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On Humanism and Religion

On Humanism and Religion

Old Jun 6th 2014, 4:06 pm
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Smile On Humanism and Religion

As someone who spent many years living in the West of Ireland I did want to write a bit about the Catholic Church and recent finding of hundreds of childrens bodies disposed of in a septic tank (most likely after dying of disease or malnutrition while in "care" by contemporary accounts). However the words would not come to me, I cannot convey how I feel about this at this time…too bristley, too hot.


Instead I thought I’d write about something else related. Are we over the cult of religion yet? Surely there must be a pivot point at some stage where a sufficient number of people realise religion is harming humanity, humanism must become the overwhelming priority for us, the humans. Yet each passing day, week, month and year despite a crushing weight of evidence amassing society still clings stubbornly to its beliefs. Each time I hear of another religiously linked case of sexual abuse, suicide bombing or an array of other horrors I hope a little inside that this will finally be the straw that breaks the Camel’s back. Alas to date this has not been forthcoming.

I think there is cause to argue that religion is the most dangerous and pervasive disease humanity has ever faced, in large part because we refuse to treat it as a disease. We don’t want to discuss its inter-generational transmission, its evolution or its effects on individuals and society. Far easier to turn a blind eye and see it as a sort of…warm and fuzzy nostalgia in an ever changing world. In truth however alongside the obvious toll of religion through the hate it inspires (war, tribalism, torture, mutilation, discrimination…etc.) it also costs through lost opportunity. From the ill-informed parochial view that resists genetic engineering that could feed millions, stem cell research that has the potential to treat a variety of diseases and contraception that gives people (often women) life choices. Religion even makes us ashamed and afraid of enjoying the pleasures of being human, we supress our humanness to conform to an irrational view of how a human should be.

Surely better for the human soul and more fulfilling for the mind that people to embrace the energy of that change and play a part in changing the world. We will always have uncertainty and challenges but our inquisitive nature and adaptability will prevail.

When religion is one day weighed in our society and compared to the intrinsic morality, fairness and goodness of humans, as flawed as we are, I am certain we will be truly intellectually and spiritually liberated from a great tyranny. No one is born religious after all.

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Old Jun 6th 2014, 4:17 pm
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Default Re: On Humanism and Religion

It is a difficult thing to discuss because there is a strong feeling that it is 'bad form' to present a person of religious belief with any contradiction.

Sadly, we are not over the cult, the main reason is indoctrination at an early age from what I can see.

A fascinating topic, it will be interesting to see if New Zealanders handle it differently from North Americans.
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 5:54 pm
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Default Re: On Humanism and Religion

Heh

I completely disagree with you, respectfully. I have been, for most of my life anyway, a fairly serious believer in God though I have bounced around and in and out of various churches. More recently this has dropped me, much to my chagrin right into the Catholic church but then I think God has a great sense of humour.

Does religion harm humanity? I think at its core it does not, certainly I think that what is written in Christianity's religious texts is astonishly life changing, life affirming and beautiful. On a more mechanical level, our brains rely on cues and stereotypes to interpret the world. Religion gives people one such framework to interpret and relate to the world and to one another. Science and humanism gives another framework. Operating within one framework does not necessarily mean disparaging the other.

It has become very fashionable to trash all religion lately and with incidents like Ireland I can understand why. I cannot and will not defend abuse and mistreatment in the name of religion. However, I find it sad that the respect I show for people of no faith is not accorded to me in return. There is more to Christianity and Catholicism than hatred of gay people and anti-abortion campaigns. For me it basically comes down to do I believe in God or not. If I do then I am compelled to seek him. If I don't then I am not. In my case I do. Religion and religious practices are actually growing worldwide, it's just tha in Europe they are declining so those of us with ties to Europe see it this way.

I struggle immensely with certain well known and controversial Catholic social teachings but at the end of the day if I believe in God and I believe what Jesus claimed and what the Church claimed about him then I have to suck it up. I do not believe that I am bigger than God or wiser than him. Much as the teachings causes me personal pain sometimes I find peace in God and in religion.
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 6:09 pm
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Default Re: On Humanism and Religion

Originally Posted by LauraNotts

Does religion harm humanity? I think at its core it does not, certainly I think that what is written in Christianity's religious texts is astonishly life changing, life affirming and beautiful. .
This I just find astonishing. That the contents of the old and new testaments combined could ever be seen as life affirming.
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 6:11 pm
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Originally Posted by kimilseung
This I just find astonishing. That the contents of the old and new testaments combined could ever be seen as life affirming.
Well. I don't want to get into huge discussions and polemics. If you do want to discuss it further I'm happy to though. I'd be interested in how you summarise the contents of the old and new testaments? It might give us a place to begin.
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 6:22 pm
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Default Re: On Humanism and Religion

Originally Posted by LauraNotts
Well. I don't want to get into huge discussions and polemics. If you do want to discuss it further I'm happy to though. I'd be interested in how you summarise the contents of the old and new testaments? It might give us a place to begin.
It drips with blood. It oozes misogyny. A vain petty tribal God who wallows in the destruction he brings for the pettiest of reasons. From the shame of nudity and unwillingness to share knowledge in Genesis on to the cruelty of expecting a father to slaughter his child with Abraham and Isssac. Lots treatment of his daughters. The casual racism of how the Philistines are discussed and the Samaritans. Where to start.
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 6:56 pm
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I've written out a really long post which is written from a Christian perspective. Other religions and other belief systems have theirs too but this is mine. Anyone who is interested can read, anyone who is not feel free to skip Anyway, From my point of view, which is always going to be different to yours things looks vaguely like this:

Man has been created by God, how and in what circumstances I am happy to shelve because getting into literalism and genesis is a whole other ball game. So what we see in Genesis is a story of how mankind was created by God and sought to become equal with him - which is Christianity's explanation for why we're all in a bit of a mess now. Interestingly, the shame of nudity only came after we 'messed up' not before.

The rest of the Old Testament (and I am careful here because this text is THE sacred text of Judaism and I don't like to dismiss the tough bits out of hand) is the story of God's attempts to sort out the original mess that we made by trying to make ourselves equal to him. Unfortunately, because (religious or not) we are a fairly nasty and bloodthirsty bunch, we don't get it. We spectacularly don't get it and we mess up a lot. We say and do things and view the world through a convenient lens and use God as justification for our worst excesses (yes even right up until now) and that is where you get the rejoicing in death and slaughter and the abuses of personhood that the Old Testament records.

It's kind of like that thing that goes around the internet with the quote 'you know you've created God in your own image if he hates all the same people you do'. Israel and Judea were primitive bronze age societies, all of them were like that and they all killed each other all the time.

Abraham and Isaac is an interesting one. You're right that's not easy. I remember studying that at university and being amazed at the depth of interpretation applied to it by Jewish scholars. I don't suppose you'd accept my belief that this is more a demonstration of Abraham's faith than God seriously requiring a sacrifice but that's how I see it and if you are interested the Jewish readings on this passage are fascinating.

You didn't mention the one people talk about a lot, the psalmist exhorting God to crush the heads of his enemies children. Again for me that comes down to honesty and anger and authenticity before God. We get no where in life if we are not honest with ourselves and address and process our emotions maturely and properly. The same is true for a person of faith in relationship to God. What you see happening in the psalms when people rail and curse is people who KNOW that they are heard and they are MAD. They know they can take that stuff up to God and yell, kick and scream and get it out. Just because they are asking for something awful does not mean God will do it or wants it, it means that we can be fully human, warts and all, before God. I mention this only so you don't get the impression it's all piety and smiles, it's not, it's TOUGH.

So okay I'm about up to the end of the OT, where you pretty much stopped. So we'll come to the NT. Christianity states that Jesus Christ is God, that much most people have heard and they've heard it so often that they go 'okay yeah' but pause to think about it and it's pretty mind blowing. How does something infinite, immortal and so utterly other become human? It's okay if you don't get it, pretty much no one else did or does either but you either believe it or you don't.

So, having given up sending prophets or trying to get humanity to actually listen to him and understand that murder and killing and hatred weren't actually what he wants God gives up on the nudge nudge and actually becomes human, gets his hands dirty as it were and wanders around Judea and Galilee talking to people about what it really means to be human and who God is.

Jesus explicitly challenges the points you raise about racism, the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Woman at the Well are both excellent examples of this. As is his summary of the Old and New Testament 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself' Jesus caused havoc. So much so that the religious establishment of the time really did not like him. Religion likes legalism, I wonder how our religions would cope today if God popped up in flesh again, probably not too well but yeah kind of prooves my own and your point about humanity I guess.

Ultimately Jesus annoyed our comfortable religion and expectations of what God is and how we should relate to him so much that we killed him. Great. Aren't we cool. We have just mucked up again. Except we didn't because Jesus being God was raised from the dead so our big messing up now has a way out for us if we actually wake up and realise that as created beings we can and should be in relation to God and that this doesn't depend on rules, regulations, how many rosary beads but on authentic loving and compassionate relationships with one another and God.

Now, since I believe that he was God in the flesh and since I believe he was raised from the dead that puts a spin on things for me that I can't ignore. I understand entirely that you don't share my view or my beliefs and I respect that. Equally I hope you don't feel that I have been disrespectful to you or your beliefs in what I have said as that is not my intention. I just wanted to present WHY I as a Christian see it as something that is life affirming. Anywhoo I have a strong fear I am derailing the thread and so won't post further but feel absolutely free to PM me.
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 7:08 pm
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Smile Re: On Humanism and Religion

I will pick 'n' quote here to keep my counterpoints brief.
Originally Posted by LauraNotts
Does religion harm humanity? I think at its core it does not, certainly I think that what is written in Christianity's religious texts is astonishly life changing, life affirming and beautiful.
That depends on which part of the Bible you quote doesn't it? The Song of Solomon is lovely but I could equally pick other areas we...would not want to apply to everyday life. Its unchanging nature is an area I protest, if it was edited every now or took a less central role religion itself would be better off.

One of the most interesting phenomenon to me is that some of the most interesting and though provoking, spiritual religious texts get completely overlooked like the Gospel of Thomas because it’s non-canonical. I think that changed the nature of Christianity because it over emphasised the prophetic books and those preaching orthodoxy over philosophy which has set the tone for Christianity.
Originally Posted by LauraNotts
Religion gives people one such framework to interpret and relate to the world and to one another. Science and humanism gives another framework. Operating within one framework does not necessarily mean disparaging the other.
Though there are also some areas of clear conflict Laura. An fair part of my argument was devoted to this point.
Originally Posted by LauraNotts
It has become very fashionable to trash all religion lately
Lately? Since at least the ancient Greeks .
Originally Posted by LauraNotts
Religion and religious practices are actually growing worldwide, it's just tha in Europe they are declining so those of us with ties to Europe see it this way.
Yes, most population growth is in religious countries. This is not true in economically developed countries however.

Boston University run a database where they try to measure and estimate religious populations and they think Aetheism has had the highest annual growth rate 1910 to 2010 (6.5%), Agnosticism (5.5%) with Islam and Christianity trailing (2% and 1.3%) so if you assume historic trends persist as people have access to better education and more varied sources of information...
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 9:29 pm
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Default Re: On Humanism and Religion

Originally Posted by LauraNotts
...
Man has been created by God...
That's interesting. Why do you say that?
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 10:39 pm
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Originally Posted by jimenato
That's interesting. Why do you say that?
The reason I ask is that I have no belief that there are any gods so anything that follows this opening statement is, to me, irrelevant.

Another issue here is that of other gods and other creation stories. I'm interested in whether or not a Christian would think that the Hindu story of creation is wrong (and of course vice versa) or whether both are, although different, valid.
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 11:22 pm
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Default Re: On God and Pineapple Lumps

I'm not religious at all and don't believe in any God or Sky Fairies but I do like some of the stories.

I am thankful that my parents didn't try to push us towards any kind of religion and were progressive enough to let us decide for ourselves. I have yet to see any good come of religion but wonder how different the world would be if we didn't have religion as a focus and means for providing some nice words and venues for hatching, matching and dispatching.

I like particularly the Maori story of creation: Ranginui and Papatuanuku

http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/papatuanuku-the-land/page-1

It's interesting that the Maori story of creation is usually acknowledged and described to be the stuff of fantasy and mythology - is it any less believable than other versions of events? Who draws the line and decides which is the more credible story?

I like this version of events too:


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Old Jun 6th 2014, 11:32 pm
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Default Re: On God and Pineapple Lumps

Originally Posted by Bo-Jangles
I'm not religious at all and don't believe in any God or Sky Fairies but I do like some of the stories.

I am thankful that my parents didn't try to push us towards any kind of religion and were progressive enough to let us decide for ourselves. I have yet to see any good come of religion but wonder how different the world would be if we didn't have religion as a focus and means for providing some nice words and venues for hatching, matching and dispatching.

I like particularly the Maori story of creation: Ranginui and Papatuanuku

http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/papatuanuku-the-land/page-1

It's interesting that the Maori story of creation is usually acknowledged and described to be the stuff of fantasy and mythology - is it any less believable than other versions of events? Who draws the line and decides which is the more credible story?

I like this version of events too:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=hpj2oVJhYjM
My mother didn't try to push me or my sisters toward religion.

She just wanted us out of the house for a couple hours every Sunday.

Drop us off at 10 pick us up at noon.

No harm done as it didn't stick
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Old Jun 6th 2014, 11:51 pm
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Default Re: On God and Pineapple Lumps

Originally Posted by Beaverstate
My mother didn't try to push me or my sisters toward religion.

She just wanted us out of the house for a couple hours every Sunday.

Drop us off at 10 pick us up at noon.

No harm done as it didn't stick
Same here!

We didn't have day care in those days. We used to go to the Scriptures Union school holiday club, I recall we had the boring assembly / preachy bit at the start of each session and then played around and did arty things for the rest of the time.
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Old Jun 7th 2014, 12:14 am
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Default Re: On Humanism and Religion

Originally Posted by jimenato
The reason I ask is that I have no belief that there are any gods so anything that follows this opening statement is, to me, irrelevant.

Another issue here is that of other gods and other creation stories. I'm interested in whether or not a Christian would think that the Hindu story of creation is wrong (and of course vice versa) or whether both are, although different, valid.
Being interested in comparative religion, noticed this thread.
As you have mentioned Hinduism---- it is more a philosophy of life than a religion, and as your link states centuries old.
It is possible to be atheist or agnostic and still be Hindu. There are many, many interpretations of the old writings. There is no one theory of anything!!!
As with all 'religions' it also has a social use, in that it is a way of people 'getting together' without actually believing in everything they are doing!!!
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Old Jun 7th 2014, 12:29 am
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Default Re: On Humanism and Religion

Originally Posted by Bipat
Being interested in comparative religion, noticed this thread.
As you have mentioned Hinduism---- it is more a philosophy of life than a religion, and as your link states centuries old.
It is possible to be atheist or agnostic and still be Hindu. There are many, many interpretations of the old writings. There is no one theory of anything!!!
As with all 'religions' it also has a social use, in that it is a way of people 'getting together' without actually believing in everything they are doing!!!
In what sense is Hinduism not a religion?

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