I am saddened by the knee-jerk hatred of religion some people here demonstrate. I see nothing to hate in religion per se. Sure, religion has led to some hateful actions. It has also led to some noble actions. I see it as no different than any other human activity: blessed with some good things, cursed with some bad things. There's lots of room for comparing and contrasting the good with the bad, and I would never argue with anybody else's overall conclusion as the ratio of the good to the bad. If you want to declare that religion has been 99% evil and 1% good, I won't argue with you. Indeed, I myself cannot imagine how I would calculate such a number. However, I do insist and will argue the point that religion has had some benefits for humanity.

The benefit that I'd like to focus on here is the wisdom that we sometimes find in religion. I'll cite three religious ideas that I think deserve our respect and indeed are useful.

The first is a quote I use all the time, sometimes against religious believers: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." In the first place, this statement, combined with the statement "My kingdom is not of this earth" is a clear admonition to keep religion out of the secular sphere. Can you think of any better justification for separation of church and state? The same thing applies to creationism and other religious intrusions into science. Render unto science, etc. Christ himself declared that religion must be confined to the spiritual. So keep your big fat religious nose out of science!

The second idea I find appealing is "Turn the other cheek." It's a powerful statement against anger, against revenge, and for pacifism. 

The third idea is Eastern: the notion that evil harms oneself more than it harms others: when you sin, you irreparably injure your psyche. Virtue is more than its own reward: it's mental hygiene.

There are many more valuable ideas that can be gained from religious thought. I should think that a prudent atheist would shamelessly steal those ideas.

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One good principle from religion is the idea of adhering to moral principles rather than trying to decide moral questions in a utilitarian way.  e.g. "Do not kill" as a principle, rather than trying to decide whether there's an overall benefit to humanity if someone is killed. 

When people try to decide moral questions in a utilitarian way, it inevitably ends up being biased towards themselves, their interpretation of reality, their group.  It also tends to discard intangible benefits, which can be crucial.  For example, there were things the Nazis did that arguably would have a long-term benefit, like murdering or sterilizing retarded and mentally ill people.  This might long-term improve the genes in the human race - yet it's abhorrent to our respect for life, respecting difference - which is intangible but very important.

Not that atheists necessarily gravitate towards eugenics.  But I've seen atheists, attempting to formulate an atheist morality, who took a utilitarian viewpoint - that which generates the most benefit overall is best - and such a morality could be devastating to whatever we have that is called a soul.  The most subtle, highest aspects of being human. 

I am saddened by the knee-jerk hatred of religion some people here demonstrate.

I see that as a part of people's recovery from oppressive religious indoctrination.  It's very difficult to escape from religious training, religion seems to act as an abusive kind of mind control - so if people here express a one-sided hate of religion, it's not necessarily a bad thing, it might be an important part of healing.  Also it seems a lot of people are here, taking part in an online social activity with nontheists, because they're surrounded by a lot of judgemental religious people - and that also causes pain.

Neither is very much true for me.  I wasn't brought up religious and I live in a relatively nonreligious place.  So I don't have those incitements to anti-religion.  But I have seen much of the downside of religion, here - heard things from members that really horrified me. 

I agree that utilitarian principles can produce terrible results when misused, but I would argue that 1) utilitarian principles are in fact what has shaped social evolution; and 2) utilitarian principles, properly applied, yield the best results.

My first claim is my own anthropological observation, most evident when societies encounter changing environments. When this happens, the society's moral code always evolves in a more utilitarian direction. For example, it seems likely that MesoAmerican cannibalism was a response to protein deficiencies in the available diet. Elsewhere, cannibalism was eschewed for hygienic reasons. Similarly, slavery was almost always accompanied with a belief in the moral inferiority of the enslaved, classical civilization being a counterexample. It has also been argued that American slavery produced a reduction in the power of family values, because the slaves could not control their family lives. This has taken a long time to heal. The notion, however, is controversial.

My second claim should be, I think, self-evident. After all, the criticisms of "bad" moral standards almost always amount to declarations that the topic is inutile -- it produces undesirable results for some people. 

I think you really hit the nail on the head with your observation that hatred of religion might well be part of the healing process of escaping from it. A kind of reverse phenomenon has long been known: that converts are usually more fanatical than old believers.

criticisms of "bad" moral standards almost always amount to declarations that the topic is inutile -- it produces undesirable results for some people.

Sure, but that's the kind of thing that people see in retrospect.  People can't forecast everything, and they tend to ignore the more subtle bad consequences.  For example, that doing bad things harms the doer of those things - is something people often ignore!  They ignore the subtle emotional harm they cause themselves when they're cruel to others.  Religion tries to enshrine those subtle harms as sacred laws, giving them more importance to compensate for people's natural tendency to give them less importance. 

Religion could be seen as an aspect of human nature that's expressed in societies.  It's expressed in different ways in different societies, but part of what it does is to try to uphold those higher values - love, compassion, valuing life.  (of course, it often violates those values as well).  It wouldn't necessarily have to be theistic, to do this. 

hatred of religion might well be part of the healing process of escaping from it.

And, a kind of bonding; and a corrective for the excessive "respect" for religion that we're taught, which is actually a kind of silencing. 

I see your point about the value of religion as a way of imparting higher wisdom to dummies. I recall many years ago students at a community college where I taught had a game in which they would try to stomp the prairie dogs that occasionally showed up on campus. I tried to explain to them that this was morally self-destructive, but they couldn't get the point down their craws. Having a priest in sacred robes dispense the simpler message "Thou shalt not stomp prairie dogs" (with some nice crashes of the organ to emphasize the point) would surely have been more effective.

Does this mean that religion is necessary for the less intelligent members of our species?

I don't know whether those useful myths can be effectively replaced.  Intelligent people are not any less likely to overlook subtle longterm consequences AFAIK.

The third idea is Eastern: the notion that evil harms oneself more than it harms others: when you sin, you irreparably injure your psyche. Virtue is more than its own reward: it's mental hygiene.

This idea is an excellent example.  It gets enshrined as karma, as the belief that what you do follows you, even after death. 

I believe this, not the even after death part, but in everyday life. 

Yet, I mentioned this idea once to some people at a work setting, and they just jeered.  They thought it was silly. 

But I saw it very dramatically as an abused child.  It seems to me, and psychology would back this up I think, that abusive parents damage themselves severely.

Jesus said something like, "anyone who harms a child, had better have a millstone put around their neck" and this is so profound. 

And little-realized, I think ... abusive parenting is so common, and so much excused, and the most outrageous things are so expected to be forgiven by the people who were abused ... that this reality commonly remains buried. 

You know, the basic idea of karma ("what goes around comes around") really is truthful. Twenty years ago I had a horrible experience in which some people I thought to be friends perpetrated a massive screw job for monetary gain. It was a devastating experience, not so much because of the considerable financial loss I suffered, but because of the viciousness of their betrayal of my friendship and trust. It sent me into a deep depression that incapacitated me for about two years. 

Twenty years later, it appears that I am the better for the experience, and they the worse. The 'sink or swim' situation forced me to learn a great deal of wisdom, albeit painfully slowly. From what little I know, each one of my betrayers has seen their life go downhill since that act. It's not just that the odium they earned has closed some doors to them; my impression is that their minds were poisoned, that they lost the joie de vivre that powers creative and entrepreneurial drive. And the money they stole is long gone.

I'm sorry to disagree, but karma is used to justify the caste system in India.  That is not freedom.  'Stay where you are, accept your place in life, believe that your poverty is your own fault'  Not to mention the place of women in these countries.  After a few lifetimes of being a 'good woman' and keeping to your place you might be rewarded by being allowed to reincarnate as a spiritually superior man!

If 'what goes around comes around' is true then it shouldn't take much of a statistical study to verify the bumper sticker.  Show me the beef.  

I don't think it exists, but I'm willing to look at any scientific evidence you might want to point me towards.

I think karma is a cruel and offensive idea.

I have a daughter who was born with Turner's Syndrome, a genetic disorder resulting from a lack of a male chromosone in the sexual linkage resulting in the ovaries growing and dying before the girls...it only effects females...birth resulting in dwarfism, kidney conditions, heart problems and, without hormonal intervention that has only been possible in the last half a century, ends in premature aging and death by the early twenties.  My daughter went into heart failure at three days old.  She was in the emergency room 35 times the first year of her life, she has had so many surgeries since she has a complete DNR order now even though she developed an aneurisim a year back.  She lives full time in a mental hospital because she can't function in the real world...just waiting to, wanting to die!

So tell, what 'bad karma' did she do to deserve this fate?

Or was it something I did that I'm being punished for?  Some bad karma of my own that resulted in my daughter being destroyed to punish me?

How dare you call this filthy madness 'wisdom.'

You aren't using logic here, Mr. Jarrett. The fact that karma was used to justify the caste system does not detract from its intellectual utility. The Nazis used chemistry to murder 9 million people; does that mean that nobody should learn chemistry? The concept of karma retains value despite the fact that people have misused it.

Moreover, you are relying on reversed karma: if it came around, it must have gone around. The fact that evil behavior ultimately leads to loss does not mean that every loss is due to evil behavior. I'm sure some people interpret karma that way, but I was not referring to the idea that narrowly; I also cited tanagadalang and "What goes around..." 

There is wisdom here to those who can bring reason to the process.

What is more reasonable than to ask for statistical, rational proof of your assertion?

"What is presented without evidence can be rejected without evidence."

That is wisdom.

You want to bring 'reason to the process' then go ahead.  Bring it on.

Here's reason.  

Noble Prize winner for economics Daniel Kahneman has shown, with statistics and repeatable experiments what he calls 'deviation to the mean.'  This is the tendency, over time, for things to level out.  The example he uses is to disprove the idea of 'winning streaks' in sports...like having a great day on the first round of a golf tournament...or a lousy day.  The next day of the tournament, the person who has a good day the first day will tend to not do as good the second day and the person who has a lousy day the first day will most likely do better the second.  They 'deviate towards the mean.'

There are percentages of the population who will have bad things happen to them...insurance companies become profitable from the difference.  This is as predictable as the sunrise tomorrow.  If something bad happens to you, the odds remain the same that something bad will happen to you the next day.  What happens to you one day doesn't predict you'll have a better day the next.  If the bad thing has odds of 2000 to 1 the first day, it will have odds of 2000 to 1 the next.  Since the odds remain unchanged, then I would be willing to bet...and bet large (who can pass up 2000 to 1 odds?)...that the same thing won't happen to you the next.  The larger the population and the longer the time period will produce the bad event occuring 1 in 2000 times...that's what we mean when we figure the odds.

In college I spent one long Saturday trying to see if I had telekenic powers.  I got out my dice and first figured the odds for rolling a seven...pretty good actually, as it turns out if you figure all combinations...then I went to rolling.  Not just a few times, but literally thousands of times.  I kept careful records of the result of each roll and really tried my hardest to roll a seven each time.  What I came up with was the same number of sevens the odds predicted I would roll.  I proved to myself I didn't have telekenic powers.  Other people might, but I didn't.

There's a logical fallacy called WYSIATI.  The acronym stands for What You See Is All There Is.  It's a tendency to focus on the evidence as it presents itself without considering other factors that might contradict that evidence.

When it comes to religion I call it Rolling God's Dice (apologies to Einstein).  Its a form of fraud you find in healing revivals and televangilism.  "I see somebody out in the audience who has..." insert whatever ailment you want..."and I feel God's healing power coming down on them right now!"  Stupid, huh?  But with a large enough audience no matter how rare the ailment is there will be someone who has it and is willing to lie and say they were healed...Christian's...religious people of all stripes...lie.  That's another bit of wisdom you can take to the bank.

When something bad happens to you and you find someone else to blame it on...rather than accepting it as Karmic retribution for something you did coming round to punish you...and yes, this is a logically necessity under Karmic Law...you focus on the other person.

WYSIATI.

You don't specify just what is going to happen to this person who did you wrong.  You Roll God's Dice and leave that part open-ended.

Soon enough, something bad happens to that person.  The odds, since you are willing to accept anything bad that happens to the person, eventually catch up with the person you hate...and hating people is much, much worse than hating religion since it happens in the real world.  

And when something bad happens to the person you hate you cry 'Karma!' just like that person in the faith healer's audience is astonished to find he has accurately picked them out and it would just be in bad taste not to claim the healing...even a healing of a disease you didn't know you had, for that matter.

What you are proposing is there is a causal link between what happened to you and what happened to the person you hate.

How does that work exactly?  Through the Ether?  Or is it an example of Group Consciousness?  What you are suggesting is there is some linkage between the two events.  

The truth is simple.  The same odds that apply to a bad event happening to you also apply to the other person.  Since no one gets through life without bad things of some sort happening...especially when you leave the bad thing open ended...then you won't have to wait long.

It's quite similiar to the 'everything happens for a reason' nonsense.  An undeniably bad thing happens to you.  Statistics and 'deviation toward the mean' predict your life will swing from one side of the Bell Shaped Curve of Life from the highly unlikely odds of the bad thing happening back toward the center.

You want to throw religious wisdom around?

How about this one:

"God sends His rain on the Just and the Unjust."

Bottom line is if somebody you hate does something bad to you and you want something bad to happen to them as well (odd how unspiritual that sounds, even to a person who rejects spirituality as just another lie) then you had better get up off your ass and do something bad back.

Waiting for God or Karma or whatever name you want to sneak the supernatural into the conversation for it (btw, do you consider yourself an atheist?  Just curious) is a waste of time.

I don't give anything to Kings or Gods and I don't turn the other cheek. That's the behavior of losers and wankers. In my experience the church shows shows a veneer of virtue which no longer hides it's corruption and criminality.

Religion generally corrupts the mind. There is nothing to be gained from religious thought.

Well, you certainly are one of the people who hates religion!

I'm with Napoleon.

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