Religion is predominately a positive for humanity
2nd Round: Arguments (No Rebuttals)
3rd-5th Round: Rebuttals
The argument is fairly simple. Religion; historically and presently, on the whole, has been a positive force for humanity.
I'll be arguing against that point: that religion isn't and has not been a positive force.
Pro will be arguing that religion is a predominately positive force.
I’ll begin by thanking Pro for his compliment. You might be surprised to know that the great anti-religious commentator Sam Harris apparently did not agree with your thoughts in the previous incarnation of this debate.
Seriously though: on to my arguments, which I’ll split into three categories.
The late great Christopher Hitchens said “Religion has run out of justifications. Thanks to the telescope and the microscope, it no longer offers an explanation of anything important. Where once it used to be able, by its total command of a worldview, to prevent the emergence of rivals, it can now only impede and retard—or try to turn back—the measurable advances that we have made.
Sometimes, true, it will artfully concede them. But this is to offer itself the choice between irrelevance and obstruction, impotence or outright reaction, and, given this choice, it is programmed to select the worse of the two.
Meanwhile, confronted with undreamed-of vistas inside our own evolving cortex, in the farthest reaches of the known universe, and in proteins and acids which constitute our nature, religion offers either annihilation in the name of god, or else the false promise that if we take a knife to our foreskins, or pray in the right direction, or ingest pieces of wafer, we shall be “saved.”
I apologize for the long quotation, but as Oscar Wilde said “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
My mother is a long-standing Christian, and as an atheist, it greatly disturbs me to think that by her Baptist doctrine, she would rather hear that I had an inoperable brain tumor rather than hear that I don’t pray to the same god she does. Her doctrine, that is, the doctrine of Christ, says that anybody who doesn’t accept Jesus is destined to burn in hell for an eternity.
This is a small example of the terror and complete suspension and disregard for logic that religion brings.
Take that small example and blow it up and apply it to geopolitical events. The result? Terrorism, intolerance, genocide, wide-spread female genital mutilation, condemnation of birth control, corruption in government, and plenty of other problems. Of course, I’ll be the first to criticize the West’s nearsighted attack on Islam, but the idea cannot be ignored. What makes the Jihadi detonate a bomb strapped to his chest in the playground of a Shia school? It’s certainly not a logical choice. Those who say that they don’t represent Islam are just plain wrong. Who is to say that their interpretation of the Quran (which makes ample justification for violence) is incorrect?
This violence among the religious isn’t new. Take for example, the countless massacres under the Ottoman leader Selim I, who spread the Sunni Islamic empire by sword, just as his de-facto religious leader, the hotly debated Muhammed, had done for his lifetime. He once ordered that 40,000 Shia should be killed, and said ”the killing of one Shiite had as much otherworldly reward as killing 70 Christians.”
This kind of logic-less slaughter is found chiefly in religious circumstances.
Just glance through the history of most religions. They are packed with hatred, violence and war. The Catholic linage is literally stuffed with wars and acts of blatant terrorism – all approved by the church. The crusades are the obvious example, but take for example, the Christian tradition of anti-Semitism, under which the grounds for Nazism were paved. Jews have been long persecuted in the Christian tradition, being banned from work, separated and placed in ghettos. Or take the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215, a meeting by the Pope to make Jews wear different, distinguishable clothing.
It was long decided that Jews drank the blood of Christian children, and therefore, a Jew could at any time be blamed of ‘blood libel’ and be put to death. The Jews, historically, were forced out of their homelands numerous times. It’s a legacy of unbelievable brutality. Christianity, in the general context of its history, has only recently changed how it treats holy war.
Thank you Pro, onto your arguments.
Ok - so by contrast to Con I have FOUR threads to my stance (this is not an attempt at subliminal 'one-upmanship' I promise). Points one and four I consider to be the strongest, so I have book-ended them at the start and end of my list in a shameless attempt to give them more prominence. Points 2 and 3 are still valid, but they are not exclusive to religion so carry less weight.
1) Meaning, Purpose and Hope
One key way to judge the positive effects of religion, is to consider what the situation would be like in the absence of it. If you remove religion, you remove the concept that humanity stands apart as "sacred". No longer are we significant beings, created in the image of God with eternal significance - suddenly we find ourselves left with the only remaining explanation that we are merely a by-product of the matter of this random universe. This would mean that your brain, whilst still truly remarkable, is simply a "computer made of meat". Whilst you might think you have rational independent thought, in actuality you are just being "conned" by your own brain - which is simply making decisions for you which are most likely to be propitious to your continued survival. Your entire consciousness is reduced to being a bunch of electrical signals whizzing around your brain, and nothing more. [Idea loosely based on an argument in "Who made God? " 2012, Professor Edgar Andrews (PhD and DSc in Physics)]
Only if we are created in the image of God can you consider that it allows for the concept that we are genuinely morally responsible beings (see point 4), that there is meaning and purpose for our existence, and that there is a hope for the future.
I have to concede here though that, true enough, a great deal of "bad" has been done in the name of religion - Con has rightly pointed out several classic cases of this in their opening argument. I will deal with this in more detail in the rebuttal stage, but if the Con argument suggests that if you get rid of all religion you will do away with most of the "bad" things and still keep most of the "good" things, then that is blissfully wishful thinking - and gives far too much credit to humanity than our track record would attest to!
I will argue that on balance, it is better for humanity to consider itself sacred than to consider itself a random meaningless by-product. The key logical basis for this argument lies in point 4 below, in order to define what constitutes "better".
2) Community and Identity
In one form or another, all religions inculcate practices which lead to a sense of common identity and belonging in a religious congregation. Indeed, the very word "religion" comes from the Latin which loosely translates to "bind again" or "reconnect". Buddhists cultivate practices of mindfulness, peacefulness, and compassion. The Jewish teachings about "mitzvoth" (the obligations to perform moral acts, particularly acts of kindness) and "tikkun olam" (repairing the world), both representing an intense commitment to social justice. "Zakat", or giving to charity is a fundamental mark of Islam. Such practices are constant reminders that there is more to life than the moment, more than individual, selfish "getting ahead." The religions also include rituals of giving thanks and celebrating the goodness of life. All these rituals evidence a counter-cultural voice to the widespread philosophy of "things just happen." [largely quoting Philip Hefner, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Chicago]
Of course one can derive a sense of community and identity from outside of religion, but you don't tend to see it in practice to anything like the same extent in wider society outside of religious congregations.
Furthermore, a local congregation often provides advice, care for the poor and sick, and other services on a far more personal level, and sometimes more effectively, than the government or secular organisations (see point 3). It is perhaps striking the extent to which repressive governments find that to destroy a spirit of independence among the people, they need to repress either the existence or initiative of individual congregations. Examples include Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China, and today's Syria. [largely quoting Edward Ordman, Associate Professor of Computer Science (of all things!) at Memphis]
3) Call to action
"It is undoubtedly true that people commit horrific acts of evil in the name of religion. It is also undoubtedly true that people do acts of extraordinary common good inspired by religion. Almost half the healthcare in Africa is delivered by faith based organisations, saving millions of lives. A quarter of worldwide HIV/AIDS care is provided by Catholic organisations. There is the fantastic work of Muslims and Jewish relief organisations."
Those were the words of Tony Blair, when debating a similar topic with the late great Hitch (God rest his soul).
You cannot deny the great deal of selfless good that people of faith around the world carry out in the name of religion. Again, of course there are secular humanitarian groups and charities who do a great deal of selfless work which isn't in the name of religion. But nonetheless you cannot deny that there are many people who are inspired to do good precisely because of their faith, who might otherwise not have done so.
Tony Blair goes on to say much later in the same debate:
"What we shouldn't do is end up in a situation where we say, we've got six hospices here, one suicide bomber there, how does it all equalise out? That's not a very productive way of arguing this. "
And I would suggest something along similar lines, that we cannot argue the net benefit or drawback of religion to humanity by adding up the "good" stuff and all the "bad" stuff, and arbitrarily deciding which outweighs the other. The only way to resolve this debate is to consider what is ultimately of greatest significance, in order to define what "positive" and "negative" are for the purposes of this debate. Again, and I hope I haven't built this up too much only for it to fall flat(!), but my core logical argument for this debate lies in point 4.
4) Moral Compass
I maintain that the only way to sensibly resolve this debate is to adequately define highly subjective concepts such as "positive"/"negative", "better"/"worse", "good"/"bad" etc. This is where religion is key. In the absence of a higher power, and hence a higher moral authority, morality is necessarily subjective and relative. One man's poison is another man's meat; one nation's freedom fighter is another nation's terrorist.
Hence, if religion is false - as Con will try to claim - then it renders the logic of the debate irrelevant. Because "better" and "worse" can only logically exist where there is a definite absolute moral compass by which you can arbitrate "moral true north".
However, if religion is true - then necessarily it must be a "positive" force and a force for "good" - because God is the very benchmark by which you can define and arbitrate "goodness". You can point to all the apparently "bad" stuff in the world as you like - if the ultimate purpose is redemption of the world and a "greater good" in the long run - then the net eternal effect for humanity must necessarily be "positive".
If there is no God, then the net eternal effect for humanity is irrelevant. You could be as saintly as Mother Teresa, or as evil as the worst human being you can imagine - ultimately this universe will cease to exist (implode on itself, or suffer heat death), there is no eternal justice or consequences for your actions, and this whole existence is meaningless!
Thank You Pro.
On to rebuttals.
Contention 1: Meaning, Purpose and Hope
One key way to judge the positive effects of religion, is to consider what the situation would be like in the absence of it. If you remove religion, you remove the concept that humanity stands apart as "sacred"
I assume that Pro is not a proponent of evolution, and so I also assume that he makes no room for evolution in his thoughts on morality. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that we evolved a morality as a means of survival. Chimps for example show many signs of morality, though not as evolved as ours. This theory makes far more sense; it allows for the moral hiccups that everybody experiences.
Proof of this can be found fairly easily. Just go to one of the rapidly-shrinking untouched islands; on which you will find tribes of people living and comingling perfectly fine without the words of Christ. Or, take the countless historical examples. Just take the Pirahã people in Brazil, who have existed for thousands of years with no concept of a god. They have developed social systems and have survived quite happily without a religious concept. How do you explain such a phenomena?
I argue that this notion of humans being ‘sacred’ is actually toxic. It gives us this feeling that we are somehow immortal, that we are only here briefly; and that belief has spawned some truly poisonous ideas. We should see ourselves as incredibly mortal; that this trip on earth is our only trip, and therefore we should try to leave the world a bit better off and not sit around awaiting the return of Jesus.
Contention 2: Community and Identity
The flip-side of this point is that existing in a community of people who say and believe the same things that you do doesn’t breed a great deal of creativity, or challenging ideas. If you have your faith shaken (probably by a guy like me) during the week, and you start to second guess what you believe, you can always go back on Sunday morning and have everybody tell you how much I am wrong and how much you must be right.
Not to mention what happens when these tight knit groups clash with other tight knit groups. These kinds of flare-ups are generally very destructive, especially when both groups are meeting once a week to congratulate each other on how right they are and how wrong the other group must be.
How about those groups that continue racist practises? For example, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whose leader, Warren Jeffs regularly says outrageous things like, “The black race is the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth.”
“a local congregation often provides advice, care for the poor and sick, and other services on a far more personal level, and sometimes more effectively, than the government or secular organisations”
True, but look at the countless mega-churches that make millions and pump those millions into things like smoke shows (literally) and laser shows and big high-definition screens and lavish video productions and so on.
Not to mention that eight of the ten biggest charities are secular – the difference is that secular charity doesn’t come with little pamphlets and invitations to come to the local church.
Contention 3: Call to Action
If the positive of religion is charity, (which can just as easily be accomplished without a religion), that’s fine.
We can count that as a positive, but it’s also a positive for those who don’t have a religion, as charity is something everybody does. So it’s a positive for secularists as well.
The problem is that religion comes with negatives that secularism doesn’t have. It rapidly becomes a diminishing returns kind of situation. Okay, the Quran says “Pay the poor-due.” That’s fine, but it also says of unbelievers "And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out..."
This is something secularism simply doesn’t have. There is no code for murdering apostates in the secular tradition. Nor do people have to be compensated in some heavenly realm for every good deed they do. People are inherently selfish creatures, and I see no problem in giving to the homeless because you don’t like seeing homeless people begging for money, not because a cosmic judge will someday pat you on the head in another universe.
Contention 4: Moral Compass
This reply ties into some of the stuff I mentioned in the reply to the first contention.
It is interesting that you mention Mother Teresa. I recommend our old pal Hitch’s article on her. (http://www.slate.com...)
This ‘true north’ theory is frankly a load of rubbish and rhetoric. I’m glad we don’t take our morals from the Christian god, who, in a fit of rage declared in Genesis 6:17 “And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.” What kind of psychopathic god decides that a fair punishment for behaving exactly as they were created to behave should be complete and utter annihilation of the entire world.
Or, who decided that a fair punishment for keeping the Jews in slavery (a common practise in ancient times) would be wanton slaughter of innocent children. “And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.”
Then in THE SAME BOOK describes rules for keeping Hebrew slaves! “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom.” Exodus 21:2. Not only racist and obviously biased to the Jews, but insane!
What kind of god decides to create a human race with a fatal flaw only to send his son to earth in the middle of one of the most illiterate societies to be tortured to death for the very flaw he created – and then expect modern people 2000 years later to honestly believe in him? It’s sadomasochism!
If the Christian god exists he surely is a delusional psychopath.
There is no ‘true north’. Just think that millions of millions of people have decided that it’s okay to see homeless people. In a perfect society, we’d be shocked – we’d run to the nearest homeless guy and have them sleep in the basement of our luxurious house! But we aren’t shocked, and we don’t all do that, believer, or not. We’ve decided, sub-consciously, or not, that it’s not shocking or truly terrible that people get hooked on drugs and are forced to beg for money in the street – and yet it is!
It’s equally as ludicrous to assume that ‘better’ and ‘worse’ only exist with religion, as if a Brazilian tribe couldn’t understand that if one their children is killed it isn’t ‘better’ or ‘worse’. I think it’s pretty clear. What an outrageous claim. ‘Better’ and ‘Worse’ are purely subjective, just as a Catholic priest might think it’s ‘better’, or if you like, ‘more moral’, to have AIDS run rampant than it is to have widespread condom use in Africa. Just as the psychopathic god you claim is ‘true north’ thinks that perfect moral punishment for the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah should be total and absolute destruction. Myself, as an atheist, I look at that and my subjective true north differs from the so-called holy god. I think we shouldn’t condemn entire cities to destruction every time we don’t like them.
Gen. 19:24-25 “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.”
Ok - rebuttal to Round 2:
1) There is no argument submitted here, just a lengthy quote of Hitch's personal opinions, appealing to the ubiquitous emotional polemic people seem to have against religion these days (as tended to be Hitch's wont). It is not without its value though, as it exposes Con's frame of reference (to a point) in terms of that most of his thoughts basically seem to be Hitch's. My main issue with Con's apparent stance throughout Round 2 (and 3 for that matter) is that it seems very absolute, just like Hitch was. Hitch tended to always be about "I'm right, you're wrong - and I will destroy you in debate". There seemed to never be any seeking of common ground on which to agree, or to even try and empathise with the opposite argument. How can you ever hope to grow and learn with that type of attitude? This was his greatest weakness to my mind, and the irony wasn't lost on me that he was quick to point out the historic wrongs of religion holding such absolute viewpoints to the (often barbaric) marginalisation of other worldviews - yet failed to notice he increasingly did exactly this with his own position.
Con has three glaring weaknesses in his stance:
a) much like Hitch, he comes across as primarily trying to "win" a debate, rather than approaching this from a perspective that we might come together as two different worldviews to find commonality and both learn something from each other
b) cherry picks between logic and emotion when it suits the argument, uses emotional and moral value judgements to decry religion, with no actual foundational logic as to explain why all the examples he provides are actually "bad" (as I will attempt to demonstrate, but again Con has structured their emotional appeal very well to disguise this - it is almost as if I am up against the mighty Hitch himself!)
c) copy/pastes arguments, assuming I am a traditional theist - which I can guarantee I am not. I am relatively unorthodox, being studied in physics, philosophy and theology - so if Con tries to listen to precisely what I actually propose rather than just hearing the same old theistic arguments to rebut with standard responses, he may learn something here.
2) Con's insights into his mother are interesting. This is the first example of cherry picking between emotion and logic. Con makes the emotional appeal to the audience that his mother is callous, the unwritten assumption being that "of course" having a brain tumour is "worse" than not praying. But where is the foundational logic for this assumption that the one thing is arbitrarily "worse" than the other? By what logical and moral authority do you assume that? If morality is relative, then your mother isn't "wrong" - she merely has a different worldview to you. Say that heaven does exist, then having a brain tumour is a drop in the ocean and losing your soul is of eternal consequence. It is all relative.
The logical basis of your argument is effectively: "on the given assumption (which I don't need to prove) that my mother is wrong in her relative assessment of brain tumours and prayer, and that I am right, then my mother is wrong to hold that viewpoint" - but at best that is merely circular. You haven't provided any logic as to why an inoperable brain tumour is "worse" than not praying - not providing logic being precisely what you accuse religion of in this very point!
It is precisely the same with all of the terrorism et alia. You state all this "bad" stuff, not even feeling the need to logically demonstrate why it is "bad". You just rely on the emotional impact that the audience will instantly recognise it as "bad" with no actual logical justification behind thinking this. BUT, if there is no God, and no absolute morality - then how can you demonstrate that both you and your audience are correct in your assessment of torture and terrorism as "bad"? [I happen to agree with you that all those things are "bad" - but I do so with a moral frame of reference of "good", where you have none]
It seems to me that Con is utilising some bastardised hybrid of secular logic and cultural emotional bias to define what is "good" (which being Western like me, is largely based on a Christian moral heritage of course!!) Incidentally, I use the word "bastardised" with the scientific intent, not the offensive. If you take offence at the term, that is a matter of your own interpretation, and not my intent.
Yet this is precisely the fundamental flaw in Con's assumed position. You cannot just assume in a situation of moral relativism that you automatically hold the moral high ground in what you believe. Your frame of reference for what you consider to be "good" and "positive" and "beneficial" etc is heavily culturally biased by the West. Who is to say that if you were born in Syria, you might be a fighter for ISIS right now? Those "Islamic Terrorists" as you would define them clearly think that they are in the "right" and that you are in the "wrong" with your Western worldview.
But here is the rub. Who arbitrates? You? Me? Common consensus (in which case back when the common consensus condoned slavery within society, did that make it "right"?) As soon as you remove a moral true north as defined by a higher power than humanity, there is no "good" and "bad" - there are only different worldviews.
3) I'd agree that Religion has been the primary VEHICLE with which destruction and intolerance have been undertaken, but to declare Religion the primary SOURCE is disingenuous.
The Catholic lineage is indeed littered with internal wars in Europe, the Crusades etc - but it would be hard to see how their actions had their source from the teachings of Christ - who preached "turn the other cheek", "pray for your enemies" etc. The simple fact is that Christians undertook the Crusades IN SPITE of what Christ taught, not because of it. You might object at this point and quote the apparent barbarity of Old Testament at me - but then that would only serve to highlight your misunderstanding of Christianity. Christ's message, called the New Testament in the Bible, largely overwrites the Old Testament. The Old Testament is largely in the Bible as a frame of reference for the New Testament.
And to borrow Tony Blair's terminology, since when was intolerance a "wholly-owned subsidiary" of religion?
Here's a couple of comments from the forum of atheismuk.com I found literally just now:
"If a Christian offers to pray for you out of sympathy for your 'affliction', you could in return commiserate with them in respect of their mental disorder, and offer the more practical advice of urging them to seek psychiatric help."
"Do yourself a favour and don't give it [religion] credibility that it doesn't deserve."
Is this really the voice of tolerance and reason? Being open to hearing other worldviews? You've removed the religion, but not the intolerance. That is a flaw unique to all humanity, and these are how the seeds of intolerance are sown. Yes of course, people of religion have done this historically - but that is because they are human beings, not just because of religion.
I strongly contend that it is IDEOLOGICAL FANATICISM which is responsible for all the ills you have cited. Historically, of course, this has largely been carried out using the ideological vehicle of religion - but most probably only because that has been the commonplace worldview right up until very recently. The 20th Century saw all sorts of barbarity, wars and slaughter in the name of Socialism, and even in the name of Democracy and Freedom. Do you deduce from this that Socialism, Democracy and/or Freedom are the "cause", or must be flawed as a result of this? Or do you recognise that it is in fact humanity that is flawed, and that they can and will use any vehicle to justify barbaric actions when it suits them.
I’ll begin by thanking Pro for the compliment, which is rare when discussing religion, as I’m sure we both know.
On to rebuttals, or perhaps, rebuttals of rebuttals.
1) My first point is a declaration of a viable argument, that religion has run its course, and being that no proof can be raised to show that religion makes us ‘better’ then it truly has no purpose. The Hitchens quote was a bit long, but his points build on top of mine.
Your points on my absolutism are not related to this debate, and are mostly just conjecture. I don’t see how my own personal beliefs factor in – this should be about evidence; about what I have written on the page. As an ex-Baptist I have the religious history that Hitchens could not claim. I went to bible school for two years, in fact. I know the other side well; I debated Atheists on the existence of god much as you are doing now. So any absolutism you detect is well-won. I’m open to learn, but I’m deeply skeptical.
2) If the example I used was too charged with emotion for Pro, I can just as easily use a different example, because I think you missed the point. Obviously, from my perspective, god is myth, so my mother’s belief is ludicrous. To my mother, it might be quite real (although I haven’t had the ‘would you rather I had a brain tumor’ talk with her). If we assume god exists, then surely it is much worse that I be damned to hell. This example was intriguing because it shows the dichotomy that exists between an Atheist and a Theist.
Her logic is faith based. If I have a brain tumor, I know I what I have because I can go get a CAT scan and can clearly see the tumor. My mother, on the other hand, can’t go get a heavenly CAT scan (this example is running out of road) and speak with the Lord about me and my damnation. She has no way to quantify heaven or hell or the fate that she has decided is totally real. This is the point.
If we use her faith-based logic, then medical science and the ‘real-world’ must take a backseat to the eternal, unearthly realm, which, unlike medical science and the ‘real-world’ isn’t strictly verifiable. Otherwise, as any pastor will tell you, “What is the point of having faith, if it was provable”? Faith, therefore, is suspension of logic.
My point was that if we apply faith to a geopolitical standard, we get some serious effects.
Your points on terrorism strengthen my own viewpoints. To a terrorist, his reliance on faith is to the detriment of not only the human race in general but to the thousands of fellow Muslims who are routinely slaughtered by extremists. The problem is that Islam in particular does make ample room for violent interpretation. Faith is what causes terrorists to blow themselves up. Read some of the first hand accounts of suicide bombers. Here’s an excerpt from one of them. (http://www.therazor.org...)
Stiti: "No, that's not it. That's not right. I didn't go to commit suicide. I went to die a martyr's death. I wanted to get the reward. I spent a month in the mosque. I learned there how important it is to be a shaheed. It is the loftiest objective. It's very important for the Palestinian people, nationally and religiously. It's the biggest and most holy thing you can do. And then you receive all the rewards in Paradise."
I made my position on moral evolution fairly clear. Plenty of my points remain unchallenged, for example, what about the atheistic tribes that have somehow survived without a shred of religious bias? They have morality, in fact, they even practise a kind of socialism. I claimed that human morality is intensely subjective, and it often based on past histories. My points on taking morality from what I would call a wicked god remain mostly unchallenged. Who is to say morality isn’t defined by cultural bias? Also, my points on the toxicity of religious community are unchallenged.
Your points on slavery are especially ironic, being that the slave owners used verses from the bible to back up their divine right to own slaves.
“Who is to say that if you were born in Syria, you might be a fighter for ISIS right now?”
Exactly right! I might be! I’m thankful to be in a place where secularism is celebrated and science and reason are allowed to challenge dogmatic beliefs, not in a place where such ideas are encouraged to ferment. This is why the spread of secularism and logic and science is so important – not to brainwash or destroy tradition, but to allow people to see that there is another way to look at the world.
3) I can make it clear what I think; and that is that religion has been both a vehicle and a source for hatred and intolerance. Be careful not to bias all your arguments to Christianity. History is not kind to religion – and that goes for multiple cultures. The Bible is a deeply contradictory book, as I pointed out. Sure Jesus might have said “turn the other cheek” (a ludicrous practise, if you ask me), but at the same time, the god of the Old Testament smites entire cities. Are we to believe that this god is somehow less important than the very same god who appears later in the book? This sense of the New Testament/Old Testament god is relatively new in the Christian doctrine. It’s apologetic and isn’t very genuine.
As for the Crusades, well they are more supported by Jesus’ words than by anybody else’s. The doctrine of unbelief, which ties back into my mother and her faith-based logic, was a primary motivator. I’ll leave up to Pope Urban II, and his declaration of the First Crusade on 27 November, 1095, to better explain it:
“Who, who will go chase off these infidels and take back what they have taken and polluted? Who, if it is not you? ... May nothing keep you back, not even your love for your children, your parents, and your wives....Remember what the Lord has told us in the Gospel: He who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me....Jesus also said that he who leaves all to follow me will have an eternal reward. This is why I ask you, not in my own name but in the name of the Lord, to convince the Francs of every rank, foot soldiers as well as the knights, the rich and the poor, to go help the faithful servants of Christ and to push far back the race of infidels....This, I say to those gathered here and I will do so to those absent: This is what Christ ordains!”
I think it’s made clear what the Pope ordered. Unbelievers will go to hell, and so torment and war and violence are somehow ‘worth it’ if you can save a few from the unquantifiable hellfire that awaits them. Add in this notion of ‘holy land’ and the situation becomes toxic.
Your quotes from atheismuk.com are not related to what I think. I never said them, and I don’t know why you posted them in the first place. Are you trying to make me out to sound rude by fitting this quote over top of what I am actually trying to say? I never claimed any of those points.
We improve as a species; it is what we do, and we’ve been doing it for a very long time. I say all ideological fanatics and sources of fanaticism should be cast out. I’m glad to read that we agree that ideological fanaticism is so very toxic. I’m sad to read that you can’t see that religious texts are a primary source of such fanaticism. We don’t need them to justify our existence any more than we need them as scientific documents. So why not cast them out? Why make justifications?
My fourth contentions remain unchallenged, but I’ll assume you probably just ran out of space.
[For the avoidance of confusion, this is the one with the Piraha tribe and the four contentions - as per our recent dialogue on the comments board :o)]
"I assume that Pro is not a proponent of evolution" - correct, but lucky guess as I only have reservations whilst wearing my "scientist hat"! Wearing my "theological hat" I have utterly no problem with Evolution. Creationism and Evolution are not mutually exclusive.
"I also assume that he makes no room for evolution in his thoughts on morality" - incorrect, I have considered this before - see below. Interesting you assume I'm a "he" ;o)
My big issue with evolution from an empirical standpoint, is that it is pretty much unfalsifiable. For example, say in one part of the world there is a fish in a dark cave which has no eyes - evolutionist says "aha, a classic example of evolution. The fish no longer needs eyes in these dark conditions, so has lost them over time." Then in another part of the world, there is another type of fish in a dark cave that has extra eyes - another evolutionist says "aha, a classic example of evolution. The fish developed extra eyes over time to assist with sight in these dark conditions." It is the same with pretty much anything, you can always come up with some reason why some trait might better assist with survival, and conclude that is why the trait has prospered. It is just a logical tautology.
As goes morality, actually you could just as easily argue that this is a counter-evolutionary trait. Morality causes society to care for the sick, the elderly, those with genetic disorders etc - hardly textbook examples of "survival of the fittest". If you want an example of Darwinian ideals in a society, you're probably best looking to the Nazis. Adolf Hitler stated that he wanted to create a generation "devoid of a conscience" to propagate his master race. The Nazis also killed off those who weren't deemed genetically pure, and those they perceived as holding society back.
I can decry what the Nazis did as evil based on Christian moral values. Tell me, by what logic can you decry what the Nazis attempted to do with their society as "wrong"? It can't be by evolutionary Darwinism, because if anything that is basically the model that the Nazis were trying to follow - and it is in fact the West that is going against the grain of "survival of the fittest" by looking after the weakest members. There is no logical or evolutionary argument for society to keep elderly, sick, unproductive members of society alive (no other animals do this, not even your supposedly "moral" chimps!)
Also, surely it could be far more toxic to NOT consider humanity sacred - eg what is the logical argument NOT to have slavery, or NOT to just kill off the weakest members of society and turn them into food (as we do with other animals)? They are all just random by-products of this random universe after all - what's the difference?
I note that you deliberately pick the Piraha people for your argument - who I am sure are lovely. How about one of the many feral/cannibalistic tribes that have existed (some still) - do you assume that they developed their take very unique take on morality through evolution too? You're just back to moral relativism, and the fact you can use evolution to "prove" any outcome you like.
Also, you don't address my "computers made of meat" point here. If you argue that your brain is a random by-product of a random universe, then on what logical basis can you conclude that your random brain of chemicals and electrical signals is capable of independent rational thought in any case? And how would you hope to empirically prove it, even if you believe that your brain can have independent rational thought in such a scenario?
Won't waste too many characters on this, already conceded this is a weaker point:
"The flip-side of this point is that existing in a community of people who say and believe the same things that you do doesn"t breed a great deal of creativity, or challenging ideas"
-Demonstrably false, as I am debating with you right now, and I have moved my stance on several topics as a result of listening to other worldviews. This is just a lazy stereotype.
"True, but look at the countless mega-churches that make millions and pump those millions into things like smoke shows (literally) and laser shows and big high-definition screens and lavish video productions and so on"
-Do you give all of your discretionary income (ie post-tax, post-bills) to charities then? Or do you spend it on "fun stuff" as well? I don't really get the point here.
Nice quote of Warren Jeffs by the way - I'm sure that represents the general feeling of most religious people, rather than just being the extreme viewpoint of one individual!
"Not to mention that eight of the ten biggest charities are secular - the difference is that secular charity doesn't come with little pamphlets and invitations to come to the local church"
-I'm a volunteer for Christian Aid; I must have missed those pamphlets you suppose to exist.
Would you mind naming the ten charities, along with the data by which they are ranked "biggest"?
I think we agree that both religious and non-religious people do "good stuff". I maintain that trying to add up both sides of "good" and "bad" using some arbitrary scoring system is not going to be very helpful.
Are you seriously condoning what Hitch said about Mother Teresa? All the selfless good she did, yet he can only summarise that she was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud? Are you beginning to see my point about intolerance yet?
"This "true north" theory is frankly a load of rubbish and rhetoric"
-Nice logical proof :o)
"What kind of psychopathic god decides that a fair punishment for behaving exactly as they were created to behave should be complete and utter annihilation of the entire world"
-Appealing to emotions again. By what actual logic can you declare God "psychopathic", and place yourself as morally "superior"?
"What kind of god decides to create a human race with a fatal flaw and then expect modern people 2000 years later to honestly believe in him?"
-The "fatal flaw" you describe is called free will - and you're ignoring the possibility of a "greater good" ultimately being realised in having given us free will, which was worth the downside of evil. I believe in God 2,000 years on - as do c. 3.8 billion people alive today. So yeah, it seems God could expect that.
"There is no "true north"" It's my personal belief that nobody does anything for selfless reasons... I don"t have a problem with that."
-Then give me one logical argument why I should obey the law, and be kind to my neighbour etc. Why not instead make my life's goal to exert as much sadistic dictatorial power and control over as many other human beings as possible during my short, pointless existence here on Earth?
"as if a Brazilian tribe couldn"t understand that if one their children is killed it isn"t "better" or "worse". I think it"s pretty clear."
- No logic again - why is it clear? If the child is just a random by-product of the matter of this universe, then if the parent is sad that the child is dead - well that is just the way the brain has evolved to get adults to care for their offspring. It's just electric signals and hormones; it's not "real". What is better/worse is just relative.
Say I'm leader of a hypothetical tribe on an island that is starving to death, and I use simple logic and evolutionary Darwinism: we kill off the weakest member and eat them. But you're not really arguing for that, because in this case you would fall back on the appeal to the emotional - the same as you argue against all the supposedly "bad" stuff God does in the Bible.
I return to my core logical stance:
God exists - religion is necessarily positive for humanity
No God - everything is just relative (+ meaningless) anyway
Thank you pro, I apologize for any gender assumptions, haha.
On to my last rebuttal.
The fact you dispute evolution on a scientific basis is interesting. Most biologists would disagree with you, and the evidence for evolution is fairly blatant. This claim of tautology is just misplaced. The scientific field is built to oppose tautology. The most famous and most successful scientists are the ones who destroy old ideas and make room for new ones. A scientist wouldn’t get rich and famous for parading old ideas around. Don’t you think that if somebody had found legitimate evidence to disapprove evolution we would know about it?
This example of the cave fish doesn’t make much sense either. If a fish has evolved, then it’s evolved. It shouldn’t matter how it evolved, if you can prove that over the years it has changed and adapted then that is the end of the argument. Evolution has taken its course. Thanks to things like the fossil record and things like vestigial legs in whales and so on, we can see evolution as it has taken place.
Morality isn’t necessarily tied to Darwinian evolution. It could partly be more cultural. But let’s say it is Darwinian. For example, in this experiment monkeys were found to show fairly obvious signs of morality. (http://www.ted.com...) It could be Darwinian; humans, as a species could have figured out long ago that keeping the wise old man healthy would be beneficial for the tribe, just as we would have figured out that condoning things like wanton murder and cannibalism and thievery and rape don’t generally lead to a prosperous tribe.
Adolf Hitler, Roman Catholic. The German church condoned Hitler, even up until 1945.
“You're just back to moral relativism, and the..."
Absolutely right. Morality is relative, and it’s not a coincidence that this tribe in particular has moral standards that are at the very least fairly comparable to our own.
I never argued that my brain is a product of random chance because that doesn’t make any sense. It evolved as an organ over millions of years. It didn’t just appear in my head (although, looking back at my life one could make a case that it did). The brain is still a mystery, and that’s pretty amazing. I don’t know about the independence of thought and free will because nobody knows about that.
True, I can’t say that every single religious person is trapped in a church mindset, but a key difference between those who are religious and those who are not is that those who aren’t don’t feel the need to discuss all the ways they aren’t religious every Sunday. In my experience, bringing an atheistic message into a church is a great way to get yelled at. I can say that many of the people I went to church with were very much caught up in the ‘church’ mindset.
“Do you give all of your discretionary income (ie post-tax, post-bills) to charities..."
The point here is that Jesus’s message opposes the rich fairly clearly. Those who are rich should give some portion of it away. For a church to be rich seems even worse. Jesus wrecked a temple for condoning trading. What would he do if he walked into a laser show mega-church? It’s harder for the rich man to enter heaven, after all.
“Nice quote of Warren Jeffs by the way - I'm sure that represents the general feeling..."
I never said that was the general feeling of most religious people, and for you to paint me with that brush is insulting my intelligence. Do I really need to say that I don’t think most religious people believe that? The point was to show that communities can be incredibly destructive if they are left to fester.
Whether or not you want to take my pamphlet line and again paint all religious organizations with it is up to you. I can tell you that when I went to Mexico on a mission trip we were encouraged to hand out not only pamphlets but also pocket bibles, which we had boxes of.
Top charities - http://www.forbes.com...
If religion is so adept at spreading beliefs through community then why all the division? If religion provides us with a ‘true north’ then why can I talk to one Christian who is pro-death sentence, or pro-gay marriage, or whatever, and then talk to another in the same church who isn’t? Name five major issues where Religious people agree unanimously. They can’t even agree on what the bible means! Much less work as some kind of cohesive unit!
-Nice logical proof :o)”
Taking an introduction to a series of logical points and passing it off as some kind of singular message is disingenuous to my argument. I went on to explain why.
Appealing to emotions again. By what actual logic can you declare God "psychopathic", and place yourself as morally "superior"?
It’s interesting to note that whenever I bring up this kind of proof you say I’m “appealing to emotions”. It’s a logical point, and you should address it as such. Is it not logical to think that evaporating a city is not the ideal way to fix community problems? It seems logical to me. If we don’t like Compton, that’s fine, but let’s not nuke it just because it’s not an ideal community. Maybe we should do it, after all, if god is perfect than we should follow in his example. Is that not logical?
This goes into your notion of ‘free will’. It’s not free will if god knows how it’s going to end, and the bible clearly states that he does know how it’s going to end. If god created me, then he knows the choices I’m going to make, and he knows where I’ll end up. So why not swoop in and save me? Why not make himself known?
I gave you several arguments as to why I think there is no ‘true north’. Demanding an argument is just silly. Go back to evolutionary morality. Go back to the tyrannical god we claim gave us the rules. Remember that the Christian god didn’t and still doesn’t reign supreme over most of the world. We’ve got plenty of Muslims and Jews and Hindu that all have different cultures and thoughts on morality.
Why must you persist with this random-by-product nonsense? If a man and a woman have a child then they are compelled by evolutionary motives to protect their child. It is logical that if a mother loses her child she will suffer, emotionally, and the case could easily be made that she feels so strongly about her child because evolutionarily as a species we have a long history of losing children at a young age. There was a time when having lots of children was important because we were threatened with dying out.
If you were the leader of a tribe and you were starving to death I would expect you to do what is necessary to survive as a whole. It’s not pretty, but if it came to one death versus twenty deaths, wouldn’t you take it? It’s been done before. The religious people might starve to death, but we would survive.
Religion might have its benefits, but there is nothing that religion can do for humanity that we couldn’t do without it. Therefore, if you take the bad stuff religious dogmatism encourages, it’s easy to see why we should discard it. Pro can’t prove that religion has worked primarily as a positive in the past, and he can’t prove that it provides a ‘true north’, because not only have people survived fine without a religious text, but even if we did use a religious text like the bible, every Christian picks and chooses parts they like and disregards the stuff they don’t like. The same goes for most religions. What we might call a good Muslim is in fact a Muslim that disregards the violent verses in the Quran that condone death for apostates or condone jihad. So the fact remains, if we pick and choose, then what is really driving our moral compass. Why wouldn’t we just take it all literally like some of our ancestors did? Why not just act like the so-called perfect god in every instance of our life? Because we don’t get our moral compass from the bible, or the Quran.
1) "My first point is a declaration of a viable argument, that religion has run its course"
-You can state this even though c.54% of the planet believe in the same Abrahamic monotheistic God, with a further c.30% following other religions? http://en.wikipedia.org...
So I"m not sure how viable your argument is here, on the basis of the actual facts.
"Your points on my absolutism are not related to this debate"
-on the contrary, it exposes your stance. I genuinely have come here for dialogue, whereas you apparently have only come here to demonstrate your own "rightness" and my comparative "wrongness". It is precisely this level of closed-minded intolerance you decry religion for, yet that is effectively what you are doing yourself.
2) "This example was intriguing because it shows the dichotomy that exists between an Atheist and a Theist."
-I entirely agree; don't see how I miss the point, this is basically what I was trying to point out too. The only difference is you think you're right and your mum is wrong! I think you're not really listening to what I am actually saying.
"Her logic is faith based. If I have a brain tumor, I know I [sic] what I have because I can go get a CAT scan and can clearly see the tumor."
-except that you have no way to quantify that you definitely are here on Earth in the first place, so anything you think you can "prove" hinges on the assumption that your own brain is trustworthy in how it is interpreting this universe for you - see solipsism, brain in a vat etc. "Proof" and "evidence" are actually an illusion, because they rely on your own senses being trustworthy in the first place - which is impossible to demonstrate.
"Faith, therefore, is suspension of logic."
-Not necessarily - sensible faith is the most likely rationalisation of the available data, in the absence of concrete proof. Faith to the suspension of logic would be like me just waking up one day and deciding to believe that my sofa was a deity. That is not the type of faith I have. I have faith in the historic Christ, who made certain claims and whose life is recorded by eye-witnesses - the gospels being as valid historic record as the works of Herodotus, Tacitus and Suetonius (with the notable exception that the time lapse between the actual events and the recording of the events is predominantly much closer in the case of the gospels).
Of course, you too take it "on faith" that your senses are reliable, that you really are here on earth, and everything which you believe you can scientifically "prove" really exists. But perhaps you think it is logically sound to have one "free" unprovable assumption, and then demand empirical proof from there on in (all of which hinges on that unprovable assumption)?
"Your points on terrorism strengthen my own viewpoints."
-nope, because you still haven"t demonstrated that wars etc are necessarily "bad". You suggest that God wiping out entire cities and peoples makes him a "wicked God" (the ultimate oxymoron, because if God exists, he is necessarily the very yardstick of "goodness" by definition - so if from your perspective he appears "wicked", logically that ought to tell you something about your own perspective). But your logic doesn"t hold anyway, because if God created us then he has absolute authority and right to do with us as he chooses. Not a great parallel - but if you exterminate a load of termites that are ruining your wooden floor, does that make you wicked? And you didn"t even create the termites!
Your gripe with God is a bit like a two-year-old getting cross at its parents for not letting them investigate the pretty looking flames of a fireplace by touch! Just because you don"t understand the reasons behind God"s rules and actions doesn"t mean that there isn"t a higher righteousness which you can"t understand because of your limited faculties (this isn"t to say you are stupid, it is merely to say that relative to God you are infinitely more ignorant than a two-year-old compared to its parents).
"I"m thankful to be in a place where secularism is celebrated and science and reason are allowed to challenge dogmatic beliefs, not in a place where such ideas are encouraged to ferment."
-I would tend to agree with you on this point, except that secularism isn"t the ideological panacea you claim it to be. The very reason I quoted you those comments from atheismuk.com, was not in some desperate attempt to draw some half-baked parallel to your argument to make you look bad (it is very telling that you chose to interpret it that way though). It was to demonstrate that by removing religion, you don"t remove the intolerance nor the ideological fanaticism. There is no doubt in my mind that secularism could be hijacked in precisely the same manner as religion has been historically, in order to oppress and stamp out followers of faiths. Atheists can be just as intolerant of other worldviews, which has the potential to be just as dangerous.
The seeds of intolerance are sown with such comments as those atheists were posting on their little cliquey forum. Then if left unchecked this can grow into a behemoth of oppression very quickly. It is when you start to close down dialogue and begin to think that your worldview is superior by saying things like "religion has run its course" in order to subordinate other people"s beliefs to those of your own that you are in dodgy territory.
The fact that you don"t seem to recognise the potential danger to be equivalent, is a little worrying to say the least.
It is my belief that you are incorrectly assigning this issue (predominantly, if not solely) to religion, where in point of fact the problem lies with humanity who hold an absolutist adherence to ANY ideology to the exclusion of other worldviews. I believe you are in danger of holding such a position yourself - but you seem to genuinely believe that science and secularism are somehow immune to such threats.
Why don"t you take a look at what the Japanese did in the name of science in WW2:
Or what the secular, ANTI-RELIGIOUS communists did in the name of socialism throughout the last Century:
Where is your "scapegoat" of religion to blame in these instances?
3) "The Bible is a deeply contradictory book, as I pointed out."
-Give me an example of something which you claim to definitely be contradictory in the Bible, and I will give you a reason why it isn"t. [Will have to be on the comments board, as we"re out of rounds!]
"This sense of the New Testament/Old Testament god is relatively new in the Christian doctrine. It"s apologetic and isn"t very genuine."
-This isn"t what I was arguing. God is the same; it is the Testament that has changed. This is precisely why they are called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament (or "Agreement") replaces the Old Agreement - that"s the entire point! (Are you sure you listened properly when you went to Bible college?)
"As for the Crusades, well they are more supported by Jesus" words than by anybody else"s." " "I"m sad to read that you can"t see that religious texts are a primary source of such fanaticism."
-no, you see that is my entire point. Pope Urban II twisted Christ"s words to suit his own agenda. "He who loves his father and mother more than me"" and "he who leaves all to follow me"" are very different to saying (in fact, they are frankly nothing to do with) "push far back the race of infidels". If he had quoted Christ"s Sermon on the Mount, particularly Matthew 5:38-44, it is quite clear there is no justification for what he was proposing. Again, it is the VEHICLE - not the SOURCE.
My logical position reiterated one final time:
God exists - religion is necessarily positive for humanity.
No God - everything is just relative and completely meaningless/pointless anyway. [Including this debate and this upcoming vote!]