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What is the Value of Religion?
Lincoln Cannon   Dec 4, 2014   Ethical Technology  

The value of religion depends, of course, on what you mean by "religion". If religion is merelyeuphemization of escapism or nihilism, as it so often manifests itself, then it probably has a net negative value—"probably" only because I can imagine some poor unfortunate souls that are constituted in ways that are painfully incompatible with the world as presently or possibly configured. Too many of us use religion or are used by religion to stop caring about the world and each other, except to the extent it and we happen to be "good" already. 


Editor's Note: This article was published to help balance the opinions presented on the IEET. As far as we know there is no one way to think about the universe, however, obviously science is the dominating epistemology and ontology, and we think you will find this article intriguing.


Too many of us wait on God (or an analog) to solve our problems. Too many of us demand that others wait for God to solve our problems. Too many of us posit heaven (or an analog) far away in time or space -- or even as negation of time and space. Is it any surprise, then, that our world in practice reflects this escapism and nihilism?

If religion is merely an instigator of conflict over convoluted propositions about supernatural entities, as it also so often manifests itself, then again it probably has a net negative value -- here, "probably" only because I can imagine some that are constituted in ways that are stunningly incomprehensible to the rest of us, and whose expressions, if they form propositions at all, must inescapably baffle us while nonetheless being the greatest possible fulfillment of their will to relate with us. Some celebrate faith as irrationality, deriding science and reason, supposing their sacrifice to be required by God. Some indulge in superstition, carelessly embracing their own interpretation of experience without concern for reconciling others' interpretations and experiences. Some mindlessly repeat and otherwise consent to the positions of authorities under duress of social pressures.

​If, on the other hand, religion is any practice that provokes a communal strenuous mood, as I define it consequent to observing and considering others' observations of its actual function, there's a lot more to be said about the value of religion. While we can engage in practices that provoke us to a communal strenuous mood toward escapism and nihilism, we can also engage in practices that provoke us to a communal strenuous mood toward life in all its presence, embodiment, relations, and ecology. As religion can provoke us to terrible atrocities, so it can provoke us to wonderful charities. Religion, from this perspective, is a tool, a social tool, and the most powerful of social tools. And like all tools, it can be used for good or evil, and surely has been.

So we have a choice, individually, whether to engage the tool or not. Will we expose ourselves to the risks and opportunities, persuading each other, and joining in religious community? And yet, whether we recognize it or not, there's a risk and opportunity both ways. What kinds of communities and consequent experiences can arise only within the context of a shared strenuous mood? Do we value those? Can we pursue those opportunities in ways that mitigate associated risks? Can we, with wisdom and inspiration, design our religions for the better? Alternatively, can we mitigate the risks of irreligion? What could we lose by choosing against the religious impulse and drive? When the most vital moments of life come calling, perhaps when the very existence of our community is on the line, or when nothing less than our greatest aspirations suffice, will we have what it takes to come together?

It's interesting to note how many of my apparently technophilic peers are actually quite technophobic when it comes to social technologies. Many love the powerful gadgets of the introverts, while becoming squeemish at even a hint of the powerful processes of the extroverts. Many others engage the form of religion, ritualizing their gadget love beyond mere marketing, and yet cannot or will not see their behavior for what it is. Even now in this post, I'm engaging some of these social technophobes by employing secular descriptors for the religious phenomenon, as if they were somehow the most accurate descriptors, as if they could present the sublime in a general way rather than at best merely proxy for accounts that have evolved across many generations within the vocabularies of those who actually experience the sublime in ways that move them together.

The problem with secularism is not that it's evil, as some religious persons claim, but rather just that it's weak in itself. How could anything so bland be evil? How could anything devoid of the strenuous mood be a worthy foe for a God? Secularism certainly is useful in its own ways, and most particularly as a context in which to regulate competing religions and encourage them to non-destructive expressions. But of course it can do so only by aspiring to the disinterestedness of a referee at a sporting event, or by being as dry as a moderator at a debate. And in both cases the real value of the dry disinterestedness arises entirely from its relation to and service of the wet interestedness of the contenders.

How about Humanism? Is that an alternative to religion that rises above the weakness of mere secularism? Yes and no. Yes, it can be an alternative to religion, as many non-strenuous practices can be alternatives to strenuous practices. No, it doesn't rise above the weakness of secularism unless it is a religious Humanism, which of course is quite possible -- and in some forms even quite recommended, so far as I'm concerned. Recall that this assessment is not hypothetical, here, in context of my definition of "religion", in context of defining "religion" in terms of its observable historical and present function across the various phenomena we've commonly labeled as "religion". Only if we require a definition that narrows religion to presecular, supernatural, or irrational behaviors can we claim some forms of Humanism to be strenuous non-religious practices.

In any case, I'm a religious person. Surely that's in part for reasons beyond my ability to control. But I'm also religious, at least in part, quite intentionally. I trust in our capacity to engage in religion, to mitigate its risks, and to harness its power to provoke us to a shared strenuous mood for work toward a better world, beyond mere survival, beyond present notions of suffering and death, to radical flourishing in creation and compassion. I trust certain kinds of religion can take us there. I believe they're even necessary (albeit insufficient in themselves) to take us there, because nothing short of the religious drive to life may prove sufficient to counter the religious drive to death.

Lincoln Cannon is a technologist and philosopher, and leading advocate of technological evolution and postsecular religion. He is a founder, board member, and former president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. He is a founder and advisor of the Christian Transhumanist Association. And he formulated the New God Argument, a logical argument for faith in God that is popular among religious Transhumanists.



COMMENTS

As always, of all the champions of “religion” (I use the quotation marks because definition is indeed everything), Lincoln does the best job!

For me, the key is the following: “Only if we require a definition that narrows religion to presecular, supernatural, or irrational behaviors can we claim some forms of Humanism to be strenuous non-religious practices,” where I would take issue with just two aspects: firstly, the word “only” suggests that such a narrow definition of religion is not a sensible or convincing definition to use, and I’m still not entirely convinced of this (though I’m not entirely unconvinced of it either), and secondly I think transhumanism does a far better job of invoking the strenuous mood than humanism, which is one of the reasons why I find transhumanism (admittedly, another word that requires definition) so compelling. (The other being that it seems far more future-proof than more traditional forms of humanism.)

Why am I not entirely convinced that adopting a definition of religion that limits it to pre-secular, supernatural or irrational behaviours is a bad idea? In part, because so much religious behaviour I see around me does seem to fit that definition rather well. On the other hand, I also see merit in adopting a definition of religion that actually allows it to be a good thing to practice, at least for some of us, including those of us think we can do better than pre-secular, supernatural and irrational behaviours. Perhaps we can agree that the “extrovert social technologies” to which Lincoln refers, and at which religion indeed excels, are essential and (with due caution) to be welcomed, and leave it as an open question whether and when it is appropriate to refer to them as “religion”?

Thanks for commenting, Peter. We’re on the same page. smile

This is an interesting discussion. Over at the Kurzweil Forum, there has been some vehement discussions (when are there not?) concerning whether or not there can be religious Transhumanism? I have always held that there can and should be religious Transhumanists. Of course most people will hang with a kind of atheism or agnosticism on the matter. Since I value personal freedom I would opt for a Transhumanism that is kind of like a salad bar, in that you take only what you need. If religion doesn’t work for you, then drop it like a bag of wet cement. If it does click for you, then it’s something worth continuing with to the ultimate future.

To my mind Lincoln, if religion does not sustain one emotionally then it may be fairly, judged, as a hindrance. If it does sustain one emotionally, then it’s a really good thing. Beyond this and for the present and the future, there is the question condition of human mortality. If your version of Mormonism , Lincoln, then your religion like all religions like all philosophies, must deal with the concept, or proposal for some kind of afterlife. The case of Transhumanism, it must be scientifically based. To be more precise, it’s the possibility for human transcendence. On the other hand, if a religion has a fix for the human condition, I would say this faith or philosophy has Won the future. 

Best Regards,

Mitch

P.S. Hey Peter!

Hmm.. I’d like the term ‘communal strenuous mood’ defined.  I’m guessing you may mean group cohesion?  Religion can definitely lead to group cohesion.  Of course other things do this too, like nationalism, racism, etc.  As you point out it can lead to things both positive and negative.
Religion has been used as a tool by many states and kings down through the ages. It’s certainly not something to be ignored.  It’s true that science and secularism can fail to excite.  Why is, say debunking UFOs less exciting than believing in them?  As Wim Wenders asked, why is there no epic of peace?  When you appeal to an emotive state, you can be playing with fire.  As one study I read mentioned, love and hate may be intimately linked within the human brain.

The ethical systems of religion are real- but IMO the rest of religion is too subjective and can—but not categorically—be considered escapist. If you study a subject, just say, a transient from the streets of Amsterdam, who expounds his belief in the Great Groove Thang in the sky, it has no verifiability. However the tramp’s religiously-inspired moral code can be documented, after a period of questioning and observing the subject.

Instamatic, I agree. Also, in addition to and perhaps even more profoundly affecting than the ethical systems, the esthetic systems of religion move communities in unparalleled ways, and they too can be observed, documented, and ultimately perhaps even quantified in practically applicable ways.

Forgot about esthetics! thanks for reminding on this.

BTW, I ‘accept’ (take on board) that hard-line religion (HLR) is legit in that HLR is Darwinistic.

HLR tricks people into being self-sacrificing, fulfilling a function not directly relatable to religion.
Now, the above cannot be documented; yet it’s real as anything in religion and shouldn’t be neglected. Many other factors to be discussed. But for me, the Darwinian factors come first.

The Darwinian point is important. Let’s remember that biological evolution (competition between genes) is being replaced by technological/ideological evolution (competition of memes). Religions are clearly memes, which is why it is possible to talk about religions “winning the future” (Hey Mitch!). How sustainable this process is is another question: I guess it’s still possible that human civilisation will collapse, the viruses and bacteria will take over, and/or some other species, and biological evolution will once again rule the day. For now the two compete, and the human brain is one of the arenas where they compete: our hard-wired, survival-and-reproduction-oriented behaviours versus those that result from social technologies such as religion.

One further point: as a moral subjectivist I see ethical systems as essentially a subset of esthetics. Ethics, from a moral subjectivist perspective, is essentially a set of preferences about how we should behave and what it depends on. However, I do think Lincoln may be underestimating how powerful some esthetic systems that we don’t normally regard as “religion” are in moving people. Secular Western society is not “weak”, it is a cauldron of competing, interacting esthetic systems that move people in various ways, from football to politics to nightclubs. For some, religion forms a compelling part of the mix, for others, not really.

One question that may be important for the future is how effective religions can actually remain in moving communities once they are stripped of their escapist, delusional components. For the moment, the most vibrant, resurgent religions seem to be the most delusional ones.

Good one, Pete.
If this were [primarily] a religious site, I wouldn’t have written the comments directed at Henry Bowers, pastor from Flin Flon, and one or two more. It’s rude the way some secularists, hopefully not many, visit religious sites to flame. Now, wont write to do so is spamming by my lights: the flamer might be ‘correct’. All the same, it is wasted effort because the odds of winning-over a religious person to one’s point of view are v low.
I happen to like religion due to fond memories of childhood and its linkage to the Methodist faith. Moving out west, it was obvious immediately, though, that crucifixion wasn’t limited to Christ, that people can be made into miniature Christs. Plus, in third world nations quite a number have no choice—they are captive audiences.

So although Christ was positive, His followers are it really goes without any saying a combination of positive and negative traits.
However, nothing against LDS.

Don’t know about esthetics; morality is where it gets fast. It’s 100 percent certain all Mormons do not want their children to run wild and smash furniture. We could run down a laundry list of ethical norms to find basic agreement between Mormons. Unfortunately, for religion as a whole, ethics are agreeing to disagree. Religious morality consists of standards, not legal compliance. Compliance is always a difficulty, isn’t it? If someone really wants to do something, they’ll do it.
(‘Adultery’ is what comes to mind right away: the standard thus has no genuine substance).

One question that may be important for the future is how effective religions can actually remain in moving communities once they are stripped of their escapist, delusional components. For the moment, the most vibrant, resurgent religions seem to be the most delusional ones.

Religion can adapt; it is ideologies which cannot. Communism, fascism could not adapt yet religion has and will continue to for better and worse. Today Russia isn’t Communist but pope Francis is practically a Marxist—he adapted.. for better and worse. Islam is adapting as well, at a pace slower than we’d like. To say the least.
The above concerns the near future. If a long time from now people aren’t people anymore, religion wont be religion anymore.

Thanks for all of the additional comments!

Peter, as you acknowledge implicitly, my position is in part a criticism of that which secularists normally regard as religion. If I were satisfied with normal secular accounts of religion, I would be more anti-religious than I am. However, I consider normal secular accounts of religion to be too narrow for various practical reasons I mention or link to in my post. Self-identifying secularists who engage communally-provocative esthetics while declaring themselves non-religious seem to me like monotheists that might position themselves as non-religious compared to polytheists.

Spud100, I agree with you, of course, that there SHOULD be religious Transhumanists. For your friends that debate whether there CAN be religious Transhumanists, I’ll just note that the case is closed: not only can there be, there simply ARE religious Transhumanists (MTA members alone number about 500), and they may even be increasing in number at a faster rate than non-religious Transhumanists presently. Here are some related thoughts:

http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2014/09/transhumanism-is-not-atheism-and-is.html

A good response, Lincoln- as succinct as Pete’s most recent one above.

Self-identifying secularists who engage communally-provocative esthetics while declaring themselves non-religious seem to me like monotheists that might position themselves as non-religious compared to polytheists

Right; simply: they are extremists.
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Will go with you on all discussions of ethics. Esthetics? Not sure about esthetics; but completely accept the Book of Mormon to the degree I accept the NT.
Again, it comes back to ethical dilemmas regarding compliance—this cuts across all faiths whether based on scriptural literalism, or the most relativistic Unitarianism. That is what I’m interested in.
Plus I never write that escapism is mistaken, nor even delusions. We can’t live without certain delusions.

One more thought.. don’t think it should be illegal for children to be indoctrinated with religion. Valerie Tarico advocates a fair approach- provide an alternative to religion. One can say secular humanism is faith-based; but there is no doubt SH is an alternative faith to religion.

Alain de Botton’s “Religion for Atheists” is obviously pertinent here, since it deals precisely with the “extrovert social technologies” at which religion excels. One thing that seems to mark religion apart from other (perhaps softer, even weaker?) social technologies, however, is the emphasis they place on faith. Lincoln I’d be interested in your views on this. As Instamatic says, we can’t live withut certain delusions, but for me the single most important distinction between religion and secular thought is that the former prioritises faith while the latter prioritises doubt and critical thought. Would it be fair to say that there needs to be a balance between the two?

Yes, Peter. I do think there needs to be a balance. Your question reminds me of our conversation about one of my previous IEET articles: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/cannon20120315

I suppose I would even go so far as to say that faith (an archaic word for “trust”, which I much prefer) is not even merely compatible with critical thought, but actually strongly complementary.

Fully agreed: faith and doubt are complementary, and precisely for that reason need to be held in balance. Precisely where to strike that balance must be to some extent a matter of taste, and I guess it must be correlated in some way with people’s attitude to religion, though not in a particularly simple way. In any case, it is important to value both in my view.

It was interesting to read the earlier thread! Re faith vs trust, to me they have somewhat different connotations, and the word “faith” does fill a gap left by “trust”. For example, I’m not sure there’s any way to use the word “trust” that packs the same punch as telling someone to “have faith”.

Yes. For most, the words do have different connotations. Although I’m not a fan of that, I still have to navigate the practical ramifications, such as the one you point out.

If you’re both not tired of this thread, there’s more to write on here- too much. An entire cosmos to write of!
First-off, it is important for atheists not to recoil from faith excessively—but the inverse is: the pious ought not excessively recoil from [d]arwinism.

In mid-America, Darwinism is often anathema; is considered heartless. What vitiates this is that the laws the rightist religious support are frequently heartless statutes. No simple reasons. Partly because of revealed truth; partly pure traditionalism; partly cluelessness. Partly self-interest…  and positive intentions thrown into the mix somewhere.
However our laws and prisons and homeless shelters, et cetera, are far too carnivorous to be truly spiritual- unless from a ‘satanic’ spirituality. I call it midwestern monstermix but whatever one calls it, it surely isn’t Christian.. it is ecumenical only in a formal/rote sense.

I don’t doubt a radical communality—as Lincoln terms it—can be in our future; yet, frankly, it possibly might not be developed until the 22nd century. Who can say? we aren’t clairvoyants. No man knows the day, no man knows the hour! The timeframe appears lengthy reckoned by the span of a human lifetime as is generally known (round it off to 80 yrs for brevity’s sake), albeit pure science moves ahead quickly.

Like religion too much—wish my mind were more math and science-oriented. Such is where any rejection of religion from me you might surmise is coming from. Wasn’t merely a thoroughly Methodist background, it is/was any number of factors. The flower-power era; later on the religiosity of the ‘80s. Today it is pressure from mid-Americans.

Plus sheer spaced-outedness! That’s what I’ve always thought religion to be—but a warm ‘n fuzzy spaced-outness which is necessary until we have evolved more. The toking street urchin in Amsterdam can be considered as spiritual as the Pope himself.

Graduated from Methodist Sunday school in ‘68; being it was in the NY metro area, by that time Sunday school meant showing off new clothes and telling off-color jokes. So I have no fire and brimstone memories; religion only appears threatening when the anachronistic laws inspired by the religious themselves are taken into account.

Instamatic, I share your embrace of Darwinism, and I agree that timelines (and outcomes) are mostly imagination. That’s not all bad. An important kind of truth is created, and an important kind of created truth depends on our intention subsequent to imagination.

Good. You pack a punch in few words, Lincoln. So does Pete- and will have to wait until he wakes up this morning before getting his take on this.
BTW, your definition of religion as being only the positive is correct. Sadly, very sadly (after all it is everyone’s life that is being wasted to some degree, depending on the person) religion is not conventionally defined as positive. Religion is—and you know this though it has to be spelled out for form’s sake—is a witch’s brew of positive and negative memes/positive and negative intents. Acceptable from a Darwinian perspective yet not even tolerable from a truly religious perspective.. as you, again, rightly define religion.

Am not saying all this has to be defined my way, but I want a clear delineation here.

To clarify, I don’t think religion is inherently positive or negative. I think it’s powerful, the most powerful social tech, and it’s up to us to make positive or negative use of it.

Yes, meant, going by the following…

If, on the other hand, religion is any practice that provokes a communal strenuous mood, as I define it consequent to observing and considering others’ observations of its actual function, there’s a lot more to be said about the value of religion 

... one can possibly define religion, true religion, as a positive. Forget about it; what matters (not going to write IMO every paragraph) is of course religion and science are not synonymous, but neither are they mutually exclusive.

Agreed, Instamatic.

If religion is technology, then asking whether religion is good or bad is like asking whether technology is good or bad. Some forms of technology would indeed seem to be better than others, though it depends on context: even the bomb might not appear so bad if it nudges away an incoming asteroid. Likewise, perhaps even the forms of religion we currently consider most odious have their (potential) uses: as Lincoln says, it’s what we make of them. My experience of religion was a tad more fire-and-brimstone than yours, Instamatic, but not hugely so. On the other hand, take away the fire and brimstone and it can start to appear insipid. People start to drift away - or invent revivalist, fundamentalist versions of it that seem more compelling.

I very much like what Lincoln says about imagination creating an important kind of truth. It makes us aware of the possibilities, and how we feel about them. The future is not something merely to try to predict, it is something we should try to shape. If it was entirely predictable, there would be no point in predicting it, since doing so would not change anything. Soros (following Popper) understands this very well, more than most.

On Darwinism, an important distinction is to be made between Darwinism as an empirical theory and Darwinism as a normative ethic. The latter is not Darwinism at all, of course, in its original sense, yet the two do get conflated. As an empirical theory Darwinism is essential; as a normative ethic it is problematic.

If there’s no objection, will continue.
By religion being a positive, I meant LDS for instance. ‘Positive’ is merely shorthand for something not outright pernicious in nature,
going by our idiosyncratic/esoteric judgment calls.

Where the line is drawn is when a given faith obviously fails on a massive scale. When Christians do not forgive their enemies, are hyper-materialistic and so forth, it is the prerogative for an observer to be skeptical of Christianity—but not the historical Christ. Such rejection would be throwing the infant Jesus out with the holy bath water.

Darwinism I accept-tolerate because there’s no escaping. I’ve tried for 40 yrs and discovered attempting to escape from the clutches of Darwinism—whether as an empirical theory or as a normative ethic—is sticking my head in the sand. Soon as my head is removed from the sand, back comes the Darwinian world into focus.

A situation one is in can be pleasant in the short run; unfortunately one is usually, almost always, surrounded by a world that is less pleasant. (The outside world might appear more pleasant than it is because we necessarily filter out some of the imput coming through). Eastern religion knows the way to deal with a Darwinian world- roll with the punches. Whereas rube Christians react to Darwinism with fear- saying it is a manifestation of ‘Mammon’, the Lord of the World. Beelzebub, Satan; the Devil.

If the outside world were decent, houses of worship would not be needed.. every house would be a house of worship, as it were.

 

Instamatic, I do think there are many positives about the LDS Church—as implied by the fact that I’m a member of it. I am not, however, indiscriminate in my assessment of the Church. There are also shortcomings, both in its history and in its policies and practices, as there are in all of our institutions. Like them, the LDS Church is a tool, which hopefully we will continue to use in better ways. I’m optimistic about that, but I also want to be realistic about it.

Sure. It’s only, as shorthand, for brevity’s sake I prefer to write “religion [in general] is a positive”—and leave it at that. Can’t write a Masters thesis here in the comments section, right? Want to leave out the pettifogging. Want Pete to weigh in on this as well; most of all, want to strike a balance between the histrionics of theology, and dry religious studies.

Naturally there are some exceptions to religion being positive, certain of the religious are IMO misguided- but then, they think I’m misguided; they think anyone not going with their Program is misguided!

Am not going to say to anybody, “you are dead wrong.”
Because I just simply don’t know. Nonetheless, as concerns Christianity, the Bible unambiguously reads “let no man deceive you.”
Therefor, for example, if I sense a spirit of deception in a house of worship, the holy spirit, shall we say, prods me to be discerning. Remember: scripture works as common sense as well as a spiritual guide (that is to say a higher guide than mere common sense).

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To sum it up, it’s my hermeneutic that religion is positive albeit its practitioners are not. They harbor ulterior motives; there’s no ability whatsoever to know their inner thoughts. Thus for instance I trust Christ but not Christians—not at all. No reasons exist for me to trust the religious and nothing you or Peter write is going to change that.
However I do trust Christ, as there’s no reason not to trust both the historical and actual Jesus. Do you get it now?

Your question is: what is the value of religion? The value of the Book of Mormon is unknown to me- being unfamiliar. But having been raised on the New Testament, can write without hesitation it is priceless; and if God does exist (leaving such an open question) Jesus is the son of that God.
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Do wish to continue with this thread: there’s so much more to go into even scratching the surface of the topic.

The thing about the historical Jesus is that we know virtually nothing about him for sure. All we really know is what some of the first Christians wrote about him. Obviously much of what they wrote is made up, and to the extent that some of it is based, however loosely, on events that actually took place, it is questionable whether the Jesus portrayed in the gospels corresponds even roughly to one individual who actually existed. We just don’t know. As a working assumption, I’m willing to apply Occam’s razor and assume that he did exist, and was even crucified under Pontius Pilate. Why not? It does seem to be the simplest theory that fits the evidence (i.e. the existence of the gospels and related manuscripts). But it’s still just a theory.

As for God, clearly there are different conceptions and definitions, and the traditional Christian one is a thoroughly patriarchal one. He is also, very obviously, a figment of our collective imagination. Did Someone actually create the universe we inhabit? Sure, if we’re in a sim. But this Creator - or these Creators - certainly bear little resemblance to the Christian God. There was no garden of Eden, neither was there an original sin. That guilt trip has to be thoroughly rejected.

Of course, none of this need prevent us from drawing inspiration from our respective religious traditions. Even if the historical Jesus (if such a person existed) seems unlikely to have been a deserving object of our worship, there is nothing to stop us inventing, and worshipping, a legendary Jesus, perhaps even the Jesus of the gospels. As I’ve said before, the important thing from my perspective is to avoid taking our suspension of disbelief too far.

You got it, Pete; you covered anything Lincoln or I might have written here about Jesus. But I went to Sunday School from K-6, and can’t remove it from my subconscious even if doing so were to be the correct way to go. It may not make a difference either way.
An analog is we could cut off ties with nagging family (and unless you are v fortunate, you have some bad family to deal with or to try to ignore). If—and that’s if—one wants to escape the past, the past doesn’t always want to escape one! Christmas for example: we are obliged to play along.
Naturally, it is more complicated than this- yet it’s a start.

You possibly wouldn’t believe what Mid America is like: there are many, millions, of educated people who think everything in the Bible is valid and has been documented. They’ve been indoctrinated by their families and family friends, etc., to believe in Biblical inerrancy. I only enjoy it (to cope) because such is quaint- similar to watching ancient films. However this is as disingenuous as bad religion itself. Tantamount to being a bad meme-merchant.
It naturally takes a balance: we do not want to excessively hurt the feelings of the religious; yet neither do we want to be Iago, being everything to everyone and wind up perhaps being even worse than bad religion (which is of course shorthand for questionable religious memes). What I was attempting to tell Lincoln is if the definition of religion is too broad, it includes blood drinking Satanists. After all, Satanists aren’t much different from us; merely socially unacceptable. If the definition of religion is too expansive, religion can include anything.. such as, merely for example, the hideous activities Leo Igwe writes on in his pieces. Thus as shorthand I refer to religion—“bona fide*” religion—only when the religious memes in question are positive, optimistic memes. But not gullible memes- that’s for senile church people who (if I may indulge in a bit of cynicism) have nothing to lose by being gullible.
 
Will be kind to the religious up to the moment they become control freaks, and then I tell them to commit sodomy with their Bibles. Can’t be nice all the time- and what exactly does ‘nice’ signify anyway? Being a trimmer with people we really don’t care for all that much and vice versa? People we don’t have much in common with.

In previous comments at other articles, you indicated you see how things are. For instance, you know mid-America is an oasis for those who want the old time zeitgeist, and all the rest of it.
One can accept them and their memes to some degree. However there has to be quid pro quo; they ‘have’ to accept others different from them—they can’t escape diversity unless they withdraw into exclusively gated communities, or to intentional communities in remote locales.

Pete, since you are patient enough to reply comprehensively, this is my position on personal belief. Again, if there were a God, Christ would be the son of that God. It’s a thoroughgoing ‘I don’t know’  agnosticism. Perhaps even deist as well. A brief Wiki definition:

Deism combines a rejection of religious knowledge as a source of authority with the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe


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*”If, on the other hand, religion is any practice that provokes a communal strenuous mood, as I define it consequent to observing and considering others’ observations of its actual function, there’s a lot more to be said about the value of religion” 

I don’t want to escape my past. I want to live effectively in the present. And that present indeed includes millions of educated people - and not only in mid-America - who have been indoctrinated by friends, family. and the lifestyle they have built around them, to believe in Biblical inerrancy. And the fact that this includes members of my close family is a large part of what drives my interest on this issue. I don’t resent them, but I do want to understand them, in order to relate to them better.

As for control freaks (religious or otherwise), in my experience the important thing is to clarify one’s boundaries and stick to them…religiously.

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