm not putting down the scientific method. I'm saying if you are operating under the theory that all crows are black.... and suddenly a white crow shows up... than your whole theory is blown out of the water.... You see... just one example is enough to force you to reshape your theory... "change your way of thinkin"
          Thats all I'm saying. Have you ever heard of a french guy called Jacques Lusseyran? He lost his sight as a child, but could still "see" with the type of vision that I'm referring to above. He was used by the French secret service in the second world war to locate where the Germans were hiding. This is fact and can be documented. I have the book beside me now. Its called "And there was Light" IBSN82-09-01429-3 Take a look in your local library and order it if they don't have it. It will give you a new perspective on life.... I'll tell you that !!
        • Feb 28 2011: Another thing Jack.. Ancient societies were very much based on exactly that. Their leaders were often "seers" and what we see today in tribal societies in Africa that still have medicine men are remnents of this. Where the scientific mind is not developed, they turn to frogs eyes and ears of nutes. The clairvoyants are still out there in our time but generally speaking are also remnents of the past. I wrote another message to you further down the page, but I think we have to complain about this new system of "reply" to TED .. it doesn't work worth a damn...
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          Mar 1 2011: Jack D. Canty ;
          r/t 'only science can provide us with facts that are equally true for each of us.'

          Just curious how might you describe the science (or lack thereof) behind, for instance, the Ten Commandments and the consequences that more than typically come with going against them?
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          Mar 1 2011: Wayne:

          Interesting that you should bring up the Ten Commandments. Here in West Chester we have them plastered on the courthouse wall. Here's the plaque:


          I've always been struck by number 10:

          "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

          and wondered how much that language has been used to justify slavery and the treatment of woman as property. Which gets to the crux of the problem - the interpretation of myth as literal fact.

          Why can't we read these things as metaphorical lessons and not take them as fact?
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          Mar 1 2011: Slavery is an emotive word due to the excesses of evil men against the Africans. As in many things, mans weakness is somehow taken as God's fault. There were no slaves in Eden. The following is more typical of God's instruction on the subject. It reads like it can be taken literally.

          Deu 15:11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
          Deu 15:12 If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free.
          Deu 15:13 And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed.
          Deu 15:14 Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.
          Deu 15:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.
          Deu 15:16 But if your servant says to you, "I do not want to leave you," because he loves you and your family and is well off with you,
          Deu 15:17 then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant.
          Deu 15:18 Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because his service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.

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          Mar 1 2011: Peter:

          Always was a bit concerned about Deu 15:12. Only a fellow Hebrew counts?
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          Mar 1 2011: Peter: I'm curious about your interpretation of Leviticus 25:44-46, especially how it contrasts Hebrew versus non-Hebrew slaves. I would also be very interested to read your take on Exodus 21:20-11. Bear in mind that both of these passages appear as commands from God, not the excesses of men.
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          Mar 2 2011: Tim/Tony

          It seems to me that God does treat his own differently. His own children, compared to those who live down the street. These were different times, when mayhem & murder was even more prevalent than now. Certainly Ex.21v21 has me puzzled, but I'm not that smart.
          With the bible it is usually the case that the more is read, the better the understanding. Try these :-
          Lev 24:17 "Anyone who takes another person's life must be put to death.
          Lev 24:19 "Anyone who injures another person must be dealt with according to the injury inflicted--
          Lev 24:20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Whatever anyone does to hurt another person must be paid back in kind.
          Lev 24:22 "These same regulations apply to Israelites by birth and foreigners who live among you. I, the LORD, am your God."

          No doubt many Atheists would cite this sort of thing as contradictions, but to me it's just another step to understanding. This was the reason that Jesus came, because we cannot fully understand all the rules. He said :-
          Mat 22:37 Jesus replied, " `You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' [fn]
          Mat 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
          Mat 22:39 A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' [fn]
          """Mat 22:40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."""

          So, yes, you can trip me up quite effectively; as I said, I'm not that smart. Please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you hunt for a reason to dismiss the bible, that's exactly what you'll get, if you search for truth, you will be pleasantly surprised.

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          Mar 2 2011: Peter: please understand that our disagreement is not personal. I've heard the argument all too often that God's idea of slavery was a sort of gentle servitude and that the real injustice came from man, when in fact biblically-endorsed slavery indeed could be quite brutal. You simply seemed to be presenting a one-sided view, and this is not the forum for one-sided views.

          My own journey through the Bible was indeed one of a seach for truth. I became a non-believer because of passages like this, after doing my level best to reconcile them. One approach to the apparent contradictions is to chalk it up to the limits of human understanding. In fact, this approach makes a lot of sense: if God is infinitely more complex than we are, who are we to judge the merits and validity of His commands? The problem here is that the logic doesn't go far enough: if indeed God writes this opaquely, what makes us so sure it's from God at all? In other words, I found I could not have it both ways: claim ignorance when faced with biblical absurdities, yet at the same time claim certainty with regard to its divine origin and consequent infallibility.

          For the sake of argument, the Bible could very well be the infallible Word of God, and our brains just too small for the task of grasping it. But if that is really the case, our brains are also too small to make sweeping conclusions such as "it's the infallible Word of God". Thus, my argument is not against the Bible per se, but against the kind of certitude promoted by religion. The driving motive behind this certitude is a desire for security -- as the writer of Hebrews so eloquently puts it, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see" (Heb 11:1, NIV).
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        Feb 28 2011: This scientific method that we have developed to understand the known universe, reaches the limits of its effectiveness where it as a process, at best measures reality as our senses and current use of our mental faculties are able to process physical existence.

        Make no mistake. the sciences of the mind are in their infancy.
        Further, unaided, our senses (and by extension most tools we use in producing empirical data about our environment) are feeble compared to those enjoyed by the vast majority of other species on earth and our attempts to match or rival the abilities of said species are based on what 'we think' our senses say about how they perceive our world. Subjective theory at best in my opinion.
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        Feb 28 2011: Hi Nick, sorry my reply to you doesn't seem to go directly after your comment there, i think something needs to be done with this commenting system...

        Please do not be alarmed, we're only having a peaceful debate here. Regarding proof, I thought, scientifically, it has already been proven that our universe is expanding – has the bible mentioned anything about that? And has the church gone into this? I think it is quite important, no? How do we explain to our children about this piece of glorious fact that our grand universe is growing in size and stretching out into an awe-inspiring eternity? There is such grandeur in this occurrence, can 'God' hide its beauty from us? should he?
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          Mar 1 2011: Hi Birdia
          "it has already been proven that our universe is expanding – has the bible mentioned anything about that?"
          Isa 42:5 This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
          Isa 45:12 It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.
          Jer 10:12 But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

          etc etc

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          Mar 4 2011: Peter:

          "My own hands stretched out the heavens"

          Were these real hands or metaphorical hands that stretched out the heavens?

          I really don't see why it's so important to insist on literal interpretations of anything in Holy Scripture. Do you really think that the message "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" would get lost if it turned out that there was really no guy named Jonah who got swallowed by a whale?
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          Mar 4 2011: Hi Tim

          Jesus is the one who stretched out the heavens, however I would say that he had no literal hands before he was born of Mary. So in my opinion the hands in this case are metaphoric; that's my opinion.

          Jonah & the Big Fish (maybe not whale) is written as a literal account, so I treat it as such. Maybe some hebrew scholar would make an alternative case, which I would have to consider.

          To me it's about credibility. If the bible is what it claims to be then it must be perfect. Any fault must be in translation, or in my understanding; if not then it's not the word of god. So far I am satisfied with it, & learning more week by week.

          The Golden Rule is great to live by, & believing that it also pleases God gives a bit of extra incentive.

        • 5 days ago: Hi Birdia,
          Yes, odd system here, only just found your reply. Yes the universe is expanding according to scientists, but it is more than probable that new information will be found, and what was once 'proven' is shown to be wrong, remember it was only a few hundred years ago they could prove the earth was flat, logical right? otherwise you would fall off!! well im sure the same sort of thing will keep on happening, im sure you get my drift.
          The bible of course mentions creation, but as i said, to have a universe to explode out of nothing , 'by chance' to me seems illogical. which reminds me of a little story, it goes like this... A scientist in the future had created life, and he challenged God , saying that he was like God because he had created life, God said to him, ok prove it to me, ok says the scientist, and bends down to scoop up some soil, and God then says to him 'get your own soil' so you see my point.
          It is fascinating to me that the universe floats in nothing, and is expanding into nothing, and perhaps the universe is in God and not the other way round, I propose that God is absolute simplicity and absolute mystery at the same time, and the bible quotes God describing himself by the words .. I AM, not i am big, or i am intelligent or i am wonderful, but I just AM !!!
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        Mar 1 2011: Hi Peter, hahaha. thanks. that's great :)

        I now understand why your 'God' is so charismatic and no one seems to want to forget about him.

        (thanks again, I really appreciate that... but I wished he could speak for himself because I don't agree with him on many things and I won't take no answer from anyone else except him in person. unfortunately, he doesn't seem to even exist outside of a book... bummer!!)
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Birdia
          Oh I think God has made it out of his book. I speak to him daily & often get feedback. The book helps me to know when it is him & when it is just me. He never contradicts the book.

          Hbr 11:6 So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

          Rev 3:20 "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.

          So we have to give him the 'benefit of the doubt'. We have to take a step of faith, based on our understanding of the bible. (Best to start with New Testament).
          If we can do that & invite him in then your questions will be answered in due course. I have no doubt in his existance now, but I had to take a step of faith initially.

          Speak to him.
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        Mar 2 2011: Hi Peter, thanks for the bible quotes and I appreciate your earnestness in trying to convince me.

        Let me give you the reasons in which I do not think 'God' should have any place in reality except in fiction and in our rich imagination:

        1) He is a fictional character men aspire to become, similar to an action hero. While the fictional 'God' is all powerful and imperishable; man is fragile, powerless and small in the landscape of nature, and ultimately he is left to face death without any choice or objection. Upon the inability to accept this fact about his grim and short existence, man glorifies and attaches himself to this fictional 'God' to feel secure and safe, hoping that in 'keeping the faith', he, too, will one day enjoy immortality and the riches of eternity. Similarly, no matter how much I would like Spiderman to be real, to save me and protect me from evil and the dangers of life, it doesn't change the fact that he is a fictional character dreamt up by talented people, and the best that he can or should ever be is a celebration of human imagination and creativity.

        2) To elaborate on point #1 and to analyze even further, the character we call 'God' has been used to cloak man's fear and despair through the centuries. He has given many people a sense of purpose to live contentedly with hope and certainty in an unpredictable world. However larger than life he seems, his imposing psychological presence has also kept many men's lives atrocious, benighted and limited - a situation we see in many societies, and the only cure for this misery is to put this character in its right place, and face our shared reality bravely without denying the fact that we are fragile, we are mortal, we are uncertain; but we can love, we can feel, and we can share, all by ourselves on this lone planet in this vast and ever-changing universe.
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Biridia ..........regarding your first paragraph I think the main idea from it is that: "man glorifies and attaches himself to this fictional 'God' to feel secure and safe" , but Birdia if we have done it............why we have done it? why almost all people from the earth feel that (are all in danger and they all have need of protection , I don't think)?.......you can't say that we have invented the idea of God , because if you say that you should answer to the next questions : Why we have created the idea of God (who had have this so great imagination to invent something like that?) because God is outside of our world , how could we know about Him? and why exatcly this idea is so well-known , why people are saying that they have a need to worship something? (all the people have done it throughout the history to a lot of "gods")
          What determined people to talk for God or against Him(all people do one of it)?
          Why all people from the surface of the earth are so influenced of this idea ,( some talk against it or some talk for it)?Why all people are thinking at least once in their life at this idea?...............What determined us to do all these things?........we was educated differnetly but all, absolute all people know about something supernatural even though they accept it or not?
          " the character we call 'God' has been used to cloak man's fear and despair through the centuries" you said in the first paragraph that "God" is a fictional chaacter but if He is, how could that ficton make us feel safer , happier .....if is just a fiction?
          How could a fiction impose a psychological presence?(and think at all the history)..........

          ..............is imposible that the idea of God to be a fiction......God is very very real................
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Birdia

          I agree with Eduard. To an extent we see what we want to see. Dozens of peoples all over the world have a flood story in which some were saved by getting on a big boat. Athiests will say that the biblical narrative is a copy of these stories, I would say the opposite. The fact that the story is so well known to me verifies that it probably happened.
          There is tons of real life evidence that the bible is accurate in many fields. If you have time, here is some archeological evidence to consider.

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        Mar 2 2011: Hi Peter, thanks for the video. I have no doubt the bible contains some real historical events. Have you ever read 'The Romance of the Three Kingdoms', a great historical novel with mesmerizing myths and legends. I highly recommend it, but please do try to research on the best translation as it was originally written in old chinese text.

        I have a bible at home from high school, but I've always found it a bit dry as I grew up reading old text about mystical dragons, heavens upon heavens, proud monkeys flying on clouds and exciting stories of heroes gathering on snowy mountains. If you are into the dramatic stories of people moving from one side of the desert to another, I believe you will enjoy mythologies and legendary stories from the East, as they are just as compelling as Greek mythologies and the Odyssey.

        Same to you, too, Eduard. you'll really enjoy the stories :)

        I think this discussion should lead to new knowledge and fun discoveries than just bickering over who's right or who's not, afterall, we're on TED, don't you think?
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        Mar 2 2011: Hello Eduard, well it is also a very complicated and annoying culture sometimes. hahaha. But it's truly fun when you dig into the ancient stuff :)

        Any recommendations from your end? Would love to learn more, if you let me know some book titles or links, I will go read them!!
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          Mar 3 2011: The single chinese book that I've read is "The art of war " by Sun Tzu........I was especially facinated by the stuffs which I've heard and saw about chinese culture .......and I'm still learning.
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        Mar 3 2011: Hahaha :) that's such a guy's book!!!
        I like flying monkeys and heroes with crazy eyebrows better!!
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        Feb 27 2011: Kathy, I appreciate how, in your last line, you discuss the reverence people have for their holy text. I think that's something that the modern atheist movement should take more note of: people actually care about the text and feel connected to it.

        Your claim that the bible withstands scrutiny is in need of massive clarification. It continues to be a source of meaning and connection for billions of people, yes. But there are large religious movements that treat the bible as some kind of encyclopedia in which one can look up facts about God. And that's a problem.

        I think what Tim Colgan and Richard Dawkins are trying to point out is the great horror that comes when we take a text that has a rich narrative tradition but is not factually reliable and use it as a replacement for the rigorous application of science.

        I'm sure you can understand the fear some people have if a president of the United States believed that dinosaurs walked the earth seven thousand years ago and that Jesus was coming back "any minute now." Somebody who has the launch codes to our nuclear arsenal cannot be permitted to believe that those are facts. It could mean the death of us all.
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        Feb 27 2011: You said that Holy Scripture is a connection to truth that we can rely on and, as a testament, it's stood the test of time
        But I wonder, which Scripture? Or more generally, which text even? We could take the most prominent ones: The Bible, The Koran, The Torah and discover that each asserts itself as, unequivocally, 'the' holy book.
        This, in itself, is aside from numerous internal contraindications and considers only three of thousands of equally confident scriptures each of which, in themselves, fail to reveal accurately even the most basic facts about our world.
        Too, withstanding ages does not necessarily imply truth. Consider the long held geocentricism that was, mind you, aggressively, and falsely, supported by the church.
        Moreover, I believe your assessment of science is flippant. While it is true that science is always updating, this is its greatest strength and does not counter its truth or relevance but, rather, reinforces it. Science does not continuously reinvent itself, it refines itself in light of new facts but, always, it is moving closer to the truth; a singular, not erratic, trajectory. For example, the discovery of heliocentrism, a product of evidence overturning apocryphal beliefs, or of a new lifesaving treatment, deduced by science, overturning a false and ineffective 'traditional' method.
        Finally, I think that it is a bit rash to claim that referencing a holy book as irrational is blatantly ignorant. While there is something to be said for the numinous aspects (this bit I suspect you mean when you say "[not] via the intellect alone") of religion, these experiences are not singular ones and occur across all religions, and even for non-religious individuals. Nor is there any reason to suspect that these experiences are outside the realm of science.
        Also, Atheism is not the simple consequence of not understanding and 'giving up'. Rather, it and, in general, non-religious views take relgion as a hypothesis, consider the evidence, and adjudicate.
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          Feb 27 2011: "fail to reveal accurately even the most basic facts about our world"................I totaly disagree, the religion(christianity) reveals a lot of facts (not just the basic facts) but a lot of facts , which(the most of them) was proved just in the last centuries by science(and surely science and religion aren't in relation of enmity).
          "Consider the long held geocentricism that was, mind you, aggressively, and falsely, supported by the church." the Bible from the begining have ever said that the earth is "circular" , the wrong was just the interpetation of the Bible(have you ever read the bible?).

          I don't know why so many are putting science and religion in relation of enmity(perhaps they don't know too well neither what is saying religion nor what is saying science) , they aren't enemy ....they are just to complementary things.
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        Feb 27 2011: I agree with you Jack. While it is fine for people to believe or have 'faith' in what they choose in their personal lives, having an invisible 'God' there to influence politics and possibly endanger national and/or international security is no doubt a reasonable concern.

        Hi Michael, thank you for standing up for science. I am not a scientist, but science had made me understand that we, humans, all came from the same source through the facts and rational explanations given by the evolution theory. While religions and dogmas divide people, science unites everyone and forms the basis that while I might look or think differently from the guy sitting next to me in the subway, him and I are fundamentally made up of the same matters and therefore, equal.

        If I am to stand by one human development that has indeed raised human intelligence and understanding to a higher level, it has to be science. In terms of moral guidance, I would turn to philosophy, which is the result of freethought and in so many aspects, had paved the way for science to flourish.

        Based on my above argument and to go back to Tim's question: "Has religion outlived it's usefulness?"

        My answer would be: a definite 'yes'.
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          Feb 28 2011: Birdia, I appreciate your contrast of philosophy and science, I see them fulfilling complementary roles as well.

          I'm curious how you'd describe the difference between religion and philosophy. Particularly when they creep close together like with Pythagorus or Plato. Is it just belief in a theistic being that separates them, or is it something more?
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        Feb 28 2011: Hi Jack, that's a great question, thank you.

        I think what differentiate religion and philosophy is in the delivery and approach? While engaging in philosophy, one can pose an argument in agreement or opposition to the idea being discussed, therefore, philosophizing can lead to greater understanding of an issue, and it has less to do with whether one believes in one 'God' or multiple deities because everyone can join in the debate; however, in religion, people are told about the rules, for example, who goes to heaven and who doesn't, etc., and in some cases, people are even coerced to follow the rules without given the option to object. Thus, religion, in many ways, induces fear in people's hearts and hinders freethinking.

        That's my understanding. How about you Jack? What do you think?
      • Mar 4 2011: Absolute knowledge Kathy, absolute moralism, and absolute certainty, all of these seem to me incredibly dangerous. As for religious texts themselves I have read many and enjoyed some immensely the prose edda in particular is fascinating and beautiful but they contain no absolutes, only insights into human beings and the different models they make of the world. The march of science is one of model refinement, as time passes our models become more accurate, but they are never absolutely true, they are only true, until they are not. This seems to me to be a much more preferable system.
    • Feb 27 2011: I really like your response Birdia. And I think the task at hand, in replacing religion with other tools to provide for human needs, is to find an overarching humanitarian concept that has multiple paths to accomplish it.
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        Feb 27 2011: Thanks Shane, I agree with you on finding a humanitarian concept to achieve peace and harmony in human societies. There is one author's words I find relevant to our discussion here, and he had posed some very valuable arguments in man's search for 'God':

        "Man has throughout the ages been seeking something beyond himself, beyond material welfare - something we call truth or God or reality, a timeless state - something that cannot be disturbed by circumstances, by thought or by human corruption.

        Man has always asked the question: what is it all about? Has life any meaning at all? He sees the enormous confusion of life, the brutalities, the revolt, the wars, the endless divisions of religion, ideology and nationality, and with a sense of deep abiding frustration he asks, what is one to do, what is this thing we call living, is there anything beyond it?

        And not finding this nameless thing of a thousand names which he has always sought, he has cultivated faith - faith in a saviour or an ideal - and faith invariably breeds violence.

        In this constant battle which we call living, we try to set a code of conduct according to the society in which we are brought up, whether it be a Communist society or a so-called free society; we accept a standard of behaviour as part of our tradition as Hindus or Muslims or Christians or whatever we happen to be. We look to someone to tell us what is right or wrong behaviour, what is right or wrong thought, and in following this pattern our conduct and our thinking become mechanical, our responses automatic. We can observe this very easily in ourselves...

        ...So to discover whether there actually is or is not something beyond this anxious, guilty, fearful, competitive existence, it seems to me that one must have a completely different approach altogether."

        Freedom from the Known by J. Krishnamurti
        • Mar 1 2011: The scariest thing is the defense for religion by saying science is against it, a religion in itself, etc.

          No...it's merely a method of figuring out how something works. You start off with a hypothesis "IF this THEN that" and create controlled tests to prove it true or false. THATS IT. So really it clashes only when the information obtained begins to potentially disprove a long held belief a group of people have.

          Personally I'm tired of the labels. Yes of course I have certain feelings and ideas of how things should work but I am willing to accept that they have no place in reality if the accumulated information says otherwise. We tend to not want to be wrong or let go.(Comes down to Fear of the Unknown)

          Obviously im on the side thats says it's outdated. But I'm willing to say that many of my statements are merely strong opinion without the personal research to back it up.

          ***Do you think there is a way to quantify all the information and dialogue that many people have put into this debate and elsewhere?

          To condense and calculate the accuracy or inaccuracy of our 'views' with INFORMATION compiled(feelings, proven/unproven facts, percentage of people, etc)...to perhaps get something closer to a definitive answer out of the chaos many people talking.
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        Mar 1 2011: Hi Nick, people who defend religion may view science as another 'religion', but we all know how false that is. Science is based on facts with no mysticism or a fixed set of 'beliefs', so how can it be classified as a 'religion'?

        Besides, science is not 'against' anything; basically, it is 'for' anything that can be proven. Science can even prove 'beauty' with geometry.

        Yes, I agree with you that somehow this debate can be served as a research for further studies. I also notice how this commenting system is perhaps not working very well in supporting this type of group discussions :)
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          Mar 1 2011: Hi Birdia
          "Science is based on facts with no mysticism or a fixed set of 'beliefs', so how can it be classified as a 'religion'?
          Besides, science is not 'against' anything; basically, it is 'for' anything that can be proven. Science can even prove 'beauty' with geometry"

          For me science oversteps itself into belief with assertions about the Big Bang, Abiogenesis, Dinosaur extinction date, Macro evolution etc. These things cannot be proven, but to cast doubt on the truth of them will bring a major backlash, as many scientists have found to their cost. It's good to have theories, but unless they can be tested they are faith based, & not strictly scientific. Don't you think?

        • Mar 2 2011: Exactly science is neutral. As strong information processing creatures I think we always want know. If we don't know or cant figure it out we create our own answers to feel content. We usually need a reason to do something right?(My guess is we always do)

          And as 'thought provoking' as some peoples responses are how can we make such an in depth analysis of things that have very little/no proof? OR when we have such contrasting information that says otherwise...doesn't that create a high probability the belief as it is false by default.

          How about the statement that science cannot explain 'this' or 'that' therefore it's wrong. I mean isn't that a cop out for the fact that science has not explained it YET? I can't say it will but we are gaining so much new knowledge every single day(and exponentially).

          @Peter. We've created many methods to test the things you've stated. Like the Hadron Particle accelerator in relation to the Big Bang. We have math equations that explain gravity, electricity, and other forces. Yet we don't have one for the 'invisible man'. Again I'm not against God but if there's people so strongly defending it step up to the plate to create some controlled tests and numbers for comparison.
        • Mar 2 2011: P.s. Your right.

          We need to start an idea thread on how the make commenting much more effecient. It makes me not even want to have multiple conversations. Perhaps we should start a thread on this alone. Ha

          TED should focus on making these interactions as powerful as possible. Which is why I think crowd sourcing the information has amazing potential for something greater here.
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    6 days ago: Awesome Tim, 515 comments and counting!!!

    The Scientist and the Sage are speaking.

    I am truly happy to see this topic discussed with (for the most part) humility and mutual respect.

    With seven days left, how would you all feel about starting a thread which discusses where there might be a concurance of opinions between the two camps, on issuse like the sciences, morality and any other matter you think might be of merrit?

    It should be at least as constructive and interesting no?.
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      5 days ago: Hi Wayne. Good to see you back. You've been missed.

      Yeh, the number of comments has gotten pretty high, but the number is starting to decrease (was up to 548 last night). Appears that a comment I made about keeping postings short was taken to extreme.

      To me the beauty of this discussion is the diversity of voices that are heard ... and the interaction between the voices. I know that it seems to get kind of acrimonious at times, but everyone has their own way of expressing themselves. But in the end you see that everyone does want to communicate.

      Your idea sounds great. But did you mean another thread within this conversation or another conversation entirely? Either way you've got my support.
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    Mar 8 2011: Science is the study of creation, as Eduard suggests, it deals with specifically matter and energy. God is not a part of creation, therefore science can't make conclusions about him.
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      Mar 8 2011: Ibthaj: I'm hoping you've read some of my posts where I attempt to "define" God. How does that differ from your conception of him? Thanks,

      If you wish me to elaborate, let me know.
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      Mar 8 2011: yes man that I said.
      And Tim I 've read your posts and I disagree , more details at your post.
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        Mar 8 2011: Eduard - you're not posting also as Ibthaj are you?

        I'm really just trying to gather as many viewpoints as possible.
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          6 days ago: no Tim have post something at your comment but I think that you saw it.
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        Mar 8 2011: Kathy:

        Are you referring to the five page post that ends with the question:

        "Does this answer your question?"

        I have read it several times. I guess I owe you a response. The answer is "yes".

        Kathy - once the threads get to be three levels deep and people add long commentary, I find it best to start a new thread, otherwise other people never see new posts.

        If your interested in exploring the topic of consciousness, it seems there is another ongoing conversation here:


        It is an interesting topic in itself, but not the main focus here.

        In regards to starting other conversations, I've contributed to other conversations but only started this one. One is enough to manage at a time.

        Kathy: If you're interested in exploring a theme within our topic, you should start a new thread (top of this page in box below "What do you think?"). Start with a short statement of your viewpoint and end with a question meant to elicit a meaningful response. Try it.
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    Mar 2 2011: Thank you all for your insight. You have probably heard the riddle 'if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?' I believe this to be indicative of our current Human condition.

    We have become so enraptured by our splendor as to believe with asinine stubbornness that there is no reality outside our existence or experience.

    One reason for this, I believe, is that at an animal level we have both willingly and through desperate necessity created civilizations which focus mightily on what our senses help us identify as tangible and how such matter can be turned to satisfying (or in some cases saturating) our physiologic needs.

    The ultimate and most relentless (read Omnipotent) goal of this behavior, which is shared by all life forms, is an ecstatic immortality.

    This makes sense, however, I truly don't get how most of us can think that because we are unable perceive something - with our scientifically demonstrably and comparatively feeble senses - it does not exist.

    This very thought process is pathologically counterintuitive!

    Pride comes before the fall.

    How can we hope to evolve (read not become extinct) if we refuse to embrace much less acknowledge the infinite outside ourselves?!

    Having said that, I must admitted I am wary of approaching such phenomena with our immature, yet curiously classical, modes-operandi (usually akin to rape and pillage for it is better to ask forgiveness than permission)! Brothers and Sisters wake up and however you may, deal with it.

    I propose that a more suitable definition for the term supernatural denote a phenomena purely outside the scope of normal human perception, therefor outside the scope of current scientific means to measure or catalogue within our understanding of those laws applying to our nature.

    Nuf said.

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      Mar 2 2011: Yes, but scientists don't tend to deny that something outside of our observation is not true. Although I am a scientist I am still more dedicated to the continental branch of natural philosophy rather than the analytic branch. Although I am good with the analytic methods (I have to be in order to do my job.)

      What we observe may also be false and constructed by the mind, this is elaborated very well in Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, with regard to what you are saying induction also has limits when it comes to drawing true conclusions, because there may always be a phenomenon which we failed to observe or it is beyond inference and observation. So all these are valid criticisms against science and most intelligent scientists would acknowledge them.

      However the scientist attempts to describe reality with what he knows about it and he can't describe nature accurately with what he doesn't know. Why is that? Well because a negative is not subject to proof. No amount of logic or evidence will prove a negative. One can ask you how do you know you are not stuck in the matrix? And you can only answer by saying I don't know. But then you can pose a question and say how do you know all of us are not living in a cosmic tea cup? With no positive evidence there is no method to verify either claim and that's why the scientific method is fairly rigid when it comes to integrating anything in the theory which is not physically evident.
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        Mar 2 2011: Hi Budimir,

        'Yes, but scientists don't tend to deny that something outside of our observation is not true.'

        Did you mean deny something outside our observation is true?

        If so, is that not exactly what science is saying when it says there is no God?
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          Mar 2 2011: I wouldn't say so. No one knows if God truly exists. So how can scientists make a true statement about the existence of God if they simply don't know if God exists or not. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that God can exist but no one knows if he does, So scientists stick to making "true" statements abouit what they actually know.
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          Mar 3 2011: Budimir you said:"No one knows if God truly exists" but why so many are beliving that God truly exist? Are all of them crazy?
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          Mar 3 2011: Argumentum ad populum is the name of the logical fallacy your argument rests upon. You must remember that there have been times when the majority of people have held astrology, alchemy or the prediction of oracles to be messengers of truth. Were they crazy? No, simply content not to challenge the 'collective beliefs' of the time.
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          Mar 4 2011: Exactly what I was gonna say but you beat me to it.
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          Mar 4 2011: Matthieu

          "Were they crazy? No, simply content not to challenge the 'collective beliefs' of the time."

          Now it's evolution's turn.

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          Mar 4 2011: Budimir, Matthieu and Mind S : As Bernard Russel said "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible".......this argumentum ad populum................I'm not defending that kind of people(I'm call them the "crowd") , what I meant is about the people (like me) that are beliving because they have some reasons to do that (in my opinion the truly religious people are they that belive something because have reasons to do that........and that reasons are coming from science , from their experience........from everything in fact)
          And think that there are (and ever was) scientists that are also beliving , there are very well-educated persons (a lot of that kind) that are beliving (teachers , engineers, doctors.... a lot).Are all of them crazy? I don't think , imagine something like that...........
          Another thing that I meant to say is : Could something that is just a fiction (that is inexistent ) to have so great influence upon me or others like me, to resist so many hudreds of years?
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          Mar 4 2011: I see you've supplemented your argumentum ad populum with an argument from authority. Another fallacy. If your reasons to believe are coming from science, I would like to hear that science please. Maybe just one example.

          @Peter Law: Please do challenge evolution...with some actual REAL facts. Maybe then. So far all that's coming from the Creationists is white noise.
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          Mar 4 2011: OK Matthieu

          Layman cell theory.
          DNA holds information in language form; 4-letter alphabet, 3-letter words. RNA 'reads' a section at a time, copies it, and carries it to another part of the cell. Here it is 'read' again & the information is used to manufacture a protein; or whatever.

          Outside world theory.
          My car's bust. I read in my manual that I need a 'sprocket'. I lift the phone, get a wrong number in Mongolia & try & order a sprocket. Why can't I get one ? The guy doesn't speak english. The only reason I would get one in Manchester is that both of us were told what 'sprocket' meant when we were at school.

          Both the DNA & the protein maker need an agreement on the language convention, or the cell will not work. Otherwise the DNA , & the protein maker could try 'till doomsday & never get their act together.

          This is only a tiny part of the miracle of life. Comment please, don't use long words, I am easily confused.

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          Mar 4 2011: The essence of the object themselves are the convention. Your argument is also a logical fallacy, argument from incredulity. Because you are amazed at how intricate life is, you jump to the conclusion that it must have a creator. I want you to give me real facts that validate Creationism beyond reasonable doubt, not facts that you personally interpret as so amazing they must have a creator. You must never appeal to emotion on matters of science. Otherwise we would have done away with quantum mechanics out of disgust for its strangeness (but we haven't because it works so accurately).
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          Mar 4 2011: The best thing that you could do if you wanna really know something about what I'm talking here is to read "Mere Christianity" by C S Lewis former Oxford professor.
          And now look an example: the existence of photons was discoverd as you perhaps know in the end of nineteenth century by Enstien (and maybe and others have had some ideas some decades ago before Enstien about it) but what is the most important is that in Bible had been said it thousands of years before in Isaiah book.........(when I asked my physics professor when I took course of cuantum mechanics about where are coming the photons from? what force generated them? he said to me that he don't know because noone knows , and it's very true noone knows).
          The Newton's laws from classical mechanic, the laws from quantum mechanics , the relativity ..........................are supporting the Bible.
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          Mar 4 2011: Matthieu

          There you go with the big words again. You do not address the problem. There is NO scientific explanation for the spontaneous production of language, nor is there ever likely to be. All experience of language is that it requires intelligence to produce it; period.
          Rambling on about my gullibility doesn't cut it Matt. The essence of what objects ?
          Keep quantum mechanics for another day. Today I want to know your theory of where the DNA language originated. You offered, so cough up.

          "@Peter Law: Please do challenge evolution...with some actual REAL facts. Maybe then. So far all that's coming from the Creationists is white noise."
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          Mar 5 2011: @Eduard Khil: I don't care too much about C.S Lewis, I've heard his stuff before. 'Narnia' is ok but that's how far I can be bothered with C.S Lewis. The whole "mad, bad or the Son of God" is the most overused piece of nonsense ever. How is the photon, general relativity or quantum mechanics predicted by the Bible? Why wasn't it used at the time? Cite the passages from Isaiah. This is the tallest tale I've ever heard. I've heard the Bible supposedly 'predict' many things. But this?

          @Peter Law: That's the name of the fallacy, I'm sorry that you're using it and that my merely pointing it out offends you. But you got to understand that saying something like 'look at this complex system, how did it get there, must be God' cannot substitute natural facts. Getting offended is too easy a way to defect from a debate. Congrats.

          What big words are you reffering to? I'm speaking in plain English. I've only lived in the UK forl 3 years. As far as I can tell you've been a resident of the UK most of your life.

          I didn't offer to explain but I will say this: The parallel that is drawn between DNA and language is metaphorical. You can see it as a language or you can see it as the sequence of chemical processes it really is. Chemical reactions don't need a conscious creator. It's not much of a stretch of the imagination to see how self-replicating chemical reactions would come about, especially over billions of years. Amino acid chains spontaneously form all the time in nature!

          Let's get one thing straight too. Evolution doesn't mean no God. Creationism does mean however no evolution. So if you could prove that DNA had a designer, you're still not making a case for Creationism.

          I stick to my words. 'Maybe then' is 'maybe then'. Come up with those arguments.
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          Mar 5 2011: "I don't care too much about C.S Lewis"..................Matthieu I don't don't care about your opinion or about your attitudes if you don't say me WHY you have them ...........ok? You didn't prove anything, if Lewis is wrong prove it.............and seem that you didn't understand what I said , the realtivity , the quantum mechanics are supporting the Bible ( it was nothing predicted).................more than that I don't care about anyones opinions(even the opinion of the greatest scientist) if they don't say me why they have that opinions......ok?
          "This is the tallest tale I've ever heard".......prove that is just a tale , but as you said you don't care too much about it
          "I've heard the Bible supposedly 'predict' many things"...... I understand........ you've just heard.
          ..........ok.................that's it ..................thank you for sharing your ideas with me (as much as you've done it).
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          Mar 5 2011: My point is, I'm not going to go out of my way to read C.S Lewis. The argument is here and now. How are quantum mechanics and relativity supporting the Bible?
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          Mar 5 2011: Hi Matthieu

          I am not offended but frustrated. Most scientists take the attitude that the DNA information is analogous to language, especially computer programming. It can be printed out & read just like a book. If we can't work on that assumption, then I know nothing about chemical reactions. Although people who do know are quite happy to talk in language terms. I don't think you're on the same page so let's not waste time.

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          Mar 5 2011: the quantum mechanics and the relativity and all from physics are supporting the Bible just not contradicting it, all have same sense.
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        Mar 5 2011: @Peter Law: Yea let's leave it at that for both our sakes.

        @Eduard Ghiur: So what you're saying is the Bible doesn't contradict modern science, therefore it's valid? Couldn't you basically say that about almost any religious text? Besides, I think it really depends how seriously you take the old testament. It does say that all animals came before man which is false. It says the Moon is a source of light which is false. It says two people birthed the human race (Adam and Eve) which just isn't possible. It says disease is simply the devil which is false. It says the Earth is a circle which is false (I've actually heard this one used as evidence that there is science in the Bible as it somehow predicts the Earth is round and I guess it goes to show the people who wrote that don't know the difference between a circle [2D object] and a sphere [3D object]) Ok so you could take a more flexible approach to the old testament and say that it's hugely symbolical and mostly metaphorical. In that case one feels compelled to say of course it's not going to contradict science because it makes absolutely no scientific claims and it can be reshaped over the years to fit our perception. So I don't get what you're really trying to say with that statement.
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          Mar 6 2011: Hello Matthieu M.

          One of the most explicit metaphors I have ever come across, which describes my belief of what God is, is an interactive exercise that goes like this (please have a pencil and a clean sheet of white paper at the ready):

          1) Place the sheet of white paper on a flat surface in front of you.

          2) Use the sharpened lead of the pencil to draw as perfectly as possible the smallest yet clearly visible dot you can make, dead center of the sheet.

          3) Put down the pencil observe your work and open your mind to what I am about to say.

          "If all the universe, known and unknown, were to be contained in that dot in the middle of your sheet, God would be all of that dot , all of the white beyond and everything beyond even that."

          The rock and the chiseler flesh of his flesh.

          How might such a being communicate (interact) with its smaller parts and what type of language would it use? How much might be lost in translation if you were to find a way to communicate all you know to a life form microscopic to an amoeba.

          Now imagine for a moment what a being so omnipotent might do if it knew that some infinitesimally small part of itself, willfully acts as a spiteful cancer towards the rest of what is.
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          Mar 6 2011: "So what you're saying is the Bible doesn't contradict modern science, therefore it's valid?" no....the validity of the Bible isn't gave by science, science just not contradict the Bible ......yes I could say that about any religious text and I take very seriously the old testament.
          "It does say that all animals came before man which is false. It says the Moon is a source of light which is false. It says two people birthed the human race (Adam and Eve) which just isn't possible."...................don't get angry on me but you said just :it is false, you didn't say why it is so.(if we take litarally the Bible , there is just a matter of days, that it's very important) and if you don't give me arguments I can't say you too much.(about the earth the Bible have ever sustained what is corect, what is incorect is someone interpetation about it).
          look at the creation .......it is the most 'quantum' that could ever be and of that don't expect too much to can explain you how it come scientifically(science can't explain that it isn't too devepoped to make it), but as much as science can explain it, the science is in the same sense with it.
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        Mar 6 2011: I think you've just wasted a piece of paper for nothing.
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          Mar 6 2011: TED TRANSLATOR

          I truly hope your flippant and immature attitude does not carry over into your responsibility as a translator for TED.

          Please do not reply until you have something constructive to say.

          God bless.
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        Mar 6 2011: Well what did you seriously expect for me to answer? What could I possibly say about the metaphor of something I don't believe in and how my disbelief hurts its feelings? How did your answer in any way help the conversation I was having with Eduard along? Would you have something interesting to say if I asked you to imagine how a chair feels about you sitting on it if one imagines all non-living forms to have spirits?

        I apologise, but I still don't see what I could possibly answer to that. Maybe somebody else will give it a go.
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          Mar 6 2011: Wayne/Matthieu: There's a lesson in what Wayne said, and a lesson in what Matthieu responded and a lesson in what Wayne responded to Matthieu and a lesson in what Matthieu finally said.

          It might take me a while to figure out what it is. But I'm sure there's a lesson.
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          Mar 6 2011: Matthieu m.It is said to be of the greatest practical benefit to make a few mistakes early in life (God knows Im guilty of a few) so, apology accepted. I am not sure what you ment by hurting the metaphors' feelings. I am also not sure I understand the particulars about my involvement in the discusion between Eduard and yourself.About the chair, I guess I would have to say I can't relate. Anyhow You seem to be a very intelligent young man and I look forward to growing with you and the rest of us who are here to teach and learn.If you are here to enlighten anyone please loose the sarcasm all it does is put up barriers which creat tangents which take your audience away from your message. Peace.
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        Mar 6 2011: @Eduard: It is the most 'quantum' it can ever be? What is that even supposed to mean? Do you even know what that means?

        Ok, so you take the old testament literally and say it doesn't contradict science. This is where things go wrong. The Bible says all animals came before Man. The theory of evolution paints a very different picture, modern animals having appeared more or less around the same time as Human beings. Some species, like dogs, have notably come long after the first Human beings. In fact, in light of evolution it is clear that Humans are in fact animals themselves of the family of Great Apes. The theory of evolution is also the reason why you cannot have two people, Adam and Eve as progenitors of a whole species. Not only does it raise questions of incest which leads to many genetic defects, but also in evolution there is a continuum of species whereby speciation happens for a group of individuals from an archaic species and this transformation can only happen on populations greater than 500. Otherwise that population would collapse. Which species of Homo would you even class Adam and Eve as? Homo Sapiens? Or did they come earlier? Could they have been Australipithecii. The fact is the transitions between species isn't discrete its continuous. From one generation to the next you don't go from one definite non-human to a definite human.

        It says the Moon is a source of light. This one is obvious, we know the Moon does not generate its own light but in fact reflects the light of the Sun.

        the Earth being a circle is another simple one. The Earth isn't flat, it's a 3D object, called a sphere. A circle does not refer to the 3D object as many like to triumphantly claim.

        Now as I said, you can chose to look at the old testament as something symbolical or methaphorical, but in that case, it's way too easy for the Bible to not contradict science in the same way it's easy for poems not to contradict science.

        Also I'm not angry at all, you're just projecting.
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      Mar 2 2011: Wayne - perhaps you should focus on the study of noumena vs. phenomena, as phenomenon are, by definition, observable.
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        Mar 2 2011: Thanks for your concern Tim, however, the point of my speech (lol) is that they are one and the same (scientifically demonstrably fallible perception) yet what we know of the two is in the shadows.
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          Mar 4 2011: Wayne: Ah yes, 'When you use a word, it means just what you choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
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    Feb 17 2011: Respectfully I say that to discuss any kind of direct action against religion - ever more by people outside its quarters - is plainly nonsense. Live it to those who are inside to bring balance and consistency upon their beliefs.

    The radicals - on any matter, issue or belief are a danger to themselves and others: if he is a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist. Of course any bad or wrong behaviour should be adressed by law and justice. But subjectively what can a disagreer do?

    Try to eliminate or to put any kind of limits or restrain on people's creed is just impossible. And using the argument that it is for the sake of humanity is just like throwing the baby away with the dirty water.

    Religion cannot be properly defined or characterized. Any kind of human movement in groups motivated by some kind of idealism or subjectivity can fall into the same trap. Anti religion is another kind of religion. Freedom above all is the best policy.

    Christianity has shown itself to be extremely bad on many occasions, and extremely good on others. The same applies to other religions. September 11 - how awfull and heartbreaking - is one example of the many attrocities played by man.

    Many give the argument that Western society would not be what it is otherwise if it wasn't for its Christian pressupositions and beliefs.

    Now, as we live in times where Institutions are on the brink - let the reactions, the reform movements, the self healing efforts and so on, be natural, spontaneous and nevertheless human.
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      Feb 18 2011: The issue which Dawkins so elegantly puts forth is the need to confront religious (i.e. - dogmatic) thinking. No, I don't believe that direct action in the form of laws or violence are the appropriate means of overcoming it. But concerted efforts by those who consider it fallacy to promote reason vs. tradition could have an effect.

      If more people in Bush's or Blair's inner circle had confronted them on their divine inspirations, perhaps it could have had a significant effect.
      • Feb 18 2011: You are taking your thoughts and the ideas of RD and formulating your own answers on how to grow as a society. Meanwhile, the religious masses are taking their thoughts, combining them with their chosen reference material and generating their conclusions. The fact seems to be that, with a "god" as your inspiration or not, we all see the world through our own eyes and have developed our own opinions. In terms of catering to our human needs, doesn't each man deserve the opportunity to satisfy this need the best way he sees fit? Even if that man is an elected official?

        BTW, I agree about Bush. But I was not presented with his situation and his responsibility.
        • Feb 19 2011: Everyman is indeed entitled to his own belief system. But the shape of society should not be determined by archaic principles that come from a "divine source". And when society is controlled by ideas that run counter to reason, and are esteemed to be above debate, thats when it becomes a problem. The ideas propagated by religion are so often shoved down the throat of those who don't know any better, and maybe it fulfills something for them, but there should be a way in which a light is spread on the fact that each idea is in and of itself, fallible.
        • Feb 25 2011: >>>Mr Internet
          First off, what archaic principles are shaping society? I just want some clarification of the specific principals your talking about and why they are bad. Also, which of these ideas run counter to reason?
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          Feb 25 2011: "Given that life only exists because of this divine source, this point is moot."

          Prove it.
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          Feb 27 2011: It's true, I thought that by 'theosophist' you meant 'theologist'. You proved me otherwise, I accept that. How you then conclude from this slip-up that I don't have the intellectual capacity to understand the old testament is beyond me (yes, I realise the irony of this sentence). But I think that says a lot about your particular way of reasoning. Personal attacks aside, doesn't evolution show that species aren't as immutable as you assert given time?

          I mean the laws are immutable, but I don't see them meaning what you conclude for them. Systems evolve within those laws of nature, laws that are synonymous with the way particles interact which each other and how space-time itself takes form. I think you're skipping a lot of steps between your conclusion and premise;
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          Feb 27 2011: Kathy: "the intellectual mind cannot conceive of spirit. I repeat, it cannot." are you saying that no one whom considers themselves to be spiritual can be intellectual?
        • Feb 27 2011: Matthieu,

          The 'slip-up' goes to your character; that you couldn't be bothered to take a moment to educate yourself before presenting your written comment.

          I find it incredulous that you're trying to use evolution as an argument against the immutable law of nature. Once again, let me educate you as to the meaning of a word: Immutable means unchanging through time; unalterable; ageless. Therefore no, not even given time, do these laws change.

          I've no need to skip steps, it's very simple, very elegant ... things bring forth according to their kind.



          Are you serious?

          No, that's not what I'm saying. Are you really asking this question?

          I'm saying the intellectual level of our mind is too dense; it cannot conceive of spirit.

          I'm saying that the immutable law of nature dictates that things bring forth according to their kind, therefore only spirit can conceive of and bring forth spirit.

          Fairly straightforward.
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          Feb 27 2011: I apologize for making this short, it is late.
          For Miss. K,
          I hold a great contention for your argument about the energy scientists talk about and religion's concept of spirit. The concept of energy is fundamental to physical sciences and is astoundingly well understood. If you could provide evidence for, a definition of, and the connection therein to energy, for the for the concept you presented in the word 'spirit', I would appreciate it.
          Moreover, nitpicking on words and harassing Mathieu for not looking up the particulars of a definition or the etymology of a word is an ad-hominem attack and is a logical fallacy that does not negate his argument nor advance yours whatsoever.
          Also, claiming that one's mind is too intellectually dense for 'spirituality' holds no weight and is not an argument. Therefore, it does not diminish the statements of others or advances yours.
          Also, this idea of the 'immutable law of nature' is complete bunk.
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          Feb 28 2011: Kathy K., you seem to run a little too wildly with your conclusions about my character. It'd be nice to see you try weaken my position with actual arguments rather than attacks. I know what immutable means, I was making a specific comment about some of the things you said such as:

          "Plant an apple tree, rely on it producing apples, not figs.
          A cow will bring forth a calf, not cubs."

          Is in not true that given enough time, from one species other species can be borne out? The apparent immutability of organisms is only but an illusion of a short timescale.

          Sure there are laws of nature that don't ever change for our particular Universe, but from none of these can we seriously conclude your so-called 'elegant' conclusion. Things bringing forth their kind? On the contrary I see transformation everywhere. The elements that compose us were forged in the hearts of massive stars for example.
          Like Michael says, your immutable law of nature idea is complete bunk.
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        Feb 19 2011: With due respect to the brilliant Mr. Dawkins, I find his confrontation of religion to be out of alignment with some of his own work.

        Surely the human mind holds onto religion for a specific reason. A frontal, logical, attack on the belief systems does little good. Dawkins talks about helping the "middle of the road" people to know that living a life without religion is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. If that is his end goal, then maybe his approach is working.

        Minds that hold tightly to the religious meme do so for a reason. Subtlety is required. I call that work "meme tweaking" whereby new ideas are submitted in a way that does not trigger a defensive response by the core meme.

        It continues to surprise me that Dawkins uses such a brute force technique.
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          Feb 21 2011: Steve: You make an important point about the futility of direct confrontation against religious dogma. Yet isn't one of the most important aspects of "meme tweeking" in this respect the power of indoctrinating children in the belief-system?

          So just taking one issue for discussion - might it not be very important, from a societal deprogramming perspective, of a movement such as prohibiting prayer in publicly funded schools?
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          Feb 22 2011: If I were given the opportunity to suggest a name for the next TED conference, I would strongly recommend Os Guiness for his sharp and intelligent pointing of potential errors that American Society might bring about in following a radical secularism as well as the radical religious right. Every time we polarize the discussion or our intents, we do an awfull job on liberty, diversity and unity.

          His 2008 book The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It - challenges us to a higher and more noble position that is more than being tolerant: to be civil. And I agree with him. The public square is not to be naked (stripped of any religion) nor to be sacred (as some Muslim Societies are - and sad to say - some radical Christians would love).

          Although the question was not posted - but it comes about that when we want to square in on religion (or better saying to put religion on the table and try to strip it). This is just an impossible task for the quest to believe is innate in the human being, and that is what gives us power to decide and live. Each one of us has a personnal faith - Philosphy and Epistemology will give us more light on the matter.

          So as I tryed to make my point in my other comments - we fall into a trap not being able to separate Religion from other forms of 'ism's. The assumption that Religion follows a sacred text is limited. What counts is not what we explain for our deeds and behaviour (afterward) but what came before, and caused us to act (and live) and that is ... our personnal belief system.
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          Feb 22 2011: Reply to Volney:

          So maybe we can divide the discussion into two parts:

          Scriptural based religions: Do you believe it is wrong to confront scriptural based thinking and "evangelize" in favor of reason?

          Non-scriptural based religions: How do you define this? If the definition is "a personal belief system", then I guess the original question could never be answered in the negative, for how could personal belief systems ever cease to be useful?
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          Mar 6 2011: Volney: Your suggestion on Os Guinness motivated me to investigate and I found this video


          Os is definitely a master of the metaphor. Thanks for your suggestion. Although you and I differ on technicalities, I appreciate your sticking it out in our discussion.
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        Feb 21 2011: When we look upon someonelse's creed or worldvision and consider it a fallacy, we are creating a religion of our own, thus making an argumentative circle that entraps our own position. We cannot use 'reason' (the Rational framework that is) as a superior assumption in which we build our argument. Even if we have to go into Philosophy - this has to be clarified.

        RD does in fact create a new religion to fight a widespread creed under the umbrella which peolple believe in a Supreme Being. It is easy to fall into a cry mourning for having to live in the same world where people don't accept the same 'ism as we do.

        I understand perfectly well - even though being a Brazilian - that American Society is in a constant strugle with the religious influence perpetuaded by those with political power. But the Democratic Sistem has to find ways to minimize any kind of bad influence.

        I would say - since Mr. Bush is mentioned - that the great majority of the Latin American Christians (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) did not endorse his decision for war, and felt that his motivations were more personnal than religious.
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          Feb 21 2011: It reminds me of the Atheist walking through Belfast. He was accosted by a gang of youths who demanded to know whether he was "Catholic" or "Protestant". No doubt the answer may have dire consequences, so he answered "I'm an Atheist." Thinking for a moment the young men retorted; "Yes, but is that a Catholic Atheist, or Protestant Atheist ?"
          We have the same thing in the central belt of Scotland, divided by football team. What has this to do with sincere faith in Jesus Christ ? Absolutely nothing, but many people just lump it together in their mind.
          I think freedom of speech is sacrosanct , should be protected at all costs & if young men want to follow 'religious' football teams then ; subject to the rule of law; that should be allowed. If we start banning religion, then it will only be a matter of time before they ban bingo, fishing, or whatever your particular thing happens to be. We must protect the freedom of others if we aspire to freedom for ourselves.
          The Americans seem to have a problem with their democracy. Doesn't the guy with the most votes get in ? If not then fix it, or maybe folks don't vote for Atheists. It's democracy right ?

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          Feb 21 2011: Volney: All your comments are very thought provoking and bring up interesting points.

          One which is most striking to me is your associating belief in reason to a form of religion. I can see the parallel in terms of both being a belief system. But when I talk about religion, I'm referring to a belief system based on a holy scripture and/or a divinely based authority.

          I'm wondering - what is your opinion concerning the usefulness for this type of religion? Can you understand my interest in seeing this type of thinking diminish?
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        Feb 24 2011: I find it a little frustrating that the UX for this new conversation system does not easily allow ongoing reply threading....

        But to @Tim's points above, I am a fan of Stephen Prothero's push to teach comparative religion in public schools with a focus on the top ten religions by population. In addition, I believe our schools would do well to teach a modernized from of Aristotelian Ethics. Science and Public Eduction have let go of the subjective discussion of the a fulfilling human experience. I think this may be the unmet demand that religion fills.

        When we begin to have modern discussions of human thriving I believe much of revealed religion will begin to naturally fade away. I see no need to directly confront the irrational constructs of revealed theology from the Abrahamic traditions. Instead, something should be offered to humanity that is more relevant and useful. When that happens, the archaic belief forms to wither.

        Society is a memetic marketplace with major brands holding much market share. Any group wishing to displace stalwart brands will need to supply something that fulfills the existing demand. Personally I believe there is an enormous unmet demand for rational spirituality. Or maybe it should be called applied spirituality.
        • Feb 24 2011: Steve, I am sorry but I can't figure out just what in the hell you are talking about.....
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          Feb 25 2011: Steve: Your comment opened the floodgates on an aspect of this conversation which I have been having trouble with.

          In my comments in other threads, I've searched for benefits of religion, but had trouble coming up with anything more that "meeting a need for community".

          But your phrase - "fulfilling human experience" - open my mind to other ideas such as:
          . where one can go to teach
          . hear music and participate in it's making
          . be in a visually interesting environment
          . get involved in social movements
          . be part of a book club
          . do some meditation
          . etc, etc

          Which are perhaps all related to a need for community but somehow (for me at least) broadens the purpose of religion.

          Do you know of any good examples of religion-like communities developing which provide these benefits without resorting to a dogmatic and/or exclusionary mindset?
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        Feb 27 2011: Tim, I'm attempting to build one here: http://sbnr.org

        The concept is to service the group of people that are Spiritual But Not Religious through discussion of applied spiritual practices and the wonder of every day experiences. It will be a community based on intersection values not belief. It is non-dogmatic except in its dogmatism of being non-dogmatic. It's on a shoestring budget right now as we get it going and is only a glimmer of what it is intended to be.
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    Mar 3 2011: See this is the big mistake everyone makes when they argue in favor of religious truth. When scientists say "there is something true that is beyond our observation" everyone jumps to the conclusion that scientists are talking about God. That's an error in logic. What scientists are implying is exactly what the sentence is stating, there is something out there which is true beyond our capacity to observe it. To claim this truth is God or anything else for that matter is to delve into fantasy land just like I can claim there are leprechauns because science hasn't uncovered them yet.

    So just to repeat one more time. "A truth beyond our ability to observe" does not equal "God".

    Until we observe this truth it can only be considered a black box or an unknown.
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      Mar 3 2011: YES!!! That is truth :)
    • Mar 3 2011: There is no 'assumption' ... lest ye forget the militant antics of one loudmouth professor.
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        Mar 3 2011: Who Dawkins? To tell you honestly I never read Dawkins I feel like he can't say much on the subject that I don't know. I debated this topic for over a decade both with philosophy, theology and science students. I am even a little weary of debating it, I wanna move on to more interesting topics so I have no reason to read Dawkins.

        Are you talking about him. If so why does he bother you?
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        Mar 3 2011: Impressive, his digestive system must have evolved backwards. But I still see no reason to hate on Dawkins, it seems to me that a Godless universe is a lot more probable and I see no reason why he shouldn't have the right to share his intellectual opinion.
        • Mar 3 2011: lol
          Shocker - my comment was deleted by one of Dawkin's faithful, so I guess it's OK for him to rip on religion, the religious, and God ... TED will promote that, but I am not allowed to speak against the grand pumbah of atheists. Let's see how long this comment stands

          No one said he had no right to share his intellectual opinion. But when he abuses his position as a respected, esteemed scientist to promote his own personal belief (or *non* belief) which has nothing to do with science; [and atheism has nothing to do with science] and when he uses his position of 'scientific authority' to further his personal belief (or *non*belief); when he uses the same 'strategy' to promote his belief (or non-belief) as the institutions which he claims such disdain for, then he's a hypocrite to the nth degree.

          Consider if an equally esteemed scientist was out there using his position of authority as a scientist to promote God and religion, bashing atheism and all those foolish, ignorant, pathetic God-denying atheists for being so irrational, illogical and ignorant; mocking atheists for their silly denial of a God that can be proven 'with "almost" certainty'.

          Tell me you wouldn't hang him out to dry for said "almost" certainty.
        • Mar 4 2011: That occurs, many "scientists" usually with fairly dodgy credentials try exactly this tack, they however are much less respected and so get less coverage. Atheism has everything to do with science, logic and rational thinking, I can't think of anyone more uniquely qualified to espouse atheism than an evolutionary biologist. Not only this but Dawkins isn't the first sceintist to say "enough", Carl Sagan was also anti-religion. As Dawkins himself says, "We are all athiests to some extent, some of us just go one God further."
        • Mar 4 2011: "Atheism has everything to do with science, logic and rational thinking ..."

          a·the·ism (th-zm)
          *1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
          *2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
          *(Philosophy) rejection of belief in God or gods
          *the absolute denial of the existence of God or any other gods.
          *the belief that there is no God.

          Nothing at all to do with "science, logic and rational thinking."
        • Mar 5 2011: Okay Kathy lets look at it logically, sorry if you have heard this argument before but it bears repeating, I tell you that there is a fully grown space whale orbiting a planet 200 light years distant. Now you could believe me, you could disbelieve me, or you could withhold judgment until more evidence is available. Logically you should do one of the latter two, since I have provided no evidence and what evidence I could provide would be spurious. But now let's think rationally and scientifically, space whales have never been observed, there is no reason to assume they ever will be observed so now you are guided toward the middle response of disbelief. That is why I say atheism has everything to do with logic reason and the very fundamentals of scientific empiricism. I'd like to finish with a Carl Sagan thought experiment that I think explains the logical fallacy of belief better than I ever could:

          "Look at the pale blue dot of our planet. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of cosmic dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn't strike you as unlikely pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They too cherish the idea of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?"
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        Mar 3 2011: Budimir, I have to agree with you on the point:

        • "But I still see no reason to hate on Dawkins, it seems to me that a Godless universe is a lot more probable and I see no reason why he shouldn't have the right to share his intellectual opinion."

        It is very well said indeed. I myself never quite understood why religions or so called 'holy scriptures' are almost always automatically accepted and never challenged. Dawkins had a reason to pose his objection however radical or disturbing it might seem to some. If we look at the world we are living in, places that are engaging in wars at this moment are mostly countries that have been following a long tradition of depending on the biased moral values that were set out by one or more deeply rooted religions. It seems very difficult for people not to fight over who's 'God' is more righteous, and exactly why is that?

        On the other hand, I haven't read any news regarding mass killings committed by scientists/philosophers towards each other due to differences in methods or ideas. Have you, or anyone?
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          Mar 3 2011: I don't wanna be impolite but think at communism Birdia , it's an idealogy.............Karl Marx , Engles ............................................and are a lot of demagogues today and ever was
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          Mar 4 2011: Birdia,

          I agree, religion has been such a long tradition especially in Western civilization that it goes unchallenged. Most people accept the existence of God without even asking for a burden of proof. In science such a thing is unheard of so naturally a lot of tension exists even though some scientists accept religion, more out of conventional behavior and norms than anything else.

          In my opinion religion offers an easy means to provoke a war. It is alot easier to manipulate people when they are indoctrinated and oblivious to facts, it is alot easier to justify your own actions when you truly believe they are righteous. I find that with philosophy and science the field of study encourages people to look for problems, criticize and be skeptical. Thus such subjects do not encourage complacency
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        Mar 4 2011: Kathy, just to let you know in science positives are given priority over negatives. As far as scientists are concerned there is no god because positive evidence shows there is none. Negatives can never be proven true so science ignores them.

        But I understand how you might feel about Dawkins and if it weren't for Dawkins I'm sure there would be another atheist to debate creationists. I am glad that Dawkins has made himself a public figure and has dispelled particular myths creationists were trying to push forward not just as an ideology but also onto our schools as well.
        • Mar 4 2011: " if it weren't for Dawkins I'm sure there would be another atheist to debate creationists."

          He doesn't debate creationists.

          "Dawkins has made himself a public figure and has dispelled particular myths"

          Which particular myths has he dispelled?
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        Mar 4 2011: Practically every argument for put forward by creationists he's done a really good job of dispelling, I consider creationism very bad science.
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          Mar 4 2011: Hi Budimir

          I love debates on this, but Dawkins isn't up for debate, he considers it beneath him. He has dispelled few, if any, creationist ideas. I can understand his position. In a straight fight the creationist normally wins. Dig me out one where the evolutionist wins & I will watch it eagerly.

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          Mar 4 2011: Peter, you're right:

          Why Richard Dawkins Doesn't Debate Creationists


          Quote: "If you were a professional geologist would you agree to have a debate with a flat-earther?"
        • Mar 4 2011: Here's one for you the myth of irreducible complexity has been refuted by many eminent scientists, including Dawkins, even the supposedly "invincible" flagella argument has been debunked. The fossil record clearly shows evolution, the genetic record clearly shows common ancestry, geological evidence clearly shows the Earth to be about 4.3 billion years old rather than the 6000 claimed by the Bible, transit of light clearly shows the universe to be about 14 billion years old, what else is left? Creationism is bunkum, you don't need it to be true to believe in God, not even to believe in the God of the bible. Just let it go as the nonsense that it is, the Theory of evolution by natural selection is as close to fact as any science can be, and attacking it on creationist grounds is the equivalent of bringing a table tennis paddle to a nuclear war.

          Edit: sorry for that last simile, on reflection it's a little violent, but the point stands none the less.
        • Mar 5 2011: Sorry Kathy I'll reply to both your comments here as I seem unable to reply to your comment below. Dawkins's claims about Yahweh are textually accurate and in fact the image of the Christian God would have been in full keeping with the views held in the middle ages. I refer you to Milton's portrayal of God in Paradise Lost. To call it a temper tantrum and to claim he does not understand seems a pretty arrogant stance considering in literary and historical terms his account is accurate. As for the bible not saying anything about the Earth's age or making other scientific claims I don't think you need me to tell you of the priest who calculated the age of the planet by tracing the generations back to Adam & Eve, it may not be a direct claim of the bible but the inference is there and this was considered gospel truth (excuse the pun). Although I like Dawkins, I don't consider his work without fault, (I am not religious about it), perhaps he does hammer hard on ignorance but I don't see why his perfectly reasonable arguments should be discounted as a result.
      • Mar 4 2011: Dawkins is often called militant, what is understood by this term? He debates forcefully with those who wish to debates him but no more so than his opponents. I have often seen him deal very kindly with those who are hopelessly entangled in doctrine. Militancy to me implies physical force, or at least physical threat, Dawkins has offered neither, he simply outlines perfectly reasonable and logical arguments against religion. If any individual holds their faith to be above all criticism one has to ask why. Do they fear it won't stand up? Do they fear the wrath of a vengeful God on Dawkins will somehow spill over onto them? Do they fear..?
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      Mar 3 2011: I very agree Budimir............."So just to repeat one more time. "A truth beyond our ability to observe" does not equal "God". " but still I'm beliving in God very. much.............
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        Mar 4 2011: Ok Eduard that is alright. I know lots of people that believe and if it is good for your well being and happiness I am all for it.
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        Mar 4 2011: Hahahaha :) Gentlemen, I have to say, it has been a true pleasure being a part of this forum. Thank you.
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      Mar 3 2011: Hello Eduard, no worries, I won't find your comment impolite. I think you spoke of communism because you see that I'm of Chinese-ancestry, no?

      I didn't grow up in communist China, so it was fortunate for me to have escaped a system that, in history, had caused so many innocent people misery. My great-great-grandparents owned a lot of lands in China, the entire family perished after the Eight Nation Alliance's attacks at the end of Qing Dynasty, the Japanese occupation in WWII and the Civil war, except my grandparents who escaped and re-built their family in HK and then the US. I also spent quite some years living in England going to a private boarding school for teenage girls. My grandfather used to tell me stories of all the wars and atrocities he went through, but he was never angry or resentful or vindictive, he was the kindest person I had ever known. He carried a bullet wound of hatred on his left arm, but he always said to me how important it is for a person not to get caught up in half-truths – that's why I'm against dogmas, whether religious or political, because I have learnt how people suffered when they only see one side of the truth and not the other.

      Therefore, I urge anyone to examine their beliefs often and to keep their minds open, because this world is still a war-ridden place full of hatred even after so many thousands of years of violence. Each one of us is responsible because we owe our existence to this beautiful place we call Earth. And I believe science and philosophy are our last chance to save nature and resolve human conflicts. So, up to this point, have I succeeded in bringing peace, at least between you and I, who have different upbringings and ways of thinking?
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        Mar 3 2011: yes.......you have succeeded.............. what you said make me think deeper at that face of world.....you didn't convinced me ( I don't think that someone could do that, maybe that's a problem)....................." urge anyone to examine their beliefs often and to keep their minds open, because this world is still a war-ridden place full of hatred even after so many thousands of years of violence. Each one of us is responsible because we owe our existence to this beautiful place we call Earth. And I BELIVE science and philosophy are our last chance to save nature and resolve human conflicts" I very agree with you because and I BELIVE............thank you.........
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    Mar 4 2011: On ancient texts.

    In other threads we have touched on the topic of Holy or Sacred Texts. Hopefully we can delve into this topic a little more deeply.

    I've always been a fan of literature. In the last 40 years of my life there has never been a point when I wasn't in the midst of reading a book. All literature has something to teach us.

    Can we say that any text that has been around for long enough time and served as a foundation for a society's belief-system probably has something to teach us and should be elevated in some sense?

    Is it necessary to elevate it beyond this by saying it has some additional metaphysical property as if it had been sprinkled with magic pixie dust?
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      • Mar 5 2011: The phrase magic pixie dust to me seems perfectly apt, it is merely how Tim views the situation, As for holy text being somehow more "wise" I find this concept really interesting, for example the writing of Shakespeare is also open to myriad interpretations and presents a detailed and interesting study of the human condition and morality as do those of Philip K Dick. Why are these not considered "holy"?
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      Mar 5 2011: Hi Tim

      The bible is 66 books written over 1500yrs by 40 authors most of whom never met. It is full of history, prophecy, science, poetry, & explains who we are & where we're headed. It reads as a continuos narrative in spite of it's patchwork authorship. It can be checked factually, & torn to pieces if found wanting. Men have spent entire lifetimes studying it & still had much to learn. It has changed millions of lives for the better, & many claim to have met with our creator in it's pages.
      It deserves to be treated with respect; it is different.

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        Mar 5 2011: Kathy/Peter/everyone:

        So perhaps the "holy" books are those that went through an extended process of change and selection. The best stories survived and the lesser ones were eliminated. The stories were many times retold and improved upon. The collection of stories were integrated into the society and became part of the society. Many of these stories may be the distillation of universal truth. They can create an aha moment giving insight and speaking to the heart.

        Why do we need any additional metaphysical explanation?
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    Feb 26 2011: Kathy K:

    In response to your question:

    "The way you say 'rational thought v dogma' infers that dogma does not require rational thought. Is this your contention?"

    Before that can be answered we need to agree on definitions. Are the following acceptable? (if not, please propose your own):

    From Wikipedia:

    "Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or by extension by some other group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioner or believers."

    And from an english dictionary:

    "rational - in accordance with the principles of logic or reason."
    • Feb 26 2011: The 'established belief or doctrine' held by a religion ... meaning Holy Scriptures.

      The 'dogma' being the 'doctrine' by which these 'beliefs' are taught must be categorized somehow, yes? Each religion has its own Holy Scripture, so when one holds "dogma" up as if it is not 'rational' it seems inflammatory, because there is more wisdom in one book of Holy Scripture than in all the books of man, and comprehending Holy Scripture requires more logic and reason than agnostics/atheists seem willing to acknowledge. To me, this merely indicates their ignorance/lack of wisdom with regard to these holy texts.

      Failure to comprehend Holy Scripture is one thing; condemning the text because you fail to understand it is illogical.

      It's like someone condemning math because they can't add. The fault lies not with the doctrine or the math, but within the mind of the student. Does this mean you toss it aside as rubbish? No; it means you work harder to figure it out.

      We need math and we need 'dogma', as each serves to add knowledge of the human condition. For a person to simply 'read' a work of Holy Scripture and deem it improbable is the same as if someone without the capacity to comprehend simple arithmetic to claim calculus to be improbable.

      As for the pervading attitude on here that 'religion' is something that must be 'overcome' ... what's next ... philosophy? Psychology? At what point will the militant atheistic mindset be satisfied? When it has as much 'control' over peoples thought processes as it claims religion does?

      An atheist on here once told me that he 'gave up on God' because he could not understand the doctrine; felt the myths made no sense and were too confounding ... so he turned to science; something he could make sense of.

      Probably the most honest atheist ever.

      Point being ... to give up on something you cannot comprehend is no reason to declare jihad against it.
      • Feb 26 2011: Do you not think it presumptuous to assume that all atheists lack the intelligence to understand religious texts? Do you think it a coincidence that a vast majority of Ph.Ds around the world have cast aside religion? What wisdom is there to be gained by stories of a woman being magically created from a rib?

        What you refer to as "failure to comprehend" is in fact, a logical, rational determination that such writings are fictitious. As any well educated person will agree, comparing mathematics to religion, is like comparing iron to clouds. And the abandonment of religion will not lead to the abandonment of philosophy, or morals, but will in fact lead to an age of enlightenment. Peace, on a global scale can never be achieved while religion prevails. A brief look at history proves that. Nearly every great conflict in human history was the result of a religious dispute.

        Those who cling to religion in this day and age, do so out of fear, whether they acknowledge that fear or not. But the shift away from religion is not something to be feared. It should be embraced. For only when religion is gone, can there be true equality in the world.
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          Feb 27 2011: to comprehend Bible you have need of Holy Spirit according to The Bible.........now it's simple , you have Holy Spirit you comprehend Bible , you haven't , you not comprehend Bible .........and how all that scientists talk against Bible it's logic that they not have Holy Spirit...........in other words are speaking rubbish ...that according to Bible
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          Feb 27 2011: intelligence is a relativ term in comprehending Bible
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        Feb 28 2011: Kathy:

        Do you apply this thinking to all scriptures which have been labeled "holy", such as the Vedas, the Koran, the teachings of Confucius, etc?
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        Mar 1 2011: Hi Tim, I can answer for Confucius, he was a thinker and social/political philosopher, his major teaching was moral values, Socrates was one of his contemporaries, so none of his text is or should be considered "holy" or irrefutable.

        Confucius' thinking at its core:

        "While Confucius believes that people live their lives within parameters firmly established by Heaven—which, often, for him means both a purposeful Supreme Being as well as ‘nature’ and its fixed cycles and patterns—he argues that men are responsible for their actions and especially for their treatment of others. We can do little or nothing to alter our fated span of existence but we determine what we accomplish and what we are remembered for."

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          Mar 1 2011: Good point Birdia.

          So Kathy - what does "holy" mean to you. Is it indisputable fact? Does the Koran fall into that category as well?
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          Mar 2 2011: Kathy:

          The Koran has been difficult for me to read in the same way the bible was. I read three or four pages then lose interest. Am waiting for a good CD version to come out. That was the only way I made it through the bible (quite a good way in fact).

          The Gita was a much more interesting read. Was always interested in Indian thought, particularly since reading Hesse's Siddhartha as a teenager. An Indian friend at work gave me an old tattered version of the Gita that was published the year I was born. Was somewhat disappointed to discover the plot involved a deadly war between families and Krishna advised Arjuna to enter it whole-heartedly. But I suppose we can take that metaphorically, can't we? The core theme of the Gita is the concept of god as the totality of the universe (including us). That concept of god I can deal with. It's the more parochial gods I have a problem with.

          Concerning your question of faith. It seems that religions have unjustly hijacked the term. If a person acts consistently trustworthy, we have faith in that person. If there is some part of our lives that we have no control over, we can choose to have faith that things will work out, and they generally do. To apply faith to a religious text may be of benefit to an individual. And in that sense it may be truth. But ample evidence indicates that wide-spread application of that approach invariably leads to division between peoples, political manipulation, and justification for war.

          I'm curious about your concept of holy scripture. How do you define the line between holy texts and non-holy texts? Is any text that has been utilized by a group of people over hundreds of years as a foundation of their society automatically holy?
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    Feb 23 2011: Can anyone, religious or not, think of faith as being anything but a drug? Both drug dealers and drug addicts will hate those who try to 'cure' them. Try to take away the piles of money made by drug dealers!! Try to take away the comfy dreams the drug addicts keep themselves vapored in!! Takes courage to face the tough reality, doesn't it! Volunteering horrifying withdrawal symptoms? Not a chance!! Not if 3/4 of the earthlings would have to undergo treatment. So what if they endanger the entire humanity? From behind the piles of easy money or behind the thick vapor of delusion it's hard to see even a doomsday missile coming at you full speed. For them the end will be sudden and quick. No worry about the agony of watching it in the making or in flight.
    Beloved believers, it's not your many faiths that keep us awake at night, it's the SURE IMMINENT COLLISION between them!!!!
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      Feb 24 2011: Good points. Anyone got a good response to Ariana?

      How do we deal with the "imminent collision" that the multitude of current faiths seem to destine?
    • Feb 28 2011: "imminent collision"? You mean past, present and future collisions? What do we call ...Belfast, Balkans, Spanish Inquisition, ongoing Middle East, Shia-Sunni.......? Political conflicts? Land issues? Tribal rivalries?

      Glad to know there's "no hypothesis" for collisions. Isn't it nice to know we're all the same children of god, all going to the same heaven and I am the queen of england.
  • Feb 27 2011: I think that this whole question is irrational. Politics has caused many more wars and turmoil than religion. Politics assumes that ones party can dictate right and wrong. It assigns power to persuasive people. So why, if you find religion so threatening do you not see the same threat in politics? And how many so called religiously motivated actions are really political cloaked in religion. In my experience religious belief is a lot more rationale than non-religious belief. IN fact religion is responsible for more of the creativity that has lead to breakthroughs in art and science than non religious activity.

    The more rational question is why people are threatened by religion. One the non-religious are a very arrogant group, believing that their perceptions and their logic is far superior to the 98% of humanity that has believed in some form of Deity. Rather than raise a question about whether or not they have missed the the boat they attack the majority. Oh and btw the way there have been many wars and conflicts that were started and encouraged by atheists. Communism was atheistic in principal. Should we talk about the 50 million or so people that were killed in Communist conflicts. Oh, thats right religious people condemned those activities. How irrational of them.

    So it seems to me the real question is why are you attacking religion? What is so threatening to you that you have to attack religion? Is it guilt, or some unexpressed desire? Or is there really some truth to the argument?
    • Feb 27 2011: Yes, you're right. Political ideas can become dogmas, can do an awful lot of harm. Religion and politics have been interwoven for millennias. I guess it has a lot to do with lust for power and with jealousy.
      You are also right when you remember us how much art has been created thanks to religion (I don't know about science).
      I attack religion because I've been more than once deeply hurt and traumatized by persons who call themselves good believers or religious, and because they have done it with arguments connected with religion.
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      Feb 27 2011: I think that current north american and european cultures have morphed the term religion into something evil, pathologic or not to be trusted. I believe religion is simply a belief system or tool, comparable to politics with its rules etc.. for controlling the dangerous whims of an otherwise selfish species. The problem is that those at the top tend to corrupt its value.
  • Feb 25 2011: daniel & Kathy:
    I notice your repeated reference to “consciousness”,“spirit” and “soul” and other incorporeal concepts. It appears that you believe in the independent presence of these non-physical things which have a common property in that they are intangible, impalpable and incapable of being investigated objectively (Similar to other religious entities). Why should a person give much weight to something that we have no indication? Among possible explantions for this unwarranted stance, both religiosity and psychologic tendency to cling to “something” immaterial that can defy death are apparent reasons .

    Science don’t ignore weird phenomena, on the contrary these represent the subject material for scientific research. When a mysterious phenomenon is well documented, science would attempt to find an explanation: In the past, ultrasonic effects constituted part of magician tricks until science made an explanation. When telepathy puzzles us, science attempts to explain it, e.g. quantum explanation. However many superphysical phenomena/concepts are not real (not reliably-not systematically documented) and the job of science is to recognize unexplained real phenomena from non-real claims. Till now there is no evidence that “consciousness” is real thing separate from the brain (the same applies for “spirit” and “soul”). Our current knowledge indicates that conscious activity is a result of nerve function influenced by stimuli.

    Our species has a wonderful capacity to imagine and conceptualise with the aid of complex brain and advanced language. Our wonderful brain allows us to undertake complex rational analysis, appreciate poetry and beauty but also makes it possible to deceive ourselves and others (illusions, hallucinations, non-real images…etc).
    • Feb 25 2011: to A Latif.
      Are you saying that consciousness is an illusion, hallucination or a non-real image?..Are you saying that the activity of consciousness... thinking.... is also an illusion? Can you tell me how science explains these things with quantum mechanics and the like? Whether or not consciousness has its origin in the physical brain or is free from the physical brain, the fact remains that consciousness, with its thinking nature, is without a doubt a purely non-physical activity. Call it superphysical if you like. But it astounds me that people that are generally wide awake, inquisitive and, to use an already coined word... bright.... can be so blind to the activity that lies within each of us and fills your head and mine with ideas(immaterial) and feelings(again immaterial) and then turn around and say..."well, science is working on it....we will get to the bottom of it soon..... quantum physics... brain neurons firing....etc. ....etc. ... etc." Science will never get to the bottom of it with purely materialistic explanations. There is and never will be a "selfish gene" that can stand there and ask itself "What am I doing here?" "What brought this all about?" No never! But the " I " in you can ask these questions. The I in all of us, at least to the degree the I is "awake within itself"... again you might say.... well, the " I "
      has not been recognized by science and therefore must be an illusion or some sort of hallucination or non-real image. There is no longer any meaning in your arguments... because there are so many non-physical aspects of the human being that must be taken for granted before you can even begin to discuss these things. Don't you see that? Thinking itself is a "spiritual" activity. If the word to you is strange,scares you away or creates a feeling of antipathy, then try to use a more "quantum" type of content in but never the less, the content is purely immaterial. Thinner than the thinest gas you can imagine.
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        • Feb 27 2011: Hi Kathy, started my own debate about "consciousness" stop in if you like. The discussion may take another direction than whats going on here. Only 2 visitors so far. But the topic is interesting. I don't think you and I are too far from each other in our way of seeing things but I must warn you, I have some pretty radical ideas that I've picked up along the way. Maybe some of the others here might like to stop in too... search on consciousness.. under ideas....
      • Feb 26 2011: daniel: Are you claiming to be some kind of oracle? How do you know what science will discover in the future? Claiming that thought is spiritual and will never ever be proven otherwise is exceedingly narrow-minded. By your explanation of thought, one would have to pray or meditate in order to think beyond "mmm hungry". Are chimps spiritual? Of course not. Yet they think, and are capable of problem solving that requires multi-dimensional thinking.
        Moreover, your lack of understanding when it comes to biology is not proof that science is wrong. All it proves, is that you don't understand it. Don't be so quick to call intelligent people "blind" when you are unwilling to even consider ideas outside of your own beliefs.
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      Feb 25 2011: A Latif: What do you think about the utility of metaphorical language from the point of view of simply dealing with day-to-day life?

      The issue of the spirit is an interesting one. The word "spirit" was derived from the word "breath". One can easily imagine observing a dying person breath their last breath and correlating that with a certain separation of the body from it's fuller former self.

      So from a pragmatic standpoint, doesn't it, at times, serve a purpose to speak of such things with analogies?
      • Feb 25 2011: No analogy intended
      • Feb 26 2011: Tim, if the case is limited to just “utility of metaphorical language from the point of view of simply dealing with day-to-day life” it wouldn’t be that serious matter, but adherents believe in the factual existence of these things and this prepares them not only to accept Shamanism, Trance Mediums and the like but probably also make them susceptible to adopt negative attitudes that hurdle human progress.

        Notice how one Sufi would states his “thoughts”, excerpt : “Now, a star emits its own light, but this visible star is only the physical body of the spiritual star”. This resembles the mystic notion that human body is the physical expression of the immaterial soul/spirit. It is an expression of human psychologic desire to outlive death and the Epic of Gilgamesh is the first written document that registers this impossible dream and all other fancied derivatives.

        The tendency to believe in the abstruce, necromantic and arcane shows how people enjoy flights of contemplation and envision other intangible, imaginary worlds and entities. This attraction by the esoteric and the mystical causes humans to recycle, uncritically, pre-modern era terms, concepts and imaginations, imaginations and non-real concepts that have roots in the mythical and magical worlds of ancient societies and early human beings who lived hundreds of thousands of years ago (as well as from more recent indigenous people like the Yanomamo and Australian Aborigines) , which have been also entrenched, in one way or another, by organised religions. Humanity has an efficient tool, scientific rationality, which help us to gain real perception of ourselves and of the world around us.
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          Feb 26 2011: Interesting points A Latif. How about wrapping up with a simple question to see how others respond?
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          Feb 26 2011: I'm doubting if the religion say that body is the physical expression of the immaterial soul.........as I know (and how's and my opinion) there are two different 'substances' material(body) and immaterial(soul) that are forming an human being, no more that that.
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        Feb 26 2011: Wikipedia:

        A phenomenon (from Greek φαινόμενoν), plural phenomena or phenomenons, is any observable occurrence.


        a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable
      • Feb 26 2011: It's simply because our "physical eyes" are not developed enough to "see". Just compare your own sense of smell to that of for example a blood hound. A blood hound can smell 50,000 times better than a person can. Compare your sight to that of an eagle. Compare your hearing to that of a whale. Our senses are limited. But there are people who are able to "see" into unseen realms. They are called clairvoyant. They can see what is called the aura. They can sometimes see glimpses of the past and even glimpses of the future. Maybe heal illness. Take this example. You meet a person that is colorblind ... you try to tell him of all the wonderful "colors" that are in the world. but he refuses to believe you... because he can only see shades of gray... This is how it is with the world of soul and spirit. Without training your inner perception you cannot see into these realms. You of course must be free to totally deny their existence..and rightly so, as we see by many comments here, many choose to do just that. But to one who has had direct experiences of such realities, you cannot come and say that they are simply hallucinations or deceptive brain function. If one briefly allows oneself to accept certain "thought-building blocks" to understand such non-physical phenomenon, a whole world of explanations will open up to a curious mind. But the wonderful thing about thinking is this... You can accept something as "truth" today.... but tomorrow is a new day.. with new facts that present themselves. The nature of thinking is free. You can simply set your thoughts on your "mental shelf" until you get more time to go back and take a closer look. In the mean time, we use the word "believe" I can cast aside tomorrow that which I thought was true today. You see, we are truly free beings. Dogma binds both the scientific mind as well as the religious mind. There is no difference. But of course some people, on both sides of the fence claim to have found the only truth.
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          Feb 27 2011: Daniel, I think there's a big difference between senses of smell and clairvoyance. Namely: testability.

          If you have someone who claims to have a good sense of smell you can blindfold them and hold items under their nose, asking them to identify each. This is a loose application of science and it's a good way to measure the validity of the person's claim.

          If you have someone who claims to be clairvoyant you can apply the same sort of test. The reason many people don't believe in clairvoyance isn't because they have their allegiance with science. It's because clairvoyance always fails under scrutiny, revealing itself to be false.

          Which is not so say that non-observable phenomena should all be chalked up to brain malfunction. But anything that cannot be measured should not be relied upon as if it were a usable fact.

          I doubt you'd pay real money for a computer that was built using mathematical rules devised by clairvoyant people. You'd be pretty certain the thing wouldn't work.
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      Feb 21 2011: Kathy:

      You bring an issue which has emerged in this conversation which I had been thinking about bringing up.

      Many posts below define religion as a personal belief-system. Something about which should be respected as an individual right.

      The concept of religion which I had hoped to discuss in this conversation is a dogmatic belief system. That is one based on a "holy" scripture or divinely inspired authority.

      So let me rephrase the question: "Has religion (scriptural or divine authority-based) outlived it's usefulness?"
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        Feb 21 2011: Hi Tim

        If the bible is true in the literal sense, then it can never outlive it's usefulness. If the creator of the universe is really trying (with some success) to communicate with us, then perhaps we should listen.

        Many of us have come to the conclusion; based on the available evidence; that this is indeed the case. This may be called 'dogmatic belief' if you wish. It has a good record of 'stickability' & is unlikely to be moved by any fleeting hypothesis. If it is indeed true then it is in no-one's interest that it should be.

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          Feb 21 2011: Peter: It seems that your argument based on "stickability" would apply to any major religion. Are you saying that the most powerful one is the one to go with?
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        Feb 22 2011: Hi Tim

        No; in many cases Might is Wrong. However the fact that religion is so widespread & long-lasting should merit serious investigation rather than just derision or a shrug of the shoulders. Much of religion is hot air, but that is easily analysed & rejected. It may be important to some; as is poker, or baseball; but there is no earth moving consequence to the practice.
        I can only speak of my own experience as I undertook my search. When I got to the bible I found that it contained much that could be checked & verified, or otherwise. We can call on archeology, history, biology, plus common sense, & the world around us, to check it out. It also says that we must believe God exists before we can truly understand. I am totally persuaded & can see God at work in my own life on a day to day basis.

        To quote Mr. Dawkins on this different God..."Jealous & proud of it, petty, unjust, unforgiving, control freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser, misogynistic, homophobic, racist infanticidal, philicidal, pestilential, egonomiacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" (God Delusion)

        Do you form opinions like that concerning non-existant personages ?
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          Feb 23 2011: Peter: Agreed that Dawkins can be a bit blunt, but I don't think his description of the god of the bible is an exageration. A couple of years ago I purchased the bible on CD and spent a few months listening to it from beginning to end (unlike the selective readings I was exposed to as a youth in church). I was struck by some of the same aspects that Dawkins enumerates in your quote above. For example, on the issue of ethnic cleansing:

          "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations...then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy." Deuteronomy 7:1-2

          "...do not leave alive anything that breaths. Completely destroy them...as the Lord your God has commanded you..." Deuteronomy 20:16

          And I'm sure that any of the items you mentioned can be similarly substantiated with biblical quotes (pick one and I'll research it for you if you have any doubt).

          I assume from your question:

          "Do you form opinions like that concerning non-existant personages?"

          you were attempting to point to the apparent contradiction in describing something that one is arguing doesn't exist. But Dawkin's methods aren't the essential element of discussion.

          Getting back to your original point - "the fact that religion is so widespread & long-lasting should merit serious investigation rather than just derision". How does religion differ from slavery in that regard? Slavery was until a couple of hundred years ago a widespread and long-lasting institution (and in fact condoned by the bible). Yet human society has learned to adapt other types of social structures to replace it. Might the same also be true of religion? That is, aren't we capable of adapting it from a dogma based on an ancient text written for a tribal culture to something more appropriate to modern society?
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        Feb 24 2011: Hi Tim

        I guess I could side with you on disagreeing with God on many occasions, but that wouldn't change the fact that God would be right. If Joshua had obeyed & completely decimated the tribes at that time, the middle east may well be a totally different place than it is today. God can tally the body count into the future & assess the final outcome. Many of these peoples were totally depraved; murdering children etc., so their habits could infect those around them.
        Our lives are important to us, but at the end of the day are very short. If there is life after death, then our lives here are trivial in comparison to eternity; that again is God's call. Both the Egyptians & the Hebrews that crossed the Red Sea are now dead.
        Slavery was a practice that allowed folks who couldn't pay their bills to work it off. They were to be well treated & it was temporary. That is a different practice from evil men deeming Africans as sub-human & treating them worse than animals.

        While the Old Testament is an important part of our heritage, the fact is that Jesus came & died puts things in a new light. We are no longer bound by the many rules of the OT & our focus is on Him.

        I agree the bible is an ancient text; however it is like a workshop manual for the universe. It tells how it started, it tells how it will end, & it gives the highlights in between. The daily news paints a picture very much like the bible foresaw thousands of years ago. The bible will still be relevant at & beyond Armageddon.

        I understand that you don't see it that way, but many of us do, & I assume that you want all sides to answer your question. So I would say yes, 'religion' has outlived it's usefulness; if it ever had any. However I am talking about knowing our creator, which is a different matter entirely.

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          Feb 24 2011: Peter: Thanks greatly for all your input, because yes I do want to hear all sides. In fact I find it rather boring to have discussions only with those who agree with me. Hope you'll come back and add to the other threads.
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          Feb 24 2011: Kathy: I've thought a lot about the "mind, body, spirit" trinity, but never heard of "spirit, soul, body". Where can I learn more about that?
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          Feb 25 2011: you are both wrong : there is niether "mind , body,spirit " nor "spirit, soul , body" , the soul includes and mind and spirit , look in an dictionary (and sometimes mind=spirit, look in philosophy)
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          Feb 25 2011: Eduard: Took your suggestion and did a bit of wikipedia reading. Two quotes:

          "Some languages use a word for "spirit" often closely related (if not synonymous) to "mind"."

          "The English word spirit (from Latin spiritus "breath") has many differing meanings and connotations, all of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body."

          So I think we're open to multiple interpretations on this one. I'm a bit biased by my Catholic upbringing which dwelt on the trinity concept of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. A while back I was struck by another trinitarian concept. While walking through a department store (must have been Target, the sign was red) I was struck by the advertisement headlined "Body, mind, spirit". The parallels are amazing. Perhaps the human mind works well with threes.

          Consider also Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam".


          Here we have God (in a cloud shaped like a human brain), reaching out to Adam (the corporeal lump on the ground), and you can just imagine the spark about to be transmitted between their fingers (the spirit?).

          Maybe the Hegelian dialectic is at play here. What is life? Thesis - the body. Antithesis - the mind. Synthesis - the spirit.

          And, although the ying/yang is generally concidered a duality principle, couldn't it also be considered a trinity principle? We have the ying, the yang and the ying/yang. The whole being greater then the sum of the parts.

          You seem to be a bit of a philosopher. What do you think?
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          Feb 25 2011: Kathy: Didn't see your comment until reading Eduard's above. In any case what do you think of the observation I've made?
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        Feb 25 2011: Dogmatic religion isn't any different any other static non-evolving or non-heuristic system. I'd be comfortable saying that humanity has outgrown the need for any dogmatic systems, be they religious, scientific or economic.
  • Feb 24 2011: To Kathy,
    I agree with you Kathy. I was in on your profile too and I think you have some very intelligent responses.There are a lot of people on TED trying hard to put down the ideas of any form for spiritual reality.As I see it, the old dogmatic traditional forms of religion are on the way out. I can agree with Tim Colgan on this and rightfully so. People of today, at least in the western world, are looking for some real answers as to what spirituality really is. Disappointingly enough, the church is not giving any real answers. There still lost in the dogma of "thou shall not..." But as to the longevity of the institution of the church,the answer lies in how much the old ideas still ring true to the searching and demanding mind of man(woman)kind in the modern age.The answers are there but people in general are not ready to explore them yet. They are too far away from the traditional content of what we have been indoctrinated with through society and the church.Science is also guilty of being indoctrinated but is far less willing to admit it. The idea that the human being,with self-consciousness, a rich feeling life and a (I use the word consciously now!)
    free will. I know that this idea of "free will" will be jumped upon by all the materialist out there reading TED, but I choose to use it anyway. The non-physical aspects of the human being are so greatly revealed to our truer nature that to argue against them is pulling your own chair out from under yourself.Consciousness is real and even the Dawkinists have to admit this. When the conventional form of the religious world view as well as the scientific world view discover that this "consciousness" has directly to do with "spirit" then there may be some really interesting discussions going on between these two polarities that seem to be at total odds with each other.The debate here on TED may turn into something more nourishing to the mind if some of us could just get off this "better(brighter) than thou attitude
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      Feb 24 2011: Daniel: Sorry to hear you think I'm taking on a "better(brighter) than thou attitude". But I do enjoy debate. If you do too then throw in a question to the conversation.

      Kathy: I wanted to get in a response to your last statement in the other conversation, but it closed down before I had a chance. If you're still open to discussion why don't you try again here (I notice there is an open question to you down below).
      • Feb 24 2011: Its the Dawkins followers that label themselves as"the brights"(see debate on militant atheism)
        that I thinks is pretty much the general tone of arrogance that seems to flourish on many of the R.D. debates. By your opening quotes of RD I assume that your also one of his, shall we say "supporters" .... or .... maybe not...?
        My questions are many but they are of a different nature than what your topic range can allow. Here are just a few but as I say, they don't fit in to your "form" or "framework" that you have established with your original question.
        What is consciousness for you? Can you tell me what explanation a world view so stripped of all "invisible"forces "supernatural" powers has in its materialistic bag of tricks to explain the phenomenon of consciousness? Do you put the phenomenon of consciousness in the same "out in left field" perspective as you do in your replies to the more religious oriented responses? (although almost none so far) I have read at the RDF netsite and among hard line evolutionists that this is "a problem" for such a world view.... can't quite explain it within "the box" of the evolutionary model for our existence ... and what about feeling? Are feelings, like consciousness also merely a by-product of a biological/evolutionary process without any "real" meaning? ..... and then there is life itself.... the difference between a living thing and a dead thing? Can we "see" that which is alive... or is life itself ...again ... if I may use the word.... supernatural and mysteriously invisible. The fact is... consciousness, feeling, and the element of life itself are kind of "out of the picture" for your scientific world view....or do you have any comment on this?
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    Mar 7 2011: @ Kathy

    Did you expect me to be polite after you deemed me a subhuman because I am not "spiritually evolved?"

    You are bringing back the 18th century rationalist mentality except you switched the terms and definitions of what it is to be human. In the 18th century the human was defined as the rational animal and that led to justifying many atrocities, from colonalization to slavery, in your eyes the human is the spiritual animal. You are just switching the terms but you are ultimately establishing an elitist philosophy of human nature based on "spirituality." How can you tell me that's not a dangerous way to think?

    It's one thing to be spiritual it's another to think you are above others because you are spiritual. In my eyes you are still just an evolved monkey (and I don't mean that as an insult).
    • 6 days ago: hi Budimir; I've prepared a response to this but would prefer to send it to you via Email, if you allow it. Your Email option is currently closed. Please Email me via my profile if you'd like to receive my Email response. Thank you.
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    Mar 8 2011: Kathy:

    I can't reply to the thread where you asked for it, but this should get you to the thread with my links:

  • Mar 1 2011: I didn't get a "reply" option next to Birdia's last post, so I'll repost here. Birdia, I'm not sure you read what I posted previously. I said Confuciansim did not have a divinity or god, and but is a system of moral, social and philosophical system. It actually can be considered as a religion, because not all definitions of religion include a supernatural divinity. Religion is also defined as "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practice generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects." In fact, Confuscianism was even considered the state religion of some Eastern Asian countries. It may even be the shining example of religion because it specifically stays focused on values, which is the basis of my argument. I don't think religion practice necessarily gets in the way of science in all realms. That's why I put the Duke University School of Spirituality and Medicine in there for consideration because at Duke, scientific research is being done on how religious belief and practice can positively impact health. Even the Mayo Clinic today lists "spirituality" as an alternative method to combat cancer. So, I think the more interesting debate is not whether religion gets in way of progress, but can religion and science be complimentary players in advancing civil society?
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      Mar 1 2011: Hi Cynthia, thanks for the reply. I disagree with you. Just because many religious groups take both ancient and contemporary philosophical ideas as the moral basis for their religious doctrines, that doesn't make a philosophy equals to a religion. Of course, I can set up a statue of Confucius tomorrow and start worshipping him, calling him a 'God' and receiving followers in his name, even so, Confucius' original thinking and reasoning will still fall under philosophy, and not religion. By the way, your point:

      "Confuscianism was even considered the state religion of some Eastern Asian countries."

      It was only half of the fact from Wikipedia with your spin on it. The complete fact is:

      'Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is a complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious thought that influenced the culture and history of East Asia. It might be considered a state religion of some East Asian countries, because of state promotion of Confucian philosophies.'

      Pls. note: 'God' and 'Jesus' are not listed as 'philosophers' in dictionaries, thus, I argue philosophy and religion are foundamentally different concepts and non-interchangeable. See my earlier reply to Jack:

      "I think what differentiate religion and philosophy is in the delivery and approach? While engaging in philosophy, one can pose an argument in agreement or opposition to the idea being discussed, therefore, philosophizing can lead to greater understanding of an issue, and it has less to do with whether one believes in one 'God' or multiple deities because everyone can join in the debate; however, in religion, people are told about the rules, for example, who goes to heaven and who doesn't, etc., and in some cases, people are even coerced to follow the rules without given the option to object. Thus, religion, in many ways, induces fear in people's hearts and hinders freethinking."
      • Mar 1 2011: Hi Birdia, I certainly understand why you wouldn't be inclined to agree Confucianism is a religion, especially if you believe there is one definition for religion, such as "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." There are, however, multiple definitions for religion, and the earlier one I posted, "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practice generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects" would actually classify Confuciansim as a religion. And, as I'm sure you know, people also debate whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophical system some times, but no matter. Though I think you bring up a good point about delivery and approach, I don't think it's fair to say debate doesn't happen in religious circles or within religion. It happens all the time, and that's why religious ideas change and evolve, because humanity changes and evolves. Are people who blindly follow an idea or belief without putting it into context to be commended? I don't think so, neither in religion nor in politics. In fact, some of the greatest prophets asked some of the hardest questions about the meaning of life and how to live it. Are there religious leaders that try to instill fear in people's hearts and hinder free thinking? Sure there are, just like in politics. I just think that when you take a genuine interest in religious teachings, try to truly understand what they are about and what purpose they might serve, it can paint a different picture. I'm not even suggesting you have to believe in a God, or be of a certain religion to do this (in fact, if you're not, it's probably easier to be objective!) but I'm advocating that trying to understand something from the inside rather than criticizing it from the outside is more useful.
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          Mar 1 2011: Hi Cynthia,

          You are free to 'believe' Confucius' ideas are religious; or even as you demonstrated above, to take half of a fact, spin it around to support your view. However, that doesn't change the 'fact' that those ideas came about originally as philosophical ideas that were not meant to be religious.

          And you are free to 'believe' in 'God'. However, that doesn't change the 'fact' that he is nowhere to be found on earth or in space (maybe only in the minds of specific groups of people in this case). So I am only stating facts, and not criticisms.

          At this point, I would like to go back to Tim's original idea and question for this discussion:

          • "Has religion outlived it's usefulness?"
          • "Assuming religion ever did serve a useful function for humanity, is it perhaps time that we get beyond religion and develop other tools to provide for human needs?"

          I believe I have already stated my point of view quite clearly in all of my comments here. I would like to know of your point of view. Would you be so kind to share?
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      Mar 1 2011: Cynthia and Birdia:

      This fuzzy ground between religion and philosophy is an interesting concept. Although there may be some consolation of philosophy it does seem that religions tend to be more effective at consolidating individuals into communities. Is there some way that the benefits of the adaptability of rational philosophical thought can be combined with the cohesiveness of religion or are the two mutually exclusive?
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        Mar 1 2011: I think that philosophy is a part from religion (because as have said Birdia is in our nature to philosophize , and many of religious persons do that) but I do not think that religion is a part from philosophy..........in my opinion religion is superior because it is dealing with some of the greatest ideas that was ever heard , and because philosophy is up to our mind and our mind as is very well-known by anyone, is limited.(I'm reffering now just at religions in which there is a supernatural power).....if we look so (as I described) at philosophy and religion I think that we'll find a way in that the benefits of the adaptability of rational philosophical thought to can be combined with the' cohesiveness' of religion .
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    Mar 3 2011: The starting statement for this conversation was Dawkin's commentary on 9/11. But for me, a more significant factor for wanting to confront religion was the US action against Iraq. Being a democracy, I think all American's hold a degree of responsibility for that atrocity. And it's hard for me to believe that the religious factor did not weigh in our decision to attack. The fact that support for the war correlated with religious fundamentalism. The fact that the Iraqis were not of "our" religion. The fact that Bush felt god supported his decision.

    Do others feel as I do? If not can you at least understand my reasoning?
    • Mar 3 2011: It does not sound to me like your reasoning. It sounds like Dawkins reasoning.

      Speaking of the grand pumbah of atheism, did you delete my posting or was it flagged?

      Have you read my response to your question(s) as to holy texts?
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        Mar 3 2011: Kathy: I have no control over your postings and would not censor this conversation in any case.

        I noticed there is a discussion on ted censorship here:


        Let me know if you find out anything.

        Am still digesting the holy text posting.
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        Mar 4 2011: Kathy: Don't see any place where we disagree. The ancient texts that have stood the test of time deserve special attention, but need to be interpreted metaphorically.

        On this subject I'll be starting a new thread. Look for one starting with "On ancient texts".
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        Mar 6 2011: Kathy:

        What part of my argument (start of thread) do you disagree with:
        . that Americans are responsible for the actions of their government?
        . that it was an atrocity?
        . that there is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and support for the war?
        . that there is a causal relationship between religious fundamentalism and support for the war?
        • Mar 7 2011: Tim,

          What I disagree with is your mimicking Dawkins by trying to blame all the ills of the world religion, without acknowledging that the political machines clearly use religion as their scapegoat.

          The bottom line is that it all comes back to the individual. Once we reach adulthood, there is no more blaming the parents. Each of us is responsible for our own life; our own education; our own happiness, our own belief system.

          Rather than trying to control everyone else, try to control yourself first. Rather than blame others, consider your own culpability. Take personal responsibility for your thoughts, actions, et al.

          You quote a man I hold in disdain for his ignorance with regard to religion. Dawkins is no authority on religion. He uses his 'authority' as a scientist as if that makes him an authority on everything and it does not.

          He's very opinionated about something he does not comprehend, and unreasonably aggressive in his quest to do away with it in its entirety ... and this was the crux of the question for this thread.

          Dawkins blames religion for all the ills of mankind, thereby exonerating mankind itself. Religion is not the problem ... abuse of it is the problem. While I am no proponent of fundamentalism in any form, even that is not the problem. The problem is within the mind of man.

          Ridding the world of religion is as ludicrous a proposition as ridding the world of people. Religion is not the problem; ignorance is.
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          Mar 7 2011: Is it an coincidence then, how one collection of myths can time and time again be linked to events with consequences so tragic and missions so ignorant?
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        Mar 7 2011: Well, it looks like this thread has become a bit of a monologue since no one else seems to want to address these issues. But I feel the need to record my views in our conversation. I'll assume that we agree that 1) all Americans hold a degree of responsibility for the actions of our government and 2) the US action in Iraq was an atrocity and move on to my third and forth points.

        To me the correlation between religious fundamentalism and support for the war is apparent in what I see around me. For example, in my town there protesters come out almost every weekend. Here are some pictures:


        The building in the background of the first picture is the Courthouse with the plaque of the Ten Commandments that I mentioned in a previous post. Talking to these people it's obvious how much religious fundamentalism plays a role in their thinking. But if my observations are in doubt, there are plenty of polls which quantify the correlation:

        • Mar 7 2011: Tim,

          Maybe it wouldn't be a monologue if you'd respond to my posts instead of beginning new threads within this one.

          The correlation between religious fundamentalism and support for the war is obvious -- what's to debate?

          Keyword: Fundamental; fundamental knowledge is the elementary level of understanding. Therefore what is needed is more education with regard to and within said religions, more understanding of them, more knowledge of the belief system and how it relates to us. We need more enlightenment, more understanding, more comprehension.

          It is important for people to have fundamental knowledge -- it's the base upon which to build ... the problem is that people get stuck at this level and if you're not expanding your knowledge, it's apt to stagnate. This is true of anything, not just religion.

          People get stuck in their 'belief system' because we have a tendency to relax in our comfort zone, rather than challenge ourselves. This is true of all things, not just religious beliefs.

          Choosing to believe that all religion is useless and trying to eradicate it is pure folly. The cure for any fundamentalist way of thinking is more education. Dawkins has a very unrealistic approach if he thinks attacking God, religion and theists for their beliefs is going to make them turn away from said beliefs. Dawkins wants everyone to embrace his way of thinking, and for those of us who do not embrace it, well, we're just idiots living in a fantasy, right?

          He has zero comprehension of Holy Scripture, therefore we should eradicate all religion, because HE doesn't understand it. Seig heil, anyone?
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        Mar 7 2011: Moving on to the causal relationship.

        Is it any coincidence that this war was in the land of the Tigris/Euphrates? No. Recent revelations from the ex-President of France Jacques Chirac reveal that Bush "saw Gog and Magog" at work:

        Bush, Gog and Magog

        Moreover, its been long known how Rumsfeld manipulated Bush using religion. The use of biblical references in White House briefings was the most blatant:

        Donald Rumsfeld's holy war: How President Bush's Iraq briefings came with quotes from the Bible

        Cenk does the best job of summing it all up:

        • Mar 7 2011: Tim,
          This issue of believing in Bronze Age « prophrcies » is really a serious, annoying thing and it tells about one of the most bothering and horrifying aspects of religions. The Middle East conflict over the Palestinian issue is one of the most tragic events of our time, it is a continuous bleeding since the 40's of the last century, which is basically fed by belief in such old Biblical tales/"prophecies". Now your link revealed another tragic event (the Iraq war) that has been triggered by adopting another Biblical “prophecy” . How many people have been killed and suffered from these two prophecy-motivated aggressions? Hundreds of thousands if not millions; and how do religion morals warrant such acts?. What makes one stop and reflect deeply is the ability of blind faith to transform the mentality of contemporary people into savage mentality of desert nomads who lived thousands of years ago…
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    Mar 6 2011: In response to Peter's post

    Dr. Gary Parker. From Evolutionist to Creationist



    Talk about cherry picking Peter. They had to go through a lot of cherries to find that one. Here is some more info on the guy in the video:


    Thanks for the video though. Helps me to understand the alternate viewpoint.
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      Mar 6 2011: Hi Tim

      No Cherries, I have as many as you like, if your interested.
      Wiki tends to be ever so slightly biased against creationists; not unlike TED. Thanks for watching.

  • Mar 1 2011: Hi Budimir, so I understand how you feel, but I wanted to pass along this podcast that explores the roots of terrorism since you brought that up specifically. It's an interview with Scott Atran, who is an anthropologist and sociologist (and also an Athiest). He has spent years investigating this issue and interviewing terrorists. The gist of it is that many of the terrorists he interviewed did not have religious upbringings, but "converted" to radical, fundamentalist religious groups in their early twenties because they were disenfranchised politically and economically. Religion became a good cover for political and terrorist action. Anyway, it's facinating and gives some good insight into what motivates humans to act in such a ruthless fashion (and it's not simply religious creeds). If you are not interested in understanding, as you say, this might not be for you, but others might benefit from listening to it, so I'll post it:

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      Mar 1 2011: Thank you for the link. The origin and cause of fundamentalist behaviour is not something I wouldn't bother understanding. I've suspected that ideology is not the source of violence, the source is usually economic. These conflicts will never be resolved through violence or incarceration. In the long term these conflicts will be solved through an global economy that doesn't force people to take desprate actions, that doesn't exploit them and reduce their dignity.

      You have a very good point (gave you a little TED credit). Why are facts important in all this though? There is nothing intrinsically moral or political to facts, but it is true that people make different decisions when they are presented with facts. In the case of terrorism one cannot present a rational argument for the idea that if you blow yourself up you are going to heaven. But when it comes to other political decisions say the war on Iraq, facts that later emerged about the war and why it was started infuriated people. Political and moral decisions are not made in a vacuum, the incentive to do something is always connected with something material and you highlighted that when you spoke of economically motivated political action.

      It is just that with religious creed one can use the veil of ideology more effectively. George W Bush for instance claimed that God spoke to him and the war on Iraq was justified, same ignorance different context.
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        Mar 1 2011: Hello Budimir,
        I must applaud the humility or someone as openly passionate as yourself. Way to grow friend.

        I have often thought it strange that European and North American cultures find it inappropriate of other nations to react with violence when treated in ways the aforementioned would never tolerate.

        I would suggest that enough is enough when we can no longer perceive how our overindulgence imposes unfair (or life threatening) constraints on others. Our system needs to evolve.

        Thanks Cynthia.
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      Mar 6 2011: Cynthia:

      Finally got around to listening to the podcast. Very insightful.

      I agree that religion is not the cause of violence, but does provide an excuse for those who want to manipulate. A point I think the speaker makes at times.

      The part in the conversation I liked most was the description of the influence of religion on early American communities. That cohesive, sharing aspect of religion, I think, is it's most important value. Can that be achieved without belief in divine scriptures and without becoming exclusive?
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    Mar 2 2011: I'd like to start a new thread of videos related to our topic.

    Respond with links to others that you find helpful from your viewpoint.


    If you would like to discuss any, please start a new thread.

    Daniel Dennett interviewed by Robert Wright

    The Root of All Evil

    Four Horsemen - Discussion with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens

    Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason: Margaret Atwood

    10. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Evolution and Rationality - part of a Yale Course on Psychology

    The Power of Myth with Joseph Cambell and Bill Moyers

    For the more humorously inclined (enter at your own risk):

    George Carlin on Religion and God

    Pat Condell - God or nothing
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      Mar 2 2011: resons to belive:
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      Mar 2 2011: Hi Tim and Eduard, thank you for sharing, I will go check the links out.

      In the meantime, here's an interesting book to share, I think it's a good historical study on religion and literacy, and how they influenced culture and human development. A brief summary as follow:

      The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image
      by Leonard Shlain

      "In this groundbreaking book, Leonard Shlain, author of the bestselling Art & Physics, proposes that the process of learning alphabetic literacy rewired the human brain, with profound consequences for culture. Making remarkable connections across a wide range of subjects including brain function, anthropology, history, and religion, Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain's linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy's early stages, the decline of women's political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.

      Shlain contrasts the feminine right-brained oral teachings of Socrates, Buddha, and Jesus with the masculine creeds that evolved when their spoken words were committed to writing. The first book written in an alphabet was the Old Testament and its most important passage was the Ten Commandments. The first two reject of any goddess influence and ban any form of representative art."

      Website to the book:

      Lecture on video:
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      Mar 3 2011: Dr. Gary Parker. From Evolutionist to Creationist

      Alternative geology
      http://www.cross.tv/51495 (Part 1)
      http://www.cross.tv/51496 (Part 2)
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    Mar 5 2011: I think religion indeed "outlived it's usefulness", at least as a moral guide. Not to mention that cults, 9/11, the Catholic Church and the like all undermine it overall.

    Yet we (as a society) still stick to it.

    I invite you to a separate discussion on an idea on how to help people start letting go of it:
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    Mar 5 2011: Cheers all!

    Here is a wonderful example of what is going on here.

    Please all of you Sage and Scientist alike, watch these short videos which illustrate the folly of not collaborating towards some mutually acceptable understanding of ideas. Presented with humility.


    Another example of the same type (duplicating the experiment lol):


    Morale: "Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but Wisdom comes from knowing the whole."

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      Mar 5 2011: "Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but Wisdom comes from knowing the whole." very very true........
  • Mar 2 2011: Given that religion has no factual basis (surely a point which must be conceded by all) it is not open for rational debate as the thoughts and beliefs of the religious are not rationally based to quote Carl Sagan: "You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe." I wish to make clear that I am not saying belief in God is groundless simply that it is not rational.

    Now given the irrationality and personal nature of religious belief why is it that people wish to allay themselves with certain doctrines which are usually the result of an accident of birth "I was born in western Europe therefore I am catholic." and not a matter of personal choice. It seems to me that a religious belief is the ultimate in personal choice, constructing your own image of God based on your education and personal experiences is a wonderfully empowering process that I would encourage any seeker of truth to engage in, and one far superior to rigidly adhering to iron age and usually hideously outmoded philosophies (I don't seek to offend this is merely my opinion).
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      Mar 2 2011: Hi Harvinder

      No offence taken, but my faith is firmly planted in evidence.

      • Mar 2 2011: You and I have very different ideas about what constitutes evidence, and as a result, we can have no meaningful debate. I hope one day you will have an intellectual and spiritual epiphany, but given that video and the views you expressed previously, that is unlikely, no doubt you already feel that you have.
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      Mar 3 2011: and I'm a beliver, and my faith is based on the most scientific evidences including the all laws of physics
      • Mar 3 2011: You're a believer Edward but you don't say in what, from the sounds of it you've taken a set dogma as a jumping off point to form your own ideas about God and the universe, if this is the case, I applaud you and hope you can convince other's to do the same.
      • Mar 4 2011: The literal truth of the Bible? That is massively incompatible with the laws of physics, perhaps you can get away with some of the God as originator stuff. As for the website, trying to shoehorn faith into science involves too many compromises for me, I hoped you were a free thinker carving your own path to truth, instead I find you are more like Peter thoroughly indoctrinated and desperately trying to reconcile your version of God with the evidence you see around you. To let you know where I stand, as I feel like I've been pulling at people without revealing myself for criticism, which I would welcome and relish by the way, I was once a Sikh, then a dogmatist and finally I moved away from the idea of God entirely, I don't deny It could exist (using the word He seems unnecessarily humanising) I just don't see why me believing either way would make a blind bit of difference. I don't need a super being for the model of the universe I carry in my head, bottom up creation seems to me eminently more logical, elegant, beautiful, and wonderful.
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          Mar 4 2011: Harvinder, to be a free thinker means to have an opinion( and that don't means that I'm indoctrinated) , it means to judge the evidences around you from more than one perspective and to be open-minded at others idea.............but I must rely my judgement on something , noone can be total objective.You said:"That is massively incompatible with the laws of physics" and I repeat you that the truth of the Bible is massively compatible with the all laws of physics(as much as Bible contains science references) and if we both want to make any sense , we should prove it , but here I don't think it's possible.
          "I was once a Sikh, then a dogmatist and finally I moved away from the idea of God entirely"...............I understand ................I don't know why you have the impresion that I'm trying to reconcile something because I'm not................but anyway, thank you for sharing me where you stand.
  • Mar 1 2011: Wayne Busby,
    You try to reconcile the irreconcilable: Science Vs myth/magic/shamanism/superstition: they don’t meet, they don’t mix.
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      Mar 1 2011: I'm sorry, I think you are wrong. All things are related.

      My paradigm and developing theories:

      Relentless in its search, the first order of life is immortality.

      As with all life, all knowledge is related and immortality goes to those species who most wisely make use of their intellects, exploring even beyond know limits to make constructive use of the correlations.

      Those enlightened ones understand that chaos can only exist if every moments circumstance is not the consequence of our in/action in the moment before. To those enlightened, chaos is but order with options.

      Luck or chance is a human concept used to explain a situation or outcome determined by and dependent on events beyond the limits of our physiology to perceive and therefore predict or order...

      See the talk on 'African Fractals'.
      • Mar 2 2011: Wayne.
        Sorry, this is non-productive. Without research, without rigorous methodology and standards, without theory, without systematic observation and observational evidence, without facts on which one makes formulation of laws and principles, and without ordered knowledge verifiable and liable for testing; without all that any thought of the character of what you mentioned is utter contemplation/ philosophizing.
        I repeat: Science Vs myth/magic/shamanism/superstition: don’t meet, they don’t mix.
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          Mar 2 2011: Did you view the Talks I suggested? If not you're correct, this discussion is unproductive. I am sorry that you are so bound by your religion that you cannot think outside of its constraints.
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        Mar 2 2011: Wayne:
        "the first order of life is immortality"
        "immortality goes to those species who most wisely make use of their intellects"

        With all due respect, how do we know these statements are actually true, and not just speculation? This, I think, is the fundamental distinction separating science from other forms of inquiry: with science, we have ways of checking for error. Granted, these methods have limits, but at least we have something instead of nothing. In those areas where we cannot experiment and test, science is mute.

        When it comes to "spirituality," however, it seems to be a free-for-all. If we have no way of separating wheat from chaff, fact from speculation, how do we guard against error?
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          Mar 2 2011: To elaborate:

          Greetings Tony, r/t wheat from chaff:

          Life in all its forms seek an optimal level of adaptation to environmental stressors and the acquisition of vital resources, thereby maximizing the possibility of continuing each particular species (expression of life), indefinitely.

          Out side of the natural resilience which graces what species we have left on this planet (including our own), the best chance we might have for surviving ourselves is 'the wise use of our intellects.'

          Never does nature say one thing and logic another. Its not hard to understand if you use some uncommon sense.
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        Mar 3 2011: Hi Wayne,

        Sorry for the misunderstanding. I thought you were referring to some sort of supernatural existence -- rather than the continuation of biological species -- when you used the word "immortality."
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          Mar 3 2011: Understood. My greatest Hope is for all of us to use all our tools constructively. As you may have guessed I am not a scientist (lol). Thank you for providing me examples of your insight. this is a feast.
          Respectfully. Cheers.
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    Mar 2 2011: We need to make a distinction between religion (i.e. individual spirituality) and organized religion. Organized religion has been a problem long before the Crusades. But, do not throw out individual spirituality with that. There is great value in spirituality and faith whether you call it faith in God or faith in physics being the same tomorrow as it is today. Personally, I can not image living in fear that everything might become chaos tomorrow. As such, I have some level of faith that it will not happen. Is that not a form of religion?
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      Mar 2 2011: In the case of faith that the laws of physics will not change tomorrow, it's not that anyone can categorically deny such a thing is possible, but rather that we have no reason to believe it will based on the impeccable regularity of physical laws as observed for generations. It would constitute a far greater degree of speculation to seriously consider the laws of physics suddenly changing tomorrow than it would to seriously consider they will remain the same as today. It is not our fear of chaos driving the default position of stability, but rather the weight of historical precedent. On the other hand, in matters where instability is expected (e.g. we all know governments and economies do not remain stable forever, that we will not remain healthy indefinitely, etc.) it would be tantamount to religious belief to assume stasis out of fear.

      In the case of spirituality -- organized or no -- we typically see the opposite stance: people seriously considering propositions having little or no supporting evidence. Belief in eternal life, the existence of the soul, and perfect justice, to name a few. In most cases, spiritual propositions cannot even be verified if one wished to.

      I suspect what makes organized religion more dangerous than individual spirituality is sheer force of numbers. An individual believing that a certain piece of land has spiritual value and must be taken by force is harmless when only that one person believes it. If a large group of people with the means to employ force believe it, there is a much greater chance of that doctrine turning into violent action.
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        Mar 2 2011: Fair points. On your last point, I disagree. There is more to organized religion than sheer numbers. It is people who follow leaders (official or not) without questioning. Individuals who are uncertain enough in their own beliefs agree to follow along and assume the leader knows better. THAT is where the true danger of organized religion begins. Its not their personal beliefs that are the problem, but the unquestioned following of leaders in organized religion.
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          Mar 3 2011: Very good point. Manipulation is a very dangerous tendency in organized religion, some religions being far worse than others in this regard. This point also expands the notion of dangerous belief beyond the religious sphere. Political beliefs immediately come to mind, particularly those driven by charismatic pundits.

          Can we really say, though, that personal beliefs not attached to charismatic leaders are innocuous?
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          Mar 3 2011: yeas I agree Drew , the organized religion is a problem.......all should be more spontanesuly.....the organized religion destroy a lot of good ideas
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      Mar 3 2011: Drew:

      Thought I knew what religion was. But after reading lot's of comments am not sure. And the dictionary definition doesn't seem to agree with what many people think. So I started a new thread to try to define it amongst ourselves (add your definition!).

      In fact, your initial comment uses lots of words that are really fuzzy to me - faith, god, spirituality.

      But let's focus on one - what do you mean by spirituality?
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        Mar 4 2011: I used words like "faith" and "spirituality" to encourage others to look at it from a different perspective. They are fuzzy, particularly in contrast to "religion". Many people have fixed beliefs associated with the term "religion". They hear "religion" and think of a Baptist Church or Muslims at prayer or something else specific. Those associates are positive for some and negative for others. I wanted to get away from those associations.

        I added my definition of "religion" to the thread (do search for 'Religion is a belief system held by an individual'). "Spirituality" is similar, but more about the specific connection of an individual to the universe within their belief system.
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    Mar 3 2011: So, what is religion? Perhaps it's time try to narrow down on a definition. How do you define religion? (please no more than one page)
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      Mar 3 2011: Were are the ancient Greeks when you need one ?

      How about; "A worldview which defines one's choices".

      In the West it's simpler. "What do we spend our money on".

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      Mar 4 2011: Religion is a belief system held by an individual. It helps them understand their connection to the universe around them. This belief system provides a structure to guide them in their actions. It places their actions into perspective relative to their impact on the universe around them.

      It is not the same thing as organized religion. Organized religion is a system which seeks to standardize belief systems of multiple individuals.
  • Feb 27 2011: we know nothing about the beginning of our life and the end of it.
    religion and gods come wherever we can't use our rationality.The myths continue to be alive until human find out every thing.
  • Mar 3 2011: Hi Eduard,
    « … but why so many are beliving that God truly exist? Are all of them crazy?”
    It may be beneficial to take a look on a philosophical fallacy called « Argumentum ad populum”. Also the following quotation from Bertrand Russell has the same theme:
    “"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible".
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    Feb 17 2011: true revealed religion has not outlived its usefulness and by its very nature never could.

    Mythology, creeds, doctrines and theological postulates all created by man most certainly have long outlived their usefulness if they ever had any.
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      Feb 18 2011: So Jordan. How many religions do you consider to be "true revealed religions"?
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        Feb 18 2011: one. though nearly all have had their beginnings in revelation but have become institutions of men, ran by men, directed by men, and profitized by men.
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          Feb 21 2011: Jordan: I'm having trouble thinking of how to respond to your comment.

          You seem to argue that religion has not outlived it's usefulness ...

          ... but only yours has value.

          I feel very threatened by that kind of thinking. Do you understand why?
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      Feb 22 2011: The funny thing is, at some point in the future, some other guy just like Jordan will talk about his one true religion and diss all other ones as "Mythology, creeds, doctrines and theological postulates all created by man" including the religion Jordan holds as true at this time. Yesterday's religions are today's mythology. Connect the dots.
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        Feb 28 2011: a broad assumption considering you probably don't know which religion I belong to, nor understand that religion's origins.

        don't dismiss what you know nothing about. rather become educated, then your words will be credible. otherwise you speak out of ignorance.

        Tim, if you're still following this thread I don't understand why.
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          Feb 28 2011: Answer - because I appreciate learning about the broad spectrum of opinions that exist.

          But, I guess if I believed in believing in dogma I would be interested in only one.
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        Feb 28 2011: Tim - I'll refer you to the statement I made to Matthieu concerning ignorance.

        For I have studied my entire life all religions - more especially the ones like mine - but chances are that between us the authority on religions is me as I have written a book on the topic of philosophy and religion. or rather I have written a book on the topic of how philosophy has infiltrated and degraded all religions but one. I really had to know all other religions well to write that book.

        what you've intimated about me being concerned with only one reveals you as coming from a place of profound ignorance.
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          Mar 1 2011: Jordan:

          Yes, I admit that I am coming from a place of profound ignorance. That is why I ask questions.

          I've notice you don't ask questions. Maybe you already know it all. But I have my doubts.

          What do you think?
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        Mar 1 2011: OK, I'll ask a question and I'll make it of the same caliber that yours have been:

        each of your "questions" to me embody allegations against my character.
        do you call this a conversation? or is it a trial? what are you trying to prove - that I'm a ignorant dogmatic religious nut? that's what your questions imply.
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          Mar 2 2011: Jordan

          I apologize for letting the thread degenerate the way it has. My beginning intention was to focus on a discussion of ideas and not get into personal attacks. I'm sure you're an intelligent person and for that reason would very much like to understand your thought process in arriving at the conclusion that a single religion holds the truth. Surely you can understand the confusion of one who doesn't hold that belief and is confronted with a multitude of religions which make the same claim.
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        Mar 3 2011: Thanks Tim, I totally understand how that would look strange & now that I know u really r curious I'll try to quickly explain my model of religions:

        Basically: God is a God of order. He has a kingdom-a literal kingdom-in heaven & since the beginning of time has called & ordained prophets to have priesthood authority & stewardship over his kingdom on earth.
        God calls prophets to teach the people, the people often reject the prophet and later God reestablishes his kingdom on earth & calls another prophet to lead it.

        Lets look at Moses. He displayed all the elements of a prophet of God-he was given power to do miracles, he was given more scripture for the people at that time & he was given the right to make a temple (the tabernacle) & perform ordinances in it, & so on.

        But by the time Christ appears on the scene the children of Israel have desecrated the temples, live by a set of standardized rules & different factions of their faith have arose everywhere-& the leaders of those factions r all taught by the schools & paid by their followers. They went from unified under a prophet of God to monetary-based factions. In short, they slowly, step by step rejected the kingdom of God until no 1 but John the baptist was baptizing by the authority of God. everyone else had the authority of the schools - the authority of man.

        So what did Christ do? He restored the church yet again. Called twelve apostles to guide it & a presidency after his departure. yet in < 100 years the apostles & their predecessors were all killed or exiled. The kingdom of God was lost again & was replaced with a bunch of factions, paid clergy & no ordinances done by the power of God. Eventually people realized something was wrong, hence the reformation but man's ingenuity cannot reform God's authority back to the earth. A restoration, initiated by God was needed.

        In preparation for Christ's second coming God has again established his church to the earth.seeing things from my view does it make sense?
  • Feb 28 2011: Religious practice is better viewed as value based, not fact based. Some values in religious belief include compassion, forgiveness, respect for elders, mindfullness, balance, etc. Check out Duke University's School of Spirituality and Medicine to see how science and religion can converge in a useful, fact-based dialog: www.spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu
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      Feb 28 2011: Hi Cynthia, thank you for the reference. However, may I ask: "compassion, forgiveness, respect for elders, mindfullness, balance", are they not universal qualities that can be inspired in any human regardless of religion's presence?
      • Mar 1 2011: Hi Birdia, yes, of course they are, but I don't believe that's the question Tim has posed. In his last thread, he has asked if religious text should be considered as fact based. I am suggesting they should be considered as value based. Take Confucianism, for example. There is no supernatural divinity but rather a complex system of moral, social, political and philosophical ideas with the main tenet being the cultivation of virtue and the development of moral perfection. These are values, or guidelines, to be lived by, not facts to be checked.
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          Mar 1 2011: Cynthia, I don't think it makes sense to pull in a philosopher/educator/politician from the East to help build your argument on whether "religious text should be considered as fact based" or "value based".

          Confucianism is not a religion, because it was a social and political system that was based on the logic and reasonings of the thinker Confucius, and that system was implemented into societies to solve the existing problems of its time (same as the philosophy established by Socrates and Aristotle in the West). Thus Confucius had never pushed forth any 'holy', 'spiritual', or 'religious text' as a mean to worship.

          For your reference:

          The only reason why the West often misinterpreted Eastern philosophies as 'spiritual' or 'religious' is that: in the West, wisdom and moral values have always been associated with religion and the bible; whereas, in the East, wisdom and moral values were mostly originated from philosophical thoughts without the involvement of any 'divine' deities.

          In the East, wisdom and moral values do not equal 'religion' or anything 'holy' in the Western sense (except maybe the religious practice of Buddhism).

          Here's a definition of wisdom from a standard dictionary:
          • The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
          • The soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of such experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
          • The body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period."

          Therefore, Confucianism will not help you justify the involvement of a religion or its religious text in science, for the simple reason that: religion is based on faith, not logic or reasoning. Hope this helps clarify.
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        Mar 1 2011: Hello Birdia,
        I would argue that such "universal qulities" are not so universal. They must be taught or modeled some times 'vigorously' in order to ensure imprinting. Is it conincidental that their perpetuation is often the basis of certain religions?

        After having read some of these post I find that there is agreement that 'social and political philosophy' too, might be interpreted as religion given the methods by which they are adopted and enforced.
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          Mar 1 2011: And I would argue that such "universal qualities'' were developed in humans through millions of years of evolution to ensure our survival as a species, and maybe religion was just a stepping stone in the humans' long journey into greater discoveries :)

          In the case of implementing social/political philosophies and ideas in a society, theories that are agreed upon by the majority usually are put into practice through the enforcement of laws and legislations for the betterment of a society. Therefore, we can still see today, how new laws are formed and how old and irrelevent ones are abolished within any political system. So, my understanding is that people really shouldn't confuse philosophy with religion (unless if everyone here agrees that e.g. the Vatican can also be the lawmaker and implement religious values as laws in politics and science as if we are back in the Middle Ages?)
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      Mar 1 2011: This is where I find problems with religion. Although values are not factual and a given value is never fully realized because it is beyond material reach. I find that when the particulars of a given value manifest in fact then that provides a verifiable standard for jugdement, thus justice.

      When the particulars of a value manifest in some imaginary setting where one cannot verify anything then we are pretty much justified in doing anything as long as we claim there are great rewards in Heaven and sadly our courts support such logic. One being the example with blood transfusion. Regularly if I denied my son blood transfusion that would be murder, if I claim that it is part of my religion suddenly it's tolerated but fact is I murdered my son.
      • Mar 1 2011: Hi Budmir, yes, agreed, but isn't that the same with politics? Politics is another value-based system versus a fact-based system. If you were asked to prove that democracy was superior to communism, it would not be possible to do so scientifically because it's subjective. Prior to the 18th century, science and religion were not put in direct opposition because people believed that they told two different narratives, one about human belief and values, and one about the natural world. I don't think we can throw out religion any easier than we can throw out politics. Do some people believe religion is fact based? Yes, they do. Do some people believe politics is fact based? Yes, they do. The "problem" with both is that they are based on human belief, and belief is not science. Thus, I think engaging in a discussion that examines the possible outcomes of religious beliefs and values and how those can be understood and improved is more progressive. Pointing fingers at one another and calling each other ignorant doesn't do much good, it just keeps the barriers up.
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          Mar 1 2011: Interfaith innovation, Spiritual technology...wow! What will it be like when the Christian, the Jew, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Catholic, the Shamen..... have collaborated altogether to produce a compendium describing their mutually accepted viewpoints on virtue and sin, while bringing to the world their most important, most ancient and enduring wisdoms and revealing their most secret knowledge; the answers to questions that frustrate what we call science today?

          How might the Scientific method, subjectively limited as it might be, become more reliable and complete as a tool for understanding our place and purpose in the universe, after it is read along side and refined by this new holistic approach to spirituality?

          The Scientist and the Shaman need to talk.
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          Mar 1 2011: Yes, I agree, by theory it is supposed to be the people who decide what constitutes a decent society. Although usually it has been a class of political elites or some form of elitist hegemony which has decided this. There were very few instances in the history of civilization where majority of people organized tbemselves into a functional governing collective.

          But whether it is the people's consent or an elitist minority it all comes down to a common agreement on a subjective system of values by which we all decide to collectively live.

          I can't prove my values are better than someone elses but I can fight against those people who infringe on my way of life. In that regard I don't care to really understand anyone. I am quite honest and blunt, and readily insult beliefs I don't agree with and anyone that infringes on the way I live my life like terrorists who smash airplanes into buildings just a few blocks from my neighbourhood don't deserve any understanding in my eyes they deserve a bullet in the head. If one takes a passive approach with regard to oppression one easily becomes content living under oppressive conditions.
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          Mar 1 2011: I also wanted to mention however that political values though subjective are also rationally consistent to the premise and less subject to interpretation because their particulars are judged in a physical context.
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      Mar 1 2011: Hi Budimir, if I remember correctly, you have mentioned the 'blood transfusion refusal' incidents on another thread as well. Is this something we should know about? Where do they take place? It sounds quite tragic, would you please share? Thank you.
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        Mar 1 2011: Here is a wikipedia article about it and there were some incidents in Canada I believe, I don't know about the UK.


        I am making a point out of this because it is generally respected as "freedom of religion" in countries such as Canada and the UK, and it is a great example that demonstrates religious absurdy that is tolerated in the first world. The first world "realizes" that religious terrorism is bad, that violent cults are bad (all of these promise a great after life for the aggressor and his victims) but it is blind to its own ethics.

        I am not putting forward my own ethical propositions. However I am suggesting that any ethics we might agree on as a society, although completely subjective, can only be recognized in a verifiable context.

        If I cut a man's arm and we recognize the action as unethical I have a burden of proof to provide that I cut his arm off for the greater good, to prevent a deadly infection from spreading for instance. If I cut his arm off and tell you "he is screaming and spraying blood all over the place now, but trust me he will have a blast when he gets to heaven" there is simply no credibility in that and you have every right to doubt my words.

        That's why religion is dangerous, as long it claims heaven exists it can validate anything for a greater good somewhere in heaven.
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          Mar 3 2011: Hi Budimir, thanks for the link. It sounds very frightening and dangerous. I was in a very serious accident when I was six years old, if that doctrine was accepted in my city, I wouldn't even be here writing this message to you today. I bet a lot of people died because of it for no logical reasons. Can anything be done about it?

          Jehovah's Witnesses and blood transfusions:


          Based on various biblical texts, such as Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:10, and Acts 15:29, they believe:

          Blood represents life and is sacred to God. It is reserved for only one special use, the atonement for sins. When a Christian abstains from blood, they are in effect expressing faith that only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can truly redeem them and save their life.

          Blood must not be eaten or transfused, even in the case of a medical emergency.
          Blood leaving the body of a human or animal must be disposed of, except for autologous blood transfusions considered part of a “current therapy”.

          An individual who unrepentantly accepts a blood transfusions is deemed to have disassociated themself from the religion by abandoning its doctrines and is subsequently subject to organized shunning by other members.

          Certain medical procedures involving blood are specifically prohibited by Jehovah's Witnesses' blood doctrine. This includes the use of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and blood plasma. Other fractions derived from blood are not prohibited. Watch Tower publications state that some products derived from one of the four primary components may be so similar to the function of the whole component and carry on such a life-sustaining role in the body that "most Christians would find them objectionable". For procedures where there is no specific doctrinal prohibition, individuals are to obtain details from medical personnel and then make a personal decision."
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    Mar 2 2011: I would like to say yes, religion has outlived it's usefulness. I look at religion as an excuse for people to segregate themselves. For example, islam and christianity. I am a christian, but i find fault with christianity itself. It has so many subdivisions that believe in the same core christian principles but segregate themselves on stupid irrelevant things. Life is greater than all that. Thats just my take on it.
  • Feb 26 2011: Tim its long over due,most atheists will tell you the tools have already been developed and the tool box is full but how do we get beyond religion?religion is deeply entrenched in your own country and most countries around the globe,these religious leaders will not willingly give up their power and control over the the masses.So what are the solutions?
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      Mar 2 2011: Mark:

      I think communication is the answer. It appears that there is an overall trend away from dogmatic religious belief. Yet there are also threats from dogmatic thinking (9/11, Iraq, inability to rationally discuss human's impact on the global environment, to name a few). I think if the flow of ideas increases, the chance of survival increases.

      So the next time someone tells you "don't discuss religion or politics", just say no.
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    Feb 28 2011: I'd like to start a new thread with a quote from Joseph Campbell:

    "Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble." Joseph Campbell

    So - open question - can we accept the holy scriptures as mythical metaphors or is it necessary that we take them as facts?
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      Mar 1 2011: Hi Tim

      The trouble with "mythical metaphors" is which "translation" we accept. Surely everyone will see a different meaning. Let's say there's a couple of dozen "Holy Scriptures"; is it really beyond the wit of man to check them out literally & see if any make sense. If not then demote them. If we are still left with "mythical metaphors" then I for one am lost, as we will be left with millions of interpretations.

    • Mar 2 2011: Is "the curvature of space" a metaphor or a fact? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Does it have to stop being fact to be a metaphor, or vice versa?
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        Mar 2 2011: Fascinating point Charles. Could we even say words are metaphors? And numbers (I'm particulary intrigued by the number 3 as you can see from another post)?

        So perhaps the question should read "can we accept the holy scriptures as mythical metaphors or is it necessary that we take them literally?" The point being that if their meaning is open to debate then perhaps we can head off the un-holy alliance of politicians and clergy when they push their official story.
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Tim

          Politicians & Clergy are certainly into the metaphors, although many of their flock stick with literal. That's what happens when people get ideas above their station. I'll join you in heading off the unholy alliance.
          If we take things literally (where they are obviously meant that way) then things are open to be investigated regarding their literal truth. metaphors on the other hand just go round & round.

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    Mar 1 2011: Jack D. Canty, you are truly insightful.

    "How do we convince others to rely on rational thought for discovering reliable facts?"


    How do we convince others to use the power of myth and storytelling to give their lives meaning without disregarding these tools just because they are not rational?"

    Your comment reminds me of a Russian saying that goes "think with your heart and feel with your mind"

    If I may:

    How do we convince others as to the futility of solely using theories, equations and formulas produced in a finite mind; to definitively explain the infinite glory of the universe?


    How do we convince others as to the rewards of having faith in the wisdom inherent to certain belief systems.
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      Mar 1 2011: so you really belive that religious people are beliving something without proofs , or they are beliving something without using their reason ................. I don't know why there is that conception among some people because I'm a religious person and I don't belive someting without using my reason.......and are a lot like me ..........some scienteists : Hugh Ross , Alistar McGrath , Josh Mcdowell.....................and many others
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        Mar 1 2011: No Eduard, I did not say that religious people believe things without proof. We use our reason and find proof everywhere we look. (although I do not like what the term "religious" has become) I have my faith and believe there is a God.
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          Mar 2 2011: perfect then..............sorry if I said something wrong about you but was needed to clarify that
  • Mar 1 2011: Chris Watson,
    What you assert is the modern version of an ancient dualistic concepts and another representation of late 19th century attempts to discard the material world when the electromagnetic field was discovered. Dwelling on the strange properties of quantum phenomena to warrant belief in metaphysics and the paranormal reminds me of the attempts of creationists to lean on the classical Big Bang to support creation (which has been shown recently as baseless), or similar to the attempt of religious fundamentalists to seize on the notion, afforded by experts of Artificial Intellegence, that mind is similar to a software and that the brain is the hardware.

    Adherents of the paranormal, with eagerness and ignorance (pseudo-quantum eagerness and a misuse of science) jump in the weird bandwagon of quantum physics unaware that quantum theory is still developing field of physics and that, till now, it is concerned mainly with the microcosmos.

    The mysteries of the quantum physics are not an ottoman for parapsychic phenomena. Mysticism is not a science and the efforts of some modern dualists to conjugate it with the word “quantum” to justify, piteously, the connection between quantum phenomena and things such as “spirit” and “ghosts” have no merit or value.

    Haven’t you wondered why a governmental agency in the US, abandoned, after spending a lot of money, the programme on Remote Viewing in Stanford Research Institute? That was because it was found to be unreal thing.

    Quantum phenomena is a scientific subject defined by quantitative theory and expressed by mathematical equations and dictated by statistical approach capable of testing with predictive power. Quantum physics is not a realm for metaphysics with mere verbal expressions. It is unwarranted to link psychic and paranormal phenomena to the quantum world unless one has a phenomenon that can be scientifically testable, and rationally analysed.
  • Feb 26 2011: I have never regarded religion, in all its numerous guises, throughout all the cultures of man , in a primarily utilitarian way,such as employing the term" useful" seems to indicate. Religion has never been,to my knowledge, subject to any species of rigorous means testing in order to qualify for some type of agreed upon social function.However, I am aware of the efforts of the psychologist and philosopher William James who sought to study mystical experiences employing the methodology of psychology,i.e.,approaching such experiences as if they were merely psychological states similiar to a psycopathology. Religious belief may assume a grand social role in societies, but only after the fact. Religion,broadly defined, is a belief in the supernatural. Most people in the world believe in God or the supernatural. Such beliefs seem to be indigenous to the human experience and are the province of our self-realization and identity,and as such are cleary beyond the perception of merely a social utility tool to fit a given undefined need.
    Much has been made of the destructive outgrowth of certain religious beliefs and experiences. There is no doubt that religion has done its share of misery and mayhem. But it is interesting that very little if any of the same recognition is given to anti-religious systems, such as the totalitarian regimes underpinned with scientific reasonings and modern empiricism, and the death squads that carry out the dictates of those miraculously free of anachronistic adhesions and pre-scientific delusions such as religion.
    Just for the record, this commentator is an agnostic and has made these assertions outside of any religious viewpoint.
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      Feb 27 2011: Don, I appreciate the illustration that horrors have come both from religious and fiercely atheist regimes. That's worth contemplating.

      I disagree with your claim that religion is belief in the supernatural. That's a common element of religion but it's by no means required. Many modern Jews practice the Jewish religion while having no supernatural beliefs.

      Religion is a means of tying together cultural values into a form of tradition and narrative. I consider myself a practicing Christian even though I've long since left behind any concept of the supernatural. I do it because I come from a Christian background and I've found the narratives of redemption and forgiveness (in all their varied manifestations) to be quite moving. I apply those themes to my own life whenever possible.

      If you're interested, Karen Armstrong's book The Case for God is a lovely study of religious history that depicts literal belief in the supernatural to be a deviance from healthy religion.
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    Mar 1 2011: Hey Tim ,
    r/t the Ten Commandments and "Why can't we read these things as metaphorical lessons and not take them as fact?"

    Well I believe the answer to this question is the same reason why some cant see science as subjective theory and not take it as fact.

    I don't understand your correlating coveting thy neighbors wife and slavery. Can you explain?

    What would happen to the respective quality of your lives if you were to go after your neighbors wife or steal her car?
    Or does your value system really allow for you to "stop being so damed respectful!"
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      Mar 2 2011: Wayne:

      They are correlated by their presence in the same commandment. Which might not be such an issue in itself if it weren't symptomatic of a general thread which runs throughout the bible. That is condoning slavery and treating woman as property. And again when people (as many do) confuse the metaphorical reading by literal interpretation gets to the core problem of religion in the modern world.

      I'm attempting to maintain a focus on the issues. The introduction with a quote from Dawkins was not meant to be a statement of my personal dogma, but merely a starting point for discussion. So respect to people - yes. Respect for counter-productive ideas - no. I think they need to be aired. Don't you?
  • Mar 1 2011: The short answer to the title question for me is that religion has not outlived its usefulness, in much the same way as bipedalism has not outlived its usefulness. This is partly because I have a much broader definition of what religion is than what Tim means by the word.

    "But when I talk about religion, I'm referring to a belief system based on a holy scripture and/or a divinely based authority."

    As I understand this definition, the question is about a particular form of religion. Furthermore, other posts suggest that an implicit postulate is being proposed that such a belief system excludes any rational thought. Such a postulate is readily falsifiable. There are hundreds of millions of people who believe in a deity or deities and/or scriptures who also engage in rational thought.

    All people engage in rationality. All people engage in irrationality.

    I believe that bad things which are attributed to religion are more accurately attributed to other pressures some of which have been mentioned here: economics, psychological illness, social and political disenfranchisement, etc. Blaming 9/11 on religion, for example, is like blaming 9/11 on the invention of airplanes.

    Even with this narrow focus on revealed, theistic religion, to me asking Is it still useful? is a bit strange. No one sits down and invents a religion in order to perform a use or to accomplish something. Revealed religion in particular starts as the result of an experience and interpretation of that experience. At the same time it's a dedication and a way of life. One can agree with it or not. One can have other religions or other outlooks. But it's a part of the human experience that exists with or without purpose as an expression of our curiosity and desire to know as well as our desire to love, to give, and to have meaning. Whether one believes in M-theory or not: does that serve a purpose? Perhaps not directly, but it's a manifestation of components of humanness that are very useful.
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    Mar 1 2011: Is there a use for religion? Sure. There's also a use for medically administered morphine, but I wouldn't resort to it unless necessary.

    Religion is, has been, and probably will always be the single most useless label to apply to someone. There are so many differences, not only between different religions, or even different sects of the same religion, but even within the same sects of the same religion, that finding out if someone is a Protestant Christian or a Shiite Muslim or an Orthodox Jew tells me almost nothing about their personality or beliefs.

    The main reason for this is that the vast, vast majority of everyone cherry-picks their religion. They choose what they personally agree with or like, and discard or downplay what they don't. I have a great many friends who consider themselves religious, but who would act no different if they were not. They only label what their beliefs are by the tradition they were brought up to think of it as.

    That's why I think religion has outlived its usefulness. In the old days, people used religion to tell them how to live and what to believe. But in our modern age, we have the tools to understand the world around us without short-cuts. I don't need God to tell me how to live: I have Reason, Logic, Empathy, and more to help decide what's right and wrong and why.

    Religions are so diverse and diluted in general that the only people who really care about religion are the extremists, and those are the ones who show it in its worst light. I doubt anyone who runs an orphanage in the name of their religion would abandon it if they weren't religious, but there are plenty of people who kill for religion only.

    If everyone else would give up the label of their religion and simply practice the actions that spread things like peace, love and truth, then I can't help but think the world would be a better place, because we'd lose a superficial distinctions between people that acts as a barrier more often than it does a bridge.
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    Mar 1 2011: Faith -- particularly religious belief -- is at root a bid for emotional security. It is no coincidence that every religion promises love, peace, and ultimate security for the faithful. I'll propose that the fundamental human need answered by religion is security. Following on the heels of this proposal is the question, "How can people manage the inevitable uncertainties of life in ways that do not close minds or otherwise compromise integrity?"

    Or, phrased differently, "How do we as individuals and as a culture cultivate courage?"

    One of the major problems with even raising the question of religion's utility is that it touches on such deep, emotionally sensitive issues. Religious belief is not just a set of values, but rather a defining vision for one's life and identity. This is one reason why debates on religion often turn so nasty, so quickly: critique of religion or of its various claims is often interpreted by the faithful as a critique of them. However we approach this issue, it is vitally important to recognize the reality of the emotional needs that drive convictions. In the end, we are all heir to the same pains, needs, and weaknesses as one another.
  • Mar 1 2011: This discussion is just a mess of different threads from different people at all different times. Theres no system here !!
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    Feb 28 2011: I don't think religion is the problem at all, it's humanity itself as a whole. I see history and the evolution of Human beings and I can only come up with one phrase to describe us. And that is : We have corrupted everything that has been beneficial to us. I am sure in several generations, not that it already doesn't occur, science will be as corrupted as religion is today. Humans have corrupted things that are meant to be good so who can say this won't be the situation with science? I think things like materialism and colonialism (in a sense of power and greed, both territorial scale and on a smaller corporate scale) have outlived their usefulness. After all, religion is a motivator, and if there is no religion people will turn to other things to devote to and to find motivation in.
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      Mar 1 2011: Ibthaj:

      I agree, religion, in itself, is not the problem. But it sure seems to provide a handy excuse.

      So often wars seem to occur along religious fracture lines. How do we resolve the differences?
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      Mar 1 2011: I totaly agree Ibthaj .........a great idea
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    Mar 1 2011: It is in our very nature to manipulate what we would understand so perhaps we should be more open to examining the possibilities.

    science: the summum bonum of our ability to define and thereby control our enviornment vs faith: the root of our accountability.

    I believe one of the reasons why faith and science are so often kept apart is due to the work (collaboration) required to establish some reasonable middle ground upon which a foundation can be built.
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      Mar 1 2011: Interesting concept Wayne - working toward the middle ground between faith and reason. What do you think it requires when there are disputes between the two?
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    Mar 1 2011: It's a very different proposition to get a person to change their mind than it is to get them to make it in the first place. If the question were only how a person with no opinion could be convinced one way or the other (as we ask a jury to do), then a comparison of facts, beliefs, events and other inputs would be a reasonable basis to work from.

    But once a person has made a decision, even tentatively, they have started to form a commitment to that position. If they voice it, their commitment is even stronger - they rationalize it internally, and don't want to be seen as waffling externally. This inertia-of-opinion is the biggest problem, I think, and one big reason for the success of such strongly irrational positions, including religious and political, through the years.

    By an odd coincidence of timing, I'm working my way through a book I recently discovered, Cialdini's 1994 "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion." A fascinating, well-documented trip through its field, with one chapter dedicated to this particular topic (commitment, not religion).
  • Feb 28 2011: daniel hehir,
    Your note on voyant.
    Have you considered chance, fraud or 'cold reading'? Recent academic research indicates these Medium things as an elusive ability.
    Please read psychological research on the issue and the number of discovered incidents of fraudulent behaviour in the practice of voyant.
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      Feb 28 2011: Luck or chance is a human concept used to explain a situation or outcome determined by and dependent on events beyond the limits of normal human physiology to perceive and therefore predict or order.
      • Feb 28 2011: What are the basis of your assertion "a situation or outcome determined by and dependent on events beyond the limits of normal human physiology to perceive"? Or is it just a flight of contemplation-abstraction-mysticism? One can imagine anything and then assert that it is beyond normal human physiology to perceive. Science deals with phenomena that are beyond the direct detection of our senses, but to assign a phenomenon to this category it should have effects that warrant its real existence. Your position translates antiscientific position having "spirituality" cloak..
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          Feb 28 2011: this scientific method that we have developed to understand the known universe, reaches the limits of its effectiveness where it as a process, at best measures reality as our senses and current use of our mental faculties are able to process physical existence.

          The sciences of the mind are in their infancy and, unaided, our senses (and by extension most tools we use in producing empirical data about our environment) are feeble when compared to those nuances and levels of acuity enjoyed by the vast majority of species on earth.

          In short our limited perception of reality is not its true face. It is a question of perspective colored by paradigm.

          It seems as though we are once again at an impasse similar to when those learned ones were sure that the earth was flat and that we are at the center of the universe.
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    Feb 28 2011: Religion is dangerous only when heaven substitutes fact. It is dangerous when we assume that the atrocities we commit on earth will somehow reward all of us in the after life. I have been holding similar convictions to Richard Dawkins with resepct to religion but not to the extreme where we deny people an outlet for belief altogether. I am for the idea that heaven should never morally validate people's actions on earth. You can see the problem in allowing heaven to validate the things we do. No one has seen heaven and no one can ask for validation, it follows then that fanatics can validate any action as long as the reward pays of somewhere in heaven, where no one can verify anything.

    So here are a few examples. Terrorists are the obvious example but what about Jehova's Witnesses who deny their child blood transfusion. That is pure murder and it goes unnoticed in our courts and it is respected as being freedom of religion. That's bullshit, our courts are fact based, they prove guilt through fact. Further if I go killing Christians promising them an early delivery to heaven that would not be considered right either.
  • Feb 27 2011: Tim Colgan, "....assuming religion ever did serve a useful function for humanity...."

    Being useful (in my opinion, more harmful than useful), doesn't makes it true.
    We should be more concerned if things are true or false, right or wrong; not convenient or expedient.

    And isn't that what all religions purport to teach? Ironic, isn't it?
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      Feb 28 2011: Hi Goh

      I agree with you. We should be more concerned with what is true & what is not. How many lives are wasted chasing after non-reality. The difficult bit is getting folks to agree on what is real, so most of us get stuck chasing the non-reality.

      It is ironic.

      • Feb 28 2011: Peter, appreciate your response. I had always felt it is futile to try have a meaningful and logical discussion about the merits or demerits of religion, any religion; unless everyone is in complete agreement, which is near impossible, as borne out by the many comments here on this page.

        " To the faithful, no explanation is necessary;
        To the faithless, no explanation is possible."

        Thanks and take care.
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    Feb 28 2011: From the thread 'the power of vulnerability"
    What a wonderful time to be alive! I have spent this last week of my vacation seeking truths with hungry minds the world over and watching some of the most important presentations available to humanity.

    Thank you TED.

    Interfaith innovation, Spiritual technology...wow! What will it be like when the Christian, the Jew, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Catholic, the Shamen..... have collaborated altogether to produce a compendium describing their mutually accepted viewpoints on virtue and sin, while bringing to the world their most important, most ancient and enduring wisdoms and revealing their most secret knowledge; the answers to questions that frustrate what we call science today?

    How might the Scientific method, subjectively limited as it might be, become more reliable and complete as a tool for understanding our place and purpose in the universe, after it is read along side and refined by this new holistic approach to spirituality?
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    Feb 27 2011: I don't think religion's outlived its usefulness actually. As a Hindu atheist (more or less), from India, I can say that religion does play quite a pivotal role in helping maintain law and order, family ties, a sense of culture and values, and other intangible social connections that stand to be lost otherwise - so there is actually a useful social component to religion that's hard to replace with atheist/humanist alternatives.

    As to your point whether it can be replaced with a suitable alternative - sure, it absolutely can. But what are the alternatives? Atheism may be logical, but it doesn't offer much consolation to the millions of downtrodden in every country who have no other hope but to believe (or pretend to believe) that there is something better and beyond this present life. Rather, it suits the needs of that small proportion of the population that can afford to not believe, and still live a relatively luxurious existence with their basic needs catered to (I stand guilty).

    I also find it interesting that many of the faithful I've come across happen to be open to the idea that there is really isn't any God. When I ask them whether they've considered becoming atheists, they tell me that when they look atheists for some source of guidance, they usually walk away with the impression that there's no help to be found there, simply because most of the atheists they come across like to portray themselves as critical thinkers, but usually end up simply criticizing religion for its own sake and don’t really offer any proper responses to some of the questions that they’re interested in (I disagree with them, but that’s how we come across to them).
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      Feb 27 2011: "religion does play quite a pivotal role in helping maintain law and order, family ties, a sense of culture and values, and other intangible social connections that stand to be lost otherwise " Forbes reported on 1/21/2011 that Norway is the happiest country on earth, yet only 13% are believers.

      In your second paragraph, do you mean the millions in Egypt, Libya, Iran, Bahrain, Yemen, etc. who have decided to not put hope in a better NEXT life, but are going to work to make THIS life better ? I guess that can afford to believe in the here and now...

      Atheists are flawed as everyone else. We don't offer cold comfort. We offer freedom and change.
      • Feb 27 2011: Hi William, I live in Norway. I don't know where Forbes has gotten their info. from but it's far from the truth. Statistics are not even close to 13% I don't have the exact number just now, but 13% is way off. There was just a newspaper article about this last week. The "believers" outnumber the "non-believers" by about 10-15%. The "don't knowers" were counted in with the non-believers by the Human-Eth. just to try to show how many more nonbelievers there are here in Norway but the numbers were distorted. Even in Norway.. happiness is allusive.... an interesting fact is that the suicide rate among young adults is (or was then, this may be from a few years ago) the highest in the world. So what the reasons for such things is hard to point a finger at and say.... this is the reason for happiness.... you just cant do dat.........
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          Feb 27 2011: Hi Daniel, here is the site : http://www.prosperity.com/. Finland is number one in suicides per recent rankings. I missed the mark, but Prashanth argued that society and humans fall apart without religion. I completely disagree. Doing right by your family, the people you interact with on daily basis, and society is general is not linked. We don't need to religion to advise this.
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        Feb 27 2011: Great point William, but if you spoke to the protestors in each of those countries, you'd see that religion is a very important force in their lives, and lends them the spiritual strength to continue their fight to "to make THIS life better".

        In fact, I was watching the protests in Egypt with great interest because I kept seeing religion being used to unite the protestors and provide them with several brief respites from the violence. When it's time for prayer, both sides stop and give each other breathing room. These time periods were used to ferry the dead and injured away from the hotspots and get them the medical attention they needed.

        "Atheists are flawed as everyone else. We don't offer cold comfort. We offer freedom and change."

        I agree somewhat with this statement, but I think the "freedom and change" part is slightly overrated. Atheists offer the possibility of living under a much-lighter spiritual burden, but if one examines the events of the radical atheists during the French Revolution, you'll see that even atheism can suffer from its own form of extremism - which is the true problem by the way right now with religion, not religion itself.

        And the fact that atheists come across as hecklers make them less likeable, and therefore less able to convince people of atheism's appropriateness. I would suggest that, if atheists want to win over more to their lot, they suspend their frequent criticism of religion (which puts people on the defensive), and demonstrate to the religious, by their actions, that atheism is a suitable alternative.
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          Feb 27 2011: Prashanth, I agree that Christians and Muslims working together in Egypt is/was a beautiful thing. It is a complete paradigm shift. I have hope that they can maintain the solidarity. I, myself do not feel any less spiritually burden by being an atheist. I don't see it as a burden but as a call of duty. The tending of the human spirit is more demanding and rewarding then that of the spirit in the sky. Hecklers are an excuse. I find the media likes to focus on the atheists because we are unusual, but it goes both ways. I think that people need to find there own way to their spirituality. And, I don't like the battle that the religious are waging against science.
        • Feb 28 2011: I think the biggest problem here is that the future for each of us personally is entirely unknown exactly, but partially known both scientifically and spiritually. It is what we do with what we know and what we do when we don't know or don't consider our knowledge that distinguishes the difference between a believer and the faithful of any religion or lack thereof. The faithful Athiest will find much in common with the faithful Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc. The believers are those who have reached out into the abbys of time and future, with nothing more than a guess at understanding. The difference in people is the difference illustrated in the streets of Egypt recently. Some of the believers think they know the religion, when in fact they have scarcely understood more than it's politics and rituals. Others on the other hand displayed a faithful understanding of their common reality that led them in the direction of cooperation and peace, because they knew their fellow people knew the truth of the world.

          Faith is powerful because it includes fundamental knowledge. Belief is a shot in the dark at boogie-men. Religion and religious text is neither. Religions are studies of knowledge, and behavior, they are not knowing but rather they are the knowledge, Only People and minds can know. So it is how we act within our personal "religion" that separates us from each other, or brings us together. Faithful people, no matter the religion, will understand each other just fine. Believers will start a fight.
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    Feb 27 2011: I agree with you. Being religious and being spiritual are separate paths. One can be spiritual and not adhere to any religious belief. How many problems are based only on religious points of view of the same issue? In a global world, connected, on the very edge of many scientific discoveries, it seems ethics, laws and spirituality have retired religion as the sole source of truth.
  • Feb 27 2011: I'm going to try and be quite brief,

    but I think I'm with Jung, et al, on this one.

    I'm not personally religious, in many ways I wish I were, but find it difficult to get beyond a skeptical agnosticism. The point I'd like to make is that your question asks 'has religion outlived its usefulness', and unfortunately, no I don't think it has, or can.

    Though I'm inclined to see the liberation of the enlightenment as a good thing, it opened the door to endless relativism, the desperate bemusement (as well as the beauty) of modernism, and the despair that come with post-modernist skepticism. Though the post-enlightenment world view is potentially a more accurate one, it's also potentially a very lonely one.

    In this age, the abstractness that one comes to when really thinking of God seems at once distant and comforting enough to defy deconstruction, in fact, I'd argue it's the distance of theology from reality that give it its strength against deconstruction, and so its efficacy as an unshakable support for those with faith.

    So, like I say, I'm not religious, and I don't believe there's much 'truth' in religion. But as for its usefulness, when you ask about developing 'other tools for human needs' I think you'd find it very difficult to find a 'tool' as immune to deconstruction, and thus as apt to serve the human need to feel something certain (or at least possibly so) in a thoroughly uncertain world, as religion.
  • Feb 27 2011: I've personally put a lot of thought into this. I think there IS a place for "religion" as spirituality but not as a source of belief. I make a very clear distiction between belief and faith. Belief is an unfounded assumption. Faith is an assumption that has a solid foundation in personal experience. Faiths have much in common with each other that is substancial because all of them form within the context of a common reality. The basis is the world itself and man's connection to it, and it's personal mysteries.

    Beliefs are guesses and gambling on notions and unfounded assumptions. They tend to be make-believe rather than provable substance. As such, beliefs should not be believed, and Faith should be the guiding light of reason with reason rooting the guess in reality.

    That's my two cents.
  • Feb 27 2011: As far as i know, there is no religion that says you should kill your neighbour if he or she does not happen to agree with you. 911 was not caused by religion, more a 'sect' if you want to blame it on the actual bombers.
    But to get down to basics, my opinion, for what its worth is that God does exist partly because, i find it impossible to believe that the universe was created by a big bang out of nothing???!!!!! as science seems to be telling us. I find it 'logical' to believe in a loving creator, and yes i do believe he sent his son, out of love as a sacrifice for us. And again as far as i am aware the Christian religion is the only one where 'God' sacrificed himself for us.
    One can talk to many scientists who are astonished by the amazing harmony in creation, and indeed despite all the technology now a days, we cant even make a dead blade of grass never mind a live one.
  • Feb 27 2011: having worked for churches for more than 10 years, and knowing many and all kind of very religious persons, I fervently think that religion should be replaced by everybodies own thinking and feeling. Religion may give shelter, stability and rules to persons who are otherwise lost in the world, may console, may give strength in difficult situations, may make people help others in need, but it can lead, as we all know, to abuse of all kind, not only sexual, murder, intolerance. It's often a hindrance to straightforward thinking with its conequences.
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    Feb 27 2011: Well, following Tim's advice, I will ask questions.


    If thinking is spiritual and "the content is purely immaterial. Thinner than the thinest gas you can imagine," can you explain why does it take so much energy? Can you explain why brain structure and size have such correlation with the quality of thought? Why damaging the brain can destroy our thinking capabilities?

    There is much more to ask. But if you study carefully enough you might notice that there is too much indication that thinking is far from spiritual. Scientists have been able to devise simple, and very physical, models for learning. Simple models for decision making, logic, and such. But I rather not write too much more. It also seems as if we are discussing spirituality rather than whether religion has outlived its purpose. I think it does stop people from realizing some basic realities. But I don't know where would I be inclined other than say that all the current religions have indeed outlived their usefulness. But religiosity itself ... hum, maybe too, but I am not sure. Never thought about it before.
  • Feb 27 2011: I am a marketing professional in IT. I often take technical langugage and "translate" it into useful messages. I brought this same skill into play when I decided to read the Bible after my son was born. I was brought up in an agnostic household, and I wanted to decide if religion had any value. I decided to start with Christianity. I read the Bible not with a cynic's eye, but with geniune interest. It took a year, and during this time, I learned of foreign lands and peoples, read epic poems and parables, and stories about love, foregiveness, hatred and war. About humanity, really. The version I bought had the Jesus' word highlighted in red. I was shocked to see how few quotes there were from him! Using my ability to cull meaning, I decided: religious practice has developed over the centuries to promote pyschological well-being, to help man confront death, to provide guidelines for "good living" and to build strong communities. I believe that "faith" is not necessarily a belief in a supernatural being in the sky, but in a set of universal values, that if followed, will "save" us (mainly from ourselves!). I believe religious practice provides comforting ritual and a community setting for these values. In the Bible, the values uttered by Jesus are pretty straightforward: love others, forgive, help the needy, do not murder, etc. I next studied Buddhism and Judiasm, and roughly found the same tenets. I don't think it's fair to hold up religious extremism as a reason to "get beyond" religion. People in Europe kill each other at soccer games, but we don't throw out soccer because we still believe in the value of sportsmanship. And, in many countries, like Scandinavia, people are secular and quite happy. Extremism is more about disenfranchised peoples who use religion for political action. In my opinion, values rooted in religious practice would ask believers to actively seek compassion and understanding in helping extreminists find a loving path--relevant, even today.
  • Feb 27 2011: Informative as many of the comments here are, I apologize if my route to the answer seems abstract. I have read some of the argumentative points on "Has religion outlived it's usefulness?" and notice the many takes on dissecting the wording. And then arguing the words used in that dissection. Are we, as people living in past & present civility, capable of grasping the concept of mortality in the eyes of someone who perhaps had just lost someone dear to them through act of unshakeable coincidence like a car accident or a stray bullet? How about asking if technology could tell a little girl why she was raped by her neighbor and if technology could help her find the hope she needs to know that tmrw could still bring laughter and love? I dont believe religion has lost its usefulness. As with any item, abstract or tangible, there is a chance it's user could wield it in anger and ignorance or kindness and solace. Though I believe religion shouldn't be used for all reasoning, it shouldn't be used for all the blame either. 
  • Feb 27 2011: there are some times in life where in the end you will realize that there has to be a god, some things that we can never change. because if there is a god, it will make everything in this life worth it. the belief in the existence of god can make us reflect on ourselves, on how we think we are the most righteous being in this universe without anyone or anything telling us what is right or wrong. from what i can see happening around the world right now, we can still use some guidance.
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    Feb 27 2011: I've read a lot of ideas ..........and what I want to strengthen is the idea that science and religion (especially christianity) aren't in relation of enmity.
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    Feb 27 2011: Definitely. Religion is ancient man's way of rationalizing what he couldn't understand. Acceptance of science means that we no longer have to rely on religion to understand the world -- we can actively pursue our own answers to why things work the way that they do. In the end, we may find (and prove) that which we believed in the beginning -- that a higher order spirit is responsible for the creation of the universe.
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      Feb 27 2011: lol..............Religion is ancient man's way of rationalizing...................lol...............lol..............evolution is modern man's way of rationalizing (but not all people)
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      Feb 27 2011: waht's the difference?
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    Feb 27 2011: "Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet."
    --Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor (1769-1821).

    Religion is a tool (weapon) that has been used against the masses for eons. There are far more USEFUL modern tools (weapons) to use on the masses nowadays.
  • Feb 27 2011: Would there be different answers if the question was worded, "Has spirtuality or faith oulived its usefullness"?
    There is a big difference between religion, faith in a Diety, and spirtuality. This is not just semantics, but a difference in what one believes in their mind, heart, soul and what others have tried to instill in them through traditions.

    A persons spirtual beliefs can affect their lives and creat change in a way that nothing else can.
  • Feb 26 2011: Another Way of framing this question might be to ask does modern life require so much faith that there is little left over for religious thought. Thinking in an anthropological scale those of us in the industrial world are absurdly reliant on the deeds of others. For the most part humans had to be self sufficient. They knew the best ways to hunt, gather, and build from their own experience. The trend for the last few centuries has been specialization, which by its nature is dependent on belief in others. For the most part, unlike my ancestors, I know little actual skills that would keep me alive in a non domestic setting. I rely on politicians to organize the construction of roads , to be driven upon by by diesel power truck full of food grown around the world to satisfy my hunger, and I require this to happen daily without incident. Although measures are taken to ensure this happen, and it is not blind faith, I still can't say I understand the process with the same understanding my great great grandparent understood the concept of if you plants seeds here tomatoes will grow. This is just one of many examples. My point being a few hundred years ago a person's knowledge was limited to his/her experience. Now we place our experience on the shoulders of communal knowledge and peer out from that vantage point. Giving this progression maybe we are longing for the tangible, what we have personally witnessed, entranced by science, whereas our ancestors where consumed with this so they sought to be a part in something grander than they were.
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    Feb 26 2011: Tim, if by 'religion' you mean 'theism', then I'd say yes. But I believe that religion, in the general sense, is one of our most potent tools to solving the world's problems.

    Consider this definition of theology: "A lens that combines a person's or group's set of values into a single narrative."

    Dawkins attacks a straw man, singling out a specific type of narrative that causes destruction. Specifically, he points to religious traditions that conflate truth and myth and are unable to distinguish between story and fact.

    Here are some excellent examples of how religion, as crafted by humans, has enabled people to transcend their normal limitations and do good:
    - Evangelical Christians in Britain were the singular force pushing for the abolition of English slavery.
    - various Christian groups in America specifically crafted an abolitionist theology to oppose the pro-slavery theology of the American South. That battle was not rationalism vs religion but a struggle between two religious narratives with very different values on human life.
    - Immigrant groups, from all cultures, use the skills of creating religious narrative to retain personal and corporate relational ties when they find themselves isolated within a new foreign culture.
    - Food moralism in the modern progressive movement is a form of religion (though it hates to think of itself as such). It places moral values on eating various foods based on the sustainability and perceived cleanliness of those foods.

    So is it obsolete? No. It just requires that good and intelligent people commit themselves to keeping the narratives of their culture on track. If we abstain from religion entirely then the fools among us will hold a monopoly on moral language. It's our job to weave our values into a single story that can be understood by many and do good for all.
  • Feb 26 2011: I do believe in God, but not religion. Dawkins brings out important points. His concept of the selfish gene and the "genetic replicative algorithm" offer sound resons for the tendency to "convert" and proselytize.

    However, we have a theorem known as Godel's incompleteness theorem stating that in any consistent axiomatic for malization of number theory(of sufficient complexity) there exists undecidable propositions. Basically, this demonstrates that we can't get all truth in one package, so any attempt to explain "God" as consistent with "absolute" truth will fail.

    BUT, we can also compare that with Paul's statement in Romans 8:7, which says that the carnal(natural, fleshy) mind is enmity against God and cannot eb subject to God's laws. If so, it provides us with two basic conclusions:
    1.No one can claim authority as God's representative, since all natural minds are enmity against God.
    2.Any attemtp to do so will result in a tendency toward infinite spli ntering and speciaton, as we see today.

    In either case, "God" or "truth" we cannot escape infinite undecidable propositions. If one were to cite the bible as an authority, one would have to overcome the limitatins of Romans 8:7.
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    Feb 26 2011: Tim........... (I'm not a philosopher, I'm just a free thinker).
    The soul includes all our abstract existence (mind , spirit (if we take them as to different entities) , all our feelings .......all what it's abstract in us and immaterial)......... so I understand the soul . I'm not the adept of dualist position because it say that there are 2 forces that are equals and opposite( the soul and the body).I don't think that the soul and the body are equal or opposite because:
    1. The soul being immaterial we can't make him the subject of the physics laws , the body is the subject of physics laws , they are from different realms and I think that is inappropiate to compare them.
    2.They aren't opposite because if it had been opposed , one would be good and the other bad , or we know that neither soul nor body are bad , I think they are just different substaces.
    Regarding Michelangelo's picture , all what I could say is that it is just a picture in other words is just Michelangelo's imagination , and we know that imagination is very different of reality( when I say New York you imagine something, I'm imagining something else if none of us have been there but New York exist whatever we are imagining about it) I think is the same principle about Michelangelo.
    Ying/yang being considered a duality principle I would disagree with it because:
    I'll take just an example : The Good and The Evil......in ying/yang philosophy(as I know) it is belived that the good and the evil are two equal and opposite forces , but I don't think so . Let's analize a bit these two forces: if they are equal and opposite then one love to do what's wrong everytime just because it's wrong(The evil force) THAT NEVER HAPPEN(noone would do something what's wrong just for simple reason that it's wrong , because loves what's wrong) instead the other, the good one do what's good just because it's good, that we know happen everytime.
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      Feb 26 2011: Hi Eduard,

      The Yin and Yang are complementary forces, they have nothing to do with good and evil.

      From Wikipedia:
      "There is a perception (especially in the West) that yin and yang correspond to evil and good. However, Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions and other dichotomous moral judgments, in preference to the idea of balance."

      In the real world, there is nothing that can be regarded as absolute evil, or absolute good. This is not the Lord of the Rings. The East, in general, is not obsessed with the absolutes. In Taoist philosophy, it is all about the interdependence and balance between nature's forces (or energy if it's a better word). To exist, is to be part of nature's forces; the act of detaching oneself from the forces, will ultimately leads to disharmony and destruction. I believe Yoda in Star Wars teaches the same thing :)
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        Feb 26 2011: very interesting point(about yin and yang ).............it's good to know , thank you.
        but I disagree with that:
        "In the real world, there is nothing that can be regarded as absolute evil, or absolute good"
        In my opinion all either is good or is 'evil' and the evil in my opinion is basically good, in other words is the evil consist in pursuing what's good in an wrong way , with wrong methods ,because all the things are good by itselfs ..........what do you think from your perspective?
  • Feb 22 2011: As a scientist, I have to start off by saying that a discussion of this topic/idea is going to be particularly biased without the input of the religious community, which I believe to be lacking on this site. Civil debate with peers well versed in religious studies would offer precious insight into this discussion. I am not one of them, but am passionate about the subject and recommend anyone to read some of Joseph Campbell’s works.

    “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.”
    Joseph Campbell

    This quote really sums up why religion or the notion of god will not and should not outlive its usefulness. I do not wish to argue that many of the dogmatic belief systems are archaic, in many ways they cannot related to the current age. This, however, does not diminish their meaning’s or purpose which are allegorical in nature.

    A religion is there to help guide one through life, so that they may be happy and serve their finite time on earth meaningfully. It gives people faith, not just blind faith, but faith that things can and will get better in times of darkness or destruction.

    Science and technology will never be able to answer all questions. I will leave you with this final quote.

    “Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history, mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives becomes dissolved.”
    "The Hero With a Thousand Faces", Joseph Campbell
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      Feb 23 2011: Jon: Joseph Campbell I've always found to be very thought-provoking and have interesting insights on many aspects of human culture and evolution. However, in one of his later interviews it seems like he had re-embrased catholicism. That was a bit disconcerting.

      He had one statement, though, that really gets to the crux of the problem that I have with religion:

      "Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble." Joseph Campbell

      Considering the damage that occurs when religious metaphors are interpreted as facts, is it inappropriate for us to object to this kind of thinking?
      • Feb 23 2011: >>Considering the damage that occurs when religious metaphors are interpreted as facts

        What about the damage that can and has occured through the advancement of science( e.g. atom bomb, chemical, biological weapons)? Should we "object to this kind of thinking"? Or should we accept the fact that along with the good there is a capacity of bad or misuse.

        >>Is it inappropriate for us to object to this kind of thinking?

        Specifically, what kind of thinking ,using allegorical stories in general or treating allegorical stories as facts? Can you have one without the other?
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          Feb 24 2011: Jon:

          You've really got me thinking about the meaning of myth in general (btw - have added "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" to my reading list). So perhaps it just comes down to a battle of mythologies. As Steven Hawking has said:

          "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

          On the other hand, maybe science will just get us in trouble and we would have been better off just remaining hunter-gathers living in tribal communities.

          One big issue with "religion" in the traditional sense is that there are so many of them and they tend to be in conflict. How do you see this resolving?
    • Feb 24 2011: Jon thanks for mentioning Campbell. Religion should be sought out not because it is factual but because it contains some inexpressible truth. I would no longer rid the word of religion than would burn down the fiction section of a library. Religion is often interpreted in a non-metaphorical way allowing for abuse. That said all mythology is a system of belief. Science is a mythology in the idea you have to believe that if you repeat an experiment without changing any variables you will get the same results. This sound easy but there is never just one variable in nature. That said we can derive as much knowledge from science as will fit into our heads.

      Instead of dismissing myth cause it is easily abused we need to constantly question religion. If for some reason 99% of scientist were faking result we would not say the scientific method was bad and prone to abuse, but rather would work on exposing the bad methodology and trying to create our own science.
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        Feb 24 2011: Good point Anthony. So how about we move the holy books to the fiction section?

        I can see the value of a body of literature telling stories for us to ponder and ask "do they have relevance to our life?".

        Can a religion emerge which allows all myths to be accepted as possible useful metaphors, yet none to be singled out as the sole truth?
        • Feb 24 2011: Yes that is the problem. When you witness an amazing work of art that moves you to the core you don't banish the concept of all other art as heresy, but that is what happen in religion all to often. I guess to borrow a biological metaphor people need to be exposed to as many religions as possible in their formative years in order to develop a healthy immune system against the more insidious parts of any religion. What I see happing though is quite the opposite. I cringe every time I see someone like Dawkins argue against religion because despite his vast brilliance I feel he sort of misses the point. Myth does not pose any threat against science, One ask how one ask why, but by debating people often much less learn than he is he himself reduces religion to its most base fundamental appeal which often has crazy results. Ultimately I guess religions are no better or worse than the people who compose them. That said as more enlighten souls opt out of religion because it goes against their morality religion will try to appeal more to the fire and brimstone types.
        • Feb 25 2011: If you hold a gun to someone's head and tell them to treat their neighbor well, is that person really moral? What is the difference between that gun and Hell? Religion teaches the right things for the wrong reason. You shouldn't have the be threatened by Hell in order to live a happy and meaningful life. Society needs to learn to do good for the pureness of doing good, we don't need a "guide" and should certainly not be threatened.
    • Feb 24 2011: Jon,
      Why don’t you seek “meaning”, “purpose” and something to “help guide one through life” by way of reason and logic, and by adopting humanitarian thoughts instead of relying on “dogmatic” and “archaic” belief systems that “cannot related to the current age”(Quotations are from your comment). I wonder (particularly because you have introduced yourself as a scientist.) about your submission to delusional myths to achieve these goals instead of adopting logical, factual and reasonable ever evolving alternatives that can provide you with peace of mind, better human relations, existential meaning and purposeful life.
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        Feb 24 2011: Mind S:

        Just to play the "devils" (slash that out), God's advocate here - do you see anything in religions (sense of community, etc.) that would be missing in a society without religion? What are the other ways to get provide those things?
      • Feb 24 2011: Mind S, I do seek meaning, purpose etc. through reason and logic and I don't disagree with you that ever evolving alternatives should and could be achieved. However, some general stories have developed throughout many cultures, "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell, and I don't think they should be discounted.

        Also, mentioning reason and logic, read some David Hume or Karl Popper, you will quickly see that logic and reasoning is not as cut and dry as you may expect.

        Tim, I think religions do offer a great sense of community. It is a shame that many of the greatest minds today don't have a weekly get together much like a religion would. I guess in a way TED is trying to achieve just that, getting highly intelligent people together to better the world.

        Finally, there is something to be said about the tradition involved in many religions, allowing you to connect back to something people have felt throughout history, linking us all together.
  • Feb 24 2011: I just read some comments and felt that an atheist from completely different part of world would shed some light to the matter. I was born hindu and now i am atheist. In such discussion what i have seen is that people of certain religion defend their religion but do not really defend other religion. If one believes religion is the way for GOD to speak to us, then one should also see uniformity across all religions. But it is never the case. For instance some religious group would say pork is forbidden but beef is ok. It may seem to us banal issue but it has cost people their lives. Religion is local culture. Culture should change with need of time.
    Last year i attended a talk from Dan C Dennett in Berlin and really liked his idea of "NURSECROP". Religions (Nursecrop) were indeed natural phenomenon and were also vital to development of human culture (Maincrop) . The maincrop (human culture) is now mature and ripe enough and nursecrop (Religions) can be outrooted.
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      Feb 25 2011: Sulav: Definitely welcome as many perspectives as possible into the conversation.

      The nursecrop vs maincrop concept is very interesting. Can you describe more what the maincrop entails. Does it incorporate some religious-like aspects for meeting human needs?
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    Feb 23 2011: "Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism"
    If the effects of religion (or religion) is what you described above ,I would agree with you , but the religion ISN"T.
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      Feb 24 2011: Eduard: Could you elaborate a bit?
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        Feb 25 2011: of course Tim : I'm living in an religious enviroment ( that makes me a bit subjective ) but I know that religion isn't how it's described above (I think Bush and others have used religion for their interest ).
        The religion (christian religion) can't teach us enmity because if it will do that , it wouldn't be religion .
        Christian religion will never gives to people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness , I know that from my experience (no one in christianity have is own righteousness , who say that he have it is a liar).
  • Feb 22 2011: Hi Tim,

    This is going to sound like a series of terribly minor nit picks, but please know I’m serious.

    Your question:

    assuming religion ever did serve a useful function for humanity, is it perhaps time that we get beyond religion and develop other tools to provide for human needs?

    1) “Get beyond” means what? It sounds pejorative in the sense that it implies that it’s time to grow up. Or could it mean that there’s a progression; now we’re at the R stage, what comes next (like moving linearly from first to second grade)? Maybe there’s something sideways or perhaps even unrelated to it? Or could it be an evolutionary (bio or culture?) sort of thing?
    2) The use of “we” is confusing to me, people being so different and religion being so personal. Are you suggesting that there’d be a group decision here? What happens to those outside the group?
    3) What do you mean by “tools’? Is religion somehow like a wrench? Something that’s been designed for a specific task? Was religion “developed’? And if so, that it was developed with a goal of “providing for human needs”? Who did the developing anyhow?
    4) What’s a “human need”? Are you talking about concrete needs like food? Or what are commonly called spiritual “needs”? Here’s what comes to mind when I think of a tool that provides for human needs: Indoor plumbing.

    There so much in this whole topic that’s emotionally loaded, to put it mildly. If the question is as ambiguous as I think it is, it will be awfully easy for people to talk past each other, and that’s what happens all the time when people try to talk about religion.

    Anyway, although others will likely grasp your meaning well, I’m pretty sure that I do not understand your question.

    It’s very nice to hear from you and I appreciate your inviting me to comment.

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      Feb 22 2011: Hi Dave. Nice hearing from you.

      I'd like to respond to your comment with several separate comments in hopes of generating separate threads since I think each issue you bring up could be a valuable point of departure for further discussion.

      But first I'd like to make a general comment related to the inspiration of the original question.

      Although there are many concepts of religion, the one I'm most concerned with are religions based on holy scriptures.

      My belief is that these religions generate decision making based on dogma vs. reason and in the world today result in more harm than good. Take as an example the debate over slavery. One of the main justifications for slavery in the US was that it is condoned by the bible. Both Old and New Testaments indicate that it is the acceptable and natural institution. During the heated slavery debates in the US the bible was often referred to. And since scripture trumps reason, it was difficult to overcome this argument.

      That's just one example based on Christianity, but every scriptural based religion has it's examples:
      . the use of the Koran to decide if adulterers should be stoned.
      . the use of the Torah to decide who the West Bank belongs to.
      . the use of the Vedas to decide if the caste system should be maintained.

      The examples of this type of dogmatic vs. reason based decision making is endless.

      So my argument is that in the same way that the institution of slavery may have served some function in the past and we as humans have evolved beyond that institution, perhaps the same is true of scriptural-based religions.
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      Feb 22 2011: Dave in response to point 1:

      "1) "Get beyond” means what? It sounds pejorative in the sense that it implies that it’s time to grow up. Or could it mean that there’s a progression; now we’re at the R stage, what comes next (like moving linearly from first to second grade)? Maybe there’s something sideways or perhaps even unrelated to it? Or could it be an evolutionary (bio or culture?) sort of thing?"

      Yes, there is an evolutionary progression (perhaps not always linear or forward moving) in human culture.

      Yes, I think it is time to grow up.

      So I put the question back to you. Do you think humankind is incapable in progressing from decision making based on scripture to decision making based on reason?
      • Feb 22 2011: There are other options besides scripture and reason. This topic has been well studied and I’m very ignorant. So, relying then on base intuition here… wait! Intuition! That’s not scripture or reason! What do you know?!

        What about self preservation, procreation and the rest? These base interests are fundamental, not abstractions like what’s written in scripture or how it’s interpreted. Base interests have little or nothing to do with religion, or reason, unless by reason one means tactical cleverness. In extremis we do what we are pre-programmed to do, without reason and without reference to scripture. After-the-fact fill in is how we convince ourselves that we are in control, that we are primarily rational and only occasionally emotional or that religion governs our acts.

        I think reason is a tip-of-the-iceberg thing. We use it for productive analysis, the way we do when we are doing engineering sorts of things, when we have time to sit back and analyze, when we aren’t starving, when we can afford to be dispassionate. We also use it to rationalize what we already ‘know’ and this is hugely problematic. Often we think reason has led us to a conclusion when, in reality, we were already hooked (it doesn’t matter how) into the conclusion we wanted, and then used reason to arrive at that destination. Reason, in this all-to-common scenario, becomes rationalization. Check it: http://atheism.about.com/od/criticalthinking/a/Rational-Rationalized-Beliefs-Brain.htm

        My opinion is that reason is not a panacea, not even close. Humans are faulty. When we do stuff like genocide we will, all-the-while feeling that we are truthful, righteous and rational, find a justification for it in scripture, reason or something else.

        Aw, this sounds so very grim. Don’t get me wrong; reason is wonderful. But life has taught me not to rely too much on it, especially when it’s in conflict with my ‘gut’. What is this gut thing anyway?
        Check it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology
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          Feb 23 2011: Well David. You sure got me thinking, er, feeling, outside the box...

          ... but my gut just tells me you're wrong!

          I guess my argument isn't so much for a single alternative, but merely against dogmatic thinking. Particularly dogmatic thinking which has been codified by tribal people thousands of years ago. Don't get me wrong. I'm a great admirer of the tribal lifestyle. Just don't think we should be letting their rule-set guide us on questions of whether we should be honor suicide bombers or invade foreign countries.

          Moreover, it may have a significant effect if such thinking is confronted. Humans are wired for survival. And have a good chance of surviving indefinitely. However, they may manage to create significant catastrophes along the way. Perhaps some can be prevented by alternative modes of decision making.

          For example, without even touching on whether global warming is caused by humans and is an issue of concern - would you really want our decision makers basing their decisions on the issue by consulting the bible? (Take into consideration that there is a significant correlation between global warming deniers and religious fundamentalists.)
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      Feb 22 2011: Dave in response to point 2:

      "2) The use of "we" is confusing to me, people being so different and religion being so personal. Are you suggesting that there’d be a group decision here? What happens to those outside the group?"

      The "we" I was thinking of is the we of human-kind (no desire to exclude anyone). Diversity in personal belief systems should be welcomed. Group decision making based on scripture is my fear.

      However, perhaps the "we" might refer to specific groups when it is time to make political decisions which effect the group.

      For example:
      . Do "we" want to permit prayer in publicly funded schools?
      . Do "we" want the ten commandments on the courthouse wall? (I accept that taking it down may result in a temporary surge in "covetting thy neighbor's ass", but I think the result of creating a more inclusionary "we" would far outweigh the negatives.)
      . Do "we" want our decisionmakers to be basing their decision to invade foreign countries based on their bible studies?

      If anything, it is the "we" of religion which tends to segment people into "us" and "them". Isn't that the greater threat to the family of humankind?
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      Feb 22 2011: Dave in response to point 3 & 4:

      "3) What do you mean by “tools’? Is religion somehow like a wrench? Something that’s been designed for a specific task? Was religion “developed’? And if so, that it was developed with a goal of “providing for human needs”? Who did the developing anyhow?"

      "4) What’s a “human need”? Are you talking about concrete needs like food? Or what are commonly called spiritual “needs”? Here’s what comes to mind when I think of a tool that provides for human needs: Indoor plumbing."

      Yes words can be tricky things. In one respect they help us focus on a specific issue. But in another they make our thinking overly narrow.

      But the tool analogy can be useful. Religion does fill certain voids in human society in the same way that biological evolution fulfills needs (provides tools) for survival.

      Take as one example - the "need" for community, sense of belonging, resource to call on when the help of other's is needed. Houses of worship do fullfil this need. But perhaps other institutions would emerge if religion were removed from the picture. The local pub comes to mind. Though the alcoholic element might be best done away with, the lack of Publick Houses in the US at least indicates, to me, an over-reliance on exclusionary religions to fill this "need".

      So, do you think humans are capable of developing other "tools" to provide for their "needs" which are currently being fullfiled by scriptural based religions?
      • Feb 22 2011: Regarding tools and spiritual ‘needs’: It’s probably very hard to know to what degree people, by nature, require things that scripture provides. How would one measure that? And how would one then go about measuring putative alternatives? I have no idea.

        And besides, people would move away from religion only if they were motivated to do so. Where’s that going to come from?

        Also, along the lines of what I wrote above, even if religion were replaced with something else, people would still find things to get all hot and bothered over. The behaviors would remain the same even if the rationalizations changed.

        Someone else wrote in this discussion about an increased focus on what people *do* rather than what they say. That’s cool with me.
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    Feb 18 2011: Religion is a difficult word to pin down. How about we call it 'belief-system' (BS).
    In the west we have three major BS's.
    1. Christianity.
    2. Islam.
    3. Atheism.
    All three have had a crack at running countries. So the question is; which BS do you want to run YOUR country ?

    • Feb 20 2011: None. Country should not be run based on one group's beliefs. It should be run such that basic human rights and freedoms are upheld. There should be no preferential treatment of one group and religion should be a private matter, not a state ideology.
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      Feb 20 2011: None of them. I would prefer a secular government. One that threats all belief systems equally without exaggerating on any of them.

      Also, atheism is not a belief system. Atheism is the lack of a belief. If atheism is a belief system then not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      I think we have to drop the belief system and adopt evidence-based systems. Because they work.
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        Feb 21 2011: "atheism |ˈāθēˌizəm|
        the theory or belief that God does not exist."

        One has to believe that God does not exist, it does not fall within the scope of science. Therefore it is a belief system.

        I agree with you & Zdenek, but which of the three is most likely to deliver the freedom ?

        • Feb 22 2011: Peter, I think we have religion separated from state institutions in most developed countries already and it seems to work well?
  • Feb 17 2011: I have to agree that religion is dangerous in the ways that Dawkins described. However, I have also seen religion do a lot to bring people together in a community setting in such a way that they are supported and linked by their common belief (which is, incidentally part of the problem, since they may see others as outsiders).

    It also occurs to me that the way that religion brings people together is a very innately human experience and I'm not certain how you could develop other tools that would give the same experience (or one that was less potentially harmful). It seems to me that to get the community feeling that many people obtain through religion, there must be something to bring those people together in the first place.

    Then there's the question of feasibility. How do you propose to get rid of the effects of religion? Any sort of drastic change to the framework of these traditions would be countered, not only by the inertia of the human race itself, but by the persistence of those who do believe in their particular choice of religion. I don't think it would necessarily be feasible to move "beyond religion" until the world's population became entirely atheistic (or at least agnostic).

    I would agree with Jordan that by the nature of religion, it will not become useless. There will always be some people who find they benefit from their faith in some manner or another.
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      Feb 18 2011: And I would have to agree that religion fulfills human needs such as the need of community. But if religion (that is dogmatic belief systems) were to fade away, might humans not then find better substitutes?
      • Feb 18 2011: Might they also find worse ones?
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          Feb 22 2011: Are you arguing that we need to base our belief system on an ancient book?
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        Feb 19 2011: Where is the institution that collects and teaches the best practices for the human adventure. Certainly not government. Universities teach facts and processes, but not how to live fully. Philosophy is unapproachable by the general population and has become a form of theoretical prize fighting. And what of religion? Once a code for living it failed to evolve and thus while it does give context for community building and social alignment, it too falls short of a meaningful contribution to the modern human trying to bring meaning to life.

        Jane McDonigal say reality is broken. Maybe that is because we have no institution dedicated to teaching the best practices for living a meaningful life. We have left that work to the self appointed self help gurus.
        • Feb 19 2011: Well put Steve. I would have to agree whole heartedly on that. There is a critical step missing in secular society of communal interactions where ideas can spread more rapidly and allow for the open debate to foster change.

          TED is the closest thing I've seen yet.
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    Feb 18 2011: Thank you for the question Tim. Check out the idea I posted about memetic condoms to prevent extremism. I would appreciate your thoughts. I was in a religious cult in the 70s and have spent my life thinking about what really happened to me. Ultimately what I am concerned about, regarding religion at this time in the evolutionary process, is that it can and often does create circular logic. This circular logic disallows the brain to function properly/fully. It can create the potential for extremism because most religions claim the "truth" and cannot challenge anything within their particular flavor of dogma. That would be challenging "God". This creates the potential for extremism and unthinkable acts. It creates "us" and "them" thinking.
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      Feb 21 2011: Diane:

      Finally got around to watching your ted presentation


      and found it totally fascinating. Moreover it seems like your experience of having been in a cult gives you a background which provides a lot to offer to this conversation.

      I'm very curious if you could speak to the question of what the cult was giving you that you needed and relate this to what religion ("divinely inspired") offers to people and how they might be persuaded to meet those needs without some dogma?
  • Feb 18 2011: I may not be as learned as Dawkins in the topic of religion, but I take issue with his labeling of religion as “nonsense” whether harmless or otherwise. First, we need to define religion in terms that we all can agree and then decide whether we want to discuss it as an established religion or a personal journey for a life of meaning and fulfillment. Whatever we choose, I don’t think that we can ever “get beyond religion” because the nature of human beings, thus far, has not evolved to another level where the void that created religion is occupied. That void could be enlarged by the times’ lack of human interaction due to technology. Perhaps we can call technology a religion...and if so this new “religion” of the times has created an even bigger void. I think that “tools” are good and serve well the physical needs of society ...but religion was created for the internal void and continues to be a need of the spirit of humanity.
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      Feb 19 2011: You make a good point about the boundaries of religion.

      More and more I care less about what people believe and more about what the do.

      Beliefs, religion, superstition, and mysticism that lead people to live compassionate lives and effectively work toward creating wellbeing and decreasing suffering, is fine by me. I may take issue if they try to propagate that belief as fact, but will not begrudge them the right to have it for themselves.
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      Feb 21 2011: Josephine - you bring up an important point for our discussion - what do we mean by religion?

      My definition would be a belief system based on a holy scripture and/or divinely based authority. Agreed - we should be respectful of other people's beliefs. But do we need to "respect" thinking based, not on reason, but on dogma? Aren't we justified in confronting those ideas?
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    Feb 18 2011: Religion as a tool for self discovery... hmmm.... surrender critical thought and accept the perceptions of others as your own? I find myself through consensus and agreement, an affinity with the perceptions and conclusions of others? I find myself by losing myself in their midst? Philosophy, religion, "personal training": variations of the same theme: I can't do it on my own. The biology of acceptance and acquiring a sense of place in the "community" is a very strong pull. The need to simplify things so that critical thought can be closed is a way to deal with fear. "If you aren't busy being born, you are busy dying."
    • Feb 18 2011: So should one assume you are anti-social. That you've never read a book, watched a movie, left your nice comfy confines.

      I'll assume this is not the case. Just as with each person, your interactions have developed your attitude and lifestyle. Why should your course be more relevant that those who seek assistance from outside influences. While your final sentence is technically correct, not everyone arrives at that conclusion in the same way you did.
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        Feb 19 2011: What one might process in the existenstial equation may not be relevant at all. If one is, as you suggest, a mere condensation of data and we are flawed mechanical devices merely responding to stimuli with no real choice then absurdity overcomes purpose. It is not anti-social to ask everyone to consider the "red pill" and develop independent thought. It is possible to assimilate one's experiences criticaly. Am I to be defined by my consumption of my environment? I may be what I eat, but do I have to be what I read, hear, and see? If that is the case, pass the SOMA and save me a seat in front of the television because those who control the media I ingest are destined to control my critical thought. If you aren't making up your own mind, some one else is. Are there no individuals left? Are we all distillations of the cultural input we can't, don't dare, resist? Where do your ideas come from? Is inspiration an elctro-chemical event in our brain prompted by stimuli? Impericists win? You know who someone is and how they think by their education? Hitler studied to be an artist.
        • Feb 20 2011: Then we agree. I'm just not sure how your "real choices" are better than theirs. Further more, who decides what "real choices" are the correct ones? You? Them?
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    Feb 20 2011: Yes. Even more, it has become an impediment on progress.
  • Feb 20 2011: There are many paths of religion, but there is only ONE faith, and that faith is in the belief that ONE God is in control of all of life. The two can compliment each other, but are not the same. Faith is the belief that everything will work out, and religion is the organizational, institute for practicing your faith. From a very personal standpoint , I am happy to know that our faith can lead us to seek for answers and in our searching we can find truth and fellowship with others of like mind.
  • Feb 20 2011: Scientific rationality is the faculty to achieve freedom from the long persisting and chronic obsession with the supernatural. However, scientific rationality is still in its infantile stage at this phase of human development/evolution (sometimes a wishful thought, triggered by modern scientific leaps, would occur to us that humanity has outgrown its infantile stage of development. Though many individuals have already attained this status yet this is not a reality on societal scale). Hundreds of millennia of metaphysical thoughts and imaginations outweighs a mere two centuries of modern scientific knowledge. So, what has to be done to achieve the goal of sensible human world devoid of anthropopsychic imaginations and unwarranted/non-evidential thoughts? The way, in my opinion, is to take advantage of the wonderful power of scientific discovery and scientific logic to entrench and spread scientific rationality by all possible means.
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    Feb 19 2011: A social construct that is not designed to evolve efficiently in the service of humanity's well being has reach an end to it's usefulness. Static dogmatic religions are archaic technology.

    There is a realm of spirituality that is not nonsense. It is the realm of awe, mystery and the transcendent. It does not conflict with science, but holds a space that is beyond the reach of science. Spirituality, or philosophy if you prefer, is the paradigm of meaning making for the human experience in the face of enormous mystery.

    Humanity has held onto religion for a reason. It's not enough to take religion away. Something new should be offered .
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      Feb 19 2011: There is always room for new religions. They show up daily. Write a book, or books and get people to believe that what they say is the best way to live. Viola! Religion.The fact that so many new ones pop up is a testiment to the fact that they haven't outlived their "usefullness".Usefull to whom, may be the better question and are those uses desirable. In America we have freedom to worship as we please and freedom from the establishment of a national religion. The oppression of any religion is an anathema to our Constitution and Bill of Rights.This whole discussion begs the question of: Isn't it obvious that a lot of folks don't share the goals of some religions or see the value in their practises and what can be done, by our enlightened consensus, to get them to "tone it down". It's elitist, just like "memetic condoms to prevent extremism". Wouldn't we want "good" religions to be extreme? "What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?"
  • Feb 19 2011: I don't think it's necessary that we assume religion was or wasn't useful throughout history. It simply was, the efficacy of things which existed in the past are futile to debate and pointless to assume. That said, I think this is a very powerful and interesting question. I personally feel that there are wonderful things to be gleaned from religion and to ignore those would be silly, things which really don't exist in most secular societies. But in the long run I think the very ideas at the base of each religion (or most religions) has been stretched to it's breaking point over the thousands of years since it's inception. I think that the people in charge have always been, and always will be, normal people. And to assume an human to be a divine source of knowledge is a very dangerous idea and has led to constant reinterpretations of texts and the narrowing of mindsets. I also agree that the feeling of enmity created by religion is one of the most dangerous aspects. But I still have not answered the question. Personally I would have to say religion has run it's course. Society is due for an updated paradigm and we can see pretty clearly religion is not working.
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    Feb 18 2011: "Religion" I read once "is a dead rock. All religion of the world, there are about 300, are dead rocks. They don't flow, they don't change, they don't move with the times. And anything that is dead is not going to help you, unless you want to make your own grave. Then perhaps the rock maybe helpful"

    Religion is not an organization, but a quality.

    So yes, the dogmatic, radical, extreme religious 'belief' - or however one may wish to put it - is not useful anymore. But religiousness, culture, a healthy 'middle path' way of life.. they will never outlive themselves.

    This way of life may become a widespread belief, but what matters is that the idea at the very core is kept safe. Generally, at the core of every belief or religious system lies humility and change.

    Religions have had a bad case of 'lost in translation' .. thats all!
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    Feb 18 2011: "BS"! LOL! Was that real irony or a real joke? A BS is running the country. Sadly, it's not the one we started with: inalienable rights for individuals and restrictions on government power.
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    Feb 18 2011: Religion is what man makes when he he wants to make a "deal" with God. Religion is our defintion of God. It eases our fears to think we can "know" God or that He "reveals" himself through our institutions. What does God care for our rituals, dogma and superstitions? He's not like us. He doesn't need us and there is nothing we can do to earn His favor. Religion will always be useful. All opiates, in the proper doseage, can ease pain and make difficult experiences bearable. Priests and pastors, ministers and mullahs all administer this "talking cure" to the masses in a more or less effective manner: just enough to ease the pain and to keep the flock coming back for more.
    The world is awash with religion. It continues to thrive in one form or another. New Age, horoscopes... "Many ladders lead to heaven"... religion is part of the human experience, it changes shape to fit our culture. If we only had faith and hope and could live our full potential without fear, we would need a lot less of the opiate.
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    Feb 18 2011: I agree with Chelsea that religion has been a tool for exploration or self discovery. Still, I think we have better tools than religion-based thought for that.

    Based on Lauren's comments, I'd say that, yes, religion has provided groups of people with common and meaningful thoughts and/or intentions. But being the object of that belonging to a group, an outer entity (God), it has caused all that exclusion of other groups who don't share those beliefs. I guess that community setting that has been provided by religion should be replaced with one based in an inner quality, the human condition. That same capacity we all have for joy, suffering, brilliance, creativeness, destructiveness, etc.

    It's the same for all that is mentioned as "evil". Religious thought tends to treat evil acts as something inspired by an evil persona that inspires people. What I understand as the drive for "evil" acts is a combination of egoism and ignorance that utterly results in destruction. Whoever acts in those ways it's either because they think it's right or because they think they extract some kind of benefit from it. That perspective should make the thinker aware that whenever they do something considered "evil" he's not helping progress, is doing unnecessary harm which doesn't really benefit him and which actually ultimately harms him also.

    I'm sure we can and will ultimately find some other, better measures to get the same benefits religion has and still delivers, but without the negative collateral effects. Has it already been around longer than it should have? I sure as hell would say yes. But again, I agree that there's no feasible course of action that would get rid of the effects of religion. It must be a natural process.

    I think maybe we'll somewhen all agree on one basic set of values to follow. One that is coherent with respect for life, freedom, equality and that is compatible with scientific thought and progress. But maybe I'm a dreamer.
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    Feb 17 2011: Unfortunately not, because we are a highly diverse civilization. The elements that made religion important still exist to a very high degree. Individually however, as you seem to allude, religion may have no impact.

    Until we (scientists) are able to explain the larger meaning of existence, divinity will suffice for most.
  • Feb 17 2011: Religion is so much more than the belief in a deity. Religion is a tool; for exploration, self discovery, etc. and it speaks very deeply of (and to) the human psyche. But being such a versatile and well honed tool, it's also quite useful for manipulating people. I'd say there is still room and use for religion. There are a number of actually fairly small groups out there using it in terrible ways. I can't bring myself to blame religion. There is beauty and spiritual wealth still to be found for those who look for themselves. --I blame the living individuals who are quite intentionally inciting the people around them.

    Worth noting, I grew up and remain nonreligious.
  • Feb 17 2011: "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible" --Bertrand Russell

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