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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Dr. Kellie:

"And I can not offer thanks, as a woman and a gay. No thanks to moral guidelines that devalue me, intend to sexually shame me, and label me an abomination."

Agreed, very much so.

That raises an interesting question: to what extent are the moral precepts of various religions founded in religious thought as opposed to local custom? An "absolute Christian" believer who followed only the four gospels would find nothing anti-gay, IIRC. The anti-gay stuff is all Old Testament -- please correct me if I'm wrong. I know that quite a few Age of Reason thinkers felt that Christianity should be confined to the New Testament. Such a religion would hold that the only applicable moral precept towards gays is "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

Inasmuch as roughly half of all Americans support gay marriage, and most Americans are Christian, it's difficult to declare those ugly prejudices to be fundamentally Christian in nature. 

This is way too appreciative and generous for religionists.  In a miniscule blink of time, so small in history as to be incalculable, in one or a few selected nations, a fraction of the religious population at this time on the planet earth, there is some lightening of the burden of christianity for LGBT peope.  Only apologeticism could make that count as representative of either christianity or abrahamic religion.

The antigay stuff is not just old testament.  It depends on who is reading and when and what is their agenda, but the New testament is also generally considered antigay.  However, since this thread is about accepting religion, not the bible, the bible could say "Sisters and Brothers, accept and enbrace your LGBT sistren and brethren" but with a thousand years or two of christian history of hate, persecution, lies, discrimination, narcissim, and opportunism, and often picking and choosing what the bible says,m the role of religion with respect to both women and LGBT people is still abysmal and to be deplored universally.

I doubt that any Age of Reason speaker had anything to say, whatsoever about LGBT people - the social construct wasnt there even if the people were.  I also doubt, given the time, that there was much support for women's rights.

Also, I doubt thatThomas Paine and "the age of reason" could in any way be considered typical of or accepted by religous leaders and followers overall.  "In the United States, The Age of Reason initially caused a deistic "revival", but was then viciously attacked and soon forgotten. Paine became so reviled that he could still be maligned as a "filthy little atheist" by Theodore Roosevelt over one hundred years later"  So quoting the Age of Reason is hardly representative of religion.

I didn't want to comment on this thread, but it's hard not to.  

You misunderstand my point, which is to raise the question as to the degree to which anti-gay feeling is derived from religion or superimposed onto religion. In the absence of contradictory evidence, I'm going to stick to my claim that the gospels (pretty sure here) and the rest of the New Testament (not so sure here) have no anti-gay sentiment. This suggests to me that anti-gay attitudes are not intrinsic to Christianity; rather, bigots have imposed their bigotry onto religion. And the certain fact that lots of Christians have accepted LGBTs certainly suggests that bigotry here is caused not by Christianity but by other cultural factors.

Chris:

"I'm going to stick to my claim that the gospels (pretty sure here) and the rest of the New Testament (not so sure here) have no anti-gay sentiment."

The Apostle Paul clearly condemns homosexuality (both male and female) in his New Testament writings.

Romans 1:26-27,31-32

I Corinthians 6:9

I Timothy 1:10

II Timothy 3:3

Yes, Loren Miller corrected me on that point; see my response to him.

The problem with confining christianity to the new testament is that the ol' boy himself didn't want it that way.  He reinforced that opinion in Matthew 5:17-20, which keeps the old testament in play and (for them anyway) valid.  As for the new testament and homosexuality, I refer you to the Skeptic's Annotated Bible for references on that and there are all sorts.  You'll have to scroll down a ways, but it's not that hard to find.

Thinking about "turning the other cheek," the bible practically endorses persecution and an indicator that you're going in the right direction.  This is utterly anathema to me, particularly as it both requires me to devalue myself (which I WILL NOT DO) and relates to a putative reward in a heaven which has no demonstrated existence.  Any other wisdom of the bible, whether valid or not, very likely has alternative sources, some of which antedate the bible considerably.

Sorry, Chris, but I ain't havin' any.  I do well without the bible and see no reason to consider it or endorse it.

Thanks for setting me straight on the New Testament. So we've established that anti-gay bigotry shows up in all but the four gospels. I'll agree, then, that Christianity had anti-gay bigotry solidly infused into it -- but again, there remains contradictory evidence: 1) Christ himself said nothing to support such prejudice; 2) many modern Christians have ditched anti-gay feelings without any religious difficulties; 3) some Christian sects have accepted openly LGBT members and clerics.

So I think it is incorrect to blame anti-gay bigotry on Christianity. Christianity reflects, I think, anti-gay bigotry among bigots, and just as readily rejects anti-gay bigotry. It's not the underlying source of this evil.

I don't believe a word of the bible, nor do I believe any of the spiritual statements in the Koran or the Vedas. But I am not so narrow-minded as to deny myself the value of learning what I can from any source.

Ouch! That is a deep cut, dr kellie, with a wound that cuts deeply. I, too, know the cruelty of religious "morality" and it is more like learning how to survive domination. For me, religion does poison everything, from family life, to business, and certainly to the people who believe the Earth is here to serve their purposes. 

let's not forget Luara's point that religion provides moral guidance to the less intelligent portions of our population.

I didn't say "less intelligent".  So far as I know, religion tries to pass on some - wisdom as you put it - to everyone, and intelligent people are no less likely to need this wisdom, than others.

Intelligent people are perhaps even more likely to neglect this wisdom, because they've found their own rationality useful, and they can over-use it. 

There are consequences that are way beyond our ability to predict.

And, people's evaluation of consequences is inevitably biased towards their own interest, and their own perspective. 

That is where moral principles, given power and influence by religion, are important. 

As an example - the atomic bombings of Japan, this horrendous slaughter of civilians - are defended by utilitarian arguments.  The argument is that they "saved lives". 

Truman, when he ordered the bombs dropped on cities, was motivated by utilitarian arguments. 

Yet, from the perspective of many years later - these bombings started the Cold War.  They gave a huge impetus to proliferation of nuclear weapons, which is one of the most dangerous predicaments facing the world today.  We may have a nuclear holocaust that is in part, a result of the atomic bombings of Japan.

And the United States lost a lot of moral capital as far as the rest of the world was concerned, by doing this dramatically inhumane thing.

I don't know that if the atomic bombs had been detonated only in a demonstration on an uninhabited island - that the world would be a better place.  That's a huge question, beyond my judgement.

Ultimately it has to be a matter of faith, to be moral and humane. 

I have that faith, not from religion, but from suffering very abusive parents when I was very little.  I have that experience of being run over by evil people, deeply etched into my psyche. 

Do people get that faith, in other ways than religion or personal suffering?  I don't know. 

"Yet, from the perspective of many years later - these bombings started the Cold War."

Luara, do you disagree that the atomic bombings of Japan ended World War Two?

What later came to be called the Cold War began about thirty years earlier with a short hot war between America and the bolsheviks during the Russian revolution. President Woodrow Wilson did not want the communists to win so he sent troops.

Truman and company considered demonstrating the atom bomb on an uninhabited island. They concluded that if the bomb failed to explode, the Japanese militarists would have no reason to surrender. Because the Japanese had demonstrated earlier in the Pacific War that they would fight to the death, Truman and company did not want to lose many tens of thousands more lives by invading Japan.

I too survived violent parents. I don't see them or what they did as evil; I see them as not having learned from their parents what children need. What they didn't know, they could not teach me or my siblings. By not having children, I made my tiny bit of the world much better.

A saying in the group "Adult Children of Alcoholics" is, "My parents did the best they could and their best was horrible."

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