Should religion be illegal for children?

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby ucim » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:34 pm UTC

IceFlake wrote:Yes, it was true. We're not talking fluffybunny Sunday school here. Catechism class was very scholarly - we took tests and wrote papers. Critical thinking was encouraged and necessary. I didn't hate it even though I was already an atheist at the time.
How did it go down when critical thinking leads to the rejection of the catechism?
n.b. My exposure to catechism was in grade school - it was memorizing pat answers to big questions; if you got the wording wrong, you failed. I assume/hope it's different at high school ages.


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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby ObsessoMom » Sat Aug 08, 2015 10:26 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
ObsessoMom wrote:I have found the things I learned from religious instruction--which are not to be confused with the things my instructors intended me to learn--tremendously valuable, with direct practical applications for better understanding history, politics, and marketing.
Sure - do you think you could have acquired those skills more effectively and perhaps usefully via other means?


In theory, of course. I wish my parents and teachers had been perfectly suited to my educational needs. Doesn't everyone?

In practice...well, we get the parents and teachers we get. And we do the best we can with what we've learned from them, plus the other stuff we figure out for ourselves.

At the very least, I'm sure that my parents genuinely loved me, and honestly tried to do what they thought was best for me. Would a similar degree of love and concern be forthcoming from whatever government entity would be policing parental activities, if "underage" religious instruction were outlawed? I highly doubt it.

Anyone who thinks that driving a religion underground and creating martyrs for it is the way to stamp it out REALLY has no grasp of religious history. {Edited to say: If it's not clear, this thought is not directed at Izawwlgood.]

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby IceFlake » Sun Aug 09, 2015 5:59 am UTC

ucim wrote:How did it go down when critical thinking leads to the rejection of the catechism?

Well, the class was called "catechism" but it wasn't limited to Luther's catechism itself. A lot of it (my favorite part!) was church history. I don't remember the specific assignments but an example might be "Explain Luther's objections to the selling of indulgences." or "How did the rise of Protestantism change the relationships between European royalty and the Catholic church?" The same sort of thing that might be asked in a high school level history class. And try not to giggle about the Diet of Worms.

Also, You can construct an argument/discussion based on a premise even if you don't believe the premise is true. For example, I can explain the rationale of justification by faith alone and compare it to the prevailing Catholic doctrine of the time even if I don't believe justification is a real thing.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:20 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
But my particular experience with religion is not the average experience, at least, not in first world countries.
I'm sorry if you had a bad experience.

From your experience, are there any problematic aspects or teaching methods you can think of that might be candidates for being isolated out?


No worries, it happens.

I think the biggest single thing is the reliance on teaching from authority. Granted, you might not be able to independently replicate history or what not, but troublesome practices involve limiting source material, or demanding credibility for a given statement due to position of the speaker. I don't think these practices are specific to religion, of course, but religion does tend to embrace these pretty wholeheartedly in passing on religious viewpoints, particularly the more extreme religions, and these practices leak into just about everything.

In general, I think it's extremely problematic if mere exposure to external ideas or viewpoints is seen as harmful.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Autolykos » Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:53 am UTC

IceFlake wrote:
ucim wrote:How did it go down when critical thinking leads to the rejection of the catechism?

Well, the class was called "catechism" but it wasn't limited to Luther's catechism itself. A lot of it (my favorite part!) was church history. I don't remember the specific assignments but an example might be "Explain Luther's objections to the selling of indulgences." or "How did the rise of Protestantism change the relationships between European royalty and the Catholic church?" The same sort of thing that might be asked in a high school level history class. And try not to giggle about the Diet of Worms.

Also, You can construct an argument/discussion based on a premise even if you don't believe the premise is true. For example, I can explain the rationale of justification by faith alone and compare it to the prevailing Catholic doctrine of the time even if I don't believe justification is a real thing.

I envy you for your teachers. That sounds way more open than than the experience I had at school (also Lutheran). Sure, the teachers liked to claim that they accept opinions that disagree. And they tend to have a pet contrarian in each class who reliably throws in some disagreeing stock phrases (usually copied from Marx) they can then refute. But don't you dare blindside them with some objection they haven't thought of and didn't memorize a counterargument to. Usually they will either claim that you didn't understand what they were teaching and are talking nonsense, or they will simply ignore you. You might just as well sing the Swedish national anthem (and can expect roughly the same effect on your marks).
To be fair, though, that wasn't entirely restricted to religion (only much more widespread). Some of the worse teachers in history and social studies behaved the same way. But I've never seen teachers do this in a subject where they actually could be proven wrong, like maths or science.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby SoSoSo » Thu Oct 22, 2015 1:59 pm UTC

To go back to the original question: I don't like the word illegal but I do think there needs to be some kind of restriction on this. In an ideal world no one would teach children to adhere to a religion out of common sense, much in the same way it's not right to teach a child to want to work in a certain profession, or only be attracted to blonde girls / boys.

I don't want to ban religion, I just wish people would not perpetuate it by indoctrinating children. By all means, let children choose for themselves once they are old enough, but don't make their minds up for them at such a young, malleable age.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby mathmannix » Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:47 pm UTC

The thing about (most?) religions is that if you really believe your religion, then you know deep in your heart that it is the only true way, and everything else is just made-up lies. (At least this goes for the ones I know anything about.) So, (A) you want to convince other people (adults in particular) that your religion is the truth so that they can believe too (unless you believe there's some sort of competition where only the top 144,000 get in or something like that, or you are just being a dick and you don't want certain people you don't like in your paradise.) And (B), you really, really want your children to believe so they can get in, because you love them, so of course you're going to tell them the Truth, and emphasize it above anything else. It's going to happen, and nobody's going to convince us people of great faith to not do our best to make sure our children believe the same things we do. Making it illegal would only increase our faith.

(Regarding point A, you just have to keep in mind that you need to respect other peoples' beliefs, and their right to hold those beliefs, even though you know they are wrong. And giving people a convert-or-be-killed ultimatum is not only wrong, but also less effective than showing people through your life and actions that your religion is best.)
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Nov 17, 2015 2:59 am UTC

I think that's an overly Abrahamic-centric way of thinking of religion, honestly. And I think the reason Christianity and Islam are such powerful forces for evil right now is precisely the fact that they're so very intent on proselytizing and making people "believe" things, which are two separate things - they're portable, and they demand not only exclusivity but constant affirmation of that exclusive rightness. Ritual practice and holy law that's part of a cultural identity can still impose rules about how a person lives his or her life within that framework, but it doesn't usually form this portable intellectual entity the way the Abrahamic faiths do. Something like Buddhism is a portable intellectual entity, but it doesn't hinge on making people "believe" anything in particular.

Paradises and hells aren't requisite, either - Judaism doesn't even properly have them.

I think it's a mistake to assume that all religions are filling the same hole, or that they're all equally "guilty" or problematic.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby mcd001 » Tue Nov 17, 2015 6:52 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote: And I think the reason Christianity and Islam are such powerful forces for evil right now is precisely the fact that they're so very intent on proselytizing and making people "believe" things

So me trying to convince you that Christianity is true is evil? Evil?

This is stunning. Was I evil when I argued against minimum wage laws in a different thread on this site? What about someone arguing against global warming? Is that evil, too? Or flip the coin: Is it evil for you to argue that my religion is wrong (as you appear to be doing on this thread)? If not, why not?

I have to believe I am misunderstanding your words. This can't be what you meant.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:36 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote: And I think the reason Christianity and Islam are such powerful forces for evil right now is precisely the fact that they're so very intent on proselytizing and making people "believe" things

So me trying to convince you that Christianity is true is evil? Evil?

This is stunning. Was I evil when I argued against minimum wage laws in a different thread on this site? What about someone arguing against global warming? Is that evil, too? Or flip the coin: Is it evil for you to argue that my religion is wrong (as you appear to be doing on this thread)? If not, why not?

I have to believe I am misunderstanding your words. This can't be what you meant.


I think the above kind of contains a valid point, simply not phrased correctly. There is a danger in those who are convinced they have some special truth, and others must be made to accept it.

This does not encompass everyone who attempts to persuade another. It does not even encompass all religious folks, of course. But...there's a subset there. Folks that are convinced that everyone else is fools, and they are the enlightened ones who must drag everyone else to The Truth, kicking and screaming.

They come up with "brilliant" ideas like chick tracts, or those tracts disguised to look like a $20 bill from one direction. Mostly, these are just obnoxious and annoying, but such an attitude isn't terribly far away from outright forcing someone to do what you want...the closer an ideology gets to forcing itself on others, kids or not, the more worrying it is. Exposure is different from coercion.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby mcd001 » Tue Nov 17, 2015 10:13 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:This does not encompass everyone who attempts to persuade another. It does not even encompass all religious folks, of course. But...there's a subset there. Folks that are convinced that everyone else is fools, and they are the enlightened ones who must drag everyone else to The Truth, kicking and screaming.

They come up with "brilliant" ideas like chick tracts, or those tracts disguised to look like a $20 bill from one direction. Mostly, these are just obnoxious and annoying, but such an attitude isn't terribly far away from outright forcing someone to do what you want...the closer an ideology gets to forcing itself on others, kids or not, the more worrying it is. Exposure is different from coercion.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that coercing someone to believe something against their will is evil. However, I am not aware of any Christians anywhere who are doing that.

The example of Christian proselytizing that you provided (chick tracts, and I had to google it) may be obnoxious and annoying, but is it really (as you state) not "terribly far away from outright forcing someone to do what you want?"

I think not. It is not coercion and it is not evil. Christians have the same right to share their beliefs as everyone else.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Nov 17, 2015 10:32 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:This does not encompass everyone who attempts to persuade another. It does not even encompass all religious folks, of course. But...there's a subset there. Folks that are convinced that everyone else is fools, and they are the enlightened ones who must drag everyone else to The Truth, kicking and screaming.

They come up with "brilliant" ideas like chick tracts, or those tracts disguised to look like a $20 bill from one direction. Mostly, these are just obnoxious and annoying, but such an attitude isn't terribly far away from outright forcing someone to do what you want...the closer an ideology gets to forcing itself on others, kids or not, the more worrying it is. Exposure is different from coercion.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that coercing someone to believe something against their will is evil. However, I am not aware of any Christians anywhere who are doing that.

The example of Christian proselytizing that you provided (chick tracts, and I had to google it) may be obnoxious and annoying, but is it really (as you state) not "terribly far away from outright forcing someone to do what you want?"

I think not. It is not coercion and it is not evil. Christians have the same right to share their beliefs as everyone else.


It's a small subset that takes such an approach, but...have you read them?

They are particularly self-righteous, and take a very browbeating approach. Not entirely unlike the westboro baptist folks, who also serve as a convenient example of this sort of attitude. They are not interested in holding an honest conversation with anyone, only in ramming their message in people's faces as frequently as possible. They're not overly worried about social limits, and push the bounds of legality.

If such an attitude was more pervasive, it'd be very dangerous indeed, as such a group having the numbers to push laws through is a sort of horrible, dystopian thought.

If you'd prefer a similar example that isn't christian, you might also look to scientology, which also has some similar practices, and a reasonably sketchy history.

The vast majority of religious folks in the US are more laid back, and are perfectly willing to tolerate folks of a different viewpoint, but these folks grudgingly accept a minimum of tolerance only because they must, and long for a day when they can dispense with it.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:28 pm UTC

I meant exactly what I said, and I did not say that proselytizing is evil. I said that the kind of religion Christianity is, obsessed with proselytizing, is what drives it to become evil. Just do the math: the Christian belief is that a person agreeing with you is more important than that person living or dying. It absolutely is an evil idea.

mcd001 wrote:Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that coercing someone to believe something against their will is evil. However, I am not aware of any Christians anywhere who are doing that.

Things have shifted slightly through and since the Enlightenment and colonialism, that Christians only kill people for actions that they consider sinful, rather than directly for affirmations of belief. Islam has not completely, ah, liberalized in this sense. But there are plenty of places in the world where you can be killed by Christian fundamentalists for being gay, for instance - easiest to see when it's being imposed by a state, like Uganda, but there are still some of those in the US - and plenty of places more that you can lose your job or social standing for failing to affirm Christian belief.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Cradarc » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:32 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:the Christian belief is that a person agreeing with you is more important than that person living or dying.

What in the world led you to that claim? Sure, there people who call themselves Christians and believe that, but those beliefs are not intrinsically Christian. At the heart of Christianity is genuine repentance. You can't force someone to genuinely repent. Doing evil towards people because they decide to reject God has nothing to do with Gospel. It's a human problem with people who are supposedly followers of Christ.

Christians "proselytize" because it's freaking God!
Suppose you met someone who is so awesome and so nice to be around. If that person tells you he wants to meet your friends you would want to tell people about that person. God is so much more than a awesome person. There is a great imperative to tell people even if He didn't command you to. Of course there is a point where your friends/neighbors simply don't want to hear any of it. Although that may be very troubling, it certainly is no reason to harm them.

Being cruel toward people who are antagonistic to you is human nature. The only reason nobody associates it with atheism is because atheism has no structure. Nobody kills explicitly in the name of atheism, and nobody feels the need to lump all atrocities committed by people who aren't religious into one group.
Yet every time you harm or act cruelly against someone who angers you, you are committing the exact same crime as religious people who attack those that disagree with them. People who accuse others of being "racist", "homophobe", etc. are not unlike religious people who accuse others of being "infidels", "sinners", etc. Those terms could very well be correctly used; however, that doesn't always mean they're not maliciously uttered.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:20 am UTC

I didn't say anything about "harming" Christians. I will mock, ridicule, and insult them, and I will oppose their lies and attempt to correct the misconceptions they spread. If you want to call that "harm", then yes, I am intent on harming Christians. It is of no significance to me that people who have strong religious beliefs also insult and ridicule other people. We all breathe and we all shit, as well.

What we don't all do is kill people or legislate trivialities out of a fear of difference, and hold it as a virtue that we do so.

You can choose to interpret your faith however you like. No Christian sect can claim that the precepts of its faith derive directly from the Bible without human interpretation, and Bible was written by Christians and Jewish priests, so it's a pretty circular rock to build your faith on. There's no way to be a follower of Christ without trusting others to tell you what he said. So that leaves us with only human problems, which is the only kind of problem there is, and of which Christianity is a gold mine.

But you can still plant your Christ anywhere in that space. You can be a church of one, with whatever doctrines you choose, and still make an equally valid claim to representing the true teachings of Jesus.

I don't care about your personal Christ. I care about the Christ that has been invoked throughout the history of the post-Roman world to trivialize human experience and posit a whole infinite universe of consequence and reward resting on the most trivial of human activities and quirks of identity, a mechanism of power that made the middle ages possible, inhibited social progress, and has a nontrivial correlation with killing people for dissent even today. If you are close enough to this mainstream to believe that everyone who isn't in on your big secret is going to be punished eternally in a lake of fire,* then I mean you, whether you or I like it or not and with nothing to do with your Christ.

It's certainly possible that "you" can't force someone to genuinely repent, but that wasn't my point. Theoretically, a person joining your club, however genuinely - you can set the bar anywhere - is still more important in your theology than that person's life or death. You can personally make the assessment that sword-point conversions don't count and that person is going to hell anyway, so it's not beneficial to make the attempt. You still have a sick, ugly, twisted, wrong, evil idea at the core of your belief system, but you choose not to act on it. Great. Fine. Nice job. Do you think maybe the fact that secular society disallows you to act on it at all might have a little bearing on that?

* Which Jesus' followers curiously never recording him as having said anything about, just "Paradise" and "not paradise," but.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:03 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote: Do you think maybe the fact that secular society disallows you to act on it at all might have a little bearing on that?
I just want to be clear about this, exactly how did a secular society gain enough power to disallow Religious society of any type?

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:27 am UTC

I already know you don't like that phrase. It does have a meaning. But I don't know what you mean by "disallow religious society of any type" or, for that matter, "religious society". Here is what I mean.

There are plenty of theocracies today. Most of them are Muslim states. Western society has a history of a particular breed of pluralism, where it's assumed that there will be conflicting religious sects and where the state is elevated above them to mediate disputes. This was true of the Roman empire at its peak, and it's true of the vast majority of modern Western civilization. It's somewhat, ah, less true of the stuff that happened in between.

Secular is not atheist, and none of the people who invented secularism were atheists. It's just that act of seeking compliance and buy-in in this shared thing that's separate from religion, a civic view of civilization. It happened, historically, demonstrably, because empires found that it was easier to conquer people and keep them conquered if it didn't require steamrolling their cultural identities. In the modern picture, large-scale organization and getting-along-ness seems like a pretty good thing even if you're not trying to control an empire with your name on it, and mostly, it's just never stopped being good to be a Citizen.

Secularism is still (diametrically) different from something like statism, where the state literally replaces the religion and does all the things a religion does.

But yeah, there's not a "secular society" and a "religious society" as these discrete entities or something. There are religious communities that are at odds with secular society (which is just a shorthand for the lump sum of all of the other religious communities in that society, and a set of rules and norms that exist over the whole set) in places where secular society exists, and there are places where a single religious sect is in control of the state and there is no secularism. There are also a lot of different ways of being a secular society, which can put more or less pressure on religious communities.

The only literal answer I can think of to your question as expressed - the "how" of "a" secular society that "disallowed religious society" - is "by uprising and mass executions, including the beheading of Louis XVI", but I think that's not what you're looking for.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Cradarc » Wed Nov 18, 2015 6:03 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:You can personally make the assessment that sword-point conversions don't count and that person is going to hell anyway, so it's not beneficial to make the attempt. You still have a sick, ugly, twisted, wrong, evil idea at the core of your belief system, but you choose not to act on it. Great. Fine. Nice job. Do you think maybe the fact that secular society disallows you to act on it at all might have a little bearing on that?

It has nothing to do with secular society. God does not want me to murder people. God wants me to invite more people to love Him. Now, there are many ways I can go about to achieve that goal. I will obviously choose the way that I think would be the best according to God's standards.
I don't understand how you decided I am sick, twisted, and evil simply because I can reason about the outcome of forcing people to accept Jesus at sword point, and deciding that is completely not aligned with the gospel.

My point is Christians who are actually acting out the will of Christianity (ie. living life as a testimony to Christ) would know that it ultimately comes down to free will. People who think physically forcing others into confessing belief in God are not true Christians by definition.
Now,you might associate the word "Christian" with these people, but I think it is inappropriate to hijack the label. The analogy is saying "Black people are more likely to commit crime". Many, many people who identify as "black" do not commit crimes, yet you are trying to associate the label with crime. You believe criminal behavior is somehow intrinsic to black culture, even though you have only a shallow perspective of what black culture is like.

Copper Bezel wrote:Theoretically, a person joining your club, however genuinely - you can set the bar anywhere - is still more important in your theology than that person's life or death

You don't understand the concept of faith. Frankly, I don't expect you to. Perhaps this may help:
Tell me, are you an adherent of Science? It sounds weird doesn't it? Science is science. However, there are many organizations out there that seek to promote science. These organizations have different demographics, different rules, different ways of reaching out to people. Is the purpose of scientific education to make people join these organizations? No, not at all. But most people who believe in the integrity and power of science do join and/or support these organizations.
Do people that associate with these organizations believe those who detest science are ignorant? Yes. Does it mean they are arrogant pricks who think those who reject science are stupid scumbags? No. Are some of them arrogant pricks who think others are stupid scumbags? Yes.

According to you it doesn't matter that the arrogant pricks form a subset. It doesn't matter that the arrogant pricks are doing a horrible job of communicating science to the lay community. It doesn't matter that there are so many people who are actually very nice when talking to ignorant people about science. Anyone that associates with "science" also associates with these arrogant pricks. These arrogant pricks are somehow windows into what science is fundamentally about.

I really dislike how religion is defined. Belief in God is much different than an institution or system of rituals based on some belief. Traditions evolve and change meaning over time. A belief is what it is. If it was anything different, it would be a different belief. One can hate certain aspects of an institution while still subscribing to the belief the institution was originally founded on.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:18 am UTC

People who think physically forcing others into confessing belief in God are not true Christians by definition.

Then there have been very few true Christians in history, and Judaism, with the narrative of Israel's expansion against the uncircumcised heathens, is straight out.

Now, you might associate the word "Christian" with these people, but I think it is inappropriate to hijack the label.

Take it up with them, then. But it is what that group and that belief system has been called for the entirety of its existence. I propose a simpler definition: Christians are those communities who have historically and culturally been associated with worship of Jesus Christ and, at least after the first century or two while the theology was getting banged out, fall into the broad strokes of the Nicene Creed. There have been innumerable "true" churches of Christ in that time and no one has any more right than another to this descriptive definition.

So that we're clear, I'm saying that yes, en masse, I believe that belief system caused more harm than good over that period of time, but that's not what I'm arguing in the posts you took issue with - just that Christianity as it now exists is a major force for evil. Does that mean that most of the proponents are evil? Well, no, I don't think even the majority of the Nazi party were likely to be individually evil people. Do I think non-evil Christianity can exist without detrimental effects somewhere? It's an open question for me, but giving everyone the appropriate benefit of the doubt, I would say yes. I do think it's an unhealthy view of the world, but a fully liberalized Christian community seems unlikely to pose a meaningful radicalization risk and this sort of thing.

Your issue with the definition of "religion" itself is precisely what I meant when I said that not all religions fill the same holes. At the moment, I'm suspicious of religions that center on Nicene Creeds and Five Pillarses, because those are the ones where large groups of people are visibly killing large numbers of people in the name of their faith right now, today, in our historical moment. But the fact that Christianity is not really about practice or ritual or identity or even standards of behavior, but instead about an intellectualized belief, is a quirk of Christianity, one that is shared by Islam and to a lesser extent Buddhism, but one that does not bear on the sum of all religious experience ever. To my thinking, "religion" should be defined less, not more, according to the model of the Abrahamic faiths that the word was coined to class.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:10 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:The only literal answer I can think of to your question as expressed - the "how" of "a" secular society that "disallowed religious society" - is "by uprising and mass executions, including the beheading of Louis XVI", but I think that's not what you're looking for.
The question is more curiosity than anything else. I like to think that cheap books and the weakening of the Catholic Popes during the reformation allowed it, since prior to that point the Church controlled access to information. That was more my line of thought.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:37 am UTC

I'd agree with that general ballpark for the point in time at which we can point to the existence of any kind of secular society in the West, yeah. And the division of religious powers that can't kill each other leads to the creation of a secular space. But the Reformation came out of the general creep of humanism and classicism that was the Renaissance. And that followed the Western Schism, which damaged the Church's reputation as a unitary power, and which was after the crusades that reintroduced Europe to the rest of the world and the Black Death that basically rebooted Europe....

As tempting as it is to see the Protestant - Church conflict as creating a secular space between them, I actually think the groundwork was set beforehand. There's a gradual shift of humanism and reduced papal power, and a gradual increase of the information any one person had access to, but I'm not sure that I'd really want to stick pins in any of those and say this caused that and that caused this other.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:44 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:So that we're clear, I'm saying that yes, en masse, I believe that belief system caused more harm than good over that period of time, but that's not what I'm arguing in the posts you took issue with - just that Christianity as it now exists is a major force for evil. Does that mean that most of the proponents are evil? Well, no, I don't think even the majority of the Nazi party were likely to be individually evil people. Do I think non-evil Christianity can exist without detrimental effects somewhere? It's an open question for me, but giving everyone the appropriate benefit of the doubt, I would say yes. I do think it's an unhealthy view of the world, but a fully liberalized Christian community seems unlikely to pose a meaningful radicalization risk and this sort of thing.


I'm not even sure how you come close to justifying this in the modern day, let alone that the belief system caused more harm than good in the past. It absolutely caused harm, a lot of it, don't get me wrong. But that harm was visible while the good is not nearly as easy to see, especially if it's individualized. How are you measuring the harm and the good it did, and determined that the harm was greater? And what modern day aspects of Christianity as a whole do you feel do more harm than good? How are you determining that? Media can certainly show us the harm caused by religion. But it very rarely shows a lot of the good that they do as well. That's the way our current media works. So really some sort of actual evidence of the harm vs good would be nice before simply making statements that don't seem to be justified.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:02 pm UTC

Not religion, Christianity. Specifically, narrowly, Christianity. I don't even have to point out that "something else" would have "filled the void", because Christianity is not native to anywhere as a part of anyone's traditional practice, and absent Christianity, Rome would have retained its syncretic beliefs about the borrowed Greek pantheon and permitted religious difference in its client states and so on ad nauseum, but I'm not going to get into a silly alternative history game.

Much ink and and many pixels have been spilt over the question of whether religion has a net good or a net bad effect on societies. I'm not really interested in that question. Especially historically, the defining bounds of what actually constitutes a religion and what practice or belief falls within or without that category are plastic and largely arbitrary - those categories would not be recognized by the people we're actually talking about. I do think religion played critical roles at several stages of human history and it's a damn good thing we've had it. That's the strongest claim I'd be willing to make on that. And that's really talking about religion as organization and practice, hierarchy and tradition, because I'm not sure that "belief" always means anything at all in every relevant culture and there is no "supernatural" if the world isn't largely known and predictable at human scales.

Today, yes, I'm confident that the net impact of Christianity (along with Islam) is negative. It empowers cruelty, limits knowledge, and offers a few therapeutic aspects on an individual level that are offered at lower cost by other philosophical approaches.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:25 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Christianity is not native to anywhere as a part of anyone's traditional practice, and absent Christianity, Rome would have retained its syncretic beliefs about the borrowed Greek pantheon and permitted religious difference in its client states and so on ad nauseum, but I'm not going to get into a silly alternative history game.
What? If you aren't going to play that game then admit, absent Christianity, you have no idea what Rome would or wouldn't have done. What you see is what there is. Warts and all. You see the world through a narrow band. Your life span. Religion adapts because people do. 200 years from now Christians or whoever will see the world through a whole different lens, assuming there is a world to see.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 1:33 pm UTC

My point was that absent Christianity, there were already plenty of religious practices around, and the difference is not between Christianity and some yawning absence, in response to a post that was using "religion" and "Christianity" interchangeably.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:43 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:the Christian belief is that a person agreeing with you is more important than that person living or dying.

What in the world led you to that claim? Sure, there people who call themselves Christians and believe that, but those beliefs are not intrinsically Christian.


If that ain't a Christian belief, the bible ain't Christian.

This is a religion with verses like "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."

So no, you really can't claim that, for Christianity, saving people isn't that important.

Being cruel toward people who are antagonistic to you is human nature. The only reason nobody associates it with atheism is because atheism has no structure. Nobody kills explicitly in the name of atheism, and nobody feels the need to lump all atrocities committed by people who aren't religious into one group.
Yet every time you harm or act cruelly against someone who angers you, you are committing the exact same crime as religious people who attack those that disagree with them. People who accuse others of being "racist", "homophobe", etc. are not unlike religious people who accuse others of being "infidels", "sinners", etc. Those terms could very well be correctly used; however, that doesn't always mean they're not maliciously uttered.


Christians can and do label atheism in this manner routinely.

Note that not every label carries the same weight. Even "infidel" vs "sinner" carries a significantly different connotation. Sure, I totally label people. Everyone does. It's impossible to not. That doesn't make all labels equivalent.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:56 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Not religion, Christianity. Specifically, narrowly, Christianity. I don't even have to point out that "something else" would have "filled the void", because Christianity is not native to anywhere as a part of anyone's traditional practice, and absent Christianity, Rome would have retained its syncretic beliefs about the borrowed Greek pantheon and permitted religious difference in its client states and so on ad nauseum, but I'm not going to get into a silly alternative history game.


I used the term religion once in my text and the context was clear I was still talking about Christianity (since I specifically said Christianity in the previous sentence). What are you going on about? If my one use of the word religion threw you off, replace it with Christianity and then answer the questions instead.

Today, yes, I'm confident that the net impact of Christianity (along with Islam) is negative. It empowers cruelty, limits knowledge, and offers a few therapeutic aspects on an individual level that are offered at lower cost by other philosophical approaches.


Yes it certainly can empower cruelty. But it can certainly empower love and other positive emotions as well. Yes there are all sorts of fanatics out there with regards to Christianity. And there are plenty of small or large churches around that have wonderful kind and gentle people in them. I have no real way to determine the ratios of these two groups, so I'd like to know how you've determined the negative is more than the positive.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:00 pm UTC

Chen wrote:Yes it certainly can empower cruelty. But it can certainly empower love and other positive emotions as well.

Frankly, I don't have any significant evidence of that.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:14 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Frankly, I don't have any significant evidence of that.


Based on what, anecdote? I can tell you when I was a child the people who I did go to church with before I decided to stop going were some of the kindest and most loving people I knew. As I mentioned, you see all the bad stuff in the media far more than you do the good, so arguing by anecdote probably isn't the best way to determine the truth here.

I'm not even necessarily saying you're wrong. Maybe it does cause more harm than good. I'm not simply going to accept that it does though without evidence.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Whizbang » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:22 pm UTC

My friends and family are some of the nicest people I know. Really, there is a stark contrast between strangers and my friends. This is solid evidence that my friends are better people than complete strangers.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:34 pm UTC

Yeah, that pretty much covers it. Chen, I have piles of corpses and you have some intangibles about positive thinking based on, as you say, personal anecdote. There's a serious burden of proof issue here.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:19 pm UTC

Chen wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:Frankly, I don't have any significant evidence of that.


Based on what, anecdote? I can tell you when I was a child the people who I did go to church with before I decided to stop going were some of the kindest and most loving people I knew. As I mentioned, you see all the bad stuff in the media far more than you do the good, so arguing by anecdote probably isn't the best way to determine the truth here.

I'm not even necessarily saying you're wrong. Maybe it does cause more harm than good. I'm not simply going to accept that it does though without evidence.


Lack of data is the default state. Your tale is anecdotal.

If you want data, we have the recent study that indicates that religious folks are less altrustic than non-religious folks. More research to be done, certainly, but assuming that religious folks are the best people based on a coupla folks you knew as a kid is...not really scientific in the slightest.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:23 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Yeah, that pretty much covers it. Chen, I have piles of corpses and you have some intangibles about positive thinking based on, as you say, personal anecdote. There's a serious burden of proof issue here.


You were the one making the statement that Christianity causes more harm than good. I asked for evidence. The anecdote was in response to your anecdote of not seeing any evidence of that. If that wasn't an anecdote and you actually had some evidence to back your claim, please show us. I'm talking about the claim "Today, yes, I'm confident that the net impact of Christianity (along with Islam) is negative." Now re-reading I'm not sure whether you mean that today you feel the overall impact of Christianity is negative or that Christianity today has a net negative impact, but either way, this is the position I'd like to see your evidence for.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:27 pm UTC

Chen wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:Yeah, that pretty much covers it. Chen, I have piles of corpses and you have some intangibles about positive thinking based on, as you say, personal anecdote. There's a serious burden of proof issue here.


You were the one making the statement that Christianity causes more harm than good. I asked for evidence. The anecdote was in response to your anecdote of not seeing any evidence of that. If that wasn't an anecdote and you actually had some evidence to back your claim, please show us. I'm talking about the claim "Today, yes, I'm confident that the net impact of Christianity (along with Islam) is negative." Now re-reading I'm not sure whether you mean that today you feel the overall impact of Christianity is negative or that Christianity today has a net negative impact, but either way, this is the position I'd like to see your evidence for.


You are misunderstanding the term "anecdote".

Someone saying "I do not see evidence of that" is a statement regarding lack of evidence. It is not an anecdote.

A more reasonable response would be to provide evidence, if you wish to challenge the statement.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Chen » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:32 pm UTC

Fair enough for the lack of evidence comment. That said I have no solid evidence because I have no idea how you would determine the harm was more (or less) than the good they do. There are plenty of church charities, soup kitchens shelters and the like around. I know that Christian groups do work to help the poor and the like. And I am also aware that there are other Christian groups that persecute gays, hassel other religions and are generally xenophobic assholes. The relative amounts of these things? No idea. It's why I asked for evidence in the first place, since Copper Bezel was the one making the positive claims.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Whizbang » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:39 pm UTC

Chen wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:
Chen wrote:Yes it certainly can empower cruelty. But it can certainly empower love and other positive emotions as well.

Frankly, I don't have any significant evidence of that.


Based on what?


I read CB's response here to be questioning whether religion can empower positive emotions, not whether religion causes more harm than good. I read it to be stating that the positive emotions come more from human nature and empathy rather than because they were told to act positively towards others by a holy book. The case being made seems to be that Religion/Abrahamic religion/Christianity can and does motivate people toward negative behavior, but that any positive behavior comes from a source other than religion and in fact is going against the majority of teachings in the Bible.

I am probably putting words into CB's mouth, but that is the sense I got. The past few posts seems to be a tangent to the original objection.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:54 pm UTC

Yeah, that sounds right. I don't think it's useful to retread the ground of the many, many, many discussions of whether or not Christianity is beneficial, so I have unfortunately created a sidetrack here. I do think that Christianity (along with Islam, as I keep saying) has a very unhealthy set of doctrines that cause concrete, measurable damage under the right conditions, and that the liberalization of most Christian groups has been an externally rather than internally motivated process not organically derived from those doctrines.

I still do think that considering the religion as a whole, as opposed to isolated doctrines, the costs represented in the very concrete piles and piles of bodies are better evidenced than anecdotal accounts of intangible benefits that cannot be caught on film can make up, but, again, probably not a road I want to continue down.

The deck is stacked against Christians automatically if we're considering the religion in terms of its benefits to society in any case. Christians don't strictly need to care if their religion is beneficial, since they feel that it's true, that is, that the truth claims it makes are trustworthy. By having the discussion in these terms, we're holding their outcomes to an external standard. Which is, you know, what secularism is, and is also the thing that's caused them to liberalize, but.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Nov 18, 2015 6:54 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I do think that Christianity (along with Islam, as I keep saying) has a very unhealthy set of doctrines that cause concrete, measurable damage under the right conditions, and that the liberalization of most Christian groups has been an externally rather than internally motivated process not organically derived from those doctrines.
Interesting thought, would you care to provide some insight to how you might justify that opinion? The Bible has managed to spawn any number of offshoots believing any number of different things. From the same book. Which can be read to mean anything you want. Which says something about humans and our ability to compartmentalize and the inability of language to be precise, particularly when the source is as old as the Bible is. My point is not that you are wrong, I'm not certain, rather how do you come to that belief?

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:46 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Christians "proselytize" because it's freaking God!
Suppose you met someone who is so awesome and so nice to be around. If that person tells you he wants to meet your friends you would want to tell people about that person. God is so much more than a awesome person. There is a great imperative to tell people even if He didn't command you to. Of course there is a point where your friends/neighbors simply don't want to hear any of it. Although that may be very troubling, it certainly is no reason to harm them.


The logic of heaven and hell pretty much dictates exactly this kind of response, though. If I genuinely believed that you were in mortal danger of spending the rest of eternity facing eternal torment and I had a method that could spare you this fate, it is a perfectly reasonable, moral, conclusion that nearly any action would be justified in making sure that you escape that fate, because the magnitude of the harm that I would be preventing is so great otherwise. Moreover, it is certainly justifiable that if you have a belief system that will lead you to hell, then it is in my best interests, and in the best interests of humanity as a whole, to make sure that you do not propagate that belief to anyone else, even if that means killing you. This is true even if I believe that doing so would send me to hell (though, as a Christian, my salvation is assured so I don't have to worry about that).

I'm not saying that a lot of Christians believe this sort of thing, not anymore, at least. But if you believe in heaven and hell, then ultimately, those beliefs imply a very different sort of reasoning about how you engage this world.

You don't understand the concept of faith. Frankly, I don't expect you to.


You might want to give your audience a bit more credit. Christianity is not some esoteric religion that you need to explain the basic concepts to. The majority of people on this planet subscribe to specifically faith-based religions, and about a third of the world's population is Christian. There's a good chance that your average atheist/agnostic/pantheist/whatever knows quite a bit about Christianity. In the specific case of North America, I'd say there's about an even chance that any atheist over the age of thirty was raised in a Christian home.

Tell me, are you an adherent of Science? It sounds weird doesn't it? Science is science. However, there are many organizations out there that seek to promote science. These organizations have different demographics, different rules, different ways of reaching out to people. Is the purpose of scientific education to make people join these organizations? No, not at all. But most people who believe in the integrity and power of science do join and/or support these organizations.
Do people that associate with these organizations believe those who detest science are ignorant? Yes. Does it mean they are arrogant pricks who think those who reject science are stupid scumbags? No. Are some of them arrogant pricks who think others are stupid scumbags? Yes.


For a variety of reasons, this isn't really an apt comparison at all. I'll focus on two in particular: First, membership in this organizations is completely voluntary, and you are never, ever going to find yourself threatened at gunpoint for choosing not to join the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Religion is often involuntary--specifically in the instance of children raised in religious families--and religions certain have and do use violence and coercion to gain converts. Second, these sort of scientific organizations that you are talking about are generally self-correcting and democratic in nature. The policies of the organization are voted on by the membership, and if some policy or procedure is found to be lacking, it can be changed. There is no real equivalent to this in most religions. It would be virtually impossible for Christians to get together and vote the Book of Leviticus out of the Bible, and even getting churches to change their policies on things like birth control can take decades, despite broad support among the masses.

Chen wrote:I'm not even sure how you come close to justifying this in the modern day, let alone that the belief system caused more harm than good in the past. It absolutely caused harm, a lot of it, don't get me wrong. But that harm was visible while the good is not nearly as easy to see, especially if it's individualized. How are you measuring the harm and the good it did, and determined that the harm was greater? And what modern day aspects of Christianity as a whole do you feel do more harm than good? How are you determining that? Media can certainly show us the harm caused by religion. But it very rarely shows a lot of the good that they do as well. That's the way our current media works. So really some sort of actual evidence of the harm vs good would be nice before simply making statements that don't seem to be justified.


I'd point to the Catholic Church's suppression of birth control in HIV-ridden regions as a notable contemporary example. Both Catholic and Protestant churches have been implicated in the Rwandan genocide. There's also the Bosnian genocide of Muslims by Christians. There are still plenty of contemporary examples of Christians burning people alive as witches in Africa. You may have heard of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, or Christian militias raping and murdering Muslims in the Central African Republic.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby mcd001 » Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:57 pm UTC

Wow, spend a little time at work getting stuff done and the thread takes off without you. Much was written while I was away, but I'd like to address some of it:

Tyndmyr wrote:They are particularly self-righteous, and take a very browbeating approach. Not entirely unlike the westboro baptist folks, who also serve as a convenient example of this sort of attitude. They are not interested in holding an honest conversation with anyone, only in ramming their message in people's faces as frequently as possible. They're not overly worried about social limits, and push the bounds of legality.

The westboro baptist folks are also universally reviled and disowned by mainstream Christians. If that is your yardstick for Christians, I suggest you look elsewhere. Not only are their messages and beliefs not biblical, but their tactics are decidedly unchristian.

In fact, any Christians who are "self-righteous and take a very browbeating approach" are not acting in a matter consistent with Christian teaching. But here's a news flash: Christians are human, and subject to all the failings and foibles inherent to humanity. Christians believe we are ALL sinners, and with that belief should come a measure of humility. We are obligated to help the needy, love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and forgive those who harm us, among others.

So, when you say Christianity is bad because Christians are self righteous, brow-beating, mean, nasty hypocrites, then the remedy is more Christianity, not more humanity.

Tyndmyr wrote:If such an attitude was more pervasive, it'd be very dangerous indeed, as such a group having the numbers to push laws through is a sort of horrible, dystopian thought.

If you mean the westboro attitude, then yes. The scriptural Christian attitude? The world needs more, not less, of that.

Copper Bezel wrote:I meant exactly what I said, and I did not say that proselytizing is evil. I said that the kind of religion Christianity is, obsessed with proselytizing, is what drives it to become evil.

I'm still missing your point. If proselytizing isn't evil, how does being "obsessed with proselytizing" drive someone to evil? I know several people who will not miss an opportunity to discuss their faith (proselytize) yet show no proclivity for evil. Are there any warning signs of creeping evil I might be missing?

Copper Bezel wrote:the Christian belief is that a person agreeing with you is more important than that person living or dying. It absolutely is an evil idea.

I see nothing absolutely evil about that idea. I don't even see anything relatively evil about it. We all live, and will eventually die. Nothing can be done about that. But if I get a person to "agree with me" (i.e. understand and accept Christian faith), then I have saved his immortal soul. That is clearly more important than that person living or dying (which will happen regardless). How is this an evil idea?

Copper Bezel wrote:But there are plenty of places in the world where you can be killed by Christian fundamentalists for being gay, for instance - easiest to see when it's being imposed by a state, like Uganda, but there are still some of those in the US - and plenty of places more that you can lose your job or social standing for failing to affirm Christian belief.

This is similar to Tyndmyr's wesboro argument. If 'christian fundamentalists' who murder gays is your concept of Christianity, then you are looking in the wrong place (probably willfully and deliberately, given your stated opinion of Christians). ALL mainstream Christians condemn such acts.

As for plenty places in the US where you can lose your job for failing to affirm Christian beliefs -- how many is 'plenty', and where are they? It seems to me there are more cases lately where it's the other way around (CEO of Mozilla, county clerk in Kentucky, wedding photographers and bakers, just off the top of my head).

Copper Bezel wrote:I didn't say anything about "harming" Christians. I will mock, ridicule, and insult them, and I will oppose their lies and attempt to correct the misconceptions they spread. If you want to call that "harm", then yes, I am intent on harming Christians.

So, on the one hand we have Christians who are driven to evil because of their 'obsession with proselytizing.' Yes, evil. On the other hand, you seem to have no problem with mocking, ridiculing and insulting others. You will even attempt to correct their misconceptions, which sounds a little like proselytizing to me.

I'm not sure how you reconcile this apparent discrepancy.

Copper Bezel wrote:Today, yes, I'm confident that the net impact of Christianity (along with Islam) is negative.

I must agree that the net impact of Christianity (along with Islam) is negative. But take away that 'along with Islam' clause, and *I'm* confident that the net impact of Christianity is *positive.* For reasons that have already been addressed on this thread, though, it's pointless to pursue this beyond statements of personal opinion, since it's impossible to prove one way or the other.

Tyndmyr wrote:If you want data, we have the recent study that indicates that religious folks are less altruistic than non-religious folks. More research to be done, certainly, but assuming that religious folks are the best people based on a coupla folks you knew as a kid is...not really scientific in the slightest.

The study you reference is also...not really scientific in the slightest. In fact, it has more holes than a swiss cheese.

Note that I'm not claiming Christians are more altruistic than others. As I pointed out, we're only human and we all fall short of what's demanded of us. Does this mean there's a mismatch between what Christians profess and how they behave? Yes. But isn't this true of any group with moral or ethical standards? If you judge Christianity only by the most egregious failings of Christians, then you should use that same yardstick on every other philosophy, doctrine or viewpoint, including your own. (I predict all of them would fail by that standard.)


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