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Thread: Postive and negative aspects of religion

  1. #1
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    Postive and negative aspects of religion

    Though some seem to disagree, I would claim that there are both positive and negative aspects to religious belief. In general, I am tolerant of people who hold only those religious views which are either harmless or beneficial but agree that, as a society, we should fight against those views which are negative and harmful. So, which aspects of religious belief do you consider negative or harmful and which aspects may be benign or even positive?

    I would start off with a short list of those aspects which come most readily to mind:

    Negative or harmful aspects:
    1) Religions supporting the destruction or discrimination against innocent people simply because they are not of the same faith.

    2) Distortions of opposing world views (mainly scientific ones) in order for believers to feel more comfortable in their assumptions.

    3) Seemingly arbitrary rules intolerant to certain groups of people - ex. the discrimination against Gays.

    4) Irrational arguments being used to claim truth without accountability - i.e. no means exists to verify that claimed truth while evidence discrediting that claimed truth is ignored. All of that leads believers away from a true view of their reality.

    Positive or benign aspects:
    1) A sense of closure on the resentment one might feel when one is treated very unfairly by someone who gets away with it. A religious belief in justice in an afterlife can resolve helpless debilitating feeling of unresolved anger.

    2) Comfort to those who lose loved ones, where their belief that those loved ones somehow continue on in an afterlife can give them immense inner peace.

    3) Religious belief in an afterlife can give courage to those facing death for a cause since they may have much more courage facing a death with a potentially wonderful afterlife than facing a death of non-existence. (Granted, that can be used both for good - i.e. fighting a tyrant - or for bad - i.e. suicide bombing innocent civilians).

    4) An overall calming of debilitating fears for those who find comfort in thinking of God as a protector.

    These are just a few positive and negative aspects which I could come up with. I know there are any more. What would you contribute or contest?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Another opinion View Post
    Though some seem to disagree, I would claim that there are both positive and negative aspects to religious belief. In general, I am tolerant of people who hold only those religious views which are either harmless or beneficial but agree that, as a society, we should fight against those views which are negative and harmful. So, which aspects of religious belief do you consider negative or harmful and which aspects may be benign or even positive?

    I would start off with a short list of those aspects which come most readily to mind:

    Negative or harmful aspects:
    1) Religions supporting the destruction or discrimination against innocent people simply because they are not of the same faith.

    2) Distortions of opposing world views (mainly scientific ones) in order for believers to feel more comfortable in their assumptions.

    3) Seemingly arbitrary rules intolerant to certain groups of people - ex. the discrimination against Gays.

    4) Irrational arguments being used to claim truth without accountability - i.e. no means exists to verify that claimed truth while evidence discrediting that claimed truth is ignored. All of that leads believers away from a true view of their reality.

    Positive or benign aspects:
    1) A sense of closure on the resentment one might feel when one is treated very unfairly by someone who gets away with it. A religious belief in justice in an afterlife can resolve helpless debilitating feeling of unresolved anger.

    2) Comfort to those who lose loved ones, where their belief that those loved ones somehow continue on in an afterlife can give them immense inner peace.

    3) Religious belief in an afterlife can give courage to those facing death for a cause since they may have much more courage facing a death with a potentially wonderful afterlife than facing a death of non-existence. (Granted, that can be used both for good - i.e. fighting a tyrant - or for bad - i.e. suicide bombing innocent civilians).

    4) An overall calming of debilitating fears for those who find comfort in thinking of God as a protector.

    These are just a few positive and negative aspects which I could come up with. I know there are any more. What would you contribute or contest?
    I would add two to the list of positives that I mentioned to Peeling in the course of conversation:

    - sense of community and friendship is often felt ("fellowship")

    - enjoyment of artistic aspects like singing, music and art.

    While such positives can also be found in non-religious sources, many people glean those positives from religion nonetheless.

    A negative would be (and you may feel you already have this covered)

    - exclusivity in some cases, and therefore making exclusivity justifiable in peoples' minds.
    “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” - Reagan

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading."
    - C. S. Lewis

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    Quote Originally Posted by jyoshu View Post
    I would add two to the list of positives that I mentioned to Peeling in the course of conversation:

    - sense of community and friendship is often felt ("fellowship")

    - enjoyment of artistic aspects like singing, music and art.

    While such positives can also be found in non-religious sources, many people glean those positives from religion nonetheless.

    A negative would be (and you may feel you already have this covered)

    - exclusivity in some cases, and therefore making exclusivity justifiable in peoples' minds.
    The positives which you mention bring up an interesting point. Namely, I hear that one of the big thing that draw people away from traditional Christian sects to the more fundamentalist evangelical sects is precisely this sense of community. Namely, I hear that they do a better job at marketing their religion and in making it more enjoyable for people to take part. What is your view? If that is the case, then perhaps one way for more moderate versions of Christianity to keep or draw back converts is to put more effort into such community events.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Another opinion View Post
    The positives which you mention bring up an interesting point. Namely, I hear that one of the big thing that draw people away from traditional Christian sects to the more fundamentalist evangelical sects is precisely this sense of community. Namely, I hear that they do a better job at marketing their religion and in making it more enjoyable for people to take part. What is your view? If that is the case, then perhaps one way for more moderate versions of Christianity to keep or draw back converts is to put more effort into such community events.
    I agree, although I think sometimes the fundamentalism itself can be the unifying factor in those cases, so a moderate church might have more trouble in that regard.
    “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” - Reagan

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading."
    - C. S. Lewis

    "I suffer more harassment as a former homosexual than I ever did as an out and proud homosexual." - Greg Quinlan, PFOX

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    Quote Originally Posted by jyoshu View Post
    I agree, although I think sometimes the fundamentalism itself can be the unifying factor in those cases, so a moderate church might have more trouble in that regard.
    Have you spoken to any fundamentalists about why they joined such fundamentalist churches? If so, I would be quite curious about the reasons. If it is the fundamentalism itself, as you say, then what do they find so appealing in such stricter views as compared to those of the older, more established sects?

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    simple

    So do the positive aspects of religion outweigh the negative ones?
    All I can say that sport, patriotism and drugs can substitute and do a better job than religion. No wonder it has been called the opium of the people. The Romans were satisfied with bread and circus and so am I.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
    So do the positive aspects of religion outweigh the negative ones?
    All I can say that sport, patriotism and drugs can substitute and do a better job than religion. No wonder it has been called the opium of the people. The Romans were satisfied with bread and circus and so am I.
    I'm not sure if you were interpreting it that way, but the question was never intended to be a competition between the good and bad aspects. One of my goals in asking that question is to identify specifically those aspects of religion which should be addressed and countered, while identifying those aspects of religion which are harmless or helpful and need not be addressed.

    My concern continues to be that we do not try to "throw the baby out with the bathwater". To do that, one needs to know what is the "bathwater" and what is the "baby".

    The other practical point is that, if you take an extreme position of getting rid of all religion, then you have a miniscule chance of convincing most people given that most people are, to some degree, religious. However, if you don't make a blanket attack on their beliefs but instead concentrate only on arguing against the negative aspects, then you have a chance of being convincing and getting somewhere. It makes psychological sense.

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    Negative aspects:

    1. Teaching that faith (unshakeable belief) is a virtue and should be respected.

    Why: People come to believe things all the time. We are often wrong. Teaching that faith is a virtue makes it much harder to eradicate wrong or harmful beliefs, because those who hold them perceive their steadfastness in the face of opposition to be inherently laudable.

    On the other hand, accurate or beneficial beliefs are most often demonstrably so, and need no mental wall to protect them against reason.

    as a society, we should fight against those views which are negative and harmful.
    If more people were taught that a willingness to change one's mind based on evidence is a virtue instead, that fight might actually be winnable.

    2. The retention of outdated holy texts that do not reflect beneficial practice of the religion.

    Why: Moderate interpretation of these texts is undoubtedly possible, but is subject to many uncontrollable external forces such as exposure to alternative belief systems, level of secular education, social standing, perceived external threats, etc etc.

    Moderates like jyoshu insist that christianity is the interpretation of the bible, not the bible itself - however that is precisely the kind of enlightened opinion that requires specifc external circumstances to flourish.

    To extend the baby/bathwater metaphor, one could liken the combination of 1. and 2. to a perpetually leaky faucet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peeling View Post
    1. Teaching that faith (unshakeable belief) is a virtue and should be respected.

    Why: People come to believe things all the time. We are often wrong. Teaching that faith is a virtue makes it much harder to eradicate wrong or harmful beliefs, because those who hold them perceive their steadfastness in the face of opposition to be inherently laudable.

    On the other hand, accurate or beneficial beliefs are most often demonstrably so, and need no mental wall to protect them against reason.

    If more people were taught that a willingness to change one's mind based on evidence is a virtue instead, that fight might actually be winnable.
    That is a particularly virulent problem with religion. Perhaps the worst. If one adopts a position in which no information of any kind will allow a change of mind, the harm is immeasurable. Ask this of any poster on this forum who believes in God: "is there any information you could recieve that would weaken your belief in God?"

    As you say, remaining unyielding despite overwhelming objections is considered a virtue and even strengthens one's resolve. (a la EZ's obstinacy.) It is a truly hopeless and dangerous mindset.
    "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" - Charles Darwin

    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision" - Bertrand Russell

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    Interesting thread guys. I don't have anything further than what has been said, but wanted to compliment you.
    “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most? ” ~ Mark Twain

    "Those who are easily shocked... should be shocked more often" ~ Mae West

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    Quote Originally Posted by thelmoose View Post
    As you say, remaining unyielding despite overwhelming objections is considered a virtue and even strengthens one's resolve. (a la EZ's obstinacy.) It is a truly hopeless and dangerous mindset.
    Hey, I read the final book of the Bible. You lose (unless you get Christ). How enlightened will you be then?
    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” - Robert Jastrow

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    Quote Originally Posted by Easyrider View Post
    Hey, I read the final book of the Bible. You lose (unless you get Christ). How enlightened will you be then?
    The Bible is a fable. That final book is a horrorshow of the mentally unhinged.

    Hey, answer the question:
    Is there any possible information you could ever recieve that would weaken your belief in God?"
    "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" - Charles Darwin

    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision" - Bertrand Russell

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    Quote Originally Posted by thelmoose View Post
    The Bible is a fable. That final book is a horrorshow of the mentally unhinged.
    Reckon you'll be eating your own words in due time, Moose.

    Quote Originally Posted by thelmoose View Post
    Hey, answer the question:
    Is there any possible information you could ever recieve that would weaken your belief in God?"
    Not from what I've seen so far in your posts. Keep plugging, though, you may find God yet when you run out of all those ill-conceived arguments against him.
    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” - Robert Jastrow

  14. #14
    JPSartre12 Guest
    While I confess to not having read every word in this thread, I don't recall seeing Charity as one of religion's positives. Christians put their money where their mouths are.

    .....

    This attitude simply does not give Christians enough credit, both for what they have done and what they might do if challenged. In the U.S. alone in 2004, private individuals and corporations gave a record $249 billion to charity, with religious organizations as the single largest recipient group at $88 billion.http://www.acton.org/ppolicy/comment/article.php?id=276

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    Quote Originally Posted by Easyrider View Post
    Hey, I read the final book of the Bible. You lose (unless you get Christ). How enlightened will you be then?
    Here we go again
    http://www.4forums.com/political/sho...&postcount=191
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