Santeria, Scientology, Satanism — oh my! Atheist author explores minority religions | Faitheist

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How much do you know about Santeria, Scientology, or Satanism?

If you answered “not much,” you’re far from alone. Studies have shown that a great number of Americans are ignorant about major religions—so it’s no surprise that, when it comes to minority religions, misinformation and stigma are widespread.
 

Atheist author Dr. Karen Stollznow, a linguist and former researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, wanted to change that. So she traveled across the U.S. to visit and study minority religious communities.

The result: her recent book God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States, which offers an insightful look at minority religious communities in the U.S.

Below, Dr. Stollznow tells me what she learned while writing God Bless America and why she thinks all people, religious and nonreligious alike, need to learn about minority religions.

Chris Stedman: What do you hope that both atheists and theists will gain from reading your book? 

Karen Stollznow: I want both atheists and theists to gain a better understanding of these fascinating people and their controversial beliefs and practices. I will add that God Bless America isn’t just a book about religion—it’s also about history, philosophy, culture, and society. Hopefully there is something of interest for many people, regardless of their beliefs.
 

Written By: Chris Stedman
continue to source article at chrisstedman.religionnews.com

54 COMMENTS

      • In reply to #2 by bluebird:

        In reply to #1 by Fritz:

        what’s the point?

        Book promo

        Well pointed out. So what’s it doing here, a site promoting “reason and science”?
        RDFRS has had some very bad publicity regarding what its mission statement claims,
        and where the money actually goes…

        • In reply to #5 by Fritz:

          Well pointed out. So what’s it doing here, a site promoting “reason and science”?

          Seriously? You can’t see how a book by a UC Berkely Linguist that takes a look at how minority religions are practiced in the US… you seriously have to wonder why such a book would be talked about on this site?

          RDFRS has had some very bad publicity regarding what its mission statement claims, and where the money actually goes…

          Where has that been? I’ve not seen any bad publicity. There have been a few comments on the site but that hardly is a rational definition of bad publicity, every site that doesn’t do strong censorship has comments like that.

  1. Promo or not i think it is an interesting topic, i will add another religion “Alientology”
    Would be nice for a change to create a program that refutes such stupid beliefs which are based on pure speculation not science, the same goes for ghosts, santeria, stanism, etc, etc.

    • In reply to #4 by aquilacane:

      There are lots of children’s stories I am not familiar with; hardly worth an article, though.

      Well, they would be if there were communities using these children’s stories as holy books.

  2. Chris Stedman: What do you hope that both atheists and theists will gain from reading your book?

    Karen Stollznow: I want both atheists and theists to gain a better understanding of these fascinating people and their controversial beliefs and practices. I will add that God Bless America isn’t just a book about religion—it’s also about history, philosophy, culture, and society. Hopefully there is something of interest for many people, regardless of their beliefs.

    I don’t know about theists, but if some of the comments so far here are an indication, many atheists have zero interest in philosophy, culture, or society.

    Apart from science, I suppose, there really isn’t that much left to exercise the little gray cells.

    Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes.

    • In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

      I don’t know about theists, but if some of the comments so far here are an indication, many atheists have zero interest in philosophy,
      culture, or society.

      Culture, philosophy and society can be independent of religion. Atheists can appreciate them independently of religion. Atheists can also understand that religion’s tentacles are deeply entangled in those areas. This isn’t about ignoring religions’ affect.
      Religion typically consists of man-made rules/beliefs that are attributed to a supernatural being/cause. They are lies trying to integrate themselves into current culture/philosophy/society… why give them more power than they deserve by recognizing them? The supernatural cause/being at the root of the rules/beliefs should be ridiculed for the scientifically unproven (and un-necessary) garbage that it is. Just ditch the supernatural part and accept the praise or criticism of the actual rules/beliefs.

      • In reply to #11 by Fujikoma:

        In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

        I don’t know about theists, but if some of the comments so far here are an indication, many atheists have zero interest in philosophy, culture, or society.

        Culture, philosophy and society can be independent of religion. Atheists can appreciate them independently of religion. Atheists can also understand that religion’s tentacles are deeply entangled in those areas. This isn’t about ignoring religions’ affect. Religion typically consists of man-made rules/beliefs that are attributed to a supernatural being/cause. They are lies trying to integrate themselves into current culture/philosophy/society… why give them more power than they deserve by recognizing them? The supernatural cause/being at the root of the rules/beliefs should be ridiculed for the scientifically unproven (and un-necessary) garbage that it is. Just ditch the supernatural part and accept the praise or criticism of the actual rules/beliefs.

        Culture, philosophy and society can be independent of religion in a society devoid of religion; that’s not us though. The study of modern man is the study of religion, because religion is the canvas on which our species’ recent history is painted.

        Religion isn’t trying to integrate itself into anything. It may be being challenged by science and humanism, and only time will tell which side is victorious, but it’s not some metaphorical tentacled Lovecraftian outsider; religion is as much a part of us as science and humanism. If you accept this then you also have to recognize that for all its illogic religion may have served us well. Hands up if you’re a member of the planet’s dominant species.

        Why give religions more power by recognizing them? Because this approach is for the birds. I’m always puzzled by those who say religion as a subject is unworthy of study. I find it especially confusing when it’s so-called militant neoatheists expressing this view. I’m sure Mr. Churchill never said the Nazi mindset and National Socialist beliefs were irrelevant.

        Nosce hostem tuum, as they say.

    • In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

      Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes

      Hear hear. There is essentially no difference between those who are blinded by faith or by hatred. This is a personal opinion of mine, but I think recent atheists are displaying less wit than they used to. I am not lamenting it, just pointing out the sign of the changing times. Decades ago, communists aside, the rank of atheists were populated by the educated elite. Nowadays, any Joe Blo who’re too lazy for church can claim to be an atheists.

  3. In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

    Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes

    I usually don’t reply to your comments because my comments would just be statements like “Absolutely! I agree!!” but I think there may be something we don’t totally agree on so here goes:

    I think it’s important to study culture, ethics, intentions, etc. but I think it can be done (and only can be done) using reason. In fact I would go further and say that for me the boundaries of science aren’t at all what they are for most people. I think you can be a scientific historian, bible scholar (e.g. Bart Ehrman), or just about any topic you pick.

    I don’t want to make philosophy a thought crime, far from it. But I do believe that most philosophy taught in most universities right now is pointless, not worth anyone’s time. I was reading a book today by RM Hare who was THE guy when it came to ethics when I first studied philosophy. What a joke the man is. He does mostly what Trivers complained that Freud did, present statement after statement as if its true with barely a logical explanation short of vague metaphors and rhetorical flourishes. And when he does say something that is finally substantial, e.g. claims about Linguistics or Logic he is just wrong. And Hare isn’t uniquely bad this way most of what is studied in American philosophy right now is like that. So I very much want to study ” philosophy, culture, or society” but I think it can be done using reason and the scientific method and that when we do that we will finally start to make progress in fields like sociology and philosophy rather than just spinning our wheels the way most analysis in such fields mostly does now.

    • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

      In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

      Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes

      I usually don’t reply to yo…

      The one Philosophy course I took in Uni taught me never to waste my time with it again. There is a reason you never see a job post for philosophers.

    • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

      In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

      Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes

      I usually don’t reply to yo…

      I was going to try and bluff my way through here and attempt to defend philosophy against the charges you level at it. With the majority of people on this site I think I might have been able to make a pretty good stab at it, but…

      The truth is I know very little about the subject. I haven’t heard of RM Hare or Robert Trivers (thanks to Google for supplying Trivers’ first name).

      I feel like I’ve let you down and denied you the opportunity of a stimulating debate with a fellow intellectual. Unfortunately, I’m nothing of the kind. I was given a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas and so far all I’ve read on it are a few horror anthologies and the latest Bernie Rhodenbarr adventure.

      Maybe Zeugy, Phil or one of the website’s other smartlings can join battle with you on this.

      • In reply to #17 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

        Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes…

        I’m kind of surprised you don’t know Trivers but then again a couple of years ago I would have had no idea who he was either. I definitely recommend you check him out. He is like Chomsky in that he does outstanding actual hard science but sometimes takes time to comment on more general areas such as politics and psychology and when he does he IMO says more in a few pages than most people do in books. And like Chomsky Trivers sees through the BS of the US political world. Although Trivers isn’t as political as Chomsky.

        I would highly recommend you check out Trivers’ book The Folly of Fools. It’s written for a general audience and it collects a lot of his ideas on psychology. Actually, the reason I still see a therapist is because of that book. I used to think all therapy was just BS but in that book Trivers presents strong evidence that discussing traumas leads to a reduction in their emotional impact. He also shows how humans are designed by evolution to be bullshit generators and even that we are designed to siphon some of the bullshit back to ourselves. That is one of the reasons I find therapy useful, it helps me realize when I’m deceiving myself — which is still quite often.

        Back to Trivers, he wrote an article once with Huey Newton — yes, that Huey Newton, the Black Panther guy. It’s short and not what you might expect, not political, it’s the analysis of the cockpit conversation before an airliner crash and how the pilots demonstrate some of Trivers’ ideas on self deception.

        IMO of all the biologists alive today Trivers is one of the most influential, right up there with Dawkins and Wilson. Among other things Trivers defined the theory of reciprocal altruism which as I said I think says a lot about where humans get our concept of morality.

        • In reply to #30 by Red Dog:

          Understood, agreed with, and clicked “like” upon, very quickly indeed. Post #8 was perhaps even better. Keep up the often-unappreciated effort and well-informed commentary, Red Dog. You’re right, Katy Cordeth has some truly awesome comments, and then there’s Alan4discussion..(Our reason to feel bad for laziness and lack of comment depth and structure) and David R Allen, (So bright sunglasses are useless) too many intelligent, informed minds to list.

          I love this place some times.

        • In reply to #30 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #17 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

          Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes…

          I’m kind of surprised you don’t know Trivers but then again a couple of years ago I would have had no idea who he was either. I definitely recommend you check him out. He is like Chomsky in that he does outstanding actual hard science but sometimes takes time to comment on more general areas such as politics and psychology and when he does he IMO says more in a few pages than most people do in books. And like Chomsky Trivers sees through the BS of the US political world. Although Trivers isn’t as political as Chomsky.

          Chomsky?

          I would highly recommend you check out Trivers’ book The Folly of Fools. It’s written for a general audience and it collects a lot of his ideas on psychology. Actually, the reason I still see a therapist is because of that book. I used to think all therapy was just BS but in that book Trivers presents strong evidence that discussing traumas leads to a reduction in their emotional impact. He also shows how humans are designed by evolution to be bullshit generators and even that we are designed to siphon some of the bullshit back to ourselves. That is one of the reasons I find therapy useful, it helps me realize when I’m deceiving myself — which is still quite often.

          I actually bought God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States earlier today. It’s nestling right there on my Paperwhite waiting to be read. I have a feeling it may be sneering at the Yattering, Rawhead Rex, the proprietor of Barnegat Books and the rest of my fictional chums. Well don’t get above yourself, God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices. Look around and you’ll also find Oliver Twist, Captain Ahab and Anna Karenina. Yeah.

          Back to Trivers, he wrote an article once with Huey Newton — yes, that Huey Newton, the Black Panther guy. It’s short and not what you might expect, not political, it’s the analysis of the cockpit conversation before an airliner crash and how the pilots demonstrate some of Trivers’ ideas on self deception.

          I’m glad you said Mr Newton was a member of the Black Panther movement, as I was thinkin’ this.

          If I have anything interesting to say about God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States, I will post it here.

          Here, There, and everywhere.
          Hip, Hip, so hip to be a square.
          Here, There, and everywhere.
          Hip, Hip,
          Here, There, and everywhere.
          Hip, Hip, so hip to be a square.

          • In reply to #33 by Katy Cordeth:

            Chomsky?

            As in Noam. Was that a question mark about who he is or about why I was associating him with Trivers or something else?

          • In reply to #34 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #33 by Katy Cordeth:

            Chomsky?

            As in Noam. Was that a question mark about who he is or about why I was associating him with Trivers or something else?

            No, I was just feigning ignorance and pretending I didn’t know who Noam Chomsky was. Sorry.

          • In reply to #35 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #34 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #33 by Katy Cordeth:

            Chomsky?

            As in Noam. Was that a question mark about who he is or about why I was associating him with Trivers or something else?

            No, I was just feigning ignorance and pretending I didn’t know who Noam Chomsky was. Sorry.

            That’s OK, you got me again, I should know after the “making Dick Cheney cry” comment. Serves me right for always being too serious. From previous comments I thought you had to know who he was.

            I’ve really been delving into what Chomsy says about philosophy — not just linguistics but the broader questions — this gets back to what I was talking about before that there are good philosophers and Chomsky is one of them. He has a book where he prints various critiques of his ideas by some of the philosophers I mentioned earlier (the ones like Putnam, Hare, and Searle, that I don’t think highly of) and then he replies essay by essay. It’s an amazingly ballsy thing to do and he just demolishes them. I’m actually writing a paper, that I plan to send to him some day in the not too distant future where I’ve tried applying some of his ideas about language and philosophy to the domain of ethics.

    • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

      In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

      Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes

      I usually don’t reply to yo…

      P.S. I seem to remember Richard objecting a while back to churchmen being given undue airtime when it came to social issues; that vicars, rabbis etc were invited to offer their opinion whenever a subject such as stem cell research found its way into the papers, and this was not on as these guys were unqualified and only there to present the moral side of the issue.

      In a secular society philosophers may be required to occupy the role, at least in the media, that religious leaders currently do: that of impartial observer; not attached to any organisation or political party but concerned purely with the moral aspects of a social issue. I was watching Question Time on the BBC yesterday and they had a philosopher on. I don’t remember the last time a religious leader guested.

      • In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

        Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes…
        In a secular society philosophers may be required to occupy the role, at least in the media, that religious leaders currently do: that of impartial observer; not attached to any organisation or political party but concerned purely with the moral aspects of a social issue. I was watching Question Time on the BBC yesterday and they had a philosopher on. I don’t remember the last time a religious leader guested.

        But they did have Johnny Rotten on QT who was far more relevant with his popular opinion and I like to hear from Will Self occasionally too….

        • In reply to #38 by Light Wave:

          In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

          Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, phi…

          But they did have Johnny Rotten on QT who was far more relevant with his popular opinion and I like to hear from Will Self occasionally too….

          I must have missed butter spokesman Mr Lydon’s appearance on the program. I thought Will Self was owned by Michael Gove the last time he guested. Self is always entertaining though, I agree.

          • In reply to #44 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #38 by Light Wave:

            In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

            Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which ra…

            http://youtu.be/Xj5R5o-yhcc
            Here’s a snippet …sorry I’m rubbish at linking internet things…my handy teenager is out at the moment…

    • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

      In reply to #6 by Katy Cordeth:

      Maybe theists are correct and nonbelievers are a dull, unimaginative bunch; unable to see further than their hatred for religion and desire for a new world order in which rationalism rules and culture, philosophy etc become thought crimes

      I usually don’t reply to yo…

      Although I think this book is a science book. Popular science of course. But, anthropology and history are in my opinion scientific disciplines. Although I agree with you that modern philosophy is to a large extent wish-wash. Intellectual masturbation if you like.

      • In reply to #24 by Nunbeliever:

        In reply to #8 by Red Dog:
        Although I agree with you that modern philosophy is to a large extent wish-wash. Intellectual masturbation if you like.

        Check out anything by A.C. Grayling. Definitely not a wanker.

        • In reply to #26 by stuhillman:

          In reply to #24 by Nunbeliever:

          In reply to #8 by Red Dog:
          Although I agree with you that modern philosophy is to a large extent wish-wash. Intellectual masturbation if you like.

          Check out anything by A.C. Grayling. Definitely not a wanker.

          Yes, he is one of the rare exceptions. Dan Dennett is of course also one of the more rational philosophers out there today… although I disagree with his reasoning with regard to free will.

    • In reply to #9 by MilitantNonStampCollector:

      Minor religions? Same bullshit just without the steroids and mass killings.

      Exactly, give it a few years to stew and we’ll either hear about it as they do something stupid or they’ll fizzle away as members lose interest for the next god form to worship.

  4. I would very much like a scientist but avowedly atheist impartial studied cases of cures Lourdes, France (interviewing and researching the archives of the International Comitte of Medical) and Medjugorje and its Marian apparition (Croatia). Without prejudice and honesty and draw their conclusions and published here. Thank you.

  5. I am on the side of those who appreciate that this site is flagging this book. Reading the reviews on Amazon, it does not look like “waffle”. It fills a gap in such classics as the Penguin Handbook of Living Religions (Hinnell) . This attitude of mine arises out of basic interest to learn about different views, including those I am prejudiced against and unlikely to share ( except perhaps those of modern Quakers, included in the book). It does not matter whether curiosity of this kind is called interest in ” philosophy, culture, society”, or science. So I refrain from replying to Red dog and others on the uses or otherwise of philosophy , RM Hare, etc…. in this particular discussion.

    • In reply to #15 by catphil:

      I am on the side of those who appreciate that this site is flagging this book. Reading the reviews on Amazon, it does not look like “waffle”. It fills a gap in such classics as the Penguin Handbook of Living Religions (Hinnell) . This attitude of mine arises out of basic interest to learn about…

      Just to be clear, I absolutely agree with you. I haven’t read the book but I plan to at least take a look at it. The kind of philosophy I was talking about is different than what I think this author is doing. She seems to be doing what I would consider ethnography, studying the actual belief systems that people in the real world use, and I think that is very useful.

      When I was talking about people like Hare (others I would include in the same breath would be Searle, Quine, Putnam, and many others) it’s a completely different discipline of academic US and UK philosophy. And I would also include most of the European Marxist and post modern philosophers as well. The vast majority of what those people do is IMO a waste, useful only in that it can be kind of fun to read it and distinguish what is just hand waving and rhetoric from things that are just flat out wrong (and a few things that are just obvious and true).

      • In reply to #28 by Red Dog:

        As a sociology student, I’m quite familiar with what you describe and I fully agree with you. Last semester I was required to read part of a work by marxist philosopher/sociologist Henri Lefebvre. Said author took 65 pages to say what could certainly be said and supported with evidence in less than 10. While Lefebvre’s argument wasn’t wrong, there really isn’t much of a point to write in 65 pages what you could write in 10, especially when the lenght, redundancy, constant digressions and obscure references only serve to confuse the reader. While there are (thankfully) many exceptions, this is the worst example I remember and, sadly, even some of my favourite authors (like Pierre Bourdieu), have some degree of this terrible habit. The field could live without this.

        • In reply to #37 by Dreamweaver:

          In reply to #28 by Red Dog:

          As a sociology student, I’m quite familiar with what you describe and I fully agree with you. Last semester I was required to read part of a work by marxist philosopher/sociologist Henri Lefebvre. Said author took 65 pages to say what could certainly be said and supporte…

          I had a debate a long time ago with someone on this site about sociology. He had what is a fairly common narrow minded view that a lot of people on this site, I think aquilacane’s comment is another such example, seem to have. They seem to think the only things worthy of the term “science” are the natural sciences and that any investigation into issues about society or philosophy is by definition invalid.

          I think it’s actually amazing how many people on this site and in the New Atheist community in general seem to think like that. It’s another example where atheists are adopting the caricatures that their enemies have of them and embracing them as their own. In reality the scientific method can be applied to any discipline, it’s just that in some of them it’s a lot more difficult to do things like controlled experiments. But that’s just an added constraint that makes the research a bit more difficult it doesn’t mean doing science in those disciplines is impossible.

          I actually think that areas such as sociology, psychology, the empirical study of religion as exemplified by this article, meme theory, etc. ; those areas are some of the most interesting in many ways because some people like Steven Pinker and Scott Atran are finally getting serious and looking at those problems from a truly scientific point of view in a way that seeks to be compatible with related disciplines such as evolutionary biology.

          If you are interested in that approach to sociology I recommend the following paper, note the link takes you to a fairly large PDF file:

          The Psychological Foundations of Culture JOHN TOOBY AND LEDA COSMIDES

          The paper’s title is rather innocuous, if I were the authors I would have titled the paper something like “Why Most Academic Work in the Humanities and Social Sciences Sucks and What to do about it!” That is a title that gives a better idea of what they are really saying. They take on what they call the Standard Social Sciences Model SSSM that dominates so much of the academic work in those fields right now and show why it is wrong and how those fields should begin to work in a way that is consistent with other sciences.

          • In reply to #42 by Red Dog:

            Thanks for the link, I actually am very interested in this subject. I’ve only read a few pages yet (the first 11) and already find myself agreeing with what is said.

          • In reply to #42 by Red Dog

            After reading it fully, my opinion on the approach suggested in that article is that it makes a lot of sense. To put it shortly, I was never comfortable with the neglect given to biological factors in sociological theories and this approach is helpful at filling that gap, even if at some points the authors were somewhat “strawman-y” and/or the article was dated (in one once specific ocasion, the authors exposed a belief that is no longer held in the SS, since “culture” is not such a restrictive concept anymore). Anyway, thank you for showing me this. It was a very interesting read and I’ll be sure to keep it in mind if I ever do serious research (which undergrad work certainly isn’t).

          • In reply to #42 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #37 by Dreamweaver:

            In reply to #28 by Red Dog:

            Steven Pinker and Scott Atran are finally getting serious…

            Finally!

  6. In reply to #14 by aquilacane:

    In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

    The one Philosophy course I took in Uni taught me never to waste my time with it again. There is a reason you never see a job post for philosophers.

    I dislike the view that education is only worthwhile if it can be put to some practical use. It’s just so… Goveish.

    Whatever happened to the idea that knowledge is its own reward; that its value is intrinsic?

    • In reply to #18 by Katy Cordeth:

      In reply to #14 by aquilacane:

      In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

      The one Philosophy course I took in Uni taught me never to waste my time with it again. There is a reason you never see a job post for philosophers.

      I dislike the view that education is only worthwhile if it can be put to some practical us…

      Yes, yes, unfortunately Philosophy isn’t knowledge.

      • In reply to #40 by aquilacane:

        In reply to #18 by Katy Cordeth:

        Yes, yes, unfortunately Philosophy isn’t knowledge.

        So you think books like The Moral Landscape by Harris or Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett don’t qualify as being worthwhile additions to the search for knowledge? Because I think they both certainly do and I think they both are to a great extent about philosophical issues.

        • In reply to #41 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #40 by aquilacane:

          In reply to #18 by Katy Cordeth:

          Yes, yes, unfortunately Philosophy isn’t knowledge.

          So you think books like The Moral Landscape by Harris or Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett don’t qualify as being worthwhile additions to the search for knowledge? Because…

          Can either of them do any actual landscaping? I really need someone who can do actual landscaping.

          As far as morals go, there are none, just like there is no pretty. But, of course, that’s just my philosophy. I’ve always considered consciousness as the biological capacity to receive, process and respond to stimulus; I can imagine it being measurable on a scale of 0 to the most able specimen in existence. But that’s just my philosophy.

          Philosophy is a fun chat about what ifs, should be’s, could be’s and I thinks. Like all fun chats, it might result in something more productive. My experience is that it is mostly mumble, gurble, pop, blurt. It is the crossword in the back of the paper.

          If science is akin to looking for traffic before driving into the street, philosophy is wondering if there is traffic. It’s still not knowledge.

  7. Sounds like pretty interesting anthropology reading, a valuable study of American subcultures. I’d have loved it in my Anthro 101 class. I bristle only at the suggestion that I could find elements in those sects that might influence me personally. In college, I read about the Cheyenne Indians, but the author never presumed to suggest I might find features of the Cheyenne world view to integrate into my own. Is she doing a study or making a vague case for faith in general?

    • In reply to #20 by justinesaracen:

      the author never presumed to suggest [ ] integrate into my own

      Agree. Present ideas and views, then let the person freely pick and choose (or reject altogether).

      is she doing a study, or making a vague case for faith in general

      RD seems to be of the opinion that she strikes just the right balance. (article goes on to say she studies situations with an open mind, but does not make any allowances for harmful / dangerous)

      (quick point – RD.net is a venn diagram of subjects, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, todo para ti)

    • I am currently about half way through the book and it is more like a travelogue in many ways. It is the kind of book that will keep you happily occupied on a plane flight. It won’t hurt your brain, but it is an interesting run through of some of the more fringe religious and spiritual movements in North America. If you are interested is catching up in a general knowledge sort of way about the diversity of these sects/cults/movements (not really quite sure what to call them as they are all pretty different; the only thing they really have in common is a belief in the supernatural and they are not mainstream. Each chapter is really an overview of the particular fringe group, their history and beliefs; a few ‘freak show’ anecdotes to keep it interesting. The author ends each chapter with a personal story about her investigations.
      The author sort of osculates between a breezy, fact dumping objective overview and “oh my god look at the freaks” storytelling – probably could have done with a bit less of that. I feel like this is a good primer but it doesn’t go into any one group in a lot of depth. Sort of like if I hear a story about Santaria on the news I will be able to put it into a context. It is a good light read. In reply to #20 by justinesaracen:

      Sounds like pretty interesting anthropology reading, a valuable study of American subcultures. I’d have loved it in my Anthro 101 class. I bristle only at the suggestion that I could find elements in those sects that might influence me personally. In college, I read about the Cheyenne Indians, but…

  8. When a proper Religious Education course replaces the current compulsory god slot in English state schools, it will include a segment on new religions and cults. Understanding religion, requires more than a respectful endorsement of the big, long-established organizations. The sheer wackiness of religion stands out in new cults just because they are unfamiliar and haven’t built up wealth and influence over centuries.

  9. The lust for religions is to a great extent the result of the work of peddlers of guilt and of induced soul-sickness. They peddle it because they want to sell their “miracle drug” – except that there is no conspicuous miracle drug, cure-all, or spiritual snake oil.

  10. Katy Cordeth:

    I don’t know about theists, but if some of the comments so far here are an indication, many atheists have zero interest in philosophy, culture, or society.

    Apart from science, I suppose, there really isn’t that much left to exercise the little gray cells.

    A barb by any other name would prick as deep. It boots thee not to be compassionate. The fault dear Katy lies not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

  11. why dont we find out about the “Jedi” religion and see has any “jedi’s” managed to move things along the ground without touching.
    there are so many shitty little minority religions, they all have the same things in common.

  12. In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

    Religion isn’t trying to integrate itself into anything.

    That isn’t true. Religion is constantly trying to indoctrinate through public schools, by either fighting evolution or mandating prayer or falsifying history to ‘prove’ it’s always been around. There’s a reason for missionaries. If every believer of a particular belief system and their collection of dogma/writings disappeared, then it is improbable that you’d ever see it reappear as it originally was. If every atheist and their collection of dogma/writings disappeared, you’d see it reappear within generations.

    I’m always puzzled by those who say religion as a subject is unworthy of study.

    Never said that… I said ‘recognize’ which should be taken as ‘give legitimacy’. Religion has no legitimacy. My fault on that one. I disagree with your inference that religion ‘may have served us well’. Religion is not needed to do good things or create a decent society. Religion did not create society, people did. They may claim a higher power influenced them, but in the end, it is still their version of right or wrong that sets them in motion. Religion, itself, has never made a person do anything. People may use it as an excuse, but no deity has ever been proven to puppet someone into anything.

    Culture, philosophy and society can be independent of religion in a society devoid of religion; that’s not us though.

    Yeah… it really is. Which religion has actually had its deity/demons cause a real effect on our reality. Not one that can be proven or independently verified. What has happened, is that culture, philosophy and society have ingrained a lie into themselves in varying degrees. You can call it religion, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lie. What god has created a philosophical view, culture or society? None. What person made the same and attributed them to a god? Many. I think religion should be studied the same way that other bad or good things are studied, but I don’t think they should be given a free pass on the supernatural aspect because the other part of it may have done some good. Once you remove the supernatural part… you’re only left with a philosophy/rules.

    • In reply to #51 by Fujikoma:

      “What god has created a philosophical view, culture or society? None. What person made the same and attributed them to a god? Many. I think religion should be studied the same way that other bad or good things are studied, but I don’t think they should be given a free pass on the supernatural aspect because the other part of it may have done some good. Once you remove the supernatural part… you’re only left with a philosophy/rules”

      You are absolutely correct. This is why religion is worthy of study, because people’s rules and beliefs are worthy of study. It’s irrelevant if there are gods or not, the beliefs will shape people’s actions and are, therefore, relevant for analysis. Religions shouldn’t be considered different than any other ideology when scientifically studied.

      • In reply to #52 by Dreamweaver:

        You are absolutely correct. This is why religion is worthy of study, because people’s rules and beliefs are worthy of study. It’s irrelevant if there are gods or not, the beliefs will shape people’s actions and are, therefore, relevant for analysis. Religions shouldn’t be considered different than any other ideology when scientifically studied.

        At last someone else who gets it. I get so tired of the endless comments here along the lines of “why would you want to study fairy tales” whenever a legitimate bit of science (such as this book) comes up on the study of religion. It’s actually kind of amazing how so many of the critical thinkers and science lovers turn into luddites and no nothings when it comes to understanding religion.

        If you don’t mind another reference, the book In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion by Scott Atran starts from that standpoint: asking the question “what do the commonalities of religious belief tell us about the human mind” and has some interesting things to say on the topic from the standpoint of natural selection. Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer and Dan Dennett’s book on the topic also take a similar approach.

        The whole field is pretty much brand new so I don’t think there is a lot we can say with any conviction on the topic yet, which to me makes it all that much more interesting, it’s essentially a whole new area for scientific investigation that we’ve barely begun.

    • In reply to #51 by Fujikoma:

      In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

      Religion isn’t trying to integrate itself into anything.

      That isn’t true. Religion is constantly trying to indoctrinate through public schools, by either fighting evolution or mandating prayer or falsifying history to ‘prove’ it’s always been around. There’s a reason for missionaries. If every believer of a particular belief system and their collection of dogma/writings disappeared, then it is improbable that you’d ever see it reappear as it originally was. If every atheist and their collection of dogma/writings disappeared, you’d see it reappear within generations.

      While it’s true that non-native religions’ proponents are always trying to introduce their woo to pastures new, opposition to evolution, efforts to make prayer compulsory in public schools and so on is really more about religion _re_asserting itself. You can talk about missionaries loaded down with bibles and crucifixes hacking their way through jungle in search of some tribe that’s never set eyes on a white man to spread the good word, but in most places society as it exists today does so as a direct result of religion. Religion is woven throughout our species’ timeline; it’s in our metaphorical, and perhaps even our actual, DNA.

      No, if Christianity were to disappear completely it would never reappear again in exactly the same form (although the Mithras story would provide a template to create Christianity Mark II), and atheism follows rules of logic which mean it doesn’t require sacred writings which need to be passed from one generation to the next in order to survive.

      I’m always puzzled by those who say religion as a subject is unworthy of study.

      Never said that… I said ‘recognize’ which should be taken as ‘give legitimacy’. Religion has no legitimacy. My fault on that one.

      Two billion Christians, a billion and a half Muslims, Google knows how many Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists etc. Religion’s tenets may be nonsense but to say religion as a phenomenon isn’t legitimate is just silly. If religion isn’t legitimate then neither is literature or music.

      I disagree with your inference that religion ‘may have served us well’. Religion is not needed to do good things or create a decent society.

      Religion isn’t needed for individuals to do good things, but I’m not so sure about creating societies. For a society to function it has to have rules that everyone obeys, with the threat of punishment for any who contravene these laws. The Old Testament commandments weren’t exactly original – I bet even gorillas have thou shalt not murder encoded in their genetic material – but the scribes who codified them were performing an essential task: setting in stone (literally) the vague ideas we all have that it’s wrong to steal, or to shag your neighbor’s missus; and the Decalogue’s authors made darn sure that worshiping any god other than Jehovah was a no-no.

      As a hamlet becomes a village becomes a town becomes a city, religion may be the binding which keeps it all from falling apart and descending into chaos.

      Religion did not create society, people did. They may claim a higher power influenced them, but in the end, it is still their version of right or wrong that sets them in motion. Religion, itself, has never made a person do anything. People may use it as an excuse, but no deity has ever been proven to puppet someone into anything.

      I’m glad to hear you say this. I do get tired of people who blame religion for everything wrong with the world. What a nonsense religion poisons everything is when you stop to think about it.

      Culture, philosophy and society can be independent of religion in a society devoid of religion; that’s not us though.

      Yeah… it really is. Which religion has actually had its deity/demons cause a real effect on our reality. Not one that can be proven or independently verified. What has happened, is that culture, philosophy and society have ingrained a lie into themselves in varying degrees. You can call it religion, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lie. What god has created a philosophical view, culture or society? None. What person made the same and attributed them to a god? Many. I think religion should be studied the same way that other bad or good things are studied, but I don’t think they should be given a free pass on the supernatural aspect because the other part of it may have done some good. Once you remove the supernatural part… you’re only left with a philosophy/rules.

      You say we have allowed a lie to permeate our culture. Well, I think this lie is a fundamental part of our culture; the tapestry as I’ve said on which our history is, and will continue to be, woven. Atheism is the interloper here; religion the norm. Why else do you think atheists are reviled as much as they are? There will be an openly pedophile, Satan-worshiping president of the United States before there’s an atheist one. Atheism represent a threat to the very foundations on which society is built.

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