virtue of religion

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virtue of religion

Postby TerraFrost » Fri May 13, 2005 7:34 am

Do you think mankind is better off or worse off due to religion? Steven Weinberg - who won the nobel prize in physics for unifying the electromagnetic force and the weak force - seems to think man kind is worse off:

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

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Postby Gigafrost » Fri May 13, 2005 6:09 pm

There's certainly a lot of mixed feelings involved in the subject. I can understand where the whole "good people doing evil things" idea comes from, namely people doing things merely because their religion says they're good and they should do it.

But, on that note, the real problem there is "reality filters" which people use to ignore things when they're blatantly wrong so that they remain ignorant. It's definately not a religion-only thing, but it's something you mostly see in relation to religion. It's only a correlation, though. I'm not really sure if it's the desire for reality filters that cause ignorant idiots to turn to religion or if it's religion that creates these ignorant idiots. My feeling on this is that it's the later... indoctrination from birth... which means that at the moment I don't feel like religion is really good for humanity, although at least I have my head on straight enough to realize the limitations to that conclusion, though.

Unfortunately, with or without religion, there will still be many idiots in the world. :(
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Postby tsian » Wed May 18, 2005 3:08 am

Well, religion can certainly be a good thing, when it fosters community and support.

However, anything that preaches strict belief without questioning is generally not a good thing for people, I don't think.
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Postby Roadkill » Wed May 18, 2005 9:21 pm

religion, i think, is now a basis of human society. so it won't go away, whatever we think of it.
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Postby tsian » Sun May 22, 2005 1:56 am

.. a basis of human society... ?
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Postby Javafrost » Mon May 23, 2005 5:07 am

Well, religion is an integral part of the way most human societies are functioning. So it does seem a moot point, given that it isn't going away, as Roadkill pointed out. I'll still spew an opinion, though.

In my thinking, I always find it important to differentiate between religion and spirituality. To the extent that religion succeeds at helping some people grow, balance, connect, find peace, or meet whatever spiritual needs they have, then religion is an asset to humanity. Religion works well for many people.

When religion is misused, it's a detriment to humanity. To me, the worst misuse of religion is condemnation of anyone who doesn't believe the same way -- it's just one more way to dehumanize others, and to avoid looking at our own "stuff".

I don't think using or misusing or not using this tool called religion has anything to do with whether a person is an idiot. I do disagree with the assertion that it takes religion to make good people do evil things. I think good people can do evil things without religion.
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Postby Exalted Ugu » Mon Jun 06, 2005 2:50 am

What exactly is an evil person if it isn't someone who does evil things? There are no good religious people comitting evil deeds, there are evil religious people comitting evil deeds and justifying their actions by appealing to a higher power or a higher motive. Religion is a great tool for self-justification, and that's pratically all it gets used for in the mainstream west these days.

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Postby I am a mere shadow » Tue Jul 05, 2005 6:42 pm

every human has a thirst to worship... note that all cultures of the ancient world believed in a higher power, yet never made contact...
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Postby tsian » Wed Jul 06, 2005 12:04 am

A thirst to worship what, though? Perhaps it's just a need to believe in a simple explanation to complex problems, so as not to become obsessed with the working of the everyday world.
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Postby paleofrrrost » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:47 pm

What an interesting thread! :)

"I am a mere shadow" touched on the truth (my version of it, of course :))

I don't think every human has a "thirst for worship" so much as a "need for order", a need to explain why things are.

Here's my theory -- So far almost every characteristic of the universe exhibits polarity, positive-negative, push-pull, left-spin-right-spin, etc. One thing that always bothered me was the idea of entropy, that the universe is on a one way path to dissolution and disorder. The analogy that was always used to illustrate it was "the teacup" analogy.

Take a teacup. Throw it to the floor so that it shatters. Pick up the pieces. No matter how many times you throw the pieces to the floor, they will never spontaneously reassemble themselves into a teacup. Similarly, overall, matter and energy can only be used up, and the progress toward dissolution is inexorable.

It occured to me one day that there was a glaring fallacy to this analogy. How did the teacup "become" in the first place? It obviously exists, so it had to become a teacup somehow. Some person *made* that teacup. The analogy falls short because it assumes that humans are not part of the natural order of things, and therefore anything we create is "outside" the rules of nature.

So, if we assume that humans are part of the natural order of things, what does that say about the universe? Without going through my whole twisted tale of how I arrived at my conclusion, let me just state it -- creation and the ordering of things is a characteristic of the universe, the "force" if you will that balances entropy.

Think about it. Whatever you think about how the universe started, it's obvious (to the best of our knowledge) that it organized itself into galaxies, nebula, stars, and planets. And it's obvious on at least this planet that it further organized itself into rocks, water, oceans, mountains, and eventually into entities that that take in matter and energy and reorganize it into something different, that can reproduce, that spread. And we are one of the current results of that increasing organization of matter and energy.

So, back to the subject. We are a product of this natural tendency of the universe to organize itself. Even when we are not cognizant of its true nature, we know "something" is there, that there is some "force," some "creative agency," some "organizing principle," that is responsible for the world we inhabit. We are, after all, a direct result of it.

When we knew less about the world, the idea of a god or gods seemed like a good explanation for this thing that we "knew" but could not explain. In almost every facet of human existence, as we learn more about the nature of things, old explanations no longer work. Everywhere except religion.

In religions that teach that they are "THE TRUTH," it is extremely difficult for adherents to accept change. So people are willing to fight to the death to protect their version of "THE TRUTH." Their incorrect concept of the creative, organizing principle leads them to embrace it's opposite, the destructive, disorganizing principle that we know as entropy.

So, in short, I think that religion is a natural result of a need in every human to explain and understand, to have a sense of order about their world. The explanations that worked a thousand years ago don't work now, and a religion that defines itself by holding blindly to tradition actually subverts the spiritual aspect of human nature that created the religion in the first place.

I better stop now, before I'm struck by (en)lightening. hehehe
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Postby I am a mere shadow » Fri Aug 12, 2005 9:40 pm

GOOD VERY GOOD!! ^_^

therories are always a good way to recognize religeon!!! :D

But are'nt we all forgetting that special someone who

-made a blind man see

- brought a guy back to life

-walked on water

- turned water into wine

- made a feast out of three loaves of bread

- came back to life himself


Now you all can say that he may have never existed, but I'm not quite sure people lied about that kinda stuff if they're putting in a book.

And if that has been believed for 2000 years, why stop now?
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Postby tsian » Sat Aug 13, 2005 7:57 am

Similarly, overall, matter and energy can only be used up


I was actually under the impression that we were pretty sure that, as a general rule, we could neither create, nor destroy, energy.

The analogy falls short because it assumes that humans are not part of the natural order of things, and therefore anything we create is "outside" the rules of nature.


Things in nature can't manipulate nature? Didn't the human just assemble a bunch of other parts into what we call a teacup, essentially creating nothing?

Now you all can say that he may have never existed, but I'm not quite sure people lied about that kinda stuff if they're putting in a book.


Do you believe everything you read? Have you ever witnessed the same thing as a friend, but come away with two seemingly different explanation as to what has happened? Ever seen a magic show?

And if that has been believed for 2000 years, why stop now?


Lets see. For a long time we believed in a flat earth. We believed in superior and inferior races. We believed in slaves. We believed in healing through bloodletting. We believed that women were inferior. .. etc, etc, etc
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Postby TerraFrost » Sat Aug 13, 2005 4:00 pm

tsian wrote:
Similarly, overall, matter and energy can only be used up


I was actually under the impression that we were pretty sure that, as a general rule, we could neither create, nor destroy, energy.

I think he's refering to the second law of thermodynamics which states that the overall entropy of a closed system tends towards disorder. It's a pretty common argument given against evolution, actually.

The teacup example is flawed in that the system it attempts to represent - a closed system - is not truely representative of the Earth - which is an open system.

Basically, just because the overall system may be tending towards disorder, things within that system will tend to order. As an example, say you have 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Each number, save for the number 1, is preceeded by the number that naturally preceeds it. "Shuffling" this can yield anything, such as 1,2,5,4,7,6,9,8,10,3. Note that 2 is still preceeded by the number that naturally preceeds it. So despite the shuffling, there's still order within the system that has had its overall disorder increase. If you calculate the probabilities, in fact, you'll probably find that you're much more likely to have some order within the system than you are to have a system without any order.

This is basically what entropy states, and pursuant to the whole theory of entropy, the Earth just represents some small order in a universe whose overall tendancy is towards disorder.

Gigafrost could probably explain better than I could (and could probably make some additional points, too)...
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Postby Exalted Ugu » Wed Aug 17, 2005 8:13 am

"Now you all can say that he may have never existed, but I'm not quite sure people lied about that kinda stuff if they're putting in a book.

And if that has been believed for 2000 years, why stop now?
"

Oh ye gods... if this wasn't so obviously a troll.... *sniff* why do the perfect posts always let you down?


Paleofrrost:

Although you are right in that human activity increased order in creating a teacup out of raw materials, the theory does take into account the general increase in disorder caused by the processing of the materials and the use energy in creating that teacup. You would find, were it possible to track it, that in creating that cup you create more waste heat, and reduce to uselessness more useful material than you could possibly extract from the finished product. No scientific theory in common knowledge is going to be so blind as to place humans into a special category of existence, the analogy (which is indeed flawed) is not placing humans into a special category, nor would any scientific theory assume that ANYTHING is "outside" the rules of nature.

Quite the opposite, you see, to invent a special category of action, that of creating, that you believe is somehow reducing entropy. But can you counter the assertion of the theory that any localized increase in order is simply the random eddies of a complex system, and that further, any local increase in order is not only balanced but slightly exceeded by a global decrease?


I do agree with you that faith and religion is little more than an intellectual crutch, a way for weak people to feel less powerless in an inhuman and infinite universe. A way to feel that you have even a little control over what is going to happen to you, that your life matters in the long run. Some people belive that if they supplicate and debase themselves enough, worship and beg at the feet of the Almighty, he might just toss them a few scraps from his divine table. If they just lick enough boot, they might just live another few days. As science gives us more and more explanations for the phenomena around us, and more control over them, I predict a decline in faith and religion (which has happened, and i believe will continue to happen), though the fear of death will still drive some people to absurdity.

Personally, i simply choose to believe in nothing supernatural. It may exist, or it may not. I don't know, have no way of knowing, and have long since ceased to care.

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Postby paleofrrrost » Tue Aug 23, 2005 6:58 pm

Exalted Ugu wrote:Paleofrrost:

Although you are right in that human activity increased order in creating a teacup out of raw materials, the theory does take into account the general increase in disorder caused by the processing of the materials and the use energy in creating that teacup. You would find, were it possible to track it, that in creating that cup you create more waste heat, and reduce to uselessness more useful material than you could possibly extract from the finished product. No scientific theory in common knowledge is going to be so blind as to place humans into a special category of existence, the analogy (which is indeed flawed) is not placing humans into a special category, nor would any scientific theory assume that ANYTHING is "outside" the rules of nature.

Quite the opposite, you see, to invent a special category of action, that of creating, that you believe is somehow reducing entropy. But can you counter the assertion of the theory that any localized increase in order is simply the random eddies of a complex system, and that further, any local increase in order is not only balanced but slightly exceeded by a global decrease?


An analogy is an illustration, not to be confused with the real thing.

All the talk about localized increase in order while the overall system order decreases, is exactly what the current theories describe. I used a flaw in the analogy of the teacup to illustrate a potential flaw in, or at least a potential alternate view of, the theory of entropy.

Someone earlier challenged my statement about matter and energy being "used up." That in fact was a sloppy statement. If the current theories are correct, the total matter and energy in the universe is not "used up." They can be transformed back and forth into each other, but the total remains the same. What get's "used up", or decreases, is the total "information" in the system, the total order.

But, are we sure about the extent of the system being just "our universe?" Here are some of talking points:

1) I do not have the reference handy, but I have read a statement from a physicist talking about the "inside" of a black hole. He said that from an mathematical viewpoint, if you were inside a black hole, it would look to you just like our universe looks to us.

2) Over my lifetime I have heard several theories about the distant objects known as quasars, sources of huge amounts of energetic radiation at the apparent "edge" of the universe.

3) What if -- Our universe actually *is* the inside of a black hole, and the "big bang" was the initial collapse that started the black hole? And what if quasars are actually points on the event horizon where matter/energy is streaming into our black hole/universe? Wouldn't mean matter and energy (and 'information') are being added to the system?
;)

Exalted Ugu wrote:I do agree with you that faith and religion is little more than an intellectual crutch, a way for weak people to feel less powerless in an inhuman and infinite universe.


How can you "agree with me" when I didn't say that? :)

I do not agree with what you just said. What I think is that faith and religion are the natural results of our need to understand things, our need for order in the universe. And I'm saying that the "need for order" comes from somewhere, from something so innate, so essential to our very being, that until now we haven't been able to see it clearly. So, while religious dogma may miss the mark in terms of objective reality, the need for religion is the result of a fundamental characteristic of existence.

Exalted Ugu wrote:As science gives us more and more explanations for the phenomena around us, and more control over them, I predict a decline in faith and religion (which has happened, and i believe will continue to happen), though the fear of death will still drive some people to absurdity.


I believe as science gives us more and more explanations for the phenomena around us and the phenomena that are us, faith and religion and science will converge in true understanding.

Exalted Ugu wrote:Personally, i simply choose to believe in nothing supernatural. It may exist, or it may not. I don't know, have no way of knowing, and have long since ceased to care.


I think you are caught up in the snare of words. To me, the word "supernatural" is meaningless. If "nature" means "the universe," then there can be nothing "supernatural." Was it Heinlein or Lazurus Long who said something along the lines of "Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear to be 'magic' to those ignorant of the technology."

In the same way, the word "supernatural" can only mean "something I don't know enough to understand."

Also, it may be true that you "don't know," and that you "have long ceased to care", but saying "I have no way of knowing" is simply a statement of faith, not a scientifically accurate statement.
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