Should religion be illegal for children?

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Tyndmyr
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:12 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
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.


I note you have missed quoting the rest of my bit about their relationship to Christianity at large. Reading that should accurately correct your impression.

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.


Ah, yes, the good ol' "no true scotsman" approach.

Look, this religion explicitly preaches the concept of humans tainted by sin, and the evils of "the world". I also note that in the US, about 40% of folks, due to religion, cannot accept evolution. Fundamentalists are a significant subset of your church. The fact that you think they are wrong is of no importance. No doubt they also think you are wrong. That's why ya'll are in different subsets. Whatever. Ya'll are all still religious.

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.


"And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ "

Oh yes. That's the attitude we need more of. The scriptural one that encourages maiming as better than risking salvation.

I grew up in a fundie house. I'm intimately familiar with a wide variety of interpretations of religious viewpoints, and have memorized large chunks of the bible verbatim. Your attitude that atheists do not know the bible as you do is unfounded*.

Your religion is a modern, liberalized, secularized strain that is a much weaker form than the real thing. And that's good, because the real thing is awful.

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).


I happen to live in a state that still has laws on the books requiring affirmation of faith in god to run for public office. Now, in practice, that's not likely to actually matter for a number of reasons, but...it's still there in black and white. Kind of odd, no?

And, while for some of those I do not agree with the backlash...none of those people were fired merely for affirming that they are Christians.

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.)


It is scientific. We've discussed it at length on the forums, but if you have a more detailed discussion of it's shortcomings that a comparison to dairy products, you are welcome to bring it.

*IE, why I skipped straight to quoting awful parts of the new testament, so we can not bother with that horrible new/old testament nitpickery and tediousness.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Cradarc » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:55 pm UTC

Why do people insist they know what believing in God means because they have read all the books and seen all the traditions that come with belief in God? Did everyone read the analogy I wrote with scientific institutions and science itself?

Science has been used to do a lot of evil in the world, yet nobody questions the ethical implications of allowing people to pursue scientific research.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who thinks science is evil. You are a person who personally believes science causes evil. You have never engaged in scientific thinking. The few times you've encountered "science", you simply followed instructions given by your science teacher. You think that's all there is to science. Follow instructions, cause stuff react with other stuff. You think scientists may mean well, but eventually they are adherents of a way of thinking that produces greater evil in the world. You argue that all the good things science has produced is not the result of science, but the result of the empathy in the people that do science. Ergo, science is evil.

I openly admit my "bias" (in that I am a Christian) when I make the claim that Christianity cannot be considered a force of evil, even by worldly standards. Are the atheists out there willing to admit their own "bias" when making the claim the Christianity is a force of evil? From the sounds of things, not really. It sounds like you are overly confident in your knowledge about a belief you have no real experience with.

Tyndmyr wrote:It is scientific. We've discussed it at length on the forums, but if you have a more detailed discussion of it's shortcomings that a comparison to dairy products, you are welcome to bring it.

Please don't tell me you're referring to the paper that provided no raw data with results based on the average number of stickers children decided to give away. Not to mention there was the whole part about religious people being more adept at identifying interpersonal harm, but was hardly mentioned in the conclusion of the paper.
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Whizbang
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Whizbang » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:57 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Why do people insist they know what believing in God means because they have read all the books and seen all the traditions that come with belief in God?

Probably because many/most atheists are former believers?

mcd001
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby mcd001 » Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:39 pm UTC

Tyndmyr,
I've apparently misrepresented your beliefs, and my apologies for that, but I'm not quite sure what they are. (Unlike CB, whose views are crystal clear!)

I know many fundamentalists, and not one of them supports the westboro group. True, fundamentalists have a subset of beliefs that I don't share (for example, I don't believe the bible must be interpreted literally, and I am not a young earth creationist), but we don't disagree on the core tenants I mentioned earlier.

So, is your main issue with Christians the 40% (I'll use your number since I have no idea) that don't believe in evolution? If so, that seems like a rather trivial complaint in the big scheme of things.

Then you quote the scripture on plucking out your eye if it offends you, which you imply we should take literally, but which seems clearly allegorical to me. Also, I never claimed that atheists don't know the bible. However, since you bring it up, I *will* claim that atheists just might tend to misrepresent what's in it...)

Then you imply my religion is a secularized, weakened version of the 'real thing' (which you don't define, but which presumably is something awful). If you mean the fundamental Christians who don't believe in evolution, even THEY believe the parts about charity, love and forgiveness, so I'm not sure why it matters that we don't agree 100% on everything...

It's interesting that your state has laws on the books requiring affirmations of faith for public office; are those laws being enforced? (I would guess not.) Once again, I can find a few awful or ridiculous things about any group, but it would be a mistake for me to judge those groups based on such. The same is true when judging Christianity.

As for the study on altruism, it was pretty thoroughly debunked in that other forum. You do suggest that more study is required, but the fact that you think it's good enough science to use in support of your argument surprises me.

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LaserGuy
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Nov 19, 2015 12:10 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Why do people insist they know what believing in God means because they have read all the books and seen all the traditions that come with belief in God?


Why do you think that they haven't? There are plenty of former Christians out there who have profoundly numinous experiences, who believed that they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, who can speak in tongues, who believed that they had experienced miracles, who have ticked every box in the Christian checklist (if there were such a thing), and have since become atheists.

If you have a couple of spare hours of time, I'd strongly encourage you to look up the Evid3nc3 deconversion video series on YouTube. It is the video memoir, if you like, of exactly this sort of person.

I openly admit my "bias" (in that I am a Christian) when I make the claim that Christianity cannot be considered a force of evil, even by worldly standards. Are the atheists out there willing to admit their own "bias" when making the claim the Christianity is a force of evil? From the sounds of things, not really. It sounds like you are overly confident in your knowledge about a belief you have no real experience with.


Again, why do you think that people have no experience with Christianity? For that matter, do you think that simply because you haven't experienced Islam directly, you can't make any claims about the actions of its adherents? Do you feel the same about Scientology? Nazism? (Note: This is not in any way intended to be a comparison between these belief systems, simply, I am asking whether you believe it is possible to have an opinion about these belief systems without actually having been a believer in those specific ideologies).

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 8:27 am UTC

This got rather long. I'm focusing on what I think is the main thing I'm being challenged on here, which is my assertion that Christian doctrine is, or encourages, evil - not that Christians are evil, not that I can prove that Christianity has a net negative effect in practice, but the reasons that I think it logically should be expected to. And again, not anything at all about "religion", which I can't even meaningfully define, and of which everything here is probably some subset - I'm really thinking about Christianity in contrast to other religious practices or belief systems and so on.

I mentioned proselytizing repeatedly earlier. I want to be clear that I don't think proselytizing is evil. I think the reasons that Christianity is obsessed with it represent elements of its doctrine that are evil, and I think the portable, intellectual nature of Christianity that makes proselytizing on a grand scale such an available and desirable goal come at both ends of Christianity's uniquely awful character, enabling and being enabled by.

morriswalters wrote:
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?


I'd largely agree that the Christianity of today is not the Christianity of the medieval is not the Christianity of Rome and so on. "From the same book" is even arguable, since the Bible has varying degrees of relevance to each of these groups - the early church didn't have even that book, the Catholic church has papal authority and Church tradition as a separate line of holy authority, and liberalized groups today hold much of the Bible as metaphor, while the line that goes from Luther to Puritanism to modern Evangelicals hold the Bible as literal truth and the absolute holy authority, effectively because it's the only thing they've got.

(Again, I'm not going to be "true chuch"ed, so to be clear to everyone, when I say "Christian" and I'm talking about anything past 200 CE, I'm talking about people who would say they believe in the tenets listed in the Nicene Creed. All of those people are "true" Christians, because that is what the word means every time I use it; if you disagree with that assessment, we have a semantic rather than a doctrinal difference.)

But there are some thematic ideas that you can't get away from if you have the Bible in your toolkit at all, and some doctrines that have bred true in Christianity whether or not they actually come from the book. Part of that owes to Roman and medieval Catholic interpretations of theology that, while not unambiguously what the books say, can still be reinforced by a particular way of reading them.

The first one to me is the theme of the book, the concept of sin. Now, for Jesus and his followers, the new treatment of sin had a fairly specific meaning - it was wresting a particular holy authority away from the priestly authority, a power they'd enjoyed for at least the last six centuries when, after the Babylonian captivity, they'd managed to convince the people that every hardship they experienced was a due turn for a lack of piety. But Christianity also came with a novel conception of Hell to make clear that they were terribly serious about it, and from the first gentile convert to Christianity and on to today, the whole package comes in one piece: every fault of character is evidence that you, dear believer, wholly deserve unimaginable eternal punishment.

It might seem like there's still something egalitarian in saying that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", and it took Christianity a bit of time to establish its own priests as gatekeepers of heavenly forgiveness and permit the rich to pay someone to pray away their sins, neither of which is universal in Christianities. But Christians nonetheless believe that the basic condition of human beings is to be something so grotesque that our bloody-minded creator is right to punish us eternally for it. Moreover, Christians believe that they know what kinds of actions and feelings and beliefs are sin and which are not. To accept Christianity means that, no matter what compunctions you have against judging others, no matter your own "sin," and no matter your conception of "grace", you are right to look at something a person does and assess that it utterly invalidates their value as a human being. This is an evil idea.

Sin also gets wrapped up in this Euthyphro thing, where the goodness or evil of actions has nothing to do with their consequences on other human beings, but at this scale, that's a minor quibble. It does carry into the second problem, though.

The second problem, to me, is Heaven and Hell themselves. Christianity comes with a belief that the temporal world of human experience, in all of its joy and pain and fulfillment and tragedy, is a fleeting introduction to the totality of experience any one individual will have. The real world simply doesn't matter. This is a very different thing from beliefs that center on cycles of reincarnation and so on, or that the dead have a remnant presence in the world and perhaps act as guides to their descendants or whatnot, which perform the same therapeutic role of softening the sting of death. The eternally-minded Christian is asked to see the physical world as a game that decides which eternity he or she will experience, and then the real world is this other thing out there in the multiverse that humans ultimately really belong to.

I do think Heaven is at least as pernicious as Hell, but with the caveat that it's one doctrine of Christianity that isn't actually selfish for the believer in question. I'm not sure that I even need to get into any explanation of why Heaven was an evil in the medieval period, because it's pretty well understood what happened there, how it acted as a control and maintained a social order exploitative enough that it would otherwise be unstable. Regardless of how meaningless and valueless your life, if you keep your nose clean and follow the rules, even if you never experience a jot of happiness on Earth, you'll be rewarded eternally for your good behavior. Obviously it's the same mechanism for Islamist suicide bombers today. I'm not sure that this particular aspect has a lot of bearing for mainstream Christians, though - at worst, the fundamentalists consider it in their calculus for how to judge others but don't apply it to themselves.

Dualism is also a natural consequence of this version of an afterlife - humans, as eternal, spiritual creatures, can't possibly be anything like the temporal beasts of the Earth they so resemble. The temporal world doesn't create eternal things. So from the moment of conception, most Christians posit a soul, this supernatural organ of self, that will follow its ape body throughout life and carry on into the real world. Human value is abstracted away from all of the parts that make up a human and the entirety of the human condition. That's a little sick.

Another natural consequence is something I can only think of as a fridge logic. Taking all of this very literally, only the people who accepted Jesus' message are allowed into heaven. Jesus' teaching is a thing that happened at a historical moment spread by cultural forces. The evil of colonialism, destroying native cultures because their traditions didn't look "Christian" enough and spreading the Gospel at sword point for the chance that a few could be "saved" and all of that, is one consequence, but I think it goes deeper than that. If there's a special elect of the saved, and all of the cultures that came before or developed very separately are left out, there's an automatic significance to the peoples who get to move on into this eternal legacy. It reduces the value of everything and everyone that came before and continues to reinforce ethnocentric conceptions of the world.

All of that is simply amplified in what I'd see as the third big evil of Christian dogma, its eschatology or apocalypticism. Jesus' promises of a new kingdom of the Jews on Earth, with him and his God running the business, were probably very comforting to his Jewish followers, who resented the Roman occupation that stole away their autonomy as a people and offered only running water and a functional legal system in return. But it didn't take long for the early Christians to figure out that Paradise wasn't coming to Earth anytime soon, and it was successively projected into the future. The Revelation of John seemed to put it at the scale of many years, and was then interpreted as a metaphor for an even later end to the temporal world, but it's still hanging out there for fundamentalists of every generation to latch onto and believe must represent their own eras.

If Heaven and Hell didn't drive the point home enough. the eschatology makes it unarguably clear that the world we experience is a phase, a game that's only about us humans. Everything in the universe exists for our benefit or detriment, God's terrarium for his pet humans. And God is going to take us out and play with us and throw away the terrarium and get us a better one (but for the very good, obedient pets only, of course). The world will degrade and die and fall in on itself, and someone's going to come along and give us a better one and get rid of all the people we don't like as a bonus.

Now, while Jesus in the Gospels makes some vague references that are now largely read as a reference to this eschatology, the doctrinal value of the Revelation of John itself as a barely-canon addendum to the New Testament told in fanciful metaphors and embarrassingly short-sighted political statements would seem fairly slim. But we keep printing the book, a minority of people keep taking it very seriously, and even if the outright evil parts of this idea are just the metaphoric vehicle, I think it's a harmful one in its own right. This idea is still there, that the world isn't really valuable, that God and the holy law is first and humans second, with very little space left for the rest of the world. And every generation, there are people who take all of that just literally enough to weaken their respect for the natural world, undermine any conception of social progress, and reject the idea that the moral arc of the universe might bend toward justice, condemning the temporal world to an ugly death. Those people are no more virtuous at base than anyone else; their own temporal concerns, their own interests, are still going to be prominent in their minds, and all this doctrine has done is to liberate their selfishness and arrogance.

So, in sum, I do fully understand that Christians like to talk about love and humility. Those are virtues that they value, and they happen to be virtues that I also value. But you can't just look at the heroes of the story and what they want to say about themselves to trust that those are actually the values represented here. Christians believe they have divine knowledge that transcends all other sources and the moral authority to condemn actions or identities as worthy of eternal torment; they're largely asked not to be judgemental about it, and this trivial tempering of inexcusable arrogance is called "humility". Christians believe that human suffering is temporary and that the real consequences in the world are in another universe, and excusing someone from eternal torment in this fairy land is called "love".

I'm not going to take seriously any attempt to talk about the faith in those terms. And you can reduce it to metaphor and tell me what it really does and doesn't mean and we can talk endlessly about literary criticism, but in doing so, you're expecting that the net effect of this system of beliefs is a positive one, that each random believer you choose can be trusted to have better than even odds not to fall into any of the pitfalls I've laid out. That's what you're claiming if you're saying that these doctrines have a positive moral effect on their adherents. And I call bullshit.
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morriswalters
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:31 pm UTC

Getting people to want to be like you is a human trait, a trait that exists because we semi have a choice of who we choose to be our "friend". Birds of a feather so to speak. Everyone proselytizes. Be it your favorite book, or ball team. It is what we do. We want people to share with us.

Your response to me is rather long and it will take me some time to assimilate it. Some causal observations about how I see things. Other than the priesthood in whatever clique you happen to be looking at, I suspect, without being able to know, that most people eat Christianity on a much more visceral level, rather than in a intellectual level. With some exceptions, they go to church and turn their brains off. Study of the Bible takes time and capacity that most people aren't prepared to commit to. So when we talk about Christianity we seem to be talking about the ?priesthood?, rather than the laity. Most atheists seem better prepared intellectually than most Christians, at least superficially.

When I listen to people talk, rather than a focused, this is the Bible, I seem to hear, this is how I'm emotionally invested in the Bible. So a love your brother type of thing is a generalization of an emotional response they believe they believe. Rather than in fact how they act.

The whole idea of sin appears to me to be a response to certain ?truths?. It, I suppose, is comforting that it isn't "my" fault that the world is a fucked up place. That the fault belongs to someone conveniently not here. And the afterlife lets me shuck the BS that daily existence consists of and consider that maybe there really is a point. (The me and my are of the general type rather than a personal expression.) Nihilism encapsulates the idea very cleanly. There is no point to it. At least for me that is a very cold and bleak wind. So personally it is understandable that people would be drawn to Religion of one type or another. Religion must do something or fulfill some need.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 3:03 pm UTC

Well, religion doesn't have to fill any particular need, it just has to be able to sell itself. The better it is at doing that, the more it's going to be around, regardless of whether it does so by efficacy or by other means. I do agree with you that religion fills important holes, and I almost took for granted above that a necessary part of the package with any religion is doing something about death, for instance. But the effect is probably exaggerated, too. We are in a culture that assumes eternal consequences, at least in a metaphorical, literary sense. We talk about people "losing their faith" and becoming disillusioned, convinced that life is meaningless, but it takes time to readjust from a mythic to a human scale. The folk story seems to be that people lose their faith and become disillusioned in relation to Santa Claus, too. I don't think that points to a fundamental necessity for Santa Claus. So I don't honestly think every culture is going to reflect this choice between religious belief and nihilism, I think that's largely a result of our largely Christian culture.

Human beings ascribe agency and motivations and meaning to everything as a first assumption, and that's basic to how we're wired. Religion helps us find meaning in death, gives us someone to blame when there's no one to blame and someone to thank when there's no one to thank, helps us control the narratives of our lives, and does so in a way that feels a lot more natural and real than the sardonic "gee, thanks, The Universe" I usually settle for. I get that. If I'm honest, indulging a little irrationality even when it has risks of leading to unhealthy behavior doesn't bother me. But when it becomes a vector for someone else's manipulation or takes on a life of its own as an unassailable convention that causes real damage, that's different and serious thing. Everyone feels guilt about all their minor failings in life, but to have a religion latch onto that as a way of controlling people? The part of my brain that ascribes agency to things and is prone to anthropomorphism sees that as a serious dick move on the part of said religion.

But yeah, I don't expect Christians in Western society in the present day to fully intellectualize their beliefs. You're right that the people who reject those beliefs are more likely to, and causality pretty clearly runs both ways on that. If you're going to differ from the prevailing sentiment, you're gong to be someone who's put some thought into it, or at least someone who's willing to.

But I still think the even the least mindful consumers of Christianity are inevitably going to be influenced by some of its central themes. The three unhealthy doctrines I listed are pervasive, and you don't have to read the Bible to pick them up. I don't need to be a literary critic to watch an action movie and appreciate that getting the girl and killing the bad guy are probably pretty cool things to do. And there are plenty of religions around that serve some of the purposes we're talking about for them without coming along with this much darker side. Which doesn't mean I'm expecting anyone to pick up and convert to a healthier religion because I think they ought to or something - it just reinforces for me how many assumptions are packed into the word "religion" and how these different systems and cultural contexts for belief really aren't always directly comparable things.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 19, 2015 3:36 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Why do people insist they know what believing in God means because they have read all the books and seen all the traditions that come with belief in God? Did everyone read the analogy I wrote with scientific institutions and science itself?


Because in the US, atheists are almost invariably former believers.

What, is the memory mind-wiped from our brains upon leaving?

Science has been used to do a lot of evil in the world, yet nobody questions the ethical implications of allowing people to pursue scientific research.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who thinks science is evil. You are a person who personally believes science causes evil. You have never engaged in scientific thinking. The few times you've encountered "science", you simply followed instructions given by your science teacher. You think that's all there is to science. Follow instructions, cause stuff react with other stuff. You think scientists may mean well, but eventually they are adherents of a way of thinking that produces greater evil in the world. You argue that all the good things science has produced is not the result of science, but the result of the empathy in the people that do science. Ergo, science is evil.


Please, point at all the amazing advancements made by religious research.

Let me know when any of those matches up against science saving over a billion lives with the green revolution alone.

I openly admit my "bias" (in that I am a Christian) when I make the claim that Christianity cannot be considered a force of evil, even by worldly standards. Are the atheists out there willing to admit their own "bias" when making the claim the Christianity is a force of evil? From the sounds of things, not really. It sounds like you are overly confident in your knowledge about a belief you have no real experience with.


It is considered that by some people. Therefore, it can be.

Why am I biased? I didn't grow up in an atheist family. I grew up in a highly religious one. If there was a bias, it was towards turning out Christian.

Tyndmyr wrote:It is scientific. We've discussed it at length on the forums, but if you have a more detailed discussion of it's shortcomings that a comparison to dairy products, you are welcome to bring it.

Please don't tell me you're referring to the paper that provided no raw data with results based on the average number of stickers children decided to give away. Not to mention there was the whole part about religious people being more adept at identifying interpersonal harm, but was hardly mentioned in the conclusion of the paper.


Some data was provided. Not all was. It's not at all unusual for papers to have summaries of the data, rather than all individual responses, which is what the completely raw dataset would be.

I also note that the paper wasn't put out by some atheist org, so if you're attempting to play the victim here, you can't really act as if this is a victimization of anti-christian bias.

mcd001 wrote:Tyndmyr,
I've apparently misrepresented your beliefs, and my apologies for that, but I'm not quite sure what they are. (Unlike CB, whose views are crystal clear!)

I know many fundamentalists, and not one of them supports the westboro group. True, fundamentalists have a subset of beliefs that I don't share (for example, I don't believe the bible must be interpreted literally, and I am not a young earth creationist), but we don't disagree on the core tenants I mentioned earlier.


Brief summary: Atheist. Do not believe banning religion is a reasonable approach. Do believe religion can be harmful.

I've known an awful lot of fundamentalists who won't support the westboro group overtly, but basically believe most of the same things, and will cheerfully support many of the same topics(say, anti-gay activities, or abortion protests) that are only marginally more restrained.

mcd001 wrote:So, is your main issue with Christians the 40% (I'll use your number since I have no idea) that don't believe in evolution? If so, that seems like a rather trivial complaint in the big scheme of things.


You misunderstand the number. It is 40% of AMERICANS who don't believe in evolution. About 70% of Americans are Christian. The creationist group is almost entirely a subset of the latter. This means a shade over half of your own membership can't even accept basic science, because it's a threat to their religion.

That ain't some obscure sect. That's a widespread belief. It's also a fairly crazy one. If you don't view it as a problem, then THAT IS A PROBLEM. And it perfectly illustrates why the marginally more moderate base of a religion is what creates and normalizes extremist viewpoints. The Westboro folks are not some group that's wildly different from everyone else. They're just the endpoint on the spectrum, and there's a whole continuum of similar beliefs.

mcd001 wrote:Then you quote the scripture on plucking out your eye if it offends you, which you imply we should take literally, but which seems clearly allegorical to me. Also, I never claimed that atheists don't know the bible. However, since you bring it up, I *will* claim that atheists just might tend to misrepresent what's in it...)

Then you imply my religion is a secularized, weakened version of the 'real thing' (which you don't define, but which presumably is something awful). If you mean the fundamental Christians who don't believe in evolution, even THEY believe the parts about charity, love and forgiveness, so I'm not sure why it matters that we don't agree 100% on everything...


Right. The parts you don't like are allegorical. The parts you do are literal.

Every group does this. Every group is convinced that THEIR interpretation is the correct one, of course. Literally all of them. To someone with an outside perspective, your viewpoint has no more weight than any other.

And to argue for peace, love and forgiveness as the primary traits requires ignoring that many, many other traits are routinely ascribed to god, many of which are far less pleasant, and many of which enjoy a great deal of historical play in the church. Hell, lots of them are still embraced by those fundamentalist sorts.

Let us examine a bit of the bible, shall we?

If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me. 'I will make My arrows drunk with blood, And My sword will devour flesh, With the blood of the slain and the captives, From the long-haired leaders of the enemy.' "Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people."


Hmmm. That doesn't SEEM like it's centered on forgiveness. Or love. Not so much peace, either. Is it also allegorical? I mean, if you look at the broader context, it's ALL promises of vengeance.

Yes, it's popular nowadays to focus on certain attributes, but you must understand that this particular focus is a modern trend. The church has not always approached it in this light. Particularly with regard to outsiders. That change is what is liberalization.

mcd001 wrote:It's interesting that your state has laws on the books requiring affirmations of faith for public office; are those laws being enforced? (I would guess not.) Once again, I can find a few awful or ridiculous things about any group, but it would be a mistake for me to judge those groups based on such. The same is true when judging Christianity.


There are eight such states, it's not that obscure. Well, it's not enforcednow, on account of it being unconstitutional. But I will point out that this only happened because it did have to go to court. For a public notary, because clearly, an atheist in such an exalted position is a grave threat.

mcd001 wrote:As for the study on altruism, it was pretty thoroughly debunked in that other forum. You do suggest that more study is required, but the fact that you think it's good enough science to use in support of your argument surprises me.


Then, you didn't actually read that other thread.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby ucim » Thu Nov 19, 2015 4:52 pm UTC

@Copper Bezel - your analysis makes perfect sense, once one accepts the idea that Christians are incorrect about their views on the supernatural. Certainly holding these (known-to-be) incorrect views and promulgating them upon the world would be evil. Even Christians (who could wrap their head around the if-statement) would probably agree.

But what if they were correct? In that case, what they are doing is not only not evil, not doing it would be evil.

This leaves your argument with "Christianity is incorrect" as its fundamental basis, and is ultimately no more convincing than any other religious apologetic. It doesn't work within the target system. Those who already agree can line up behind you with pitchforks and torches, those who don't will be featured on the maps you draw, all in the name of saving the world from Evil.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 4:58 pm UTC

I'm not trying to convince any Christians, and I already mentioned exactly what you're describing in passing a page ago. Cradarc and Chen both disagreed that the doctrines were harmful from an outside perspective.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby eran_rathan » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:21 pm UTC

ucim wrote:@Copper Bezel - your analysis makes perfect sense, once one accepts the idea that Christians are incorrect about their views on the supernatural. Certainly holding these (known-to-be) incorrect views and promulgating them upon the world would be evil. Even Christians (who could wrap their head around the if-statement) would probably agree.

But what if they were correct? In that case, what they are doing is not only not evil, not doing it would be evil.

This leaves your argument with "Christianity is incorrect" as its fundamental basis, and is ultimately no more convincing than any other religious apologetic. It doesn't work within the target system. Those who already agree can line up behind you with pitchforks and torches, those who don't will be featured on the maps you draw, all in the name of saving the world from Evil.

Jose


If they are correct, than God is Evil.

Seriously. Punishment for eternity based on not living in the correct society, or being born at the wrong time, or in the wrong continent, or for inconsequential acts like saying a particular set of phonemes, is neither just nor merciful, its evil.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:25 pm UTC

Something something Euthyphro.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby ucim » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:33 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:and I already mentioned exactly what you're describing in passing a page ago.
Must've been a quick pass; going back I can't find it.

eran_rathan wrote:If they are correct, than God is Evil.

Seriously. Punishment for eternity based on not...
Indeed. This is one of the reasons I believe that Christianity is almost certainly incorrect (more precisely, self-inconsistent with its own message) and thus not to be believed. But it's an easy step from here, and a much harder step from within the system. It still boils down to "your religion is wrong".

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:41 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Seriously. Punishment for eternity based on not...
Indeed. This is one of the reasons I believe that Christianity is almost certainly incorrect (more precisely, self-inconsistent with its own message) and thus not to be believed. But it's an easy step from here, and a much harder step from within the system. It still boils down to "your religion is wrong".


In a thread discussing literally banning religion, one wouldn't think that such an idea would be a surprise.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:43 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:and I already mentioned exactly what you're describing in passing a page ago.
Must've been a quick pass; going back I can't find it.

Here.

Copper Bezel wrote: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.


And yes, I imagine it does reduce to saying that their religion is wrong. That's actually exactly what I'm saying, in fact.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby ucim » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:51 pm UTC

Ok, yes that mention was very "in passing'.

Copper Bezel wrote:And yes, I imagine it does reduce to saying that their religion is wrong. That's actually exactly what I'm saying, in fact.
That's hardly a new viewpoint. But it sounds like you're saying something else, which disguises the basis of what you're saying. That seems disingenuous.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:12 pm UTC

It was as much mention as the caveat warranted. I do not promise equal time to all viewpoints.

If I'm saying that a major world religion is evil, that is a different thing than saying it is wrong? Either you mean very different things by those terms or I'm not the one being disingenuous here.

Edit: Actually, no, you qualified earlier that knowingly promulgating such nasty things would be evil, then contrasted that with the idea that they might be right. I'm in no way claiming that Christians are knowingly anything, so this is entirely orthogonal to what I'm saying. You're contrasting two opinions I don't hold and haven't put forward.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:21 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Ok, yes that mention was very "in passing'.

Copper Bezel wrote:And yes, I imagine it does reduce to saying that their religion is wrong. That's actually exactly what I'm saying, in fact.
That's hardly a new viewpoint. But it sounds like you're saying something else, which disguises the basis of what you're saying. That seems disingenuous.

Jose


Generally speaking, nobody suggests banning something because it is good.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:24 pm UTC

Quick clarification, but that's the thread title, and I'm not arguing for that side. Banning religion is crazy to me, and I'd actually really like comparative religions classes to be mandatory in public gradeschools, so....
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:28 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Quick clarification, but that's the thread title, and I'm not arguing for that side. Banning religion is crazy to me, and I'd actually really like comparative religions classes to be mandatory in public gradeschools, so....


I'm also not for it. Seems way, way too messy, and I think it'd inevitably generate problems without really fixing anything.

But...I dunno why Jose seems surprised that folks are expressing disbelief in religion here. You'd think the title would hint at that.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Nov 19, 2015 6:32 pm UTC

No, he's not expressing surprise that people disbelieve it, he's expressing surprise that I'm carelessly evaluating another ethical system from within my own. But I can't stress enough that that is in fact the field on which this battle was pitched.

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.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:27 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Quick clarification, but that's the thread title, and I'm not arguing for that side. Banning religion is crazy to me, and I'd actually really like comparative religions classes to be mandatory in public gradeschools, so....
There is what your arguing and what it is that you wish to achieve. I on the other hand don't want to give theists any ground at all. I don't want to give the weak minded any ideas.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Whizbang » Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:35 am UTC

The Christian saying "hate the sin not the sinner" does have a lot going for it, once you change the word sin. Take a hard line on ideas and actions and doctrines and beliefs all you want, but a blanket "theists are weak minded" or "theists are bad" or whatever leads to over correction, imo.

If nothing else assuming they are weak minded, and by extension you are strong minded, leaves yourself open to being manipulated yourself. One of the surest way to be open to manipulation is to believe you cannot be manipulated. Any sort of assertion of superiority can do so.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Nov 20, 2015 4:44 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:Quick clarification, but that's the thread title, and I'm not arguing for that side. Banning religion is crazy to me, and I'd actually really like comparative religions classes to be mandatory in public gradeschools, so....
There is what your arguing and what it is that you wish to achieve. I on the other hand don't want to give theists any ground at all. I don't want to give the weak minded any ideas.


I would not describe all theists as weak minded.

Most likely, they simply had parents that taught it to them, and it just sorta kept on due to inertia. That's super common. There are an endless number of normal things around us that we really don't question, religious or not.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 20, 2015 5:58 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:If nothing else assuming they are weak minded, and by extension you are strong minded, leaves yourself open to being manipulated yourself. One of the surest way to be open to manipulation is to believe you cannot be manipulated. Any sort of assertion of superiority can do so.
Probably, but not on this. I think some people aren't susceptible no matter what, with a larger body who will go along with it if they can be bothered, and then there are those like a certain Kentucky County Clerk who I classify as weak minded. Who first get wild and who later get religion. Those types want God to control what they can't. This a a purely personal observation.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Nov 20, 2015 6:03 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Whizbang wrote:If nothing else assuming they are weak minded, and by extension you are strong minded, leaves yourself open to being manipulated yourself. One of the surest way to be open to manipulation is to believe you cannot be manipulated. Any sort of assertion of superiority can do so.
Probably, but not on this. I think some people aren't susceptible no matter what, with a larger body who will go along with it if they can be bothered, and then there are those like a certain Kentucky County Clerk who I classify as weak minded. Who first get wild and who later get religion. Those types want God to control what they can't. This a a purely personal observation.


I count her as obnoxious, and as an adversary.

I am not sure I know her well enough to list her as weak minded. No doubt her goals are very different from mine, yes. That is not the same thing as a lack of mental acuity.

We do ourselves a disservice by assuming that those who believe different from us must be dumb, or idiotic.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Nov 20, 2015 6:26 pm UTC

I don't want to get into her case, but yeah, I think "weak-minded" is just too broad a term here and that there is a danger in expecting people who hold even very visibly dumb ideas to themselves be dumb.

morriswalters wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:Quick clarification, but that's the thread title, and I'm not arguing for that side. Banning religion is crazy to me, and I'd actually really like comparative religions classes to be mandatory in public gradeschools, so....
There is what your arguing and what it is that you wish to achieve. I on the other hand don't want to give theists any ground at all. I don't want to give the weak minded any ideas.


Realizing how problematic I think Christianity has the potential to be specifically has influenced my feelings about religion in general. I'm not going to say that I don't think it's an inherently bad thing, at least in the sense that I don't think it comes without costs and that I think its benefits can be accomplished in other ways. It feels almost as condescending to say that it might be good for some kinds of people as it is to talk about banning it. But I don't think it's possible or desirable to try and eradicate it like polio or something. I really think that in net, the more people know about any subject, the more people will be making better decisions about it. I'm just not really worried about the dangers of bad ideas in their own right - how people come to them is far more influential than the ideas themselves.

What I'd like to achieve is more or less a domestication of religion, and not at a societal but at an individual level, something that can't be used as a way of controlling people or even talking down to them. I don't think it's necessary to wipe it out, and I don't think it's desirable to lose its cultural value and meaning. I feel like valuing free information on the one hand when opposed to some kind of control, and human wellbeing in larger and larger clumps when opposed to any kind of special claim to value or authority on the other, have never ended up on the wrong side of history. I don't expect them to now.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 20, 2015 7:47 pm UTC

Religion is what it is. It can't be tamed or controlled. You may be able to educate it out of existence, but as long as someone can stand and say, God told me, and have people believe it, then you have the potential for harm. Because they are acting beyond reason. The worst of them substitute God's judgement for their own. The effective meaning of that, is that the preacher means as much as the word of Bible. And we've seen this a lot. Charismatics who sell whole groups of people with a mix of charisma and Biblical nonsense. James Jones and his ilk. Or for that matter the worst of the Islamic Fundamentalists. It isn't a problem inherent to Religion, a weaker version is party politics, a stronger version is Nazism or Communism.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby mcd001 » Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:48 pm UTC

Copper Bezel,
You've written a lengthy post that clearly (and forcefully!) explains your viewpoint, and I feel compelled to respond. Posts like yours are exactly the sort of discourse that keeps bringing me back to these xkcd forums. (At most other sites, any serious disagreements quickly devolve into an exchange of pointless insults.)

You have narrowed the focus of your post to what I agree is the real question here: Whether Christian doctrine is, or encourages, evil. You say yea, I say nay. Overall, your facts appear to be accurate, but I can't say the same for your conclusions. I will try to respond ONLY to your words as you wrote them. I found this was necessary on my part as I began to mentally frame my responses to you, and I found myself countering points that were originally made by Tyndmyr, not by you. I certainly don't want to put someone else's words in your mouth! So, let's begin.

You listed three main problems with Christianity that you believe makes it evil, and even ' uniquely awful.' These are the concepts of sin, heaven and hell, and apocalypticism.

Regarding sin (an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law), this is not a uniquely Christian idea, so there can be no argument that Christianity is evil because Christians believe there is sin, nor do you make such an argument. You write:

"Christians believe that they know what kinds of actions and feelings and beliefs are sin and which are not."

Well, yes. We know because we are told. It's right there in the book. I just don't see how this is relevant to your 'Christianity-is-evil' argument. Don't all adherents of any moral code or belief structure have a similar list of things they 'know' are wrong? How can you have a moral code WITHOUT this? Next, you write:

"To accept Christianity means that, no matter what compunctions you have against judging others, no matter your own "sin," and no matter your conception of "grace", you are right to look at something a person does and assess that it utterly invalidates their value as a human being. This is an evil idea."

It is also not a Christian idea. Sin does not 'Utterly invalidate their value as a human being.' This is not just wrong, it is breath-takingly wrong. First, Christians believe that all people have sinned, every single one of us, yet God saw fit to give us a path to redemption. Far from invalidating, this elevates the value and worth of every human everywhere. Second, Christians believe it is God who judges. Not individuals, not priests or pastors. God. You cannot make a statement that completely contradicts what's clearly written in Christian scripture and use that as an argument for why Christianity is evil.

Your second problem with Christianity is the concepts of heaven and hell. These are also not uniquely Christian ideas, so presumably Christianity is not evil simply because we believe there is a heaven and hell. You write:

"Christianity comes with a belief that the temporal world of human experience, in all of its joy and pain and fulfillment and tragedy, is a fleeting introduction to the totality of experience any one individual will have. The real world simply doesn't matter."

If I'm following your logic correctly, I think you're saying that the evil here is the minimizing of the importance of the real world. If so, you don't make a very strong case for why this is evil. In fact, I could just as easily argue that putting too much importance on the real world is evil, and point at green radicals who would rather see people starve than have access to genetically modified grain that could enormously increase production. Is this a gross oversimplification? Yes. And that's my point.

You write:

"Regardless of how meaningless and valueless your life, if you keep your nose clean and follow the rules, even if you never experience a jot of happiness on Earth, you'll be rewarded eternally for your good behavior."

Once again, this is completely and totally at odds with Christian doctrine. Christians are not saved by works (keeping your nose clean and following the rules) and we are not rewarded for good behavior. Again, you cannot make a statement that completely contradicts what's clearly written in Christian scripture and then use it as an argument for why Christianity is evil. Especially when your very next statement says it’s the same mechanism for Islamist suicide bombers. Rather than encouraging such evil (suicide bombers), Christianity explicitly forbids it.

You write:

"Christians posit a soul, this supernatural organ of self, that will follow its ape body throughout life and carry on into the real world. Human value is abstracted away from all of the parts that make up a human and the entirety of the human condition. That's a little sick."

I don't think the concept of a soul is unique to Christianity, so you seem to be implying that all religions with an afterlife are evil. (If so, you get points for consistency.) The actual evil, if I read this correctly, is that the concept of a soul minimizes the importance of our earthly bodies in the minds of believers. You don't make a case for why this is evil, you just pronounce it so: 'a little sick.' Myself, I think putting too much importance on our physical bodies is equally bad. Balance is called for, and Christian doctrine provides that. Nowhere in scripture are Christians told to neglect their worldly bodies. Rather, we are told our bodies are God's temple and should be cared for. Hardly evil.

You write:

"The evil of colonialism, destroying native cultures because their traditions didn't look "Christian" enough and spreading the Gospel at sword point for the chance that a few could be "saved" and all of that, is one consequence"

Here you blame the evils of colonialism squarely on Christianity, which I find to be a pretty myopic reading of history. In fact, most of human history (both before AND after Christianity) is a story of migration, war, conquest, and subjugation. This is a human problem, not a Christian one. To claim otherwise is disingenuous or naïve. Were some peoples conquered in the name Christ? Yes. Is that a sign that Christianity is evil? No. Christianity was the *excuse* for these conquests, not the *cause*, a fact made evident when you consider that Christian doctrine forbids such acts.

This brings us to the third 'big evil', apocalypticism. You write:

"The Revelation of John seemed to put it at the scale of many years, and was then interpreted as a metaphor for an even later end to the temporal world, but it's still hanging out there for fundamentalists of every generation to latch onto and believe must represent their own eras."

To which I say, 'so what?' Every generation has people who read Revelations and think they've cracked the code. So far, they've been wrong. Jesus himself said no one knows the day or hour of his return.

Next you write:

"The world will degrade and die and fall in on itself, and someone's going to come along and give us a better one and get rid of all the people we don't like as a bonus."

Well, yeah, the world WILL die, eventually. Nothing lasts forever. The part about a new world populated only by people we like is. . . incorrect. Nothing in Christian doctrine says we have any say in who gets saved. Who we like or dislike also has no bearing at all.

You write:

"...even if the outright evil parts of this idea are just the metaphoric vehicle, I think it's a harmful one in its own right. This idea is still there, that the world isn't really valuable, that God and the holy law is first and humans second, with very little space left for the rest of the world."

You have already touched on this idea; that minimizing the importance of the real world is somehow evil, but here you actually provide a rational for this belief, and THIS seems to be the crux of your argument that Christianity is evil:

"And every generation, there are people who take all of that just literally enough to weaken their respect for the natural world, undermine any conception of social progress, and reject the idea that the moral arc of the universe might bend toward justice, condemning the temporal world to an ugly death."

So you are claiming that because I believe there is an existence after this world, I must therefore undermine social progress and reject a moral arc toward justice? I can't begin to tell you how utterly ridiculous this argument sounds to my ears. First, Christians respect the natural world as much or more than anyone. After all, the natural world and all it contains was created by God himself. We are commanded to be stewards of that creation, to preserve it and use it, not to destroy it. Second, there is nothing in Christianity that stands against social progress as a concept. There are probably some things you might consider 'social progress' that I would reject as harmful or wrong-headed, but in the main, things that I would count as social progress, such as the abolition of slavery, were enacted by Christians of the time. The same goes for the 'moral arc of the universe.' I'm not sure I know exactly what you mean by that, but if it means a tendency among humans towards a greater moral awareness, then Christianity is onboard with it. Leading the way, even.

In summary, you write:

"Christians believe they have divine knowledge that transcends all other sources and the moral authority to condemn actions or identities as worthy of eternal torment"

Yes, we believe we have divine knowledge. It's in the book, freely available to all. No, we do not have the moral authority to *condemn* actions of others -- God reserves that for himself -- but we DO have the authority to *inform* others that their actions are harmful or sinful. Or good and noble. But then, YOU have that same authority. All humans have it. You are exercising it on this forum, calling me out for following what you believe is an evil doctrine. Given that, how can Christians pointing out sin be any more evil than your posts on this forum? (Answer: they're not.)

you write:

". . .they're largely asked not to be judgmental about it, and this trivial tempering of inexcusable arrogance is called 'humility."

I'm sorry, I just did not understand this statement. How is not being judgmental a trivial tempering? To the degree being non- judgmental is one of the hardest things a human can do, shouldn't ANY move in that direction be applauded, not used as an example of evil? Really, I think I've completely missed your point here.

Finally, you write:

"you're expecting that the net effect of this system of beliefs is a positive one, that each random believer you choose can be trusted to have better than even odds not to fall into any of the pitfalls I've laid out. That's what you're claiming if you're saying that these doctrines have a positive moral effect on their adherents. And I call bullshit."

No, I'm claiming that the 'pitfalls' you've laid out are based either on incorrect representations of Christian doctrine, or on tendencies that arise from human impulses and behaviors in direct contradiction of Christian doctrine. You're argument, when distilled to its basics, is that humans behaving in the sordid, selfish ways that humans have always behaved is the fault of Christianity, and that somehow the world would be better off with fewer people who follow (however imperfectly) a doctrine that calls for the virtues you claim to also value (love, humility, charity, forgiveness).

To use your quaint phraseology; I call bullshit.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:50 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:If I'm following your logic correctly, I think you're saying that the evil here is the minimizing of the importance of the real world. If so, you don't make a very strong case for why this is evil. In fact, I could just as easily argue that putting too much importance on the real world is evil, and point at green radicals who would rather see people starve than have access to genetically modified grain that could enormously increase production. Is this a gross oversimplification? Yes. And that's my point.


Without doing a point by point rebuttal, let me pull out this one example. This is not merely a gross oversimplification, it is a bad example. Someone who would rather see people starve rather than have access to GMO grain is wrong not because of their level of caring, but because they are factually mistaken. It is not a question of degree, but an issue of belief.

Using this as an "analogy" to Copper's arguments does not mean that her arguments are a gross oversimplification. It's a puzzling irrelevancy that doesn't actually address her arguments at all.

Let us look at the actual argument in question, that Christianity emphasizes eternal life over the present, mortal world. This is...not even really in question, either within the Bible, nor within traditional religious viewpoints.

The fact that they don't engage in suicide bombing is an irrelevancy, because Christianity looks unkindly on suicide from the standpoint of eternal importance. So, that doesn't disprove her statement in the slightest.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Nov 20, 2015 11:47 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:Once again, this is completely and totally at odds with Christian doctrine. Christians are not saved by works (keeping your nose clean and following the rules) and we are not rewarded for good behavior. Again, you cannot make a statement that completely contradicts what's clearly written in Christian scripture and then use it as an argument for why Christianity is evil. Especially when your very next statement says it’s the same mechanism for Islamist suicide bombers. Rather than encouraging such evil (suicide bombers), Christianity explicitly forbids it.


Salvation by faith is a bug with Christianity, not a feature. It is, in fact, arguably one of the central problems with the entire Christian dogma. Pretty much all of the problems inherent in Christianity flow out of this central immorality: Your actions don't matter, only what you believe does. It creates an incentive for the wrong things. Rather than be concerned about actually making the world better, or treating people kindly, or behaving ethically, or, Christianity tells people that the only thing that really matters is whether they believe the right thing. This creates a bizarre situation where good and righteous people are punished for being born in the wrong place or dying at the wrong time, whereas people who are truly monstrous may find themselves in Heaven. While most Christians squirm and try to make excuses for it, there is no reason according to this doctrine that Adolf Hitler could not end up in Heaven, and no reason that some of the world's greatest humanitarians and philanthropists could not end up in hell (This is more of a problem for Protestants than Catholics, incidentally, since the latter have actually recognized that some actions are sufficiently evil that you obviously forfeit your salvation). The moral axis isn't Good <----> Evil, it's Belief <----> Disbelief. Although Christian morality is normally considered to be very Black and White, this doctrine is actually more of a Blue and Orange morality. Salvation by works is a far superior doctrine to salvation by faith, because it actually encourages people to behave ethically and try to do better and fix their mistakes. Not only that, salvation by works is universal--if it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you do good, then it doesn't punish people who happen to be born in families of the wrong faith, or born in the wrong part of the world, or whatever. Even if there is no Heaven and no Hell, then a doctrine of salvation by works still provides tangible benefits to the real world, whereas salvation by faith does not.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Nov 21, 2015 5:54 am UTC

Luckily or unluckily, Christianity has a surprisingly weak relationship with the doctrine of salvation by faith that's claimed to be at its core. That's particularly true in the Catholic tradition, which has had all manner of systems for absolving sin by penance or financial sacrifice and so on, but it's a thing in the rest of Christendom, too. Sin variously makes God angry or sad or whatever else throughout the Bible, and he is not shy about punishing them for it. I think the biggest effect of salvation by faith is the idea that loss of faith is itself a white-hot threat to one's eternal future. That creates an extraordinary degree of buy-in.

morriswalters wrote:Religion is what it is. It can't be tamed or controlled.

Talk to a Unitarian sometime.

mcd001 wrote:It is also not a Christian idea. Sin does not 'Utterly invalidate their value as a human being.' This is not just wrong, it is breath-takingly wrong. First, Christians believe that all people have sinned, every single one of us, yet God saw fit to give us a path to redemption. Far from invalidating, this elevates the value and worth of every human everywhere. Second, Christians believe it is God who judges. Not individuals, not priests or pastors. God. You cannot make a statement that completely contradicts what's clearly written in Christian scripture and use that as an argument for why Christianity is evil.


To me, this one is the core of your argument, or possibly just represents its mode. I know how Christians interpret and sell their own doctrines. You don't have to explain them to me. As I said, I'm not taking for granted that everything a person says about him-or-herself is true, and I do believe that you are.

Sin does invalidate a person's value as a human being. God considers it worthy of eternal torment. If you set aside Jesus and salvation for a minute - as opposed to setting them aside for thousands of years of human history and most of the world, which is what God's said to have done - then that system works like this: a person is born, lives in the world, and dies, and if that person has had ever any fault of character or error of judgement, he or she is scooped up at the moment of death for eternal punishment.

Well, that could just be how the world works, or God could be wrong, right? Except that the Abrahamic faiths' unique brand of monotheism claims that God is absolutely just, that everyone really-truly deserves whatever happens to them, and the whole system is God's perfect creation.

Salvation, grace, mercy, is unearned. Humans can't earn it. In God's moral calculus, every human being to have ever lived deserves eternal torture. To be a Christian, you have to accept and endorse this: God is right to make that judgement. Every human being has sinned enough to deserve Hell, because it takes only a trivial amount of actual sin to do so. To be a Christian, you have to affirm that as a basic principle before moving onto these other details like salvation.

And yes, Christians are told that only God has the right to judge. They're told that, and they're told that the things their culture holds as taboo are so detestable to the creator of the universe that any slightest deviation from expectations is worthy of eternal flames. As I said, the nominal humility of the former might temper the arrogance of the latter, but I can't imagine by much.

And yes, I'm perfectly content saying that some ideas and sentiments and actions are wrong or evil. When Christians label things as "sin", that is one of the things they're doing there, but it's not the part I'm objecting to. "Sin" in the sense we're talking about here really is as close to a uniquely Christian concept as we're going to come.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby ucim » Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:12 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Sin does invalidate a person's value as a human being. God considers it worthy of eternal torment.
Point of information: Christians (at least Catholics) have the idea of "mortal sin" and "venial sin", which are treated differently. "Mortal sin" condemns you to hell (unless confessed and repented); venial sin condemns you to purgatory (where you "make up for your sins" before being allowed into heaven).

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:25 am UTC

Something I should look into and be more familiar with, definitely. I am aware that there are other caveats, like original sin or various ages of reason and this sort of thing. I'm not sure how fundamentally that changes what sin "is" in some sense, but there's certainly nuance there.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby morriswalters » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:23 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Talk to a Unitarian sometime.
Why?

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby ucim » Sat Nov 21, 2015 3:31 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I'm not sure how fundamentally that changes what sin "is" in some sense, but there's certainly nuance there.
It fundamentally changes things because there is nuance where you have allowed for none, and it seems to be that lack of nuance is what leads you to your position (that Christianity is fundamentally and uniquely evil).

I think Christianity is incorrect, I think its canon is unsupportable (It could be true, but with probability zero), and I think that it (nonuniquely) leads to some bad stuff (e.g. intolerances of various sorts). However, given that humans are social and emotional creatures rather than logical automatons, religion provides a kind of structure and support to some that, if taken away, would leave those people worse off.

Religious extremism is a Bad Thing, and that needs to be curbed. But be careful painting with big brushes, for that is itself a form of extremism.

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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Nov 21, 2015 4:11 pm UTC

Yeah, no.

I never claimed that there were absolutely no exceptions to any part of anything I was saying. That'd be a daft claim to make about damn near anything. And there's a difference between saying that something has nuances and saying that it's capable of nuances - books require literacy but are rarely themselves literate beings. The evangelical wing of Protestant Christianity is what I'm most familiar with, and they love to make sloppy love to the idea that the slightest fault is worthy of eternal torment, but even if the largest branch of Christianity accepts the doctrine of a particular exegesis that classifies sins by their gravity - so what? The thing that makes salvation meaningful is the idea that every single human being who has ever lived deserves eternal torment without it. That's true in any denomination.

And you don't need to get into odd tangles of logic or look at the internal structure of a belief system to deem it untrue. We're not really talking about truth claims in this discussion anyway, but if we were, I don't think the idea that God contradicts himself is really even significant to that. I mean, you'd have to ask Christians to prove the existence of God or something. That's not even an interesting conversation to have. If someone tells me there's a duck in the toaster oven, I don't rate the probability that the statement is true by checking if it's syntactically well-formed.

And you're talking about $Religion again, which I'm mostly indifferent to. Of course some people seem to like it or something. I mean, I'd love if people could grow up and get over it and all, but I think that about televised sports, too. It's almost a matter of taste at this point. I'd still be unsettled by a smash-hit revival of Roman-style gladiator matches complete with all the death.

And your last point in the knee-jerk extremism equivocation is really tired and needs to go away. That, or become properly automated. If brushing my teeth in the morning is a kind of extremism, and then there's a kind of extremism that involves blowing up buildings, it's really still going to be the latter I'm actually concerned about.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Cradarc » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:08 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Cradarc wrote:Why do people insist they know what believing in God means because they have read all the books and seen all the traditions that come with belief in God?

Why do you think that they haven't? There are plenty of former Christians out there who have profoundly numinous experiences, who believed that they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, who can speak in tongues, who believed that they had experienced miracles, who have ticked every box in the Christian checklist (if there were such a thing), and have since become atheists.

If you have a couple of spare hours of time, I'd strongly encourage you to look up the Evid3nc3 deconversion video series on YouTube. It is the video memoir, if you like, of exactly this sort of person.

Sure, there are plenty of checkboxes, but none of those checkboxes defines Christianity. I can argue scientists are equally diverse. Some like experiments, some like theory. Some focus on chemistry, some on physics. Some believe science describes reality, others believe science is a model for reality. None of those checkboxes describe science.
I never said there wasn't a single atheist on this planet who had never felt 100% convinced there was a God. I was pointing out the inconsistency between the atheist need for every claim to be justified and their neglect of justification when making claims about the nature of religion. You are atheist because you can't bring yourself to believe in God unless it makes logical sense. If that is the case, how can you be fine with declaring a belief to be objectively evil when you have no logical basis to do so?

LaserGuy wrote:
I openly admit my "bias" (in that I am a Christian) when I make the claim that Christianity cannot be considered a force of evil, even by worldly standards. Are the atheists out there willing to admit their own "bias" when making the claim the Christianity is a force of evil? From the sounds of things, not really. It sounds like you are overly confident in your knowledge about a belief you have no real experience with.


Again, why do you think that people have no experience with Christianity? For that matter, do you think that simply because you haven't experienced Islam directly, you can't make any claims about the actions of its adherents? Do you feel the same about Scientology? Nazism? (Note: This is not in any way intended to be a comparison between these belief systems, simply, I am asking whether you believe it is possible to have an opinion about these belief systems without actually having been a believer in those specific ideologies).


I never said people who call themselves Christians cannot be evil. In fact, I fully agree that some "Christians" do far more evil than non-Christians. In God's eyes, the amount of evil doesn't matter though. It's an all or nothing situation.
I know some beliefs are "evil" because I believe God's standard is absolute. Something that blatantly goes against God's standard is evil by definition. Beliefs that aren't as explicit are up to interpretation.
What I'm wondering is why atheists who don't believe in absolute standards act the same way. The fundamental faith of atheism lies in logic. Logic does not give rise to morality. So all atheist standards of morality is subjective. If I were an atheist, I would not be able to assert my morality is absolute without identifying my own fallacy.

Amusing side note
The title of the thread implied a logical discussion of the practical merits in banning religion. In earlier posts people stuck to this spirit and there was some sort of general consensus. However, people then became side-tracked into talking about whether or not religion is intrinsically good or evil. There is no way to reach consensus about this, so we're basically saying "You can't really say that" to each other over and over again.
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Re: Should religion be illegal for children?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun Nov 22, 2015 2:55 am UTC

I would agree at this point that the discussion you'd like to have is not a productive one.
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