3 Problems with Religion… and Solutions!

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A few nights ago, I invited three of my friends over for dinner. At some point, the topic of religion came up and the conversation that ensued was very interesting, given the diversity of religious backgrounds represented in the room, but also incredibly challenging. Firstly, there was me, a Baha’i who had been brought up as a Christian in an Eastern Orthodox church with a strong – and very, very old – religious tradition of its own. And then there were my three friends – one of Druze heritage, another with a somewhat secular Anglican upbringing, and the last of Jewish descent. All three of them, however, are self-professed “militant atheists” with a profound disdain for religion that was only kept in check that night by their long friendship with me and their unwillingness to offend me (too much).

For the first ten minutes of the conversation, I found myself feeling incredibly relieved that my role as dinner hostess was keeping me occupied in the kitchen, where I could hear the conversation but be spared the unpleasant task of having to be the sole defender of religion! For the next ten minutes (after I ran out of dinnerware to fiddle around with), I sat with them, feeling a mixture of amusement, discomfort, defensiveness, guilt and indecision as to what the prudent thing to say was. However, as I kept listening, I felt more at ease, realising one very important thing: for the most part, I agreed with them!

It became quickly apparent, as the conversation unfolded, that my friends and I had many values in common and that much of their discomfort with religion came from a strong commitment to the very principles that I cherish as a Baha’i: justice, compassion, honesty and integrity – just to name a few. The only point of difference between us, however, was that while they felt dismayed and despondent about the problems that religion has caused in the history of humanity, I remained optimistic about the transformative power of religion.

There’s no denying that many wrongs and injustices have, in the history of human existence, been perpetrated in the name of religion. However, as we discussed the numerous issues that exist, I realised that so many of the principles of the Baha’i Faith go to the very heart of these issues, thus restoring religion to what it was intended to be – a blueprint for the spiritual and material progress of humanity.

Here are 3 common reasons people put forward for rejecting religion… and 3 responses based on the Baha’i teachings.

Problem 1: Religion is outdated.

Religion is outdated, I often hear my friends remark. Many of the laws that were appropriate for societies 2000 years ago have absolutely no place in today’s world. And if we were to try and adapt them to today’s environment, they go on to point out, how would we possibly agree on how to make the necessary adaptations? We can’t possibly agree on what to change and what to keep – who decides?

Agreed, agreed, and again, agreed!

Human society is drastically different in 2011 from what it was in the time of Jesus or Muhammad or Krishna. There are however, a number of spiritual principles that have remained just as relevant in every society, such as the principle of universal love contained in the Golden Rule. Baha’is believe in the concept of progressive revelation which states that over the history of humanity’s existence, God has sent Divine Teachers to reveal a code of laws that are relevant to the needs and capacity of the society to which it was revealed . This accounts for the differences in social laws that can be found between religions, which cater to the differing needs and social structures of human society over the ages.

The world that we live in today, just like human society of the past, has its own unique needs and circumstances. It is for this reason, that a renewal of religion is needed. Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah, as the Divine Teacher sent for this particular period in humanity’s existence, has revealed an entire volume of teachings and laws that are relevant to the needs of the world that we live in today.

 

Problem 2: Religion is just about indoctrination and manipulation.

Again, it is true that in the past, there have been numerous occasions in which religion has been used to cause divisiveness, hate and violence. Religious education has come to mean little more than a process of indoctrination in which children are taught to blindly accept religious dogma in order to form a religious identity in which they see themselves as irreconcilably distinct from people of other faiths and cultures. Over the centuries, religious leaders in positions of influence have often abused their power and position, seeking to serve their own selfish interests by playing on the fears and ignorance of their congregations. It is little wonder that people are so suspicious of organised religion!

There is one important principle in the Baha’i teachings that acts as a protection against this form of corruption: independent investigation of the truth. Baha’u’llah has spoken of the need to acquire knowledge through one’s “own eyes and not through the eyes of others”. There is no clergy in the Baha’i faith – the duty of seeking out knowledge and learning falls on the individual believer.

Problem 3: Religion just causes war and hatred.

It is a sad and undeniable truth that religion has, far too often, been the cause for war. Apart from the destruction to human life and society that religious conflict has caused, this fact is particularly devastating because it defeats the purpose of religion! ‘Abdu’l-Baha said:

Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth; it should give birth to spirituality, and bring light and life to every soul. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it would be better to be without it… Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion.

In my understanding, a large part as to why religious conflict is so widespread is because of the manner in which so many societies practice and understand their religious traditions. Religious diversity is, in itself, a beautiful thing, which becomes dangerous when the followers of various religious begin to see their religious beliefs as competing and mutually exclusive. It’s the mentality of “If I’m right, you must be wrong. If you’re right, I can’t be right as well”.

The Baha’i understanding of progressive revelation reconciles the seemingly irreconcilable between the world’s different religions, without detracting from the diversity that exists in the practices and traditions of each religion. By understanding that all religions come from the same source, and that each religion was just as perfectly suitable and complete for the society it was revealed to as the other, it is possible to truly appreciate the divine origin of each religion without denying the divine origin of another.

It is undeniable that there have been numerous problems associated with religion in the history of human civilization. However, these problems, in my mind, only underscore the entire concept of progressive revelation and emphasise the importance of the renewal of religion.

The appearances of the Manifestations of God are the divine springtime. When Christ appeared in this world, it was like the vernal bounty; the outpouring descended; the effulgences of the Merciful encircled all things; the human world found new life. Even the physical world partook of it. The divine perfections were upraised; souls were trained in the school of heaven so that all grades of human existence received life and light. Then by degrees these fragrances of heaven were discontinued; the season of winter came upon the world; the beauties of spring vanished; the excellences and perfections passed away; the lights and quickening were no longer evident; the phenomenal world and its materialities conquered everything; the spiritualities of life were lost; the world of existence became life unto a lifeless body; there was no trace of the spring left.
Baha’u’llah has come into this world. He has renewed that springtime. The same fragrances are wafting; the same heat of the Sun is giving life; the same cloud is pouring its rain, and with our own eyes we see that the world of existence is advancing and progressing. ‘Abdu’l- Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

 

About the Author

Preethi

In her professional life, Preethi has dabbled in various combinations of education, community development and law. At heart, though, she's an overgrown child who thinks the world is one giant playground. She's currently on a quest to make learning come alive for young people and to bring the world's stories and cultures to them, with educational resources from One Story Classroom. She was part of Baha'i Blog's founding team and served as Editor for a few years before having to relinquish the role. She still pokes her nose in to work on Baha'i Blog from time to time, proving she's unable to stay away for too long!

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Discussion 28 Comments

  1. Preethi, this is such a well-written and intelligent piece that describes a lot of modern thoughts and comments we get as the subject of religion comes up. And I love how the Baha’i Faith addresses each one of the so-called problems that a limited perspective of religion brings. I am so thankful for the logic and spirit of the Baha’i Faith.

    1. Me too, Mandy! It’s true – most people still have a very limited perspective of religion and I too am very thankful that the Baha’i writings, in addition to providing spiritual direction to the individual, also talk about what it takes for religion to work as an organisation of believers.

  2. This was a great post! As a Baha’i who spends a lot of time amongst academics, I often find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing and disagreeing with the “anti-religious” sentiment at the same time. Further, since my specialization is Psychology, my colleagues and classmates often believe that I’m suffering from a bad case of “cognitive dissonance.” Unfortunately, my attempts at explaining that their suspicions and animosity towards religion are reconciled through the Revelation of Baha’u’llah often fall on deaf ears.

    It seems to me that a large portion of…well, at least Western society…has chosen to abandon religion altogether in their quest for truth. Many have even abandoned the quest altogether taking, instead, the hopeless and disinterested road of apathy.

    Baha’u’llah reveals that the greatest oppression is of a human soul yearning for the truth, yearning for the knowledge of God, not knowing where to go for it and from whom to seek it. Yet, as someone who longs to teach the Cause, I feel an even greater oppression from yearning to teach, and not finding a receptive ear to deliver the Message to.

  3. Really enjoyed this post Preethi! During similar conversations I’ve felt ‘I don’t believe in/like the religious practices you speak of either’ and this brings a united theme into the conversation.

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  5. As an atheist, I don’t think those questions are valid. I think they were not truly atheists but people that don’t agree with organized religion. Each question assumes that they believe in a god, which any atheist would first repudiate.

    For the sake of argument I will answer your three questions from an atheist point of view:

    Religion is outdated:
    Yes it is. It was invented a long time ago when the knowledge of man was very small. Since that time, our understanding about everything around us has increased also. As humanity continues to learn and evolve as a species, we remove the shackles of religion and live a moral and just life because it is the right thing to do. Until we learn that, religion will exist.

    Religion is just about indoctrination and manipulation:
    Since we have accepted the fact the religion is outdated, we have to ask what the purpose of religion was back then. The underling concept was control of the masses. It doesn’t matter if it was for good or bad purposes. It was and still is about control. It doesn’t matter the instrument of that control whether based on fear or guilt to use the two most common. They all have a payout.

    Religion just causes war and hatred:
    As an atheist, I think there are many things that can be blamed for war and hatred. Religion and land would be the two big ones. You can make any excuse you want for war and hatred, and normally you will see something in the background inciting it all. It all goes back to control and it always will.

    The evolution of humanity needs to take the steps and outgrow religion in order to progress as a species. We have to take the necessary steps and choose to live a life based on a rational moral self-interest.

    1. Bill H, As a Baha-i who is studying the Bible and is married to an atheist I feel I can address some of your points. I do agree, the people in question in the story were most likely not real atheists and more likely anti organized religion. But in the same context, it’s not really religion that they are against, but the people who represent those religions.

      First, is religion outdated. You say yes… OK, then by what do you base your feelings of right and wrong? On what feels OK? What is OK to one may not be OK with others. Pedophiles, rapists, alcoholics, addicts and so on, all think that what they are doing is OK and society is outdated to their actions. Or is it laws.. but if it is laws that you base wrong and right on, then by the same argument, all laws are outdated as well because the basis of all laws are religious in nature. IE starting with the 10 Commandments and going from there…

      Religion is used for manipulation and control… Everything can be used for manipulation and control if you want to see it that way… Education, radio, TV, internet, Jobs, all have certain slants on them to benefit one direction or another. Religion on a whole, is supposed to be used to get people to see things and the world, in its entirety, and to see how helping others, will help all, which obviously helps us. The book of Mathew with Jesus’ sermon on the Mount tells of how we are to act and love one another and is a great example… But as always, us humans, thinking that we know better changed things to meet our own selfish needs and used religion to benefit the few or the one, as opposed to all. Which brings us to the last point of:

      Religion causes war: If we are to “outgrow religion” like you said, that religion is not needed, again I ask, from where are you going to find the basis of the altruism that you are looking for? How will we also out grow greed and our selfish nature if we no long use religion as a guide to guide and push us outside of ourselves? Again.. on what feels good? Drugs feel good but we see what psychological destruction they have on a person and their spirit/mental capacity/judgmental ability. I see why people rail against religion. Some that represent faiths, have, over the years, done a very good job of showing their anger and hatred.. but so have people who have no faith as well. And both sides have exuded hatred and hubris in thinking that their way is the ONLY way that is right. But people do not have to believe in God to have this Hubris.. think of countries who have talked this way (the last century alone shows great examples Hitler, Stalin, Poa Pot and so on), or even people who believe that they favorite team is worth fighting over, or school, or neighborhood. People have insecurities.. on many levels. And they want to feel that they are right so sometimes they draw a line in the sand and say that “this is what I believe in” and nothing is going to sway them. The teachings of every major religion, are to help people overcome those insecurities and have faith that it will all work out even if we are uncomfortable right now.. that the struggle for good is and will be worth it in the end. If we are to “outgrow” religion.. what will we put our faith in for the long struggles that will last longer than our lives? If we are “outgrowing” religion and getting rid of it, getting rid of faith, then what would be the point of trying to do good for the long haul? Why not just do what “feels good” now? What I see is a world that is trying to find more spirituality.. not less.. The Arab spring and other religious movements around the world are people trying to get in touch with God more. They may be going about it in a very messed up way but it’s a spiritual awakening that is happening. They are pushing back against the excesses of secular corrupt society where money and sex rule and trying to push towards a more reasonable, rational, kinder, gentler, world. And in the end, Bill, I think your vision and my vision of what a good world to live in, will be about the same. People loving each other, helping each other, with kindness, and happiness for all. The only difference is that you see it with out religion and I see that only with religion/faith/spirituality that mankind will make it there. But its still the same place of kindness and love.

  6. I must disagree with you on a number of things. First of all, faith is not a cause of war unless influence by outside forces. The crusades weren’t really about religion, they were about land in the end, just like any other war. Also, the crusades came 1000 years after Christ. And if you see, the Crusades were only between catholics and sunnis. Where are the orthodox, hindu, shia, zoroastrian, jewish or sikh crusades? The bloodiest wars about religion were the Catholic-Protestant wars and these had politics interwined. Kings weren’t fighting because of sola fide or in what Church they should pray, they were fighting for power. Protestantism gave the opportunity to the different kingdoms to finally break up with the Church. That’s what caused the war. Notice also that they have stopped and we haven’t had a single war between different christian denominations since then, and one occurring in the future look implausible. In the twentieth century we have very few wars caused by faith. In fact, the only one I can think of is the Critero War, and religion only played a part, it wasn’t the cause. The cause was repression to freedom of religion. Simply put, religion is not a source for war. And those who say so are simply being deluded. I find the assertion that religion is the greatest cancer in the world as ridiculous as Creationism and 9/11 conpiracy theories. I don’t deny the evil done by religion, but it is nothing compared to other evils perpetrated.

    1. Alejandro,

      I can name one right off the top of my head.
      Lebanese Civil War – The government of Lebanon had been dominated by Maronite Christians since the state was created as a safe haven for them by the French colonial powers. However, the country had a large Muslim population and many pan-Arabist and Left Wing groups which opposed the pro-western government. The establishment of the state of Israel and the displacement of a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees to Lebanon (around 10% of the total population of the country) changed the demographic balance in favour of the Muslim population.

      The militarization of the Palestinian refugee population, with the arrival of the PLO forces after their expulsion from Jordan during Black September, sparked an arms race amongst the different Lebanese political factions and provided a foundation for the long-term involvement of Lebanon in regional conflicts. Fighting between Maronite and Palestinian forces began in 1975, and Left Wing, pan-Arabist and Muslim Lebanese groups later allied with the Palestinians.

      Don’t forget the Spanish Inquisition. It wasn’t a war but it should qualify as hatred. I’m sure I can find more wars with a little research. Religion was a major factor in the War in Bosnia, The Troubles in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. These were in the last thirty years. I can’t think of one conflict that was started because of atheism.

  7. I see the problem with religion is people, not religion in itself. Religion is a set of rules and guidelines (what not to do to, what you should do, pray, etc) but in the hands of emotional, ego-centric beings such as us (people, humans) it is no small wonder we have such conflict carried out in its name. But religion itself cannot harm people; it is people who harm people.

    1. Eric, Your entire statement is completely ridiculous. I can change one word for you to understand how silly it is.

      “I see the problem with civilization is people, not civilization in itself. Civilization is a set of rules and guidelines (what not to do to, what you should do, pray, etc) but in the hands of emotional, ego-centric beings such as us (people, humans) it is no small wonder we have such conflict carried out in its name. But civilization itself cannot harm people; it is people who harm people. ”

      People do things for a reason, some good and some bad. By having religion as an option, allows people to validate their actions as good when any rational being would disagree. Religion is and always will be a way to control people for good or bad.

  8. Bill, i appreciate that you feel my view ‘completely ridiculous’ and ‘silly’, but it is my opinion, and a valid one from my point of view.

    Also, changing the word religion to civilization does not render my POV silly like you said. Religion is a set of beliefs; civilization is the product of our evolution. Civilization exists independently of religion. You cant have religion without civilization, but you can have civilization without religion.

    So Bill,
    To restate my silly and ridiculous opinion: religion in itself is not to blame, but what people do in its name is.

    Can you dig it?

  9. Ah but see there is where your wrong my friend. Civilization doesn’t exist independently of religion. Civilization is a relatively high level of cultural and technological development, like writing and keeping written records. The culture of a particular society, group, place or time is based on beliefs, customs, art and ways of life. This includes religion. Name a civilization without a belief system?

    To say that religion can’t be blamed when people follow its doctrine and violently oppose other religious group is silly. The reason for the disagreement IS based on religion. If it wasn’t there they wouldn’t fight. Let me give you an example: Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

    Can you dig it?

  10. Hey Bill, I would love to debate with you on this topic. just a few of points I want to make.

    1) First of all, did you hear the latest? Atheism is considered a religion. It’s a belief system with it’s own rules and guidelines. Atheists even to promote their beliefs and get others to follow their way of thinking. There are many other groups in modern civilization that would qualify as religions. Veganism, PETA and political parties are also good examples. The only thing missing is a deity, but that has been replaced by ‘the cause’ of the group. The cause of the group is bigger than each individual of the group, so they all rally around the cause. That could be winning an election or a protest save animals from slaughter. These groups will also have some kind of written literature, often psychophysical or technical, explaining the groups beliefs, which members will often point to. Humans will always form these kinds of groups. Ask yourself, why is that?

    2) I agree whole heartedly with Eric, it’s people that are the problem. Blaming religion for most of the violence in the world is nothing more that finger pointing, because it’s a very easy argument to dispute. People fight for what’s important to them. It so happens that religions is one of those important things. But historical facts show that a small percentage of wars were fought for purely religious reasons. Greed and lust for power can be powerful motivators. It just takes the right person with the right amount of charisma and the right amount of BS to rally a whole nation to fight for the wrong reasons. Religion is an easy tool to use to help motivate people. How often to people hide evil intentions behind something that looks legit and trust worthy?

    3) We live in a world that is further away from spirituality than any other time in history. Western countries have had separation of Church and State for generations. What percentage of people in the Western World follow religious laws anyway? It must be fairly small. Yet things in western countries haven’t gotten any better with less religious influence, In fact, things are worse. There are all kinds of crimes and violence in our streets. Violence that has nothing to do with religion, by the way. It’s easy to say that religious rules are out dated. But clearly, there doesn’t seem to be any solutions to mankind’s problems coming from outside of spirituality either. So why point fingers if you can’t offer anything better? As a Christian, I see solutions to many of the world’s problems in the Bible, but there’s a lack of understanding. And people want things to work their way and fit their agendas.

    1. In rebuttal of your statements:
      1) I did hear the latest. Religious people are claiming that atheism is a religion. I will point out the definition of religion and see if it passes muster.

      Religion – 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. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion

      Atheist don’t believe in the creation of the universe by a superhuman agency. Atheist don’t use a devotional and ritual observances containing a moral code to conduct our affairs.

      Atheism can’t be defined as a religion when the meaning of the word atheist is a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings which is required for a religion.

      2) You made my point with your last statement.

      <blockquote cite=“How often to people hide evil intentions behind something that looks legit and trust worthy?”

      If they didn’t believe in religion or were not religious they would see it was BS and it wouldn’t happen. But because they believe, someone uses that against them knowing they would blindly follow because of their religious beliefs. Hence I blame religion.

      3) Look at the people who commit most crime. They are either poor, ignorant of knowledge or have psychopathic or sociopathic issues.
      As an Atheist, I see solutions to many of the world’s problems in critical thinking, intelligence and reason.

      With the continued propagation of false hope and ”leaving it in god’s hands” or “praying for god to intervene” and when it doesn’t happen “it’s gods will” people remain ignorant of life skills such as logic, critical thinking, perseverance, and close their mind to knowledge that is at odds with their religion.

  11. First of all, I identify myself as spiritual. But I think you are missing the point, Bill. Don’t get hung up on dictionary definitions, those change and evolve over time as the use of language change and evolve. You may know, or not, there’s a committee of writer and lexicographers who decide whether a new word should be added, or the definition of an old word should be changed.
    The word gay used to mean merry. They’ve added the homosexual meaning to the definition, but the old meaning is still there, despite the fact the word is used almost exclusively to mean homosexual. If you tell someone you went to a gay party, the last thing they’ll think of is a party where everyone was cheerful. Well, I guess they would be cheerful, but that’s not the point.
    Do you not see the obvious similarities of Atheism and religion? Well lets break them both down so we can compare. Like I said, humans are the problem, so we are looking at human behavior.
    1) Group mentality: humans will always, instinctively form groups of like minded people. We are social beings with a need to belong, to fit in, to identify with.
    Higher purpose: I can’t say all humans, but certainly most of us need to believe in something greater than our individual selves. Something we can sink our teeth in to. Something to add purpose to our lives and perhaps increase our self-worth. It doesn’t have to be in service to a god. Service to a cause fits the bill just fine. I’m sure atheists are organized to the point of having meetings where group members can express their beliefs, exchange ideas, and are encouraged by one another within the context of your cause.
    Atheism… check mark; religion… check mark
    If you understand spirituality, you’ll understand this behavior fills our needs for spiritual expression. Even you. Human beings are spiritual, whether you choose to believe it or not. Many people who denounce religion and spirituality express themselves spiritually without realizing that’s what they’re doing. It’s abstract. So is human spirituality and religion. If you understand which part of each person is spirit, you’ll understand there’s not much people do that isn’t spiritual. I would call your movement a non-spiritual religion.
    You quoted me some Atheistic text. Do you folks have a name for the collection of your…? I want to say sacred texts, but perhaps I should say important text.
    Personally, I’ve had many spiritual experiences, including answered prayers and seeing a ghost. Sounds crazy, huh. I know many whose prayers were answered too. Atheists obviously don’t understand these things, so they belittle what you can’t grasp. Now that’s typical ignorant behavior. Funny how the people calling others ignorant are the ones exhibiting ignorance. You are passing judgment on individuals when you know nothing about their personalities. Is that what it takes for atheists to feel good about their beliefs?
    2) I’ve heard secularist, including atheists, say that Christians like to tell people how to live there lives. Isn’t that what atheism is doing. PETA and other groups do it too. Green Peace members have been known to have violent confrontations with whaling vessels. Atheists are saying they, or rather science, has the answers to the meaning and purpose of human existence, and religious people should convert to your way of thinking. Aren’t you ‘spreading the word?’
    Atheism… check mark; religion… check mark
    -Science is wonderful, I follow it religiously. What science discovers is real. However, the scientists’ interpretation of what they see is full of holes and contradictions. They don’t know what they’re looking at.
    This may surprise you, but I have an open mind and I am very logical and practical. I’m not at all ignorant. I use my critical thinking to debunk science, just as you use yours to debunk religion.
    Look at the verbiage atheists use when referring to religious people. They’re not intelligent, they’re not open minded, they can’t think for themselves, the list goes on. I hear a lot contempt in that tone of speech. When you start ridiculing people because they don’t think the way you do, that’s not a good thing. Certainly not highly enlightened. It’s the ‘we’re better than them’ syndrome. Contempt can lead to out right hate. So to me, that’s along the lines that could lead one group to want to war with another. But remember history. ‘Funny how the people calling others ignorant are the ones exhibiting ignorance.’ That could build to ‘sucks how the people calling others savage are the ones exhibiting savagery. So be careful! If you truly have understanding, then you should be comfortable to disagree with people, but respect their humanity. It can stop you from being a savage.
    3) You straight out blame the poor for crimes and put labels on people. That’s how things get twisted. I guess you’re referring to street gangs when you refer to the poor. But I’m sure you’ve heard of organized crime, like drug cartels or biker gangs or the mafia. These people are not stupid. They choose a life style according to their values. How about white color crime then, since you want to point fingers certain directions. Crimes of the mind. The actions of corrupt executives pushed the whole world into economic disaster.
    Hitler led Germany to war against the world. It had nothing to do with religion. He didn’t kill Jews because of their religion; it was because of their Jewish identity. That’s more like racism than anything else. Ethnic genocide. He wasn’t a religious person. Well, not by your definition.
    All you’re doing is picking particular problems in the world, war seems to be the main one, so you can point the finger at particular people. Usually, this is so one group doesn’t have to change. Let the other guys change.
    The point, Bill, is that human behavior causes wars. Religion is an abstract concept. People make it real. No matter what we do in this life, in this world, we’ll make a mess of it. Even serving a perfect God. If Atheism or any other group can change the part of human behavior that causes war, I’ll listen.

  12. I don’t mean to pick on Bill. He sounds like his heart is in the right place. He seems to be a thinker. I came across this blog while doing some research on the topic of religion causing war. I hope I’m not offending anyone.

    But I wan’t say one last thing. To me people who say religion is the cause of most wars are not thinking critically. Just a short bit of research and I found reference to the encyclopaedia of war saying only about 7 percent of all the wars fought on earth were for purely religious reasons.

    Just the fact the two world wars had nothing to do with religion; neither did the cold war, which threatened to annihilate us all. The American Civil War; The American War of Independence; The Vietnam War… I can think of way more important wars in history that had nothing to do with religion than wars that did.

    But this is an example of what I mean about like minded thinking people flocking together. Just a simple idea has pulled so many people together in spirit. Simply because it fits with their way of thinking, Even though they don’t have the same belief systems, they have something against organized religion in common.

    The idea sounds good; it sounds plausible. It gets repeated in all kinds ways, so people get comfortable with it and take it as fact.But do people actually bother to looking into whether it’s true or not? Human being are far too complicated by design for it to be that simple.

    Even wars in the part of the world notorious for religious strife are not always about religion. Israel and Palestine represent two opposing religious groups, but territory is the issue. Saddam Hussein made a pitiful attempt to use religion to gain Arab support. But he was just power hungry. Religion will often be a factor in a lot of wars, but it’s the motives of the leaders who lead people in to wars that is the cause of war.

    Who knows what motives were in the hearts of the people who sanctioned The Crusades? It was clearly Christian, but I wouldn’t be surprise if they were some of the first people in hell. Back then, the pope was pretty much a king, as well as a religious leader. He’s still known as Europe last absolute monarch today.

    Strange things can happen to people who are in charge of powerful groups. It can get to their heads big time. Look at Vladimir Putin, who know’s what he’s up to. Some people think he want’s to resurrect the former USSR. He’s been on the world stage for a while, then out of the blue, he seems to be against the rest of the world. Obviously, he’s pursuing his own agenda.

    Look at 9/11, group mentality is so strong an instinct in human beings, that group within group has proven to be a real, slippery problem. Consider how terrorist sleeper cells can hide within the greater Muslim community. Obviously, they share the most of the same beliefs, but differ on some very important issues. Consider the group know as Straight Edge and it’s militant sub-group, who have been known to use violence to get their point across.

    Just one last point, consider cults. I would consider them to be groups of religious people. I would also compare them to a larger and more powerful kind of group: oppressive regimes. Simply getting rid of religion won’t solve anything when the problem seems to be with our attitudes and group mentality.

  13. 1) Pointing out these similarities between Atheism and religion by using group mentality is pointless when you can say the same thing about any organized group of people from a high school club to little league baseball team.

    Higher purpose? Really? Let’s just say people can’t accept the fact they are insignificant. In their mind there has to be some other reason to exist other than to exist.

    My contention is if they make their purpose to increase their intelligence by learning new things and do good works that benefit other humans because they can, that would give them purpose. Not believing that if I live by this dogma my next life will be great. What about this life? Why not make it the best life you can because it’s the right thing to do and not for the hope or faith that my next life will be better. That is the carrot that religion has used to control non-thinking people.

    Yes we have a name for the “sacred texts”, its call the accumulation of human knowledge. That would be every scientific discovery and bit of information we know including refuting the words of the religious text written so long ago when human knowledge was much smaller. Remember the Flat Earth theory was debated for thousands of years before final accepted as round. Why? Because we increased our knowledge as a species to the point where we proved it was true.

    I can’t argue with you having spiritual experiences because that is how you perceive it. I would counter with how many times you have prayed for something, only to have it not happen? I’m sure if you are honest with yourself you would say a lot.

    2) No we are trying to convert you to our way of thinking; we are saying use you mind to think and reason and not to blinding following something without questioning it.

    The big difference in science and religion is science changes what it thinks when it can prove it is wrong. Tell me one religion that has changed the word of whatever god they worship when it is proven wrong? None.

    3) No I didn’t blame them for crimes. I said look at who commits most crimes. You are the one twisting words. Look at the crime statistics and you will find when you take out the people with psychopathic or sociopathic issues most of them are considered poor or uneducated by normal standards. Ask yourself why they committed the crime.

    To sum up, I see that you must have taken psychology class since you are using it heavily to debate with me.

  14. You seem to be dancing around a couple of points here:

    1) Pointing out these similarities between Atheism and religion by using group mentality is pointless…

    If Atheism was not subject to group mentality then perhaps. But since it is, like all of human civilization, then group mentality is relevant to point out similarities. Isn’t it?

    Not only is it relevant. Atheist are displaying dangerous signs. It all starts with belittling another group of people; making them less human than you. There are not as smart as you or they lack something you have or something like that. While at the same you are blaming them for some problem or the other; or they have something you want. Hate is right around the corner. Tension can build and expound these things. Atheist are following the same mentality, that history has shown, can lead to violence. All the while falsely blaming religious groups for most of the wars on Earth.

    2) …we are saying use you mind to think and reason and not to blinding following something without questioning it.

    Isn’t that what you do? You want religious people to do that as well. No? Do they get to keep their religious beliefs?

    Actually, you have a good point about following something blindly. I question Christ all the time. What do you thing I ask for in my prayers? I ask for things like wisdom; understanding; knowledge of his will; and to be an instrument of his truth. I’ve never prayed for any kind of personal gain, not even health. I’ve always prayed for spiritual things, or the well-being of others. There again, I mostly prayer about their spiritual well-being.

    You said I must have taken psychology class. I have not. That is how my prayers have been answered. What I explained to you is the understanding that was given to me. Sometimes prayers do go unanswered and sometimes I understand why. Whatever quality Christ said is important I prayed for it. He shows me his point of view.

    3) I’m glad you mentioned science. Science is one of the five authorities in modern civilization. Government and big business are linked; science and medicine are also linked; then there’s religion. These five authorities tell most of the people on the planet how to live.

    Consider there are 3 main dualities of existence: male and female; real and abstract; good and evil. Let’s look at science and the real / abstract duality.

    Science fact and science fiction are two sides of the same coin, both highly spiritual. Have you ever considered how so many technological advances have been predicted in science fiction stories? The internet was one of those technological advances. Predicted in a book written when computers were still as big as a house. I think it was called A Logic Named Joe, or something like that. There are books and documentaries about the phenomena. In return, it seems the majority of scientist are science fiction fans.

    This is something abstract happening right before the eyes of scientist and they don’t regard it for anything. The abstract is contained in the spiritual, not the physical. On Earth, humans are the carriers of the abstract existence. How is this so?

    The part of Man that is spiritual is his intelligence, his higher reasoning, his imagination, his understanding, his emotions, his creativity, his awareness (Man is not just self-aware, he’s super-aware).

    This also the part of Man that is in the image and likeness of God / existence. We don’t know what God / existence looks like in his true form, but he’s described as having these same traits, which nothing else on Earth has.

    Knowledge and experience feeds the abstract. It’s the main diet. When Man’s spirit takes in knowledge, it produces things like computers; space shuttles; you get the point. Experience produces things like art, music, culture, traditions. These things are real. They also represent both sides of the brain, by the way, the male / female duality. Man himself was conceived in the abstract of infinite intelligence and infinite imagination.

    So the end result of Man being part spirit is that new things are brought into existence. Our actions make the Earth productive, and we increase its purpose. Iron and other metals are taken from the ground and turned into tools, gold taken and turned into jewellery. If Man wasn’t here, the iron and the gold would stay in the ground. But Man put’s value on these things, because he’s the carrier of the abstract. Is this not a higher purpose?

    The animals on Earth fit into their ecosystems and they help make those ecosystems work. So the animals have purpose. They’re in sync. When scientist look into the cosmos, they see harmony. Celestial bodies play their part making the universe work. They too serve purpose. Isn’t Man part of the Universe? How could he not also have purpose, considering the abilities he has?

    I’d say mankind went way pass Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Natural selection, the strong survive and pass on their genes. Then certain qualities emerge and eventually turn into another species. Why did mankind need so much power and creativity? We’ve gone way pass simply surviving and passing on our genes.

    Science doesn’t try to explain the abstract simply because the big bang didn’t predict it and Darwin can’t explain it, nor does E=MC2. They can’t see it, they can’t quantify it, and they can’t perform experiments on it. Yet they rely on it heavily to study the universe. Abstract existence is part of the universe because it’s part of Man. The interpretation of science is just that, an interpretation of facts. Science only studies what it can see. It studies the real, but ignores the abstract.

    How can you find a theory for everything if you’re not actually studying everything? Science explains how things work and try to pass that off as the meaning of things. Explaining the how doesn’t answer the why. Since your thirst for ‘why’ isn’t actually being satisfied, you feel there’s no purpose.

  15. As a futurist/futurologist as a hobby, a table top role playing game (TTRPG) fan, and as well as a Buddhist (Mahayana/Nichiren/SGI), I have a unique prespective. For sake of argument, let’s assume Buddhism is a religion despite defying so many stereotypes of what a religion is the people say otherwise.

    Religion is a path to utopia, a path to enlightenment, a path of health, a path to freedom, a path to liberty, a path onto fairness, a path to proportionality, a path to love, and a path to all good things. That’s the theory anyway. People can lose sight of that.

    Will it ever be outdated? It doesn’t sound like something that will ever be outdated as defined by me. Even the alternatives to religion like Ethical Culture Movement and Secular Humanism as well as Objectivism and Communism fit the bill in a non-religious way.

    I’ve done work on what the world would look like in the future in various games and projects with other people. Whether it’s the year 2080 or something way further away, a world without religion due to allegations of being outdated seem far fetched at best and complete delusion at worst.

    Is religion and indoctrinating and manipulative? Well, fanatics and cults are, but they are the fringe of individuals and groups in religion. The problem isn’t exactly indoctrination and manipulation so much as little pushes and biases here and there that build up. Even if children are tried to be raised in an non-biased way, the playing field between staying in the birth religon and converting is skewed still.

    Is religion war mongering? Well, no, but the statement was that religion causes wars. Technically the quote said that religion wasn’t the only cause of war, but that war was an effect of religion. This question is more complex and will have to be rerouted to later. Lots of religious pacifists are a good counterpoints of religion causing peace, but I have to do more research on it.

    Bonus questions: What is the relationship between religion and… Mental health? Sex and sexuality? Crime, especially violent crime? Politics?

    I’m not answering the bonus questions as I have already answered the three you posted. Also, there were subjects I also studied as part of looking at the world in 2080, so I created a tie in with religion not in my research to expand upon it. My research has been speculative as 2080 has yet to happen obviously.

    What is enlightenment? How close to far from enligthenment is an individual at any time? How does one know if one is getting closer to or further from enlightenpnment? How does one approach enlightenment? How does religion play a role in all this? All interesting questions, but biased towards religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. They are still interesting questions, even though I just stared the intrinsic bias in them.

    What are all the implications of the Golden
    Rule? How does one absolutely and consistently follow the Golden Rule? More question I won’t answer in the post as these are conversation starters.

    Is Buddhism a religion? There are lots of quotes on both sides of the issue, but we won’t dive into that for now. It’s a compliment that people even think Buddhism is special and possibly in its own category. According to the definition I posted earlier, Buddhism is a religion.

    On a war of sorts, there is the culture wars that have been rocking western societies on various topics. It’s more political, but religion play a role in it as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_wars

    Religions isn’t on one side or the other of various issues brought up in the article. Religion, denomination thereof, and political philsophy combine to determine where a person is on these culture war issues. It’s not a literal war, but used as a metaphor and analogy to communicate the controversy on these issues. Communism, Socialism, Anarchism, Left, Democracy, Right, and Libertarianism combine with religion to form Religious Communism, Religious Socialism, Religious Anarchism, Religious Left, Religious Democracy, Religious Right, and Religious Libertarianism. Wikipedia has articles on these topics but focuses on Christianity and politics by replacing Religous with Christian, but some articles deal with the same issues in other religions, but not for all of them.

    This is a great top article as it has brought up lots of good points.

    Buddhism, despite being followed by a wide chunk of the world’s population, stil gets grouped with ideas like Animism, Platonism, Gnosticism, Cartesianism, Communism, Existentialism, Absurdism, Freudianism, Jungianism, Surrealism, Paglianism, Postmodernism, etc. I’m not complaining about it and see it as a compliment as seeing it as a unique way of viewing the world philosophy like all the other ones. All of the above have in common is that they are all philosophies whose tenants are debated and considered scary, but possibly true, in different ways. That not true of all of them in the same way, but they do project fear in some people for varying reasons. A History of Upoplar Ideas is an essay dealing with philosophies such as these. All of them subvert pre-modernism and notions of what a religion is and/or modernism and notions of what a philosophy is.

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