Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 16, 2012 2:07 pm UTC

The Fool wrote:So sum it up, you can tell a legitimate faith vs a wacky Cult in that a legitimate faith will produce good things.

Good things... Over time? Over all? To some small population of priestly elites living in a golden palace on a golden throne?
I'm under the persuasion that no major religion save possibly Buddhism has done 'over all good'. Even Buddhism I think is questionable.

Whereas some wacky ass crystal space ship cults have done probably accrued 'a little social stigma' but 'greatly enriched the lives of it's constituents'. So, I don't think that's really a good metric.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Dark567 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:51 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
The Fool wrote:So sum it up, you can tell a legitimate faith vs a wacky Cult in that a legitimate faith will produce good things.

Good things... Over time? Over all? To some small population of priestly elites living in a golden palace on a golden throne?
I'm under the persuasion that no major religion save possibly Buddhism has done 'over all good'. Even Buddhism I think is questionable.
So, as Anti-theist as I am, I doubt this somewhat. Religion has at least historically probably produced a net positive, evidenced simply by its widespread adoption even while its independently developed. The fact that pretty much every society and culture has had a religion shows that it is likely that religion has been memetically selected to produce a more 'fit' culture/society.

That said, I am not sure it has much worth in the modern world.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby setzer777 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:04 pm UTC

I agree with Dark567 that religion at least historically seems to have provided some fitness to the human race. But I think that Izawwlgood is correct that "judging by their fruits" is a poor metric. Aside from the fact that there are far too many variables and context questions (how do you weigh lots of good for a small group against a small amount of good for a large group?), there's also the problem of teaching vs practice.

I form a religion that preaches all sorts of love and acceptance, but it gets picked up by people who primarily use it to exclude and oppress others. Bob forms a religion that has all sorts of rules that would be harmful if followed ("heathens are to all be tortured to death"), but its followers choose to ignore all of that stuff and focus on the few good parts in the teachings. Have the fruits of Bob's religion proven that it's more valid than mine, despite the preponderance of hateful teachings?

Historical accident can easily affect whether and how much a religion is used for good or evil, completely independent of the content or nature of the teachings themselves.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby DSenette » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:04 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
The Fool wrote:So sum it up, you can tell a legitimate faith vs a wacky Cult in that a legitimate faith will produce good things.

Good things... Over time? Over all? To some small population of priestly elites living in a golden palace on a golden throne?
I'm under the persuasion that no major religion save possibly Buddhism has done 'over all good'. Even Buddhism I think is questionable.
So, as Anti-theist as I am, I doubt this somewhat. Religion has at least historically probably produced a net positive, evidenced simply by its widespread adoption even while its independently developed. The fact that pretty much every society and culture has had a religion shows that it is likely that religion has been memetically selected to produce a more 'fit' culture/society.

That said, I am not sure it has much worth in the modern world.

a net positive for who? and by what metric of positive?

i have always hated the "well shit, if it never did any good it wouldn't be freakin everywhere!" which totally ignores the fact that through out history, religion has been the biggest tool used by people attempting to rise to power. even stalin used religion (being against it) to solidify his rise to power. i'm quite certain that the effectiveness of formal organized religion as a tool for controlling a population has A LOT more to do with it's widespread nature today than any "net benefit", especially considering the WIDE SWATHS of history for which NO actual measurable benefit could be attributed to religious membership (think of the middle ages where people were subjugated by religion, religion collected massive taxes to build massive churches then excluded the people that were taxed from entering the churches, etc... etc... etc..)

even then, how much "good" is enough to outweigh the "not good" enough to make it follow the metric that was being proposed here?
The Fool wrote:So sum it up, you can tell a legitimate faith vs a wacky Cult in that a legitimate faith will produce good things. It's teachings would have to be good, it's adherents would have to be good, etc etc. If a religion's teachings OR if it's members are harmful than it's a rotten "tree"/wacky cult. Which is basically what many of you have already said, I guess I just wanted to include the fact that Jesus had a similar thought to contribute.


because i can think of A LOT of organizations that could fit some of the criteria. hell, the KKK is a pretty consistently philanthropic organization (assuming you're white and protestant and in need of their help) but i doubt anyone would allow that to cloud their judgment about whether or not the KKK is full of nutjobs
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Dark567 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:12 pm UTC

DSenette wrote:a net positive for who? and by what metric of positive?
For the survival of the cultures that adopt religion. Cultures that previously haven't adopted religion don't seem to survive or end up assimilated by those cultures that do have religion.

DSenette wrote:i have always hated the "well shit, if it never did any good it wouldn't be freakin everywhere!" which totally ignores the fact that through out history, religion has been the biggest tool used by people attempting to rise to power. even stalin used religion (being against it) to solidify his rise to power. i'm quite certain that the effectiveness of formal organized religion as a tool for controlling a population has A LOT more to do with it's widespread nature today than any "net benefit", especially considering the WIDE SWATHS of history for which NO actual measurable benefit could be attributed to religious membership (think of the middle ages where people were subjugated by religion, religion collected massive taxes to build massive churches then excluded the people that were taxed from entering the churches, etc... etc... etc..)
Sometimes any form of organization is better then chaos. Just because religion is used to oppress people, doesn't mean its not useful for the survival of that society. As widespread as it has been used to oppress people, that hardly explains why the vast majority of people would accept it. Even if the people were tricked into it, there seems to be from benefit to them from the treachery.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Jave D » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:43 pm UTC

I think it's rather unfair to use Stalin's being opposed to religion as an example of the negatives of religion. On the contrary, that would seem to point to being fervently anti-religion as a negative thing.

In general I think it's a bit unreasonable to evaluate something so broad as "religion" as being wholly, or overall, more negative or more positive. (As if we were planning to allow religious freedom to continue, or whether to take a Stalinist approach). Religion is thoroughly intertwined with basically every culture and civilization. It is a bit like asking whether, overall, humanity is a good thing with more 'net gains' than a bad thing with 'net losses.'
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby setzer777 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:10 pm UTC

Do you think you can judge any particular religion as being a net good or net bad?
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Dark567 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:16 pm UTC

Jave D wrote:In general I think it's a bit unreasonable to evaluate something so broad as "religion" as being wholly, or overall, more negative or more positive.
...
Religion is thoroughly intertwined with basically every culture and civilization.
I think later of these shows us very much something about the former. Things are rarely universal to human cultures and societies, without being positive things for cultures and societies. Hell, one of the reasons, that the religions that succeed do and "cults" don't is because in the long term they have added fitness, while cults have died out because they don't add fitness.

setzer777 wrote:Do you think you can judge any particular religion as being a net good or net bad?
Well, I do. But only in our modern context.
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Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby setzer777 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:23 pm UTC

Of course "positive" in the evolutionary sense doesn't mean "positive" in any sort of moral, ethical, empathatic, or desirable sense. As far as I know rape, murder, and theft have also been nearly universal to human cultures.

I suppose those don't require the majority to buy into them, so perhaps better examples would be defining minority groups as being subhuman, secondclass citizens, or inherently deserving of ill treatment.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:28 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:Religion has at least historically probably produced a net positive, evidenced simply by its widespread adoption even while its independently developed. The fact that pretty much every society and culture has had a religion shows that it is likely that religion has been memetically selected to produce a more 'fit' culture/society.

Or, it shows that upon emerging from the caves, mankind, in it's ignorance and fear of the scary world around, resulted to myth as a means to unify smaller groups and codify emergent morality. I'll agree that *some* of it's origins served a positive, but I wager there were plenty of atheists in every culture throughout time that didn't need a couple of tablets, or scrolls, or some priest telling them what was right and what was wrong. I'm not suggesting that unification of smaller groups and codifying morality is a bad thing, quite the opposite; I'm just not convinced those checks on the 'Good Things' side of the chart are nearly enough to weigh out against... everything else.
DSenette wrote:i have always hated the "well shit, if it never did any good it wouldn't be freakin everywhere!" which totally ignores the fact that through out history, religion has been the biggest tool used by people attempting to rise to power.

I agree with this; I think the spread of religion is in no small part due to social/cultural inertia. "My parents killed those people, why shouldn't I?"
Dark567 wrote:Sometimes any form of organization is better then chaos. Just because religion is used to oppress people, doesn't mean its not useful for the survival of that society. As widespread as it has been used to oppress people, that hardly explains why the vast majority of people would accept it. Even if the people were tricked into it, there seems to be from benefit to them from the treachery.

I agree with your statement, I just don't see how that justifies a net positive for religion.
Jave D wrote:In general I think it's a bit unreasonable to evaluate something so broad as "religion" as being wholly, or overall, more negative or more positive.

Frankly, I disagree. One of the positives we can attribute to religion is it encouraged record keeping (accurate or not), which probably sped up the rate at which we reached a more literate society. We can also thank Christianity for the clock; the point being, we can quite reasonably evaluate something like religion as being 'mostly bad' or 'mostly good'. I think the trick is to be as objective in our analysis as possible, even remembering that what is valuable to some people (A relationship with God, feeling part of a spiritual community, feeling rooted to tradition, etc) may not have value to others. Personally, those three things don't really mean shit to me, but I will absolutely recognize them as positives that religion can have on an individual or a collective. That said, I think it's also important to recognize, say, the multitude of teens driven to suicide because of shame felt in their religion, or the wars to spread 'Gods word', or the general oppression of knowledge, etc, etc, etc.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:47 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
setzer777 wrote:Do you think you can judge any particular religion as being a net good or net bad?
Well, I do. But only in our modern context.

How do you figure? I don't have a strong opinion on this, but in a simplistic counter from what I remember you're inclined against having children*; from a basic fitness perspective it seems you'd be bettered by certain schools of religion. I definitely don't think this is conclusive by any stretch, though. In many ways, I strongly feel there should be no strong opinion about this - something as complicated as the genesis as religion in human society is too hard to logic out, it just has to play out.

*My memory may be failing here, in which case I apologize for the presumptions
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Soralin » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:13 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
The Fool wrote:So sum it up, you can tell a legitimate faith vs a wacky Cult in that a legitimate faith will produce good things.

Good things... Over time? Over all? To some small population of priestly elites living in a golden palace on a golden throne?
I'm under the persuasion that no major religion save possibly Buddhism has done 'over all good'. Even Buddhism I think is questionable.
So, as Anti-theist as I am, I doubt this somewhat. Religion has at least historically probably produced a net positive, evidenced simply by its widespread adoption even while its independently developed. The fact that pretty much every society and culture has had a religion shows that it is likely that religion has been memetically selected to produce a more 'fit' culture/society.

That said, I am not sure it has much worth in the modern world.

Which is how we know that the flu is so beneficial to humans too, otherwise, why would it keep being so widespread?

Something being widespread doesn't mean that it's beneficial. I mean, you even used the word meme here, without apparently realizing what that word means or it's connotations:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
Malcolm Gladwell wrote, "A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus--that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects." Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time. Memes spread by the behaviors that they generate in their hosts.

I mean, the word meme was literally made to treat an idea as something that can spread and replicate itself through a population. The flu doesn't spread because it benefits people, it spreads because it causes them to engage in behaviors that cause it's spread (sneezing, coughing, etc.). A disease doesn't evolve to benefit it's hosts, it evolves to benefit itself. A meme can work the same way, it doesn't have to benefit anyone to become widespread, it just has to be successful at spreading itself, by any means. An idea that, say, we should throw rocks at anyone who doesn't hold the idea that we should throw rocks at anyone who don't hold this idea, could potentially spread rapidly through a population, if it's able to reach a critical mass of people infected with it, and doesn't have an effective counter. And if it's able to reach that critical mass, it becomes largely self-sustaining, and very hard to get rid of. Even if it's detrimental to everyone, it makes it more detrimental to not hold it, rather than providing a benefit to people who do.

I mean, take for example a meme that greatly benefits someone, and everyone around them, but contains the idea that it should be kept to themselves. And then take for example a meme that greatly harms someone, that causes them to do harm to themselves and others, or even kill themselves, but which is very good at getting past human mental defenses, and can spread itself to a couple of people before it finishes off it's host. The first won't get spread much at all, and will probably die off with the person who holds it, while the second could quickly become widespread.

Something being a good idea could cause it to be widespread, by making it more likely to be adopted by people, but there are other ways for an idea to become widespread that don't involve it being a good idea. For example:
Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or "thought contagion":[18]

1. Quantity of parenthood: an idea that influences the number of children one has. Children respond particularly receptively to the ideas of their parents, and thus ideas that directly or indirectly encourage a higher birthrate will replicate themselves at a higher rate than those that discourage higher birthrates.

2. Efficiency of parenthood: an idea that increases the proportion of children who will adopt ideas of their parents. Cultural separatism exemplifies one practice in which one can expect a higher rate of meme-replication — because the meme for separation creates a barrier from exposure to competing ideas.

3. Proselytic: ideas generally passed to others beyond one's own children. Ideas that encourage the proselytism of a meme, as seen in many religious or political movements, can replicate memes horizontally through a given generation, spreading more rapidly than parent-to-child meme-transmissions do.

4. Preservational: ideas that influence those that hold them to continue to hold them for a long time. Ideas that encourage longevity in their hosts, or leave their hosts particularly resistant to abandoning or replacing these ideas, enhance the preservability of memes and afford protection from the competition or proselytism of other memes.

5. Adversative: ideas that influence those that hold them to attack or sabotage competing ideas and/or those that hold them. Adversative replication can give an advantage in meme transmission when the meme itself encourages aggression against other memes.

6. Cognitive: ideas perceived as cogent by most in the population who encounter them. Cognitively transmitted memes depend heavily on a cluster of other ideas and cognitive traits already widely held in the population, and thus usually spread more passively than other forms of meme transmission. Memes spread in cognitive transmission do not count as self-replicating.

7. Motivational: ideas that people adopt because they perceive some self-interest in adopting them. Strictly speaking, motivationally transmitted memes do not self-propagate, but this mode of transmission often occurs in association with memes self-replicated in the efficiency parental, proselytic and preservational modes.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Azrael » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:26 am UTC

Oh, look! That never ending discussion about whether religion has a net positive/negative/neutral effect on society. Gee, I was hoping we could waste pages and pages saying the same things in this thread that have already been said a hundred times in all those other threads.

Let's move on.
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby DSenette » Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:38 pm UTC

so what's the tally of things that can make something wacky?

can't be content of an unsubstantiated/untestable belief since all unsubstantiated/untestable beliefs are on equal footing when it comes to content (FSM=Fairies=Wood Nymphs=Zeus=God=Allah)

Can't be "the fruit that the belief brings to bear" because it's impossible to actually agree on what counts as fruit in the first place (is the good actually of religion, or is it of humanity itself), or what counts as good fruit and bad fruit (one man's "good" moral opinion on homosexuality is another man's hate crime), or how much good fruit your tree has to produce before it outweighs all of the stuff that rots on the vine (how much REALLY good shit do you have to do to get away from the crusades? if i donate to a cancer society does that cancel out the money i gave to that mission group in africa that's actively increasing the infection rates of AIDS?).

Motive was suggested, but it's really hard to assign actual motive to anything that's 2,000+ years old. plus, you still run afoul of "things done with the best of intentions can still not be good". or changing motives, or people who act outside of the original motives. etc...

it would be GREAT if we could use the metric of how closely something lines up with observable, measurable reality, but that would basically rule out all organized religions as not being at least a little wacky. but a little wacky should be ok right? not a lot wacky?
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Re: Legitimate Faith vs Wacky Cult

Postby Jave D » Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:16 pm UTC

I draw the line where my beliefs and experiences and knowledge draws it. Much like everyone else. Those who think all religion is delusion, or that absolutely none are, just draw the line a little bit farther than where I draw it - I only think some 'religions' are ummm wacky cults. But there is no actual line here, no objective way to determine what is "wacky" because, let's be honest, "wacky" is not exactly a measurable metric. It's really just about how large a generalization one wishes to make. So looking for an empirically valid metric of wackiness is kind of futile.
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