Is every type of religion bad?

106


Discussion by: sirious

Hey guys, I'm pretty new here. I apologize in advance for my lack of grammar (I'm Swedish…) I have a question for you, that I would be very glad if you could help me with. I have just started to read, for the second time, Dawkins "The God Delusion" and I have a question concerning the definition of religion. Because, to criticize religion, you first have to define it. I get the feeling that the types of religion that Dawkins mainly criticize are the ones that includes some type of faith. But, as we all know, not all religions have to include faith. That's mainly typical for the "religions of the book", which is Christianity, Islam and Judaism. What is there to be said about religions like, say, New Age, or, for that matter, some types of Hinduism and Buddhism? Not all religions main focuse lies on the belief of a higher power. Sometimes, like in Buddhism, it's even hard to define what is religion and whats philosophy. I would be very glad if you could help me with this, it's been making me scratching my head for a couple of days now :)

106 COMMENTS

  1. Easiest way to decide is by using the old saying “you will know them by thier fruits”.
    Obviously we know the fruits of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 6,000 years of some very horrendous atrocities commited in the name of thier God[s]. No need to elaborate any further on that.

    As for the rest, the way I see it is, if a religion helps improve a person’s life, and, does not try to interfere in anyone else’s, personally I have no issue.

    However, the very moment a religion tries to tread upon another person’s right to live as they wish, I do have issue at this point.
    Heck, I don’t care what people worship, tyhey could worship a walnut, for all I care. Just leave me out of it. lol.

    • In reply to #1 by Disturbed:

      Easiest way to decide is by using the old saying “you will know them by thier fruits”.
      Obviously we know the fruits of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 6,000 years of some very horrendous atrocities commited in the name of thier God[s]. No need to elaborate any further on that.

      As for the rest, the…

      But how can you avoid intruding in another person’s life? Everything out there is intruding in our lives. Nothing achieves such goal.

  2. You mention Buddhism, have you looked into their version of hell (Naraka)? There’s some pretty repugnant stuff in there. Also, people who are transgendered or have some kind of deformity are deemed to have accrued bad karma in a previous life. Here are the classic hallmarks of behavioural control through fear and divisiveness from people who don’t conform to social and physical norms, these properties are common in religion. If you look deeper at the others you mention, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find other examples of prejudice and immorality.

    You also said that not all religions have to include some type of faith. Which ones of these that you exempt from faith only claim truths about the universe which are based solely on rationality and evidence? I can’t think of any off hand.

    • In reply to #2 by Mister T:

      You mention Buddhism, have you looked into their version of hell (Naraka)? There’s some pretty repugnant stuff in there. Also, people who are transgendered or have some kind of deformity are deemed to have accrued bad karma in a previous life. Here are the classic hallmarks of behavioural control th…

      Neopaganism and Wicca are pretty harmless.

      • In reply to #3 by Disturbed:

        In reply to #2 by Mister T:

        Neopaganism and Wicca are pretty harmless.

        They can be, but they do push people towards strong belief in woo, which can be harmful. Anti-vax, homoeopathy instead of medicine, etc. They can be actively intolerant of rationality. They aren’t always, but IMO they trend that way.

        It’s tricky: there’s an argument that most (or all) problems with religions are caused by doctrine and dogma, which seems to underlie a lot of NP thought and which is true up to a point. But it can be over-extended to include things that look a bit like doctrine and dogma, in particular repeatably demonstrable facts. It also excludes the problems caused by other aspects of religions, e.g. exploitation of cognitive bias and misleading intuition, things which are actively embraced by NP, sometimes with an awareness of their exclusively mental nature, often not. A difficulty with going beyond the idea that all problems with religion are caused by dogma is that none of the other problems are exclusive to religion: rather, religion without them leaves nothing.

    • In reply to #2 by Mister T:

      You mention Buddhism, have you looked into their version of hell (Naraka)? There’s some pretty repugnant stuff in there. Also, people who are transgendered or have some kind of deformity are deemed to have accrued bad karma in a previous life. Here are the classic hallmarks of behavioural control th…

      Indeed, the Dali Lama isn’t all that he is cracked up to be and the late, great Christopher Hitchens knew all about it and made no bones about saying so.

      We’ve all seen the antics of the Buddhist monks and Buddhists during hostilities in Indonesia.

      • In reply to #8 by Ignorant Amos:

        Indeed, the Dali Lama isn’t all that he is cracked up to be and the late, great Christopher Hitchens knew all about it and made no bones about saying so.

        From what I’ve seen of the Dalai Lama, he seems to be a generally well-meaning, nice fellow. (I haven’t read his stuff extensively, I might add). However I find some of what he says to be very trite, it amuses me how people seem to think he’s saying incredibly profound and practical things. I grant that I may be misjudging as I don’t know a great deal about him.

        • In reply to #10 by Mister T:

          From what I’ve seen of the Dalai Lama, he seems to be a generally well-meaning, nice fellow. (I haven’t read h…

          His views on abortion, homosexuality and sex in general leave a bit to be desired for starters. But enough of the OT and lets get back on topic.

          • In reply to #13 by Ignorant Amos:

            In reply to #10 by Mister T:

            From what I’ve seen of the Dalai Lama, he seems to be a generally well-meaning, nice fellow. (I haven’t read h…

            His views on abortion, homosexuality and sex in general leave a bit to be desired for starters. But enough of the OT and lets get back on topic.

            I don’t know… the Dali Lama is often held up as an example of good religiousness, which seems pertinent to the question. More generally, I think it’s worth considering the questions “is there any type of religion that can’t become a harmful one?”, “what makes religions more and less harmful?” and “how do they acquire and lose these attributes?”

      • In reply to #8 by Ignorant Amos:

        In reply to #2 by Mister T:

        You mention Buddhism, have you looked into their version of hell (Naraka)? There’s some pretty repugnant stuff in there. Also, people who are transgendered or have some kind of deformity are deemed to have accrued bad karma in a previous life. Here are the classic hallma…

        If you take a look around, and you don’t always have to look too far, you’ll find out that a lot of celebrity figures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

        • In reply to #33 by whiteraven:

          In reply to #8 by Ignorant Amos:

          If you take a look around, and you don’t always have to look too far, you’ll find out that a lot of celebrity figures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

          Again, while I agree with that comment, nevertheless, it is a non sequitur and has no relevance to this discourse. Even the evil that clerics of other religions carry out is just a bit of whataboutery. The subject at hand is the “bad” within Buddhism and does it exist? My theses is that Buddhism contains badness and requires a personal investment of some kind without return…which is a waste we as individuals can ill afford given our finite time here. Some more finite than others if unfortunate.

          • In reply to #40 by Ignorant Amos:

            In reply to #33 by whiteraven:

            In reply to #8 by Ignorant Amos:

            If you take a look around, and you don’t always have to look too far, you’ll find out that a lot of celebrity figures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

            Again, while I agree with that comment, nevertheless, it is a non sequitur and…

            It was a direct response to #8 and, to put it plainly, that Hitchens and some other popular atheists are not necessarily all they are cracked up to be, and have been criticized in terms ranging from pompous, egotistical, sexist to misogynistic. It’s rare that anyone will stand up to close scrutiny and not be found wanting in some way by someone. I’ve had some things brought to my attention, I looked into them; I’m still a fan of there folks but evaluate through clearer lenses.

            I doubt we’d find any claims or belief of infallibility among any of these individuals, not even from the only one I know to be attributed with infallibility, one of our favorite whipping boys, the pope. :)

            Where they fall short as men or women, it diminishes their reputation but it does not negate where they are righteous or courageous.

          • -In reply to #50 by whiteraven:

            It was a direct response to #8 and, to put it plainly, that Hitchens and some other popular atheists are not necessarily all they are cracked up to be, and have been criticized in terms ranging from pompous, egotistical, sexist to misogynistic. It’s rare that anyone will stand up to close scrutiny and not be found wanting in some way by someone. I’ve had some things brought to my attention, I looked into them; I’m still a fan of there folks but evaluate through clearer lenses.

            That’s as maybe, but none of those ‘celebrities’ are claiming to be the spiritual leader of a nation with millions of adherents looking to them for leadership and example.

            If the Dalai Lama has issues with homosexuality for example, then no matter what his reasoning, he is no better than those other homophobic religious leaders…which is bad.

            The Dalai Lama said the same Buddhist scripture that advises against gay and lesbian sex also urges heterosexuals to refrain from oral sex, anal sex and masturbation. “Even with your own wife, using one’s mouth or the other hole is sexual misconduct,” he said. “Using one’s hand, that is sexual misconduct.”

            The OP is about the bad aspects of religions, any religions that means, and in whatever way that badness manifests itself in modern society.

            The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter who you think isn’t as cracked up as they ought to be, what matters for the purpose of my theses is the fact that the 14th Dali Lama definitely isn’t…everything else is just whataboutery and of no relevance.

    • In reply to #2 by Mister T:

      You mention Buddhism, have you looked into their version of hell (Naraka)? There’s some pretty repugnant stuff in there. Also, people who are transgendered or have some kind of deformity are deemed to have accrued bad karma in a previous life. Here are the classic hallmarks of behavioural control th…

      Naraka is originally a Hindu concept. I don’t think Buddhism is monolithic and do think there is a significant secular component. See Modern Buddhism. My impression is that the mystical/superstitious forms of Buddhism were strongly influenced by Hinduism and that the original teachings of the Buddha were much more secular than what came later; for instance see Pre-sectarian Buddhism. It might be useful to be acquainted with the basic teachings which strike me as philosophical and not religious; for instance see Buddhist philosophy.

      It disappoints me when opinions based on incomplete information or misunderstandings appear in these forums. but hopefully there’s openness to increased understanding.

      • In reply to #16 by whiteraven:

        In reply to #2 by Mister T:

        You mention Buddhism, have you looked into their version of hell (Naraka)? There’s some pretty repugnant stuff in there. Also, people who are transgendered or have some kind of deformity are deemed to have accrued bad karma in a previous life. Here are the classic hallma…

        It disappoints me when opinions based on incomplete information or misunderstandings appear in these forums. but hopefully there’s openness to increased understanding.

        Of course there is openness to increased understanding. Yet we need to understand that like all religions, Buddhism has evolved to include all sorts of tripe from the sublime to the ridiculous. I suppose we should be no more be generalizing about Buddhism than Christianity or Judaism…or even Islamism. The devil is in the detail as they say.

        • In reply to #17 by Ignorant Amos:

          In reply to #16 by whiteraven:

          In reply to #2 by Mister T:

          You mention Buddhism, have you looked into their version of hell (Naraka)? There’s some pretty repugnant stuff in there. Also, people who are transgendered or have some kind of deformity are deemed to have accrued bad karma in a previous l…

          I appreciate what you are saying. The significant distinction I’m pointing out is that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. are antithetical to secularism or atheism, whereas I think the core of Buddhism is non-theistic. My view, supportable I think, is that the original teaching of Siddhārtha Gautama were secular. The propensity for superstition in the face of ignorance, hunger for religion (doesn’t it make sense for people who have nothing but short miserable existences?) and its usefulness for social control seem to inevitably result in the bastardization and distortion of the original thoughts of all “prophets”. It can only be worse when they present themselves as a continuation of the theistic tradition that produced them. If you haven’t run across this here before, Was the Buddha the First Humanist?.

      • In reply to #16 by whiteraven:

        Naraka is originally a Hindu concept. I don’t think Buddhism is monolithic and do think there is a significant secular component. See Modern Buddhism. My impression is that the mystical/superstitious forms of Buddhism were strongly influenced by Hinduism and that the original teachings of the Buddha were much more secular than what came later; for instance see Pre-sectarian Buddhism. It might be useful to be acquainted with the basic teachings which strike me as philosophical and not religious; for instance see Buddhist philosophy.

        It disappoints me when opinions based on incomplete information or misunderstandings appear in these forums. but hopefully there’s openness to increased understanding.

        That’s fine and I’m open to new information and understanding, and I’m sure there are schools of Buddhism which do not teach these exact doctrines and focus more on the secular ideas. I did not mention this originally because to me that was an obvious scenario. I take it for granted that religions have sects and off-shoots. However, from what I have read, these dimensions of suffering that are correlated to behaviour in this world are mentioned in contemporary Buddhist teachings. The same goes for negativity about homosexuality etc. It’s a bit like how some Christians often shy away from the Old Testament in preference for the New but are still under its influence despite their reinterpretations. Ok, the New Testament may be marginally better in terms of morality (debatable) but it’s still part of the religion.

  3. I’m not extremely well versed in it, but Japanese Shintoism seems to be one of the most peaceful and non-intrusive religions. They simply believe that everything has a spirit and anyone can become a kami (god). There are no real rules or laws they have to follow; the rituals they do have are up to the person to decide how to perform and are often just offering respects through prayers and donations at shrines.

    • In reply to #4 by dirtyshoes:

      I’m not extremely well versed in it, but Japanese Shintoism seems to be one of the most peaceful and non-intrusive religions. They simply believe that everything has a spirit and anyone can become a kami (god). There are no real rules or laws they have to follow; the rituals they do have are up to…

      WW2 must have been an aberration in that peaceful tradition. :)

      To get more info, check out wikipedia or BBC Religion.

    • In reply to #4 by dirtyshoes:

      I’m not extremely well versed in it, but Japanese Shintoism seems to be one of the most peaceful and non-intrusive religions.

      You know the Kamikaze were followers of Shinto, right?

  4. Well, let’s clear something up here. First Dawkins says in the God Delusion that he is mostly dealing with Christianity and the other two Abrahamic faiths and their offshoots. He explicitly says that he doesn’t consider things like Buddhism or even Hinduism as ‘religion’ as more a philosophy to live a good life.

    That being said I think that any system of ideas that make you conform or believe something that there is more to this life or that you need to think A, B, C etc can be considered a religion and far as I’m concerned, dangerous. You mention New Age. A lot of New Age adherents are anti-vax for instance and have this idea that nature provides you with what you need to fight all diseases. I’m not referring to medicine here. There is still a strong belief that Vitamin C will cure cancer. Things like that. This is part of New Age thinking. So not so much a religion but a false way of thinking. Keep in mind I’m not saying all people who go with New Age is like this but you don’t have to go too far to deep to see this type of thinking.

    • In reply to #5 by Nick LaRue:

      Well, let’s clear something up here. First Dawkins says in the God Delusion that he is mostly dealing with Christianity and the other two Abrahamic faiths and their offshoots. He explicitly says that he doesn’t consider things like Buddhism or even Hinduism as ‘religion’ as more a philosophy to live…

      I agree. I know people that aren’t religious per se, but who believe crop circles have some supernatural cause/significance, believe in astrology, are pro alternative medicine and anti modern medicine, etc. While the book focuses on Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, a main point of the book is that one of the dangers of religion is the value it places on faith (belief in something without evidence). You can have faith in different things without the belief that there is a higher power. Even if a religion doesn’t have all the potentially harmful components discussed in this book, it can still be harmful if it places a value on believing in something without evidence. Believing that vaccines cause autism, or that the risks of vaccines out weight the benefits despite ample evidence to the contrary, is harmful. Belief in an omnipotent being who has a predetermined plan for all our lives could be additionally harmful by removing the feeling of responsibility for one’s own actions. Believing in immortal souls could also make one less concerned with the environment and the lives of others since this planet would be viewed as only a temporary place of residence for a relatively short amount of time. A religion with only some of these components might have less of a negative impact than one with all of them. Each religion would have to be evaluated individually. Faith in general is the biggest problem in my opinion, simply because without it no one would believe all the other nonsense. If we could get everyone to think critically and require evidence before believing things then we could focus more attention on solving the world’s problems, rather than fighting over whether evolution should be taught in schools, whether vaccines are dangerous, or whether abstinence only sex education is effective.

  5. It depends what you mean by bad.

    At the very least, religions rob their adherents of some kind of investment. Given that we have a finite time here, I think on the whole, this is bad.

    Now, there are those that will say that the investment they invest is not being robbed i.e. helping others less fortunate, but this sort of investment is not exclusive to the religious. It is the associated caveats to this sort of investment that robs folk. There is always some sort of cost to the adherent of a religion, whether it be time, financial, spiritual….religions are built on it.

    Just my thoughts.

  6. “Men and women carry different energy,” said His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, a monk who ranks only slightly below the Dalai Lama in the global Buddhist hierarchy. “Both male and female energies are needed to better the world.”

    This, he said, was a scientific principle “as fundamental as the relationship between the sun and the moon” and its importance was similar to that of the particle collisions in CERN’s vast “Big Bang” machine, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/16/us-science-cern-nuns-idUSBRE8AF10A20121116

    …And that pretty much sums up the derp that is Buddhism

    • In reply to #7 by RonL:

      “Men and women carry different energy,” said His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, a monk who ranks only slightly below the Dalai Lama in the global Buddhist hierarchy. “Both male and female energies are needed to better the world.”

      This, he said, was a scientific principle “as fundamental as the relations…

      If you read Yin and Yang, I think you’ll have a better appreciation for this. Freud and Jung (Anima and Animus) seem to have had similar thoughts about the male and female psyche. You could also go to a blood lab and compare your testosterone and estrogen levels to a woman’s. Your brain’s soaking in it and If you vary the balance, your “energy”/personality will change.

  7. Sam Harris postulated a religion in the Four Horsemen video that had to do with teaching science. It was intended to posit that even a helpful religion that still relies on a lie isn’t good. I somehow get the feeling that no matter how hard you try to invent a completely harmless religion, one that does nothing but uplifting, socially rewarding things, you are still going to end up with a downside that is indefensible at best and downright malevolent at worst. It’s the human element, even the atheist and skeptic communities have their over-the-top zealots that demand purity of purpose and message to the detriment of inclusion.

    • In reply to #12 by A3Kr0n:

      Is every type of religion bad?
      Is every type of murder bad?
      Is every type of rape bad?
      Shall I continue?

      In the order the questions are posed: No(&), Yes with exception(#), Yes, No.

      ($) If a theistic belief is personal and otherwise has no difference with a secular belief system and is even allied with anti-religious/free-thought positions on separation, education, choice, etc. what is bad about that? It is essentially equivalent to the atheist position but making a different conclusion on the indeterminate existence question.

      (#) Killing Hitler would be justifiable on the basis that the good far outweighs the bad. This is not morally equivalent to the railroad switch dilemma. Similarly for killing to defend the lives of others. To be consistent, I suppose lesser acts would have to be evaluated in a similar way. In principle one can state absolutes but pragmatically a choice based on the lesser evil seems defensible.

  8. I think all religious beliefs are harmful to some degree.

    They all restrict the ability of people to make informed, logical and objective decisions. This is a restriction upon people’s freedom and diminishes their opportunities in life.

    I think all religious beliefs and practices are bad in that they lend respectability to the existence of other religious beliefs and practices that can be directly very harmful.

    The sheer breadth of different religious beliefs, and all other kinds of superstitions, can make it very difficult to single out the dangerous religious practices for criticism. The most obvious example of this is how difficult it is to criticise Islam when it drives someone to blow up innocent people, as it does on a daily basis, without incurring accusations that such criticism is an insult against everyone unfortunate enough to have been declared a Muslim.

    People often claim that religion provides a basis for things like a sense of community, and that it helps people deal with problems like bereavement, but I think religion often causes the problems in the first place that it purports to resolve, by enforcing things such as guilt, ignorance and insecurity upon its followers. Almost everyone I know is non-religious and they manage to live very fulfilled, sociable lives, and cope as well as anyone could with life’s harshest problems, without the need for an accompanying superstitious jamboree.

  9. Religion:
    “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”.
    (from Oxforddictionaries.com)

    1. In the absence of evidence for such a “power”, we can reasonably argue that all religions are based on a false premise.

    2. Since there is more than one religion, and because many of these religions claim knowledge of unique truths, we can reasonably argue that religions are divisive, and therefore harmful. (This is not to say that religions are solely harmful; just that they have a harmful component.)

  10. In my opinion,they’re all bad though there’s a sliding scale of badness. Some are slightly less harmful and more benign in intent than others. I think Buddhism probably falls into this category. Give any set of irrational beliefs enough time and the right circumstances and pretty soon a benign set can descend into the realms of the malevolent.

    Even though New Age stuff appears harmless, the adherents are not exactly ripping the beating heart from the breast of a virgin to make it rain, who can say what it will morph into under the right circumstances. It promotes irrational thinking like all the rest and that in itself is very bad.

    • In reply to #20 by Nitya:

      Even though New Age stuff appears harmless,… It promotes irrational thinking like all the rest and that in itself is very bad.

      Such a coincidence…my mother and partner returned from a shopping trip this evening with “ear candles” and even though my partner presupposed my reaction before parting with her euro, they both bought into the homeopathic tripe anyway. After pissing myself laughing at the pair of them, it took a quick Google to enlighten them both of the idiocy of their purchase. It was worth the money for the laugh though.

      Anyway, this woo woo is new age crap and it harms, ergo, it’s bad.

      • In reply to #23 by Ignorant Amos:

        In reply to #20 by Nitya:

        Even though New Age stuff appears harmless,… It promotes irrational thinking like all the rest and that in itself is very bad.

        Just checked out “ear candling”!! What can I say? Some people are keen to part with their hard earned money.

        Such a coincidence…my mother and partner returned from a shopping trip this evening with “ear candles” and even though my partner presupposed…

        • In reply to #24 by Nitya:

          Just checked out “ear candling”!! What can I say? Some people are keen to part with their hard earned money….

          Yep…human incredulity knows no bounds I guess…but at least you learned something new and got a laugh into the bargain, so at least not all bad }80)

  11. Some religions are worse than others, but none add anything to a well examined life. Obviously bad religions advocate violence, misogyny, and closing your mind to the evidence of the real world. Harmless religions advocate peace, brotherhood, and learning.

    BUT…

    All religions ask you to believe and do good things for bad reasons, when all of these same good beliefs and things can come from good reasons based on actual evidence about the real world. All religions ask you to fool yourself. These is nothing to be gained from any religion that you cannot gain from science and philosophy. All religions ask you do give certain beliefs a free pass from examination and reason – this can never be good.

  12. I really like most forms of Buddhism. Even though I think the reincarnation stuff is bunk, I really appreciate Buddhism’s emphasis on compassion for every sentient being and on questioning absolutely everything (even including very sense of self). Very healthy stuff.

    A long time ago, I asked this very kind Vietnamese guy in my class what Buddhism was about, as I did not have a clue. He said: “One must help.” Not bad!

    So I think some religions are just maybe a little silly, but not very much harmful…

  13. My former church, New Thought, is a type of New Age belief system. On the whole, they were perhaps one of the most positive, loving, accepting churches around. Much of their beliefs were helpful to me, to a point, but I couldn’t progress any further because I don’t have that lovey, mushy type personality and the inconsistencies in what they taught and what is actually true left me at a stand still. They did not believe in a personal Abrahamic God (some did); mostly it was a deistic religion. They claimed to be a philosophy, but they were a religion.

    I think most religions actually do have some sort of concept of a higher power. It is a matter of whether the higher power comes from an outside source as in Christianity, Islam, etc. or whether the higher power is indwelling – Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, etc. Some religions are also panentheistic – God is all and is in all. In the later two, God within and IS ALL, some sort of Consciousness (Ghost in the Machine) must exist, otherwise they would be totally materialists with a few wacky ideas. Bettering yourself and reaching higher levels of Consciousness is something stressed as worthy to attain. People are encourage to reach a Christ-like or Buddah-like level in their life. If you can’t do it, oh well, then there is reincarnation.

    With all these views, philosophies and religions, there is the idea of some sort of “energy” field that exists beyond the physical world and perhaps exists simultaneously with it. Faith or trusting the “truth” of the views exists in all religions and philosophies – even if it is trusting your Higher Consciousness.

    Why do I say my former church was a religion? Even though they encouraged people to pursue their own spiritual path, there were definite parameters or certain distinct teachings. With religions, you cannot completely get away with avoiding “rules.” The church may be free of dogma, rituals, etc. but I guarantee there are certain ways that one church is distinct and distinguishable from another.

    Back when I was a deist bordering on agnostic, I was surprised to meet so-called atheists that simply rejected the idea of the man-God up in the sky. They believed in reincarnation. Yes, they would technically be atheists, but I found it odd, that I as a believer/church goer was more atheistic. I personally needed to change the definition of atheist (for my own personal understanding and sanity) to mean someone who rejects all forms of God, external and internal “Consciousness” and adhered to a view of the material world being reality. If I did not change the definition for myself, I might still be stuck in ideological limbo because of not pursuing and uncovering what was actually true or not.

    Regarding comment 3: Some belief systems may not be harmful to others, but we build our lives around what we perceive to be true. If we have some deep rooted belief about something untrue, ultimately, it will affect us and indirectly affect others. If your off making a protection spell to ward off a bully, how is this the most ideal way of dealing with the challenge? Unfortunately, most all people have trouble dealing with personal relationships, religious or not. Depending on the belief system, some are better than others. The sooner we root certain life skills in truth, the more likely children and people will learn a way does not need to be corrected in the future because it is in line with healthy human psychology.

  14. I am very interested in this topic. I don’t claim my researches are exhaustive, but I retain a soft spot for Quakerism, which even boasts an atheist branch, as does a significant strand of Hinduism. Unitarians, in Britain at least, seem to welcome anyone and everyone and the god bit seems pretty optional: I hope I do not do them too great a disservice by saying they seem a bit like a social club for nice people.

    I’m less convinced about Buddhism. They gave the world the word kamikaze in WW2, and they are not being very nice to Muslims in Myanmar right now. I’m sure most Buddhists are good people, and they have the saving grace of revering a wise man rather than a god, but they do seem to harbour some loose cannons at times.

    • In reply to #37 by Stevehill:

      I am very interested in this topic…I’m less convinced about Buddhism. They gave the world the word kamikaze in WW2, and they are not being very nice to Muslims in Myanmar…

      Buddhism is not Shinto. The Japanese gave the world kamikaze, divine wind, 神風, Shintoism 神道, as well as Pearl Harbor. Notice and refer in particular to the shared ideogram . Compare with the Chinese etymology of . Emperor Hirohito was Shinto, not Buddhist.

      From wikipedia Hirohito: At the end of WW2, Gen. MacArthur arranged that Hirohito retained the throne and was not tried for war crimes but The Empero…was forced to explicitly reject (in the Ningen-sengen, ‘Humanity Declaration’) the State Shinto claim that (he) was an arahitogami, i.e., an incarnate divinity…(a claim further) motivated by…the Japanese constitution of 1889, (assertion that) the Emperor had a divine power over his country…derived from the shinto belief that the Japanese Imperial Family was the offspring of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Shinto is not Buddhism.

      The actions of some Buddhists in Myanmar do not define Buddhism any more than the actions of Stalin in Russia or Mao in China define Atheism. I’m not fully up on the details of Myanmar. Perhaps it is an open expression and acting-out of the same hostility toward Islam that has been voiced by people like Hitchens (especially), Dawkins and many commentators in these forums?

      There is a big difference between well-informed, reasoned anti-theism and anti-theistic bigotry. Maybe it’s time here that a distinction is drawn between the two and the latter dispensed with.

      • In reply to #48 by whiteraven:

        The actions of some Buddhists in Myanmar do not define Buddhism any more than the actions of Stalin in Russia or Mao in China define Atheism.

        Now you are talking rubbish I’m afraid. The Buddhist ‘MONKS’ inciting the murder of Muslims are sectarian. They maybe no more defining Buddhism than Catholic paedophile priests define Catholicism, but it is their religion and their position of authority within that religion that is facilitating the wickedness, so stop with the Stalin and Mao straw manning please.

        I’m not fully up on the details of Myanmar.

        Well maybe it might be worthwhile getting up to speed before further comment.

        Perhaps it is an open expression and acting-out of the same hostility toward Islam that has been voiced by people like Hitchens (especially), Dawkins and many commentators in these forums?

        Is that supposed to be some sort of argument in defence of the atrocity?

        There is a big difference between well-informed, reasoned anti-theism and anti-theistic bigotry. Maybe it’s time here that a distinction is drawn between the two and the latter dispensed with.

        Seriously? It is now religious bigotry to point out that it is a bad thing for Buddhist monks to incite adherents to the Buddhist religion to go out and hack to pieces any Muslims they might come across, just because they are Muslims. We seem to be at polar opposites as to what the word bigotry means I’m afraid.

        • In reply to #51 by Ignorant Amos:

          In reply to #48 by whiteraven:

          The actions of some Buddhists in Myanmar do not define Buddhism any more than the actions of Stalin in Russia or Mao in China define Atheism.

          Now you are talking rubbish I’m afraid. The Buddhist ‘MONKS’ inciting the murder of Muslims are sectarian. They maybe no more…

          I don’t suppose how obvious it is that the nature of this discussion is little different from what it would be if it was hosted at a religious web site and the various roles were reversed? There is so much rubbish, parroting of slogans, insult, ignorance, close-mindedness, bigotry and underlying sexism in these forums it is rather discouraging. If I put this in balance with the sort of performance that fellow Gish (of the Gish Gallop) it’s like having to face cleaning out the left or right side of the Aegean stables.

      • In reply to #48 by whiteraven:

        I beg to differ about kamikaze. My source is Christopher Hitchens (in “God Is Not Great”). Nominally peaceful buddhists in Japan were struggling in WW2 to serve their country and their emperor in war, and developed a philosophy called Imperial Way Buddhism (which basically allowed them to fight; I imagine the Japanese didn’t have a lot of time for conscientious objectors). One of the products of Imperial Way Buddhism was kamikaze.

  15. I think you are right to distinguish religions when considering how harmful they might be: otherwise, responses of the very real threats from the more dangerous – usually the ‘fundamentalists’ (be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc etc) can be weakened, as indeed they are, by apologists referring to less toxic varieties (amongst which probably Wikka and Shinto could be included.

    There is also, as you say, difficulties about definition ie the what is and is not a religion. Buddhism in its majority practice surely is – there are various gods, spirits, heavens and hells etc. Yet there are atheistic strands – I’m trying out something like that, or at least meditation along ‘BuddhIst’ lines.

    I think the underlying danger lies in belief in the supernatural, as this requires one to shut one’s eyes to the world around you (scientifically and, I’d argue, empathically), along with surrendering reason in regards to one’s fundamental values and submitting instead to the authority of a cleric /priest etc.

    Such unrealities can at best lead people to pursue empty and time wasting ideas (Wikka, ‘moderate’ Christians / Jews / Muslims), may make them excessively conservative (ancestor worship??), at worst render believers into flocks of sheep / mobs to commit atrocities (Crusades, violent Islamic jihaad). Even Buddhists have done as much.

  16. In reply to #32 by whiteraven:

    I appreciate what you are saying. The significant distinction I’m pointing out is that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. are antithetical to secularism or atheism, whereas I think the core of Buddhism is non-theistic. My view, supportable I think, is that the original teaching of Siddhārtha Gautama were secular. The propensity for superstition in the face of ignorance, hunger for religion (doesn’t it make sense for people who have nothing but short miserable existences?) and its usefulness for social control seem to inevitably result in the bastardization and distortion of the original thoughts of all “prophets”. It can only be worse when they present themselves as a continuation of the theistic tradition that produced them. If you haven’t run across this here before, Was the Buddha the First Humanist?.

    While I don’t have any truck with what you are saying here, the OP is asking a specific question.

    Is every type of religion bad?

    And more specifically…

    What is there to be said about religions like, say, New Age, or, for that matter, some types of Hinduism and Buddhism?

    So regardless of a religions inert origins, we are forced to address the question in today’s terms.

    So, that said, there are elements of Buddhism and characters of influence within Buddhism that are “bad”, subjectively speaking, to what most assume to be the case for that group. I linked to a specific example at comment 8, the monks inciting murder in Myanmar. Could you imagine the same scenario if C of E clerics did the same thing in London? The world would be down on them like a ton of bricks. As I said earlier, we are making generalizations which I’m less than happy with, and there are benign threads throughout out all religions, including Islam…but all require some sort of investment for nil return in my opinion, which makes them all a bad idea, generally speaking. But I’m up for addressing the merits of individual sects vis a vis the umbrella group if that’s where this is going. No doubt I will learn something, I usually do when visiting this site.

    • In reply to #41 by alistair.scott.71:

      Urm…. let me think… hmmm. Jedi? Jedi’s are pretty cool.

      Do ya think?

      Temple Of The Jedi Order Church Of Jediism

      With the 2011 Census forms sealed in their envelopes and ready to post to households across Britain, numerous Facebook groups have been created to encourage even more people to put their faith in the ‘Force’ and claim to be Jedis.
      The religion question is the only voluntary question on the form but Mr Benton says that the responses directly affect community services. “People are developing their local policy and activities on the basis of this information. I would urge people to give an accurate response,” he said.

      Believing in nonsense costs someone, something, somewhere…eventually.

      • In reply to #42 by Ignorant Amos:

        In reply to #41 by alistair.scott.71:

        Urm…. let me think… hmmm. Jedi? Jedi’s are pretty cool.

        Do ya think?

        Temple Of The Jedi Order Church Of Jediism

        With the 2011 Census forms sealed in their envelopes and ready to post to households across Britain, numerous Facebook groups have been create…

        Wow. No idea this actually existed. Previous joke retracted…

  17. I wouldn’t say all religions are bad. Most of the mainstream ones have been watered down to the point where they’re virtually aggrandized private hobbies or cultural things-to-do-on-a-Saturday. The most I’ll say about them is that they’re based on unjustified premises and fallacious logic, that secular alternatives do just as well if not better, and that they are at their best when going to church, praying at home, or loving the bible are treated as no different from preferring Star Trek over Star Wars, or preferring tea over coffee. The worst I’ll say is that they mislead people’s critical thinking skills, and get in the way of more valuable ideas. That’s a big kettle of fish all by itself, but it won’t be remedied until public understanding of science and philosophy improve, and that requires a revamping both of popular culture and of the education system.

    Ethically, I think the best defence of these mainstream religions is either irrelevance to ethics, and therefore pointing out that they are harmless, or getting to right conclusions from wrong arguments, e.g. being good because God gave them a moral sense. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s anything good about religion, and would rather see its incidence eradicated altogether in favour of secular humanism and science.

  18. We have all overlooked Pastafarnians and their religion. It seems to me to be the one chosen path to enlightenment and salvation.

    ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHH Matey! (I am currently in full pirate regalia including eyepatch and parrot.)

    If only to highlight the inherent silliness of it all; a quick google and visit to a couple sites is always worthwhile. FSM rules.

  19. In reply to #21 by Smill:

    Buddhism, ironically, appears to be an incredibly egocentric religion; obsessiveness about one’s own spiritual progress; non-attachment to life in order to achieve personal perfection and nirvana, and thereby avoid inevitable future reincarnations into a corrupt human world; in The Zen variant, answ…

    The pursuit of self-knowledge, the understanding of the interrelatedness and interconnection of all things, and the application of that in one’s life is not egocentrism. It is a path the vast majority of people are largely unaware of or engaged in.

  20. I would answer by saying that belief in things for which there is no evidence and/or in spite of contrary evidence is always bad. Faith is the denial of reason. Once anyone accepts faith is good, they are powerless to pass moral or intellectual judgment on any statement or belief another might proclaim, including that a terrorist act is the will of their god and therefore right. The intent of a person who has faith and who says faith is a virtue may not be evil, but the outcome is disarming oneself of any ability to explain why another’s faith is wrong. Accepting faith is accepting pure, total moral relativism. All faith is evil.

  21. You are right about definition, so, let us say that religion is a system that requires adherents to live according to certain principles just because there was (that is what they claim) a person that has either made up the system or written down what some superior (another claim) being has said (yet one more claim). But these principles are not universal! There are many situations they cannot be applied to (books were written when the lifestyle was different).
    And in addition the claims about being the best or the only right. Religions claim it, religious leaders claim it! As result there are many religious men live according to black/white (love/hate) principle. Take the well-known “homosexuals cannot be good, because scriptures do not say that. Of course it is a matter of taste and being inconsequent (when a zealot needs emergent operation he will not ask about sexual orientation of surgeon and anesthetist, yet here it has evolved to the idea (already too popular) that rape (or sexual abuse) of a female child that has reached puberty, is no rape! Because the Bible, sort of says that women are meant for childbearing, so the girls must thank God for having met a real man ….

  22. Indeed we have to begin with definitions. Not just the definition of religion but also the definition of ‘bad’ (or ‘good’).
    Nearly all religions order us to follow the rules that are useful in creating a stable society, (That is why societies following those religions have survived till today while others perished) such as ‘forgive those who harm you’ or ‘help/accompany others in good / useful work’ or ‘Defend people of your community when they are attacked by outsiders’. This creates a society in which people feel safe and happy. So maybe this is good. But most religions demand full faith.
    So if you are in search of truth, you may find religion to be a hurdle in your path. For example if you want to know why things fall when they are thrown upwards, and your leader says ‘Because there is no one up there to make any use of those things’ then you would not make any progress if you take his word for granted. When you are searching for truth you have to be prepared to accept it even if it is bitter, which means the truth may be harmful for your survival or your community’s survival in present conditions. Mr. A says to Mr.B, “I know a secret about one of your family members which you don’t know. If I tell you it will make you very unhappy. Would Mr B desire to know it even if it is a threat to the integrity of his family? What would you do if you were in place of Mr B? Here you have to define what is good and what is bad. It is up to you. If you choose to remain ignorant of the facts in order to save the system (family/community/country etc) then religion is good for you. If you choose to know the truth at the cost of breaking old patterns and being ready to face uncertainties at every step then (all) religion is bad for you.—-
    So, sirious, even if you do not agree with what I have said above, just try to define ‘bad’ as suggested by Ignorant Amos among others.

  23. There is one feature of Religion I find myself unwilling to dismiss automatically although Science/Atheism does – Religion’s invocation of what is always called in these columns the Supernatural. I’m cautious because I see no convincing explanation or line of enquiry about how whatever came first did so if preceded by nothing. Something from nothing? Because if it wasn’t preceded by nothing then we’re not talking about the first thing. How is Science or Atheism to explain this utterly fundamental problem by the material methods always used? This is not semantics or a set of all set-type philosophical paradox. This is the bedrock of all religious discussions, the only one which is scientifically worthwhile, surely? Transubstantiation, number of virgins for killing yourself and others etc are socially, anthropologically, politically very important and must be dealt with. But, I propose, they all rest on my earlier point. I don’t suggest a Supernatural explanation but I don’t quite reject one. Just to be clear, I can’t imagine the traditional Old Boy with a Beard or anything remotely like it; even the Great Algorithm has too much personality about it for my taste. But Science’s present approaches don’t fill me with any kind of hope and I remind myself that an awful lot of things over the centuries have been Unnatural or Supernatural until understood and then became mainstream fairly easily. I hope this doesn’t make me a deist since I can’t bear any of that anthropomorphic stuff but I have the uneasy feeling that Science may, in rubbishing Flatearthers, be doing some evading itself.

    • In reply to #57 by jburnforti:

      There is one feature of Religion I find myself unwilling to dismiss automatically although Science/Atheism does – Religion’s invocation of what is always called in these columns the Supernatural. I’m cautious because I see no convincing explanation or line of enquiry about how whatever came first di…

      What if a reply to what I think is your question, went along the lines of “the universe has always and will always be in existence”? How would you respond? Would a supernatural cause spring to mind? Would your reply be that it is highly unlikely for that to be the case? Maybe our universe is part of a multiverse?

      I’m not quite sure exactly what you’re saying, but I think your meaning may incorporate some sort of supernatural answer to the question , “where does the universe come from?”

      • Yes, you’re quite right i.e. where does the universe (and everything in it) come from? Always here? Used as we humans are to beginnings and ends as features of life, an eternal universe doesn’t seem comprehensible (and surely doesn’t accord with anything else we know scientifically?) Ditto multiverses, which sidestep that issue although otherwise as acceptable to me as other exotic theories. In other words, I don’t have any problem accepting the little I know of Evolution, Quantum Physics, String theory etc as reasonable and useful and credible explanations for the aspects of the universe they deal with. But while they can explain their part in the universe, there’s nothing about them to explain why there is a universe. And a universe which has always been in existence is an idea almost bigger for this little Poohbear’s brain than a Supernatural explanation. Particularly since I think we keep bandying the word “supernatural” around as an implied and automatically insulting criticism without a/ respecting the history of so much which would have been seen as witchcraft until understood and b/ being willing for Science to recognise that it, more than most branches of knowledge/understanding, has a history of accepting entirely new ways of thinking in order to progress. There are usually 2 rejoinders to this: 1/ that Science will welcome any hypothesis that’s verifiable and 2/ that there are many equally plausible explanations. Well, lack of verifiability isn’t an automatic logical rebuttal though that doesn’t give the Supernatural a Get Out Of Jail Free card either and as for the many equally plausible explanations, I haven’t encountered any and wish someone would suggest one. And so, to take us back to the OP, I hope, Religion has one, but only one, I suggest, positive feature which is its willingness to postulate an alternative to Science’s materialistic explanations even though its proposals are so crude and primitive. I apologise: having replied at greater length than I intended to, I’ve probably made my ideas less rather than more clear. Hey Ho.to #58 by Nitya:*

        In reply to #57 by jburnforti:

        There is one feature of Religion I find myself unwilling to dismiss automatically although Science/Atheism does – Religion’s invocation of what is always called in these columns the Supernatural. I’m cautious because I see no convincing explanation or line of enquiry…

        • In reply to #59 by jburnforti:

          Yes, you’re quite right i.e. where does the universe (and everything in it) come from? Always here? Used as we humans are to beginnings and ends as features of life, an eternal universe doesn’t seem comprehensible (and surely doesn’t accord with anything else we know scientifically?) Ditto multivers…

          Ah… So the question you are answering is actually , WHY there is a universe. What if there is no reason? What if it just is? Does that position bother you, because it doesn’t bother me. I find that in order to find a reason why, far greater problems arise.

          • You’re quite right, I allowed my habitual theme ” Why is there anything?” an attempt at hijacking the question. My apologies. More pertinently, I hope, what distinguishes religion from, say, philosophy usually has to do with some assumed “supernatural” component. If, leaving legal definitions aside, you wanted to call Zen Buddhism a religion, to my way of thinking you’d be stretching it. Nor, I think, would atheists get into a muck sweat. And, pursuing that, if there were a movement to teach Zen Buddhism in schools, any objections I might make would be for different reasons than for those re Catholicism or similar. But, in the end, when you encounter a religion, you tend to recognise it even should you be unable to define it. And atheists, at this point in time, should keep their powder dry and ignore movements like Scientology, at least as far as religious debate is concerned. Identifying religions is helped by their tendency to proselytise in a way that philosophies don’t, though that isn’t infallible. But, if that doesn’t help you, nor a good dictionary neither, then I suspect you’ll have to learn to live with it. n reply to #60 by Nitya:*

            In reply to #59 by jburnforti:

            Yes, you’re quite right i.e. where does the universe (and everything in it) come from? Always here? Used as we humans are to beginnings and ends as features of life, an eternal universe doesn’t seem comprehensible (and surely doesn’t accord with anything else we know…

          • In reply to #61 by jburnforti:

            You’re quite right, I allowed my habitual theme ” Why is there anything?” an attempt at hijacking the question. My apologies. More pertinently, I hope, what distinguishes religion from, say, philosophy usually has to do with some assumed “supernatural” component. If, leaving legal definitions aside,…

            Oops! My response #64 was meant to be in reply to you, but somehow became a reply to myself! Such are the vagaries of the system.

          • Equally, I intended the first part of 61 for you but the body of it was meant as a reply to the OP which I hope will explain the non sequitur. Meanwhile, I’ll need a little time to reflect on your points but will do so.In reply to #65 by Nitya:*

            In reply to #61 by jburnforti:

            You’re quite right, I allowed my habitual theme ” Why is there anything?” an attempt at hijacking the question. My apologies. More pertinently, I hope, what distinguishes religion from, say, philosophy usually has to do with some assumed “supernatural” component. If,…

          • And , yes, no reason does bother me for exactly the reasons expressed in your final sentence – but mostly because Science/Atheism is so rigid, I believe, in avoiding offering its own answers while deriding the, admttedly childish forms Religious dogma always takes and assuming that that also disposes of any “supernatural” (!) explanations for what is not exactly the easiest of questions to answer.reply to #60 by Nitya:*

            In reply to #59 by jburnforti:

            Yes, you’re quite right i.e. where does the universe (and everything in it) come from? Always here? Used as we humans are to beginnings and ends as features of life, an eternal universe doesn’t seem comprehensible (and surely doesn’t accord with anything else we know…

          • In reply to #62 by jburnforti:

            And , yes, no reason does bother me for exactly the reasons expressed in your final sentence – but mostly because Science/Atheism is so rigid, I believe, in avoiding offering its own answers while deriding the, admttedly childish forms Religious dogma always takes and assuming that that also

            It’s a pity that you don’t see the rigidity ( or lack of flexibility,if you like) as a strength. Using a standardized method of testing the validity of various claims, all over the globe, is the strength of scientific reasoning. It’s not arbitrary, doesn’t depend on the charisma of the person or persons doing the testing. One doesn’t end up with a different result in Rome or Tokyo.

            That’s not to say that the study of science is not creative! You first have to think of the questions and then set about testing them. That’s pretty creative and philosophical.

          • In reply to #63 by Nitya:

            In reply to #62 by jburnforti:

            And , yes, no reason does bother me for exactly the reasons expressed in your final sentence – but mostly because Science/Atheism is so rigid, I believe, in avoiding offering its own answers while deriding the, admttedly childish forms Religious dogma always takes and…

            While I’m in writing mode, might I add that the term “arrogance” is used quite frequently when arguing with atheists and science advocates. In my opinion, arrogance is in the eye of the beholder. I suppose it may seem arrogant when one is challenged to support an idea with some sort of tangible proof, however it is arrogance also when someone with my way of seeing and dealing with the world is asked to respect fanciful notions simply because someone in authority has put them forward. I have had individuals tell me that scientists are “arrogant” by way of argument, without removing the plank from their own eye and recognising that they’re doing exactly the same.

            I’m sure that you wouldn’t be so impolite as you’ve been courtesy personified, when putting forward your ideas.

          • Quite agree about standardisation where that is an issue which, I agree, it so often is. However, what often attaches itself to the coattails of standardisation is a requirement that what is being tested fit the rules rather than the the other way round and that works fine with ghosts, mediums, telepathy etc (let’s hear it for the Great Randi and Derren Brown) but attempting that with whatever created everything ( IF that were accepted as Supernatural) would be far more difficult – where would one start? Which leads me on to your point about Science asking interesting questions and answering them fruitfully. I don’t believe the Supernatural as an explanation for the Creation has experienced serious testing. It’s difficult to see how it could but that doesn’t stop Science/Atheists dissing it in no uncertain fashion. So I’d like to propose a thought experiment as follows: Somehow, we are able to confirm there is a Supernatural explanation for the Universe. Wouldn’t we then, having hindsight, say that anything and everything is evidence for this? Which puts us, at present, in the same position as any detective – without knowing what the context is, he can’t say whether he’s looking at evidence of a crime or just stuff. I suggest that for anything and everything to exist, something more than contempt and indifference to religion’s most basic tenet (Supernatural causes) is required. Do please remember that I’m not an advocate for all the squirrel minded junk that goes with Religion, it’s just that I’d like to see Science annexing Religion’s territory instead of slash-and-burning it. As usual, I managed to get off the subject. Apologies.ply to #63 by Nitya:*

            In reply to #62 by jburnforti:

            And , yes, no reason does bother me for exactly the reasons expressed in your final sentence – but mostly because Science/Atheism is so rigid, I believe, in avoiding offering its own answers while deriding the, admttedly childish forms Religious dogma always takes and…

          • In reply to #67 by jburnforti:

            Quite agree about standardisation where that is an issue which, I agree, it so often is. However, what often attaches itself to the coattails of standardisation is a requirement that what is being tested fit the rules rather than the the other way round and that works fine with ghosts, mediums, tele…

            Okay, I think it’s fair to say that a “deist” position satisfies you as a means of explaining the universe, as it does a great many others trying to reconcile their ideas of science and religion. (I use the term loosely). And, you also think an effort should be made ( or at least not dismissed out of hand), towards this end. Am I right in my assumption, or am I making a logical mistake?

            A supernatural cause is an explanation, but is it the best explanation? That is the question. If you follow the line of reasoning through you must eventually come to the point when you ask yourself why! Why would a supernatural entity bother to create a universe or multiverse etc. To my mind that’s anthropomorphizing the whole quest for an explanation. As you said in an earlier post, we humans like beginnings and ends, objects and creators of objects, so it fits neatly into our mindset.

            Sometimes one needs to get away from our natural, emotional mindset, and see things differently. As I said earlier, it doesn’t bother me in the event of an eternal universe, or set of universes, or big bangs followed by big crunches etc ad infinitum. If this isn’t the case, what existed pre-creation? That thought is every bit as troubling, to my way of thinking.

          • Your last sentence sums up my concerns ( though as I don’t have sleepless nights over the issues, that might be too strong a word). I don’t want to give the impression I support a Supernatural explanation since I don’t have strong convictions either way. I have woollier (though I believe coherent) views than that. What I’m against is Science/Atheisms’ basis for opposing it which doesn’t seem to me as logical as it claims on the tin. There’s no evidence? Well, I stand by my perhaps fanciful but seriously intended earlier view of how one defines evidence and that I offer in the glaring absence, I believe, of a Scientific alternative explanation. Because I haven’t come across one. Religion offers one, wacky as all get out, yes, but you can see what’s meant. And as for anthropomorphism, I’m not so sure Science/Atheism is entitled to take the high ground since much of the time it’s criticism of support for the Supernatural rests on its unverifiability and unfalsifiability which is asking something as colossal as the first time Creation from nothing of everything to be small enough for us to test it otherwise we’ll say we’ll ignore it or criticise it. I believe we’re stuck in History in the sense that every time someone discusses the numinous, all the old fairy story ideas of Religion cast their simpering little shadows (got carried away there and then fell in love with it. Apologies). I said, and I stand by it, that I wanted Science to take over this territory and its failure to do that is what I regret. Multiverses, by definition unverifiable, seem to me quite as fantastic theoretically as any Creative entity – and perhaps that’s a good thing. But, for all that, I’m not yet ready to propose an Old Boy in the Sky or to leave a note for Father Christmas (though they’ve always worked so far. Pull yourself together! Ed)In reply to #69 by Nitya:

            In reply to #67 by jburnforti:

            Quite agree about standardisation where that is an issue which, I agree, it so often is. However, what often attaches itself to the coattails of standardisation is a requirement that what is being tested fit the rules rather than the the other way round and that works…

          • In reply to #72 by jburnforti:

            Your last sentence sums up my concerns ( though as I don’t have sleepless nights over the issues, that might be too strong a word). I don’t want to give the impression I support a Supernatural explanation since I don’t have strong convictions either way. I have woollier (though I believe coherent) v…

            Funnily enough, I don’t think our views are at opposite ends of the spectrum, save for the fact that we possibly use different words for how we perceive the cosmos. The explanation of beginnings that I find satisfying, and that I’m capable of visualising given my tiny mind (ha ha), is that of an endless collection of bubbles. Universes pop up and disappear like bubbles in a bubble bath, some lasting a very long time while some disappearing almost as soon as they’re created. This state of affairs has probably always been thus.

            I think Laurence Krauss does a very good job in explaining his theories also, though I struggle with the concepts. I enjoy watching and reading about these things and trying to visualise exactly what is taking place.

            There are many other ideas that crop up, employing the mysteries of quantum mechanics. Perhaps there are alternative universes that overlap ours, though we’re not aware of them. It’s all so bizarre and yet possible! Fascinating.

            To sum up, none of the explanations put forward by scientists bothers me at an intellectual level, however all of the explanations put forward by religion in its various guises bother me beyond belief! I don’t find them satisfying at any level and mostly I find them an insult to my intelligence.

            Regarding testing the claims of a “supernatural” or other intelligent force behind the whole thing, I can’t see how it could be done and I don’t think it needs to be done. Because we have a brain and motivations, I don’t think we need to superimpose one onto anything else.

            It’s been an interesting conversation.

          • In reply to #67 by jburnforti:

            I don’t agree that, to your own words scientists/atheists ‘diss’ the idea of a supernatural creation.
            I think what most would say is that it is superfluous to any study of the creation of the universe. Either; the ‘event’, ‘creator’, ‘toaster’ (what ever supernatural first mover you fancy) is external to the universe and therefore cannot be studied, OR; the existence of such a supernatural creative force can add nothing to our understanding of our universe.

            I don’t think you can reject something which is not available for testing and is not falsifiable. You can make it irrelevant, however, by shining a light on the processes. Science is much more about the ‘how’ than the ‘why’, anyway.

            “I don’t believe the Supernatural as an explanation for the Creation has experienced serious testing”

            Can you think of a way by which this could be done?

  24. Im also new here (and swedish:) ,välkommen!
    As richard dawkins often points out, religion is believing in something for which there is no evidence. I think thats a good definition. Some magical beliefs are rather harmless (like buddhism) and I personally I dont feel the need to categorize them into religion/philosophy etc because they dont affect my life. Christianity,judeism and islam however do affect me and the society I live in in a negative way. I think richard talks more about these religions for the same reason. But of cause…however benign of a supernatural belief one holds, the fact remain…if there is no reason to believe in something, and one still do….its still a delusion. And organized delusion is religion.

  25. In reply to 71

    I think your first sentence is factually wrong. Watch Richard, the other Four Horsemen or A C Grayling on YouTube.
    I don’t fancy any Supernatural First Mover as I don’t say that there is one. I’ve no idea or opinion. But I don’t feel that the objections to one are sound as usually expressed. I don’t think something so outside human scale could be verifiable in the usual scientific way – this doesn’t make the idea false though it may make it unusable, even useless. Religion takes the dopey, irritating and almost always destructive view that it CAN make use of the idea and asks us to believe in and act on all sorts of nutty whims. Science/Atheism overreacts and throws the corn away with the chaff.

    The existence of such a Supernatural Creative Force could add everything to our understanding of the Universe – if we knew of it. How could we? Haven’t the foggiest. Even more so since there may not be one anyway. And if that’s the case, Science could perform part of its function, as I see it, by offering its own explanation of how something can come from nothing and why.

    Yes, possibly irrelevant but worth getting to the point where we can be sure.

    I can’t think of a way of testing the proposition and doubt if there is one. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not religious nor a supporter of religion and wish it would vanish from the face of the earth so we can get on with growing up. But I’m dissatisfied with how we’re trying to do that. Dismissing an idea on the basis of how clumsily it’s expressed isn’t my idea of scientific and suggesting as Science/ Atheists so often do that Science has better ideas than the Supernatural demands that one be offered. Know of any?

    • Reply to 75

      “Superior Beings – If they exist how would we know” by Steven Brams might entertain you. It’s a look at God from a Games Theory point of view and is about as wild, wacky and esoteric a book as you’ll find. It’s endlessly stimulating and, despite its perfectly serious themes, great fun. Enjoyed our exchanges.In reply to #74 by jburnforti:

      In reply to 71

      I think your first sentence is factually wrong. Watch Richard, the other Four Horsemen or A C Grayling on YouTube.
      I don’t fancy any Supernatural First Mover as I don’t say that there is one. I’ve no idea or opinion. But I don’t feel that the objections to one are sound as usually ex…

    • In reply to #74 by jburnforti:

      In reply to 71

      I think your first sentence is factually wrong. Watch Richard, the other Four Horsemen or A C Grayling on YouTube.
      I don’t fancy any Supernatural First Mover as I don’t say that there is one. I’ve no idea or opinion. But I don’t feel that the objections to one are sound as usually ex…

      The most sound objection to any sort of first mover/creative force (which by extension, is supernatural) is the problem of regress. Ok, we can propose a supernatural force which created our universe, but that still leaves us the problem of where such force came from. Another objection is that if there was a creating force, where is it now?

      The idea of a supernatural creator is dismissed from scientific study because if it is proposed it does not answer any questions, and it creates more. I’ve read Dawkins and Harris’ view on this and what I understand is this is what they are also saying.

      I’m not saying I ‘know’ that such a force did not exist (which, as you point out, and about which I agree with you, is the polar opposite of the assertion of most religions which is that they DO ‘know’), I just fail to see any gain in speculating on its existence. I think this is where we disagree, so I’d be interested to learn what you think we can learn.

      I don’t understand enough of the deep physics behind the multiverse idea, or string theory to comment on thse, but I’ll go out on a limb and say speculation on these subjects has some basis in our current understanding of the universe (i.e., they are possibilites for which empirical evidence MAY be found), which cannot be said for any supernatural explanation.

      • In reply to 78

        Infinite regress doesn’t seem to me the sort of problem which would invalidate a first mover/creative force for 2 reasons:

        1/ We’re not that unfamiliar with them in real life, I suggest. Off the top of my head, Mandelbrot fractals and 2 mirrors facing each other might qualify, mightn’t they?

        2/ I think if we encounter something we can’t explain, say Easter Island statues, to take a slightly lower level example, it’s a problem. Deciding (or not) to enquire into it is not the same as saying the problem doesn’t exist.

        If (and it’s the biggest IF in town) there was a creating force, your question about its whereabouts is like the joke:
        Q. Where does an 800 lb gorilla with an Uzi sit?
        A. Anywhere it likes.

        Well, it would answer questions, many, but it’s true it would raise more. I’m not at all sure what we would gain apart from knowledge but, humans being what we are, we’re not going to be able to resist the Siren call of our curiosity – as in this exchange, I suggest.
        Yes, I see that you have a fair point about the basis in current understanding for multiverses etc inasmuch as I know to little to dispute them and trust scientists to have reasons for these proposals rooted in substance. I have no reason to think otherwise.
        But they continually and continuously fail to offer their own suggestion/s about first causes, something one might normally expect to have to do in Science if objecting to a theory (you would not, however, need to do that with an ostensible fact, of course, as you would simply demonstrate its falseness) – and this makes me suspicious. Not only that, for anyone like myself who accepts beginnings and ends to everything we know about in the universe, to suddenly be asked to depart from that when questioning the origins of the universe itself seems quite a leap and as likely to be outside our understanding as in it. I don’t want to be a member of a generation as bigoted despite its cleverness as so many previous ones and I want to hear a convincing argument from Science that does some explaining – which I don’t think we’ve seen. And if Science/Atheism ignores this question, fair enough, but it’s no wonder crackpot religions exist to fill its place – because many millions of people are still ready to tell Science/Atheism “Your dismissal of this question is sending us the wrong message”. On the whole, I ‘m very glad that Dawkins, Hitchens et al. have raised the banner for anti-nuttiness – but I think there’s a different path to consider. Re-reading this, it seems dreadfully incoherent, hope you’re able to follow what I’ trying to say.
        .In reply to #78 by bob_e_s:*

        In reply to #74 by jburnforti:

        In reply to 71

        I think your first sentence is factually wrong. Watch Richard, the other Four Horsemen or A C Grayling on YouTube.
        I don’t fancy any Supernatural First Mover as I don’t say that there is one. I’ve no idea or opinion. But I don’t feel that the objection…

        • In reply to #80 by jburnforti:

          You’re right, infinite regress does not invalidate the concept (or reality) of a creating force for our universe, but it does obviously pose more questions. And I believe the problem of what initiated the creation of the universe has been universally acknowledged, and enquired into as far as is possible at this present time.

          I think it was Hawking who said that anything before the Big Bang or outside the universe is beyond our ability to detect, measure or record. Beyond the scope of science, in other words. Any creating force/entity must be external to the universe, and therefore not possible to detect. So speculating on its nature becomes a philosophical exercise. Enter religions.

          What science can tell us about is the mechanisms by which the Big Bang may have occurred, on a quantum level. It seems to me we are getting closer to understanding the first miliseconds of the universe’s existence, but in an empirical way. I personally find this much more interesting than speculation on a creating force.

          My concern would be that any attention science pays to the possibilities you argue for is that it distracts from the genuine research and gives value to mysticism/philosophy. It would be like assigning ‘god’ to the initiation of the process of abiogenesis. For a long time, that seemed the only possibility but we now know ways that self-replicating molecules can form from chemistry.

          Aside from that, I can’t think what questions you could ask about a supernatural creation even that could provide meaningful answers. Personally, now, I just don’t see the point. I can follow completely what you’re trying to say, and I’m not disputing it because I think you’re wrong. I think it’s an interesting question.

          • Thank you for your interesting comments.

            My real concern is that most of the time a postulated creating force either separate from, or anyway not visible, to our universe is confused/equated with religion which I think unscientific. Destroying religion/s is an imperative, surely, with all the harm and stupidity it has encouraged but we needn’t be so rabid in limiting speculation about first causes. Scientists who can see the difference have my support. As I suggested earlier, the otherwise reasonable point that that there’s no evidence is confronted by the fact that this very, very special case doesn’t necessarily fail to have any, it’s that we’re not in a position to judge it and, while that might sound like a trick point, of course it wouldn’t if it were true – and we can probably never know. One day there may be good reason to feel confident about first causes but till then I believe we should assert the distinction between speculation about them and religion and concentrate our energies only on ridding the world of religion. I’m more than willing to point out to people that while they might well find a 6 year old’s belief in Father Christmas charming, they’d probably find it very disturbing in a 26 year old and with nothing very different about the evidence for God, couldn’t we please move on in our beliefs. But, at the same time, I would at the very least be supportive of anyone puzzled by the idea of either an eternal universe, since we know of nothing else which is eternal, or a universe which had to start at some point and, if so, how? Unanswerable, of course, but not ridiculous. To quote Charles Richet (Nobel Winning Scientist) “I never said it was possible, I only said it was true”.

            However, I’ve probably laboured this point rather boringly and ought to stop now. All the best.

            reply to #81 by bob_e_s:*

            In reply to #80 by jburnforti:

            You’re right, infinite regress does not invalidate the concept (or reality) of a creating force for our universe, but it does obviously pose more questions. And I believe the problem of what initiated the creation of the universe has been universally acknowledged, and…

  26. What’s bad is believing something because you’ve been told to believe it (as a kid yatta yatta etc) and then finding something that makes that belief unsustainable. Using a telescope to find moons around Jupiter when the Church was pushing the geo-centric universe for example.

    If you believe witches are bad when you’ve never met one, and act accordingly this is bad for your social relationship with the fellow humans labled as witches (I know a number of withces. They’re not bad. Carzy, but not ‘bad’ )

    religion is a subset of philosophy. If you look at it as an ecomonical way to produce a power structure by teaching belief in a system It’ll make a lot more sense. It take 20 years and a lot of resources to train a person in a secular setting. It only takes seven years to produce a Christian soldier.

  27. Honesty compels me to add this. I’ve always loved this quotation because it seemed such an imaginative idea but had never thought to find out about Charles Richet and now have – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Despite winning a Nobel prize for hardheaded, properly scientific contributions to medicine, his views on mediums, after lives, ectoplasm and all the usual suspects were as dotty as those of other supporters. I continue to love the quote but might purse my lips just a tidge the next time I’m tempted to use it. Buyer beware, I suppose.

    • In reply to #83 by jburnforti:

      Honesty compels me to add this. I’ve always loved this quotation because it seemed such an imaginative idea but had never thought to find out about Charles Richet and now have – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Despite winning a Nobel prize for hardheaded, properly scientific contributions to me…

      Just because some of the things a person believe are wrong or dubious, it doesn’t mean everything they believe is. And vice versa.

      • Both possible and true!In reply to #84 by bob_e_s:

        In reply to #83 by jburnforti:

        Honesty compels me to add this. I’ve always loved this quotation because it seemed such an imaginative idea but had never thought to find out about Charles Richet and now have – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Despite winning a Nobel prize for hardheaded, properl…

      • In reply to #84 by bob_e_s:

        In reply to #83 by jburnforti:

        Honesty compels me to add this. I’ve always loved this quotation because it seemed such an imaginative idea but had never thought to find out about Charles Richet and now have – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Despite winning a Nobel prize for hardheaded, properly scientific contributions to me…

        Just because some of the things a person believe are wrong or dubious, it doesn’t mean everything they believe is. And vice versa

        Of course not everything a person believes is dubious per se. Just the stuff for which there is no corroborating empirical evidence. It is a well known psychological phenomena called “compartmentalization”. No need for the vice versa.

  28. Most religions are ideologically corrupt due to the fact that they believe in god. Now that may sound narrow-minded but you must consider this: One may have a belief such as a god, this would be considered theism. Now Religion is a collective of religious believers of which are molded to believe in a set ideological perspective. I.E. “One nation under god.” By these means, the individual prospect is underminded by the whole, along with the “singular ideology” (God). The belief in a god is basically a personification of one’s self in a sentient being that obtains a direct and “infinite” span of will and power, and when we incorporate this “God” into a worldy bias, such as a specific set of morals like the Bible, we have a “falsely concrete” (or “corrupt”) Ideology, or what we call religion.

    If you think about it, someone who incorperates their whole lifetime into this idea of a god and set moral doctrine has indoctrinated themselves into the immeasurable lengths of being able to overrule their own opinion. Based on how phsychology works, if you asked a strongly religious person if they would choose over their mortal biological offsprings (children) and their own self-personified delusion of what type of will they could illogically harbor with the power of their beliefs (their God), no matter the answer, they would choose the embodyment of their equally-opinionated infinitely-willed (delusion mind you) entity, which is, the delusion, of God.

  29. To be honest with you i didnt read anything since the title says it all, religion may be good or bad and it may be better than the truth its up to you to choose between being a truth seeker or an illusion keeper

  30. Religion has sytematically stamped out the rich diversity of unique human tribal societies and their cultural identities, streamlining humans into 5 main religious types, each religion was mostly devised for particlular agricultural peoples in specific middle eastern areas and doesn’t even apply in irrelevant areas worldwide. Modern people have become more fragmented, violent and pregidous because of the fights between religions. Its not Good, so does that mean its bad ? Its not even based on Truth…its bad…Thankfully science has rescued humanity from the need for made up stuff, and we can still have unique identities and human compassion without belonging to a large outdated male dominated fantasy club

  31. I think that, with all things, there has to be a certain amount of reason behind it. Generalizing anything can be very negative, so no I don’t think ALL religions are bad. A religious person can be very good, so long as they don’t push their beliefs onto other people or make decisions that effect other people based solely on their faith. “People of the Book” are more well known for their blind, obtrusive faith, they are TYPICALLY less likely to use reason and logic in making important decisions, and they are more likely to pursue and evangelistic lifestyle. This does not mean all Christians, Muslims, and Jews are inheritantly bad people, and it does not mean all religions are bad.

  32. There are 2 concepts associated with religion. One are the Believes and another the way of life. Which one is Bad or both?
    Some religions have a nice way of life, that can teach principles and boost the self confidence. About the believes is a complete different animal. How would you feel if you find out that your son is lying to you? pretty bad and upset, right?. There is no such thing as a “white” or “good” lie. Lying is lying.

    Before associating yourself with a religion, make sure you believe because makes sense, not because somebody is pushing this “made up” facts to you. Ask your common sense, look for proof before accepting all the believes.

    Regarding the “way of life” remember that “being good, caring and productive” is not particular of a religion, you can have all these and still be an atheist.
    In the History of the humanity more wars have been started for religion than other reasons.

    The best example is: post a comment into your facebook expressing your feeling about religion. Automatically you will get more replies from religious people trying to convince you that you are wrong and they will get offended by your comments.
    Post a Religious friendly comment and you will get replies from religious people agreeing with you and none or close to none atheist disagreeing with you.

    I guess what I want to tell you is. Philosophy is not religion, is a way of thinking, not related with any divine entity. here you can decide if your are good or bad independently of religion. Beliefs, are just what people believe not necessary true.

    cheers

    C

  33. The higher power is not the problem, is the certainty without evidence. The Buddhists suggest reincarnation is true. However, they say that you are in no way obligated to believe it. Just the examine the hypothesis in light of your own experience. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with killing people on the certain knowledge they will just be reincarnated anyway or have a lot of sex in heaven.

  34. I think any “philosophy” which glorifies flawed thinking processes, and belief without evidence, must be “bad” for the welfare of society in which it is embedded. That covers an awful lot of religions!

  35. No. Not every type of religion is bad.

    I quite like the teachings of Taoism.

    Taoism is about the Tao. This is usually translated as the Way. But it’s hard to say exactly what this means. The Tao is the ultimate creative principle of the universe. All things are unified and connected in the Tao.

    There is a book called the Tao of Physics, in which the author, physicist Fritjof Capra, explores explores the parallels between modern physics and eastern mysticism.

    The following paragraphs are from BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/taoism/beliefs/gods.shtml):

    Taoism promotes achieving harmony or union with nature, the pursuit of spiritual immortality, being ‘virtuous’ (but not ostentatiously so), self-development.

    Taoism does not have a God in the way that the Abrahamic religions do. There is no omnipotent being beyond the cosmos, who created and controls the universe. In Taoism the universe springs from the Tao, and the Tao impersonally guides things on their way.

    But the Tao itself is not God, nor is it a god, nor is it worshipped by Taoists.

    • Taoism, lacking any conception of a deity, is not properly to be regarded as a religion, though it is often mistakenly referred to in that way. Just the same as Buddhism, or the notion of Brahman — the sublime, all-encompassing oneness — in the Upanishads.

      In reply to #95 by thb:

      No. Not every type of religion is bad.

      I quite like the teachings of Taoism.

      Taoism is about the Tao. This is usually translated as the Way. But it’s hard to say exactly what this means. The Tao is the ultimate creative principle of the universe. All things are unified and connected in the Tao.

      T…

  36. No, all religions are not equally capable of bad behaviour. Sam Harris explains it perfectly in this video:

    Sam Harris: Islam Is Not a Religion of Peace

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfKLV6rmLxE

    “One problem is that we have this one word ‘religion’ … and religion is a nearly useless term. It’s a term like ‘sports’. Now, there are sports like badminton and there are sports like Thai Boxing, and they have almost nothing in common apart from breathing. Now there are sports that are just synonymous with … violence. Now if you get injured playing badminton you’re just embarrassed.”

    And another example is …

    Danish researcher: Islam is the most violent religion

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/05/danish-researcher-islam-is-the-most-violent-religion.html

    “The religious texts of Islam call upon its followers to commit acts of terror and violence to a much higher degree than any other religion, concludes Tina Magaard, who graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris as a PhD in Textual Analysis and Intercultural Communication, after a three-year research project that compared the basic texts from 10 religions.”

    People who talk about religion in the abstract/general are often lazy thinkers who don’t like to study the specific differences between religions.

  37. Hi Sirious,

    I don’t know if there is a religion that is not based on faith. Not unless there is a religion based on things they have actually seen evidence of. But that is an oxymoron. Religion is faith Is everything that’s based on faith bad? That is to say, is faith bad. Faith means believing in something despite all evidence to the contrary. I’d have to say anything that encourages people to build their lives around a delusion is bad.

  38. I looked at Buddhism. It unfortunately also has rules based on abstract notions on how to live life , worse still it tells you how you should be feeling and thinking. I want to live my life free of guilt , at least that’s the principle.

  39. I looked at Buddhism. It unfortunately also has rules based on abstract notions on how to live life , worse still it tells you how you should be feeling and thinking. I want to live my life free of guilt , at least that’s the principle.

  40. I think religion is very ‘bad’ indeed. Peaceful or not, the best religion has to offer its followers is ‘truth’ at the expense of reality. Followers are deluded into many number of fantasies, such as: believing the universe is a distraction to a unified, universal consciousness (Buddhism and some strains of Hinduism), or that people can obtain god-like status (Mormonism) or that violence can be justified (Christianity, Islam, Judaism). While children could be learning about any number of real things like ‘why does a starling have shiny feathers?’ or ‘where do stars come from?’ they are being lured away from advancing their own knowledge with utter rubbish.

  41. Dear sirious:

    You are quite right to say: “to criticize religion, you first have to define it. I get the feeling that the types of religion that Dawkins mainly criticizes are the ones that include some type of faith.” Correct, on both counts: a clear working definition of “religion” is crucial to any further discussion, and the operative ingredient is indeed “faith in a god”.

    You put your finger on a central matter when you write (minor corrections mine): “Not all religions’ main focus lies in the belief of a higher power. Sometimes, like in Buddhism, it’s even hard to define what is religion and what’s philosophy.” Except that, actually, it’s not that hard. Carefully defined, all religions’ main focus does amount to “belief” in a “higher power”. Systems of thought from which this is absent should not properly be referred to as religions, for this muddies the waters, as you note. Please read on.

    Pursuant to common everyday parlance, a pragmatically useful way to define “religion” that immediately resolves your issue is simply to equate “religion” with “theism”, that is, any belief (so-called “faith”) in a supernatural agency for which no observable or deducible, rational evidence exists. Let us agree to interpret and employ the word “religion” in this way, as theism, thereby dispelling the fog and dispatching various specious arguments that attempt (hypocritically) to blunt attacks on religion with the shield of rational philosophy.

    Accordingly, for example, Buddhism unequivocally is NOT a religion, but rather a philosophical approach to grasping life, the world, and our core self-nature. For, in fact, there is NO DEITY in Buddhism. In stark contrast to Jesus or Mohammed, there were no gods whatsoever in Buddha’s own enlightenment, nor did he claim to be a god, nor to prophesy one’s appearance. An emphatic Zen Buddhist saying warns against any sort of deification (among other things) of Buddha himself: “If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha!”

    Now, it must be acknowledged that there are “popular” or “populist” caricatures of “Buddhism”, apparently mistakenly practiced by large numbers of people, that do treat Buddha as some sort of god, in contradiction to his own express understanding as simply one who had become fully aware of his true identity and relation to the world (namely, his essential oneness with it, as in the earlier Hindu Upanishads, or the later philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer). These popularizations are not real Buddhism, but something else entirely, masquerading under that name — unfortunate, misguided corruptions and perversions of the actual enlightened view. They give true Buddhism a bad rap, misleading many to conceive it as a religion (that is, a theism). This misconception is a grave error, all too common, that must be rectified.

    Returning to the broad question, we must be very careful, when discussing religion as opposed to natural philosophy or science, to apply the decisive litmus test of rationality (understanding based on evidence and reason), in order to distinguish the former from the latter. It is theism, in any of its guises that purport to “know” that there’s a deity or what it’s like, to which atheism objects, not modes of thought from which the supernatural is absent. If no irrational, supernatural elements are present — though there may be unanswered questions, accompanied by reasonable speculation or even simple meditative contemplation — then there is no problem! If there’s no vague yet somehow knowable “higher power” involved, then it’s not, in fact, a religion, though it may be a philosophy.

    Here’s an important note: Even if there were some “god” that designed, created, or otherwise relates to the Universe (or multiverse), it would evidently be of an order so different from our own as to make vanishingly improbable, and unattainable, any more knowledge of such a being on our part than ants or bacteria have of humans, which is to say, absolutely none! So, until some rationally recognizable and defensible evidence presents itself, it is useless and wrongheaded to assign any qualities or attributes at all to that supposed being (not least “personal” ones), and we may as well proceed as if there were none, dropping even the presumption that it exists — not, as religions would groundlessly have it, to behave as if it’s there, and as if we actually know things about it. We may regard this as an application of Occam’s Razor, particularly since modern Science continues to demonstrate the lack of any need for such a deity in order to come to edifying, even sublime explanations of the natural world, including ourselves.

    It is illuminating to refer to Carl Sagan’s famous analogy, “The Dragon in My Garage” (here http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRy3Kl_z5E), where he articulates this as follows: “Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. … Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.”

    In his recent book “The God Argument”, A. C. Grayling quotes W. K. Clifford, writing on the ‘ethics of belief’: “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it – the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.” In this sense, yes: every type of religion, properly understood as unsubstantiated “faith” in supernaturalism or theism, is “bad”.

    I hope this contribution to your (good) question proves helpful. Thank you for stating it so clearly and objectively. By the way, sirious, your English requires no apology. :)

    • Since I’ve seen Taoism mentioned on this thread (and have replied there), I should add that Taoism also is not a religion, although it may appear at first to refer to a vague yet somehow knowable “higher power”, recapping my words below. On close examination, however, it is seen that the Tao is not a higher power distinct from Nature or the World itself, but is rather united and synonymous with them, and really quite equivalent to the Hindu notion of Brahman, the supreme all-encompassing oneness of which everything is a manifestation — you, me, that tree, this keyboard, these thoughts and their expression as marks on this page … everything!! Including so-called “nothingness”. It as if all things are the fingertips of one great potter, who is eternally creating him/herself — none other than the Universe (or multiverse, if it exists). Thus, the Tao is not a god, and Taoism is not a religion, though like Buddhism, it often mistakenly lumped into that class of belief systems. It cannot properly even be called a “belief”. It is simply the sublime Reality, in need of no further miracle, continually striving to understand itself.

      Just wanted to make this clear. Much more could doubtless be said, but as the Tao Te Ching reminds, “more words count less”.

      In reply to #107 by —
      :email: !binary |-
      aXZhbi5maWxpcHBlbmtvQGdtYWlsLmNvbQ==
      :username: !binary |-
      SXZhbi5GaWxpcHBlbmtv:

      Dear sirious:

      You are quite right to say: “to criticize religion, you first have to define it. I get the feeling that the types of religion that Dawkins mainly criticizes are the ones that include some type of faith.” Correct, on both counts: a clear working definition of “religion” is crucial to…

Leave a Reply