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Free Thought Exchange - Is this enough to break the spell?


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Here's a neat idea of a group that goes and has open dialogues with church members and communities. No mission to convert, just to talk.

What do you think? Is this all it takes to free the minds of our worlds populace from the (IMO) delusion which is religious belief and to break the spell?
After all, isn't that largely what we do online in fora just like these?

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Sam, I am not going to take umbrage at your quip about UFOs since I do not "believe" and only advocate investigation Of UFOs and decry the misinformation campaign fostered by the military over the yea

If that was true, then we shouldn't have different conclusions.     I did not specify that I did not mis-understand your whole argument, I almost didn't specify at all. Having an issue with a spe

"The great end in religious instruction, is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; no

I cannot answer your question. But, perhaps an accumulation of personal stories will give you some insight. Toward that end, I shall share mine, as briefly and succinctly as I possibly can.

 

My mother's family adhere to the Primitive Baptist belief, a fundamentalist organization who believe in a literal interpretation of the bible (whatever that means I am unsure). I can only recall parts, because I have been dissociated for about 55 years, and my memory is no doubt inaccurate by this time.

 

My grandmother related an event in my life that I am sure affected me profoundly, regardless of my inability to recall it. My mother divorced my father because he was alcoholic and no doubt unkind. By the time I was 3 she had remarried to a man named Bill (another alcoholic), and they lived near my mother's family for a short time. I was told that Bill hit me in the stomach with his fist, and that my Uncle Gary told Bill that he would kill Bill if he ever hit me again. Shortly after that Bill, mother and I moved to Wyoming. I remember little of Wyoming, except that I began to have nightmares of riding in a car at high speed on a mountain road and flying off the edge. These nightmares continued until I was about 15. After my mother divorced Bill, he ran off the side of a mountain road and killed himself (no doubt while driving drunk). My next step father was also abusive, and by the time I was 15, I had reasoned that religion was not all good.

 

My life before 15 was profoundly unhappy. My mother married a succession of bastards, and I suffered. She fretted over divorcing them, because her religion. Yet, she subjected me to their abuse, mainly verbal, but nonetheless terrifying to a child. We tended to live away from any family and continually move from town to town. Thus, I was mostly isolated, and became a loner, lonely and independent.

 

I suppose isolation from family and only sporadic church attendance contributed to my being able to escape the insanity of believing without reason. In addition, I recall pondering about the ideas acquired from my mother, family, and church. I found these ideas included bigotry, contradiction, and illogical nonsense. Eventually, I settled on being agnostic and philosophically Buddhist.

 

In retrospect, I believe I owe my philosophical enlightenment to my abusive stepfathers, who isolated me from friends and family. Otherwise, social pressures would probably have entangled me to continue believing in God, religion, and bigotry.

 

For my conversion to agnosticism, I am an outcast from the religious part of my family. I suspect an appeal to reason without social support will never garner many converts.

Edited by EdEarl
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Thanks for sharing your story, Ed. You mentioned the concept of isolation... both physical and mental. While your isolation helped you escape religion, it reminded me how often isolation is the primary reason religious belief so often remains strong. For these folks, being exposed to new things and new people can really change the way they feel about belief and faith and other similar doctrines.

 

That's why I shared the OP. I think online internet forums like this help expose previously isolated people to new ideas... new thoughts... new challenges to their worldview that they'd never experience without it. I think talking in person is needed, too.

 

Religion in public places can be a taboo subject, but maybe we need more taboo to break the hold it's had for so long.

Edited by iNow
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When one is isolated, their independent thoughts can lead in them in any direction. As Skinner box experiments show, even chickens can develop religion (e.g., standing on one foot and spinning clockwise to "pray" for food during random feeding). Isolation leaves one with a deep hunger for change. In my case, I identified my mother's religious doctrine as being partly responsible for being abused; thus, my change was atheistic, but concluded atheism assumes too much about the concept of God.

 

I agree that online forums like this can help those who lack social interaction. I am married, disabled, and alone much of the day because my wife works. This forum gives me social interaction. Social interaction via the internet is a relatively new phenomenon that has already had surprising affects, and I expect others.

 

People seem to need religion to face uncertainty. It doesn't seem to be a genetic trait; rather, a consequence of rational thought being difficult compared to other thought, (David Rock says rational thinking is difficult and uses lots of glucose compared to other thinking).

 

Yes, this kind of discussion tends to threaten religious folks and be taboo. Thus, much of my life I have been too frightened to speak up. Now, that I am old and at least partly protected by the internet, I am brave enough to share my story. And, I am insignificant compared to Richard Dawkins and others. It is unlikely anyone will fire bomb my house.

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"The
great end in religious instruction, is not to stamp our minds upon the
young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but
to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; not to give them a
definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth;
not to form an outward regularity, but to touch inward springs; not to
bind them by ineradicable prejudices to our particular sect or peculiar
notions, but to prepare them for impartial, conscientious judging of
whatever subjects may be offered to their decision; not to burden
memory, but to quicken and strengthen the power of thought."
William Ellery Channing

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Channing's quote is interesting rhetoric or free verse, but some, maybe most, spiritual advocates practice indoctrination and spurn those who think for themselves. My family of religious zealots have not spoken to me for five decades, except for my mother who always hoped I would (my words, forget how to reason and) return to religion.

 

I realize believers have an almost impossible challenge to overthrow religious addiction because there are no obvious ill effects, as there are with drug addiction. Everything seems OK to them. And, they think these words are illogical. I really wish I could help them, but feel it is an almost impossible challenge to free them enough to reason. I can only offer my story to demonstrate the subtle ways that religion is harmful.

 

Everyone knows about religious wars and the inquisition as horrible side effects of religion, but that doesn't deter people from being religious. Perhaps my story will be like the whisper of butterfly wings that cause a hurricane...not likely. It is more likely that religious people will consider me a lost soul, instead of considering my story important.

Edited by EdEarl
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thus, my change was atheistic, but concluded atheism assumes too much about the concept of God.

 

Just a word of caution here, as I see what you're implying. Atheism is not generally the affirmative belief that there are no gods, but is instead more simply a lack of belief in someone else's... The general absence of belief instead of an affirmative belief that no gods exist. A slight semantic difference, though one with massive implications in this important cultural discussion.

 

Along similar lines and continuing this thought, agnosticism is really a comment about ones level knowledge, whereas theism and atheism are comments about ones belief. The two are separate. You (and really anyone else) are not just "agnostic." You are either an "agnostic atheist" or an "agnostic theist."

 

What really happens in practice, despite the way our culture has begun using the term, is that you either don't believe, but recognize that you cannot know... or... you do believe, but also concede that you cannot know.

 

Most atheists stipulate that they cannot know whether or not there is a god, so would rightly be described as agnostic atheists. It's just that these people generally find the concept of god(s) so uncompelling and unsupported that they choose to live life as if god does not exist, and will continue to do so until better evidence is put forth. Calling themselves atheist is a bit of a short-hand, really. I suspect most self-proclaimed agnostics fall into that same camp (in terms of how they feel on the subject), and are just uncomfortable using the term atheist given its often negative connotations.

 

More below:

 

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Agnosticism

 

There is a frequent conflation between the idea of atheism ("there is no God") and agnosticism ("we don't know if there's a God") because the former might accurately express what one believes and how they live, while the latter would express their intellectual opinion if pressed.

<snip>

True agnostics would actually not fit on a hypothetical scale between theism and atheism as they would say the argument is unanswerable and could result in anything, almost like Schrödinger's cat but where the box can never be opened.

 

Most agnostics, however, can additionally be categorised depending on how their beliefs work out in practice, whether they're more atheistic or theistic. Agnostics may live and act as if there is no God and that no religion is correct, but shy away from the title "atheist" because of the expression of certainty implied. On the other hand, someone may consider themselves spiritual but not religious, or perhaps even nominally follow a religion, but identify as an agnostic in order to convey an honest doubt about the reality of it all.

 

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Atheism

 

Atheism and agnosticism are not entirely mutually exclusive, and atheists are not "actually agnostic because no one can ever know whether God exists." This is a highly contested point among religious believers and atheistic philosophers alike, as most, if not all, thinking atheists would happily change their minds given the right evidence, and thus could be considered "agnostic" in this sense. However, this conflates the ideas of belief and knowledge. Atheism is a statement of a lack of belief, and not a lack of knowledge - which is often accepted on all sides of the theistic debate.

 

Atheism takes the position that it is rational to think that gods don't exist, based on logic and lack of evidence. Agnostics, on the other hand, state that the lack of knowledge cannot inform their opinion at all. There are agnostic atheists, who can be either weak or strong. It is at least logically possible for a theist to be an agnostic (e.g., "I believe in a pantheon of lobsterish zoomorphic deities, but cannot prove this with evidence, and acknowledge and embrace that my belief is rooted in faith")—but it is markedly difficult to find anyone who will fess up to such a position.

 

Now, if one truly and genuinely thinks they cannot know or believe or anything similar, it's usually because they say terms like god are so ill-defined that it's meaningless to take a position at all, and these folks are better described as ignostic, but that's probably not what most people mean.

 

Me? I've always liked the idea of a spectrum as put forth by Dawkins. It's called the Dawkins Scale, or the spectrum of theistic probability. Basically, you rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is [absolutely certain there IS a god] and 7 is [absolutely certain there is NO god]. Me, and others like me, are generally 6's... or perhaps 6.5's. smile.png

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

Edited by iNow
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I would like to be unbiased at 4, but realistically closer to 7. IMO anything but 4 is a religious belief; but religion frustrates and angers me. I am not the sharpest tack in the box, and cannot be an eloquent spokesman for reason and the scientific method. I will generally stay on the sidelines, and cast a vote occasionally. Thanks for your clarification. I like the Dawkins scale.

Edited by EdEarl
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Religious belief isn't a "delusion" even scientifically as you cannot disprove it. It is a lifestyle choice in which one actively practices traditions of the said region and thus becomes more connected to the religion throughout the actions of one's life. There are plenty of random given things that atheists and religious people alike can believe in. For instance, you can "believe" in alien UFOs even though that itself is not a religion, but you don't see me calling moontanman schizophrenic. The most likely reason to believe alien UFOs is because of a connection to a distinguished event in one's life such as that you saw something in the sky which you could only rationalize at the time as being an alien made device as it did not behave like terrestrial technologies and did not have the characteristics of a natural phenomena that you knew of, even though there's no proof of such alien technology.

Edited by SamBridge
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Thanks for the post, Sam, but can you please help me understand how it's supposed to relate to the topic outlined in the OP?

 

 

 

 

 

.free the minds of our worlds populace from the (IMO) delusion which is religious belief

 

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Channing's quote is interesting rhetoric or free verse, but some, maybe most, spiritual advocates practice indoctrination and spurn those who think for themselves. My family of religious zealots have not spoken to me for five decades, except for my mother who always hoped I would (my words, forget how to reason and) return to religion.

 

I realize believers have an almost impossible challenge to overthrow religious addiction because there are no obvious ill effects, as there are with drug addiction. Everything seems OK to them. And, they think these words are illogical. I really wish I could help them, but feel it is an almost impossible challenge to free them enough to reason. I can only offer my story to demonstrate the subtle ways that religion is harmful.

 

Everyone knows about religious wars and the inquisition as horrible side effects of religion, but that doesn't deter people from being religious. Perhaps my story will be like the whisper of butterfly wings that cause a hurricane...not likely. It is more likely that religious people will consider me a lost soul, instead of considering my story important.

But how much did religion contribute to your troubled life experiences when you were young? Did religion cause your step father to abuse you? It seems that religion was not the direct cause of the harm.

 

I do agree that religion can be harmful, but one has to be careful when considering the causes of harm since there are many other possible explanations.

 

I would offer my support to such a group. Though I ask you iNow, why does the goal have to be to remove religion from the populace? I don't think it is necessary to remove religion completely because there are religious people whose religion and beliefs do not negatively impact the lives of others. The most important thing is, imo, to reduce the frequency of instances in which religious beliefs can cause/contribute to harm done to others.

 

Also, I would suggest that approach simply isn't enough to remove religion, how are you going to convince that small population of NASA scientist's who believe?

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But how much did religion contribute to your troubled life experiences when you were young?

Amount of trouble...I know of no yardstick, metric, or device that can help convey my anguish caused by religion. I can only attest that it was profound and prolonged; that is, very bad for many years. Even now as a 68 year old I am affected. I have a younger brother who does not speak to me.

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I would offer my support to such a group. Though I ask you iNow, why does the goal have to be to remove religion from the populace?

To clarify, I'd rather get people to think critically and speak openly with those holding different viewpoints... To not shun criticisms and rebuttals, but to address them and recognize when they cannot how that impacts the core of their position. That's the goal. If the influence of religions various examples of stupidity and harm is minimized as a consequence of that effort, then that's just icing.

 

Ultimately, I agree with you that we should seek to minimize harm, but I would include the generational indoctrination of these myths, the social reinforcement of these delusions, and the consistent prioritization of faith over fact to all fall under that umbrella as themselves types of harm well worthy of our minimization.

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Religion doesn't seem like a bad thing so long as you aren't destroying society with it and do not substitute it in for proof, it seems to have been what created more complex, older societies in the first place. Not all religious people are crusaders.

Edited by SamBridge
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(...) As Skinner box experiments show, even chickens can develop religion (e.g., standing on one foot and spinning clockwise to "pray" for food during random feeding). (...)

 

"chicken can develop religion" ?

Can you provide a link or something?

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"chicken can develop religion" ?

Can you provide a link or something?

It's a famous experiment by Skinner from back in 1948. Here's a link: http://www.psychotreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/superstition-in-the-pigeon-by-skinner.pdf

 

Perhaps it may be better described as a developed "superstition," but then again... if we're being honest... it wouldn't be terribly difficult to argue that religion is itself a form of superstition, and that the definitions of both terms overlap tremendously.

 

EDIT: Cross-posted with Ed.

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superstitions ⊂ religious beliefs

religion = {superstitions, rituals, social connections, values, ... }

 

 

"The
great end in religious instruction, is not to stamp our minds upon the
young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but
to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; not to give them a
definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth;
not to form an outward regularity, but to touch inward springs; not to
bind them by ineradicable prejudices to our particular sect or peculiar
notions, but to prepare them for impartial, conscientious judging of
whatever subjects may be offered to their decision; not to burden
memory, but to quicken and strengthen the power of thought."
William Ellery Channing

 

This is the first quote I've liked. However, as was said, many religious people blatantly endorse indoctrination. Of course, even atheists should be careful not to use unacceptable forms of persuasion, but it can't be nearly as bad as intentional indoctrination.

Edited by Mondays Assignment: Die
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I think you are confusing religion with belief.

 

To whom are you speaking and in what way(s) is this comment relevant to the discussion at hand, in your opinion?

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To whom are you speaking and in what way(s) is this comment relevant to the discussion at hand, in your opinion?

Right.

I am sticking to the pigeon/chicken experiment with the words "superstition" and "religion".

 

Religion is a societal phenomenon, it has rules (as stated above) and specifies very stongly the difference between people who belong to the society and people who don't.

I don't think that pigeons are capable of such a development.

But maybe yes the pigeons may be superstitious and do not walk under a ladder. That does not make them religious.

Edited by michel123456
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Right.

I am sticking to the pigeon/chicken experiment with the words "superstition" and "religion".

 

Religion is a societal phenomenon, it has rules (as stated above) and specifies very stongly the difference between people who belong to the society and people who don't.

I don't think that pigeons are capable of such a development.

But maybe yes the pigeons may be superstitious and do not walk under a ladder. That does not make them religious.

Does your definition of religion vs superstition include the beliefs of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, etc., who believed in many gods, or do you consider their religion as merely superstitions. Does your definition of religion include modern wicca and Amazonian witch-doctors, or only religions recognized by the US government? Is it superstition or religion to believe in ghosts, goblins, ghouls, sprites, fairies, elves, brownies, gnomes, genies, bogies, enchanters, fays, gremlins, hobs, imps, leprechauns, mermaids, nisses, nymphs, pixies, pucks, sirens, spirits, sylphs, UFOs, bigfoot. etc.

 

I think the line between superstition and religion is difficult to pin down, because one mans religion is another mans superstition.

 

Both superstition and religion depend on belief in something that cannot be seen and touched by you and I at the same time.

 

Except for venting, this has almost certainly been a waste of time, because no one will change their mind. Normally, I just live and let live.

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