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Avatar Samantha Ai

Skeptics Dilemma

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My experience with Christians is largely limited to Roman Catholics, and they are not open the way you are. However, I've spent time in the States and in Europe and think the Anglicans/Episcopalians are, as are Unitarians.

Among non-Christians, almost everyone thinks as you do except Muslims, Conservative Jews, Conservative Hindus and CaoDai. That would include the great religions of East Asia (Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, and of course most Animist groups. I think many modern "pagans" are similarly open-minded.

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I admit, that I've never really had a discussion about it with people from a different religion, say Muslim or Bhuddist.I'm curious how they would react to it.

I am being very careful not to push Buddhism here, as I am in fact a very bad Buddhist in that I don't seriously "buy" a lot of it, but I can assure you that although most Buddhists are atheistic (I mean kinda like atheists but not of the Western materialist sort), every monk I know will start any disagreement with what anyone says with, "You are probably right."

The one thing any Buddhist will say when there is religious disagreement is to tell you the famous parable of the blind men and the elephant each feeling a different part of the animal and coming back disagreeing strongly about what sort of beast it is. It's a matter of perspective -- and we each see the world through different eyes and interpret it with different brains.

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I admit, that I've never really had a discussion about it with people from a different religion, say Muslim or Bhuddist.I'm curious how they would react to it.

Where I live in my part of Australia, I cannot help but meet with different people of different religions. 9-out-of-10 people I meet come from non-English backgrounds (heck, come to think of it, my father was Latvian so I come from a non-English background). Christianity is not the major belief here. Christians share the spotlight in South-West Sydney with Muslims and Buddhists. And depending on which suburb specifically it could be very much more (I've taught at two schools where Muslim holidays such as Eid meant that of 400 kids only fifteen turn up to school on that special day).

What I'm getting at is that my experience is very different to yours. I've met and spoken with Christians of many different varieties. I've met with Muslims and Buddhists, and studied what they believe - because to NOT study what they believe leaves me at a state of ignorance when speaking to a majority of people I meet.

Just saying,

~ Regards, PA

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Careful with Shintoism, pal.... that was the religious platform the Japanese emperor used pre and during WW2. You could have found a better example. Take Jainism, if you want to be on the safe path. Jainism is pacifist to a degree that is almost ridiculous. But Shintoism... err, no. Make a visit to Yasukuni Shrine and learn, grasshopper.

Are you threatening me?

Just because someone used a belief to do something bad doesn't make the belief system bad. After all the same can be said of the swastika...people think it represents evil when it was a hindu ( I think) symbol meaning unity or something.

You can find something 'bad' in every single religion as someone will have used it to further their own ends be it Christianity, or any other.

Edited by Ryu

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What I'm getting at is that my experience is very different to yours. I've met and spoken with Christians of many different varieties. I've met with Muslims and Buddhists, and studied what they believe - because to NOT study what they believe leaves me at a state of ignorance when speaking to a majority of people I meet.

Just saying,

~ Regards, PA

Don't get me wrong, I know and understand as much about Christianity as any other Christian, maybe even more, I was brought up as one.i also have knowledge of most of the other religions, what they believe, the doctrine etc.

I always try to stay respectfull of other people's views and beliefs, as Frank Merton above:

The one thing any Buddhist will say when there is religious disagreement is to tell you the famous parable of the blind men and the elephant each feeling a different part of the animal and coming back disagreeing strongly about what sort of beast it is. It's a matter of perspective -- and we each see the world through different eyes and interpret it with different brains.

I agree with that, and yet let me ask you.have you never spoken with a religious person, and gotten the distinct impression that this person is trying to convince you

that his/her religion is correct, and they have absolutely no intention to even acknowledge your beliefs on equal ground?

You get what Im saying?

Mind you not all of them are like that, I have spoken and debated with many open minded christians, but in the end, even if you proved your point beyond a doubt, they will ignore it or shrug it off.

Edited by Verloc
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OK skeptics. What if science proves that the majority of people are always going to create myths and believe in them? Here is your task.

Describe a religion that you would find acceptable, people need the magic and stuff remember, so what is the most benign way you could package it so religion would do the world least harm.

Belief is a human construct based on human psychology and human cognition.

It is indeed inevitable in humans unless we are taught to deconsruct and deny the formulation of beliefs, so your point is a good one.

How to construct a religion based on belief that does no harm, tends to increase human potential and actualy progresses human wisdom and understandings?

Well the first good news is that any belief system, but particularly one held communaly and practiced,increases physical and psychological well being.

So the we just have to buid one which physically improves the lives of all. Now that is hard because some people want different things from others.

My religion would teach that with educaton and discipline, all emotions can be chosen, and that humans can "be" what ever they want to be n matter their external circumsatnces.

That we have a duty and a repsonsibilty to make of ourselves all we can. To love honour ourselves, and to think and act in ways which build that self love and respect in ourselves and in others.

Secondly that all humans are one. Thus we must apply the love and respect we have for ourselves to others. Third to separate behaviour from the person. Teach that behaviour mus tbe controlled, individually or socially, for the benefit of individuals and society, but that a person has an individual right to BE as they are, if they do not harm another.

Then we need to define harm. The religion would also strike a positive balance between individual rights and social responsibilities. Generally, social duty and responsibility overrides individual rights, but allowances must be made for arguable individual ethics and moralities.

There is much more but I would personally alos encourage everyone to seek the god within and around them and to learn to interconnect with that presence. This will change a life in positive ways and thus also change society in positive ways.

I would teach tha t my religion is only one way to a good life but that it works. I would also teach that what happens after death is unknown and unknowable, and that people mus t chose their own beliefs on that. Finally the aim of my religion would be to create a form of heaven within the heart and mind of every huamn so they could live fulfilled, at peace and happily. And also to make our physical earth into a form of heaven as well where, because individuals had heaven within them, their society reflected this . No famine war hate anger lust envy jealousy hate fear loneliness etc Where people were taught they are all the same rather than taught tha t, because they have an individual mind, they must see them selves as individuals first Or that other people are different and to be feared. I would teach peole to heat healthily get plenty of exercise use modern medicine to its fullest and that they dont need any drugs or alcohol to be happy fulfilled etc I would use a lot of the sciences to transform people so they really understood who and what they are and what potentials the y have. And i would teach that thumans are not just there to provide work/labour or to gain material benefits for thems elves or their society Tha t in fact that should only be an end result not an aim The aim is to be happy fulfilled content empowered etc ANd all that comes form within

.

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Well the first good news is that any belief system, but particularly one held communaly and practiced,increases physical and psychological well being.

.

*Any* belief system????

Would that include the ones imposed by Jim Jones, by the Western Baptist Church, by Joseph Kony in Uganda, by Aum Shinrikyo, by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, by Pol Pot, by the Taliban in Afghanistan or by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria???

I could continue this list for a long time....

Methinks anybody who naively declares that *any* belief system is beneficial for the community is in dire need of a reality check.

Edited by Zaphod222

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Really?can you name a few? from my experience, in my country/locality, Christians are not inclined to agree with me at all, in fact they get agitated when discuss it.

Tibetan Buddhism, for example, would fit the definition given. You should look further than your own (apparently fundamentalist Christian) backyard. There are a lot of different religions out there, with very different philosophies.

Edited by Zaphod222

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*Any* belief system????

Would that include the ones imposed by Jim Jones, by the Western Baptist Church, by Joseph Kony in Uganda, by Aum Shinrikyo, by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, by Pol Pot, by the Taliban in Afghanistan or by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria???

I could continue this list for a long time....

Methinks anybody who naively declares that *any* belief system is beneficial for the community is in dire need of a reality check.

No The scientific evidence is that people who "believe" in something bigger than themselves, (all other factors being equal ) are better off, physically and psychologically.

If you take a cohort from any population, and then take a sub cohort of believers, the believers will live longer,(from 4 to 10 years longer statistically) their last decade will be healthier, and they will have better psychological health. Ie less depressed, happier and more content with life.

It is the act of belief which does this. Extra benefits may accrue if the belief also promotes a positive life style, but action is not necessary, just belief. Belief has been clinically shown to reduce pain by 50% or more, and even allow morphine based drugs to be repaced with over the counter based pain killers, because the perception of pain is so radically lessened. And because these studies show similarities in many different faiths, it is not the effect of one religious belief.

Now if your belief says you maust kill yourself when you turn 21, then I agree it has a harmful effect (alhough it may benefit the years up to 21) ANd if your belief says you must kill all female children, then it is less likely to benefit your society.

But even in extremes, religions do not survive unless they offer real benefits to their practioners. And so the two I mention above would simply cease to exist. In the long term, religons survive and endure because of the practical benefits they provide Even a religion which sacrifices the eldest son, while not accpetable in our society, could provide benefits to those who lived in it, depending on WHY the sons were sacrificed, and how the people felt about the practice.

MAny non christian native peoples had "strange " but very beneficial belief systems which codified in practice, learned advantages of living in a certain way. eg isolating all mensruating women in one large hut. Or restricting diet to a certain type of foods. Or only marrying from a different clan/totem. Or leaving a paddock fallow on a rotational basis. And yes, these were part of their religious beliefs and laws.

Ps i would not argue with the taliban's beliefs IF they allowed free choice of those beliefs or not to believe them.

Every one has a right to chose the way they live, and what they believe, even if their women chose to live very differently to how western women live. After all, they have completely different basic values. And no one is to say our values are superior to or better than, another's.

NO faith has the right to impose its beliefs on another, nor do people have a right to kill others on the basis of religious belief. But we all have a right to believe what works for us, and to defend our beliefs by organised force if they are threatened, and there is no better solution.

Edited by Mr Walker
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Now this is a genuine dilemma; religions do all sorts of good and religions do all sorts of bad. But, then, can't we say that about almost everything human beings are involved in?

I think maybe whether or not one's religion is good or bad for a person depends on that person.

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I think maybe whether or not one's religion is good or bad for a person depends on that person.

No. You can objectively state that some religions cause more suffering than others.

Just compare the track record of Islam and that of Jainism, to take two obvious examples.

Again, it is meaningless to generalize about "all religions", just as it is meaningless to generalize about "all ideologies".

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No. You can objectively state that some religions cause more suffering than others.

Just compare the track record of Islam and that of Jainism, to take two obvious examples.

Again, it is meaningless to generalize about "all religions", just as it is meaningless to generalize about "all ideologies".

I don't disagree with you, but it still depends on the person. I know many Malasian and Indonesian Muslims, and I think their Islam does them a great deal of good.
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No. You can objectively state that some religions cause more suffering than others.

Just compare the track record of Islam and that of Jainism, to take two obvious examples.

Again, it is meaningless to generalize about "all religions", just as it is meaningless to generalize about "all ideologies".

It is incorrect (IMO) to compare something like Islam (the second largest religion in the world) to a belief held by less than 5 million people worldwide (4.2 million of them, according to a census from 2001, in India). It would be fair to say that Jainism has not got the numbers to cause problems the way other religions did once they had the numbers to bring political clout to ambitious tyrants.

Just a thought,

~ Regards,

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It is incorrect (IMO) to compare something like Islam (the second largest religion in the world) to a belief held by less than 5 million people worldwide (4.2 million of them, according to a census from 2001, in India). It would be fair to say that Jainism has not got the numbers to cause problems the way other religions did once they had the numbers to bring political clout to ambitious tyrants.

Just a thought,

~ Regards,

Your thought is wrong. It is not a valid argument to hide behind numbers. You can divide the number of atrocities committed in the name of islam down to correspond to 5 million (divide by about 200), and you still see the difference between that and the record of Jainism, which is zero.

Likewise, you can list the concepts taught in islam which are unacceptable for a humane society and then try to find something comparable in Jainism.

I only singled out these these two religions because they are on the extreme end of a scale and so make it easy to demonstrate the contrast. They are very very different, and the number of followers is irrelevant to that. (By the way, the enormous number of followers of islam is a direct result of islamic teaching.... Shariah law, polygamy, child marriage, apostasy law, are all designed to increase the number of members.)

But I think it is obvious that quoting the number of members is irrelevant to the content of a religion. The number you can adjust with simple mathematics.

Edited by Zaphod222

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I don't disagree with you, but it still depends on the person. I know many Malasian and Indonesian Muslims, and I think their Islam does them a great deal of good.

That is a very vague statement. You would have to clarify in what way exactly "their islam" does them "a great deal of good", and in what way you think they would be worse off if they were e.g. atheists. The steady push for Shariah law in both Indonesia and Malaysia most certainly does not do any good for Indonesian and Malaysian society.

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Zaphod, it's not as simple as dividing numbers. It's about the political strength associated with large numbers. If Jainism had 1 billion followers I guarantee you there would be violence associated with it, despite it's creed of non-violence. It's human nature.

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No. You can objectively state that some religions cause more suffering than others.

Just compare the track record of Islam and that of Jainism, to take two obvious examples.

Again, it is meaningless to generalize about "all religions", just as it is meaningless to generalize about "all ideologies".

You didn't actually read frank's post correctly. He is absolutely right. Whether a religion is good or bad for a person depends on that person So a woman who wants to live the life of a muslim woman will find islam a lot more attractive safe and comfortable than living under an secular state or a christian religion where she is expected to comform to values she does not uphold. People adopt and accept religions which suit their needs If they dont suit their needs they either abandon the religion or they pay only lip service to it. My faith is in large part jainist in style, but if jainism held general appeal to more humans then it would be a much larger religion

To be a militant or commited adherent to any religion you have to hold basic values commensurate with that religion deeply and completely There are as many shades of islam as there are of christianity and christianity historically has a greater number of deaths attributable to it than islam. It is not the people, but the way the religion is perceived and used, which is the problem

A "good" person will make their religion do good. A "bad" person will make their religion do bad.

But also a good person will adopt the practices within a religion which are good/creative and a bad person will adopt the practices within their religion that are bad/ destructive.

Edited by Mr Walker
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No The scientific evidence is that people who "believe" in something bigger than themselves, (all other factors being equal ) are better off, physically and psychologically.

I won´t argue with that. I find it quite likely that most people feel better (safer), if they can believe in something. It makes life simpler... being a sceptic takes energy.

But that says nothing about the benefit of the belief system for society. Were the girls of the Mason Family happy and healthy while they were in the cult? Probably. The members of Aum Shinrikyo? The members of the Jim Jones cult? Hardcore Nazis? The pilots of the 9/11 planes? Probably yes, in all cases.

But please do not tell me that these destructive belief systems are good for the rest of us. You still have to look a the content of the religion; there is no way around it.

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You didn't actually read frank's post correctly. He is absolutely right. Whether a religion is good or bad for a person depends on that person So a woman who wants to live the life of a muslim woman will find islam a lot more attractive safe and comfortable than living under an secular state

....that is called Stockholm Syndrome. But yes, I accept that some women fell happy in a subordinate role. But that is irrelevant to the question if all religions are equally good or bad. Again, they are demonstratable not.

People adopt and accept religions which suit their needs

Actually, most people are born into a religion, so the question of "need" does not arise. But anyway, if all religions accepted that you adopt and leave them as you wish, it would be great. In the event, not all religions do that. E.g. in Islam: you can join any time (just say the Shahada), but leaving is punishable by death according to islamic law (apostacy). So right there is a clear difference: A religion kills you for leaving is clearly objectively more evil than one that allows you to leave. How can you say the two doctrines are the same?

There are as many shades of islam as there are of christianity and christianity historically has a greater number of deaths attributable to it than islam.

That is simply a false statement, but I do not want to get into a Christianity vs islam theological debate, which is why I precisely did NOT mention Christianity. Taking Islam and Jainism as examples makes my point as clear as it can get.

But also a good person will adopt the practices within a religion which are good/creative and a bad person will adopt the practices within their religion that are bad/ destructive.

Not all religions allow you to pick and choose. So this gets back to the same point: You need to look at the content of a religion. Generalizing about "all religions" is pointless and based on wishful thinking.

Edited by Zaphod222

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That is a very vague statement. You would have to clarify in what way exactly "their islam" does them "a great deal of good", and in what way you think they would be worse off if they were e.g. atheists. The steady push for Shariah law in both Indonesia and Malaysia most certainly does not do any good for Indonesian and Malaysian society.

Your claiming so does not make that it so. Violence in the name of an extremely pacifistic religion like Jainism would be contradiction in terms, so your claim is patently nonsensical.

There can never be a concept like a Jainist Jihad, or a Jainist suicide bomber. It it simply not possible within Jainist thinking.

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Your claiming so does not make that it so. Violence in the name of an extremely pacifistic religion like Jainism would be contradiction in terms, so your claim is patently nonsensical.

There can never be a concept like a Jainist Jihad, or a Jainist suicide bomber. It it simply not possible within Jainist thinking.

You quoted your own post here. It sounds like you may have been referring to me, and as such I am taking it that way. At a glance I would say the same thing about other religions - there should not be such a thing as a Christian terrorist or a Muslim terrorist. Nevertheless, they exist. Despite my belief that both beliefs teach tolerance and respect (yes, even though I am a Christian, my studies of Islam lead me to think that it also wants peace) the FACT remains that both Christianity and Islam have left trails of destruction. And I lay the fault of that destruction squarely on the shoulders of individuals who have taken the teachings of Christ and Mohammed and twisted them to mean something else entirely.

If you think an influential figure cannot also do the same with pacifistic beliefs such as Jainism, I can only point to irreconcilable differences. Surely an influential and charismatic leader could convince many that peace can only be achieved once "heretics" (non-believers) are eradicated.

I know you're thinking it impossible. And as it currently stands, it IS IMPOSSIBLE. Jainism simply doesn't have the political clout to pull it off. But if they had a billion adherents then some of them could be led to believe that "true peace" is possible, if they resort to killing apostates to ensure peace for the future.

This is my final post on the matter. If you disagree with me, then I'll accept it and leave it at that. I won't agree with you, but I'll leave you be. Despite the outlook of non-violence in Jainism, an influential leader can change things. But they would only change things if the numbers of followers were sufficiently large to cause people to overthrow the status quo. Unless you find a better argument than "Jainist Jihad is a contradiction in terms", I'm afraid we can't move forward - such an argument is, in my opinion, ignorant of human nature.

~ Regards, PA

Edit: I'm reminded of a post I made a while back, found HERE, in which I speak of a fictional character named Byron, who never raised a finger in violence and taught a life of non-violence, and yet his followers upon his death chose to use his death as justification for violence - "Byronist Jihad " is also a contradiction in terms, yet in this universe such a thing happened.

Edited by Paranoid Android
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Ah, maybe what we are all searching for is a religion that allows you to believe and do whatever you fancy and promises prosperity and long life and then bliss after you die but doesn't ask you to do anything either for it or for your fellow beings. Oh, and it also gives you spiritual peace and fulfillment and a virgin every other day.

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At a glance I would say the same thing about other religions - there should not be such a thing as a Christian terrorist or a Muslim terrorist. Nevertheless, they exist. Despite my belief that both beliefs teach tolerance and respect (yes, even though I am a Christian, my studies of Islam lead me to think that it also wants peace) the FACT remains that both Christianity and Islam have left trails of destruction. And I lay the fault of that destruction squarely on the shoulders of individuals who have taken the teachings of Christ and Mohammed and twisted them to mean something else entirely.

Agreed, I've wondered at what point the religious labels and corresponding definitions have been stretched beyond having much meaning; when individuals twist the teachings of the religion's founders, at what point is it inaccurate to even call them Christian and Muslim? I agree the terms are wide-reaching but they are not infinitely malleable, if one thinks that Charles Manson or Elvis is God, no matter how they integrate that with Christianity they are not Christian even if they somehow self-identify as such. We could say that we still refer to Christian or Muslim terrorists because of the great overlap in beliefs between them and pacifists of their sects, and thus the question of whether terrorism is justified is just one point of difference amongst many other points of agreement. In theory though, and I don't know enough about Jainism and how core pacificism is to that belief system to know if it's a good example, it seems possible to have a "'x religion' terrorist" that is a contradiction, or at least a meaningless label.

Ah, actually I was going to use your Byronist example and just read your link and see you've already discussed this angle of it. It's a head-scratcher, I just can't get my brain around what the purpose of the label then actually is (from a logical or validity standpoint, I understand it's purpose politically/tactically). If Byronism's only belief was in absolute pacifism, then what does it even mean to say that someone can be a Byronist terrorist, it means nothing more than that they have affixed this label to themselves, or I guess more precisely, they believe that they are somehow a follower of Byron despite holding the exact opposite belief of Byronism. But there doesn't seem to be as much question that other non-religious labels can't just be affixed freely like that, it doesn't matter if Donald Trump says "I am a communist", he's not by definition. I guess it has to do with the interplay of the evolution of words over time, the precision of different belief systems and labels, social identification, and a lot of other stuff that's too heavy to think about on Saturday. Interesting topic though!

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Ah, maybe what we are all searching for is a religion that allows you to believe and do whatever you fancy and promises prosperity and long life and then bliss after you die but doesn't ask you to do anything either for it or for your fellow beings. Oh, and it also gives you spiritual peace and fulfillment and a virgin every other day.

You need a religion for that? I know I sure don't..

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You need a religion for that? I know I sure don't..

I'm not sure I caught that one; at my age it takes a lot of religion.

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