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The Increasing Obsolescence of Institutional Churches
R. Dennis Hansen   Jul 26, 2011   Ethical Technology  

Is rapidly advancing science and technology making institutional religion obsolete?

Alfred North Whitehead, a British physicist and philosopher, argued that religious concepts must be reinterpreted in light of scientific progress. But there is frustratingly little reinterpretation going on. And what reinterpretation is occurring is proceeding too slowly to keep up with scientific and technological innovations.

In Time magazine (15 Nov 2010), Stephen Hawking answered the question, “If God doesn’t exist, why did the concept of his existence become almost universal?” as follows:

I don’t claim that God doesn’t exist. God is the name people give to the reason we are here. But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship.

Physics is not the only area where religion has failed to keep up. The concept of organic evolution causes all kinds of grief to conservative Christians, who prefer a literal interpretation of the Biblical story of creation. Additionally, issues of human sexuality and sexual preference are haunting Catholics and Mormons, and threatening to cause a schism in Anglicanism.

Institutional religions are also having a hard time dealing with contemporary issues like stem cell research, gene splicing, cloning, global climate change, and geoengineering. Too frequently, religious ideologues are becoming obstacles to finding solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s problems.

One problem with dogmatic answers to contemporary questions is the impact they have on our young people. I have a friend whose son recently announced that he is an atheist. Part of his reasoning involves the idea that religion (or just a belief in God) and organic evolution are not compatible. He found it easier to relate to Charles Darwin’s and Richard Dawkins’ views than to those of his parents’ religion.

fsNot only is obsolete doctrine a problem, but meetings, masses, rites, ceremonies, sermons, etc. frequently appear more relevant for a bygone era than they do for today’s modern society. And they are frequently boring. For today’s fast-moving societies, dogmatic and ritualistic services seem to lack relevance. But if we don’t attend regular church services, where will we get our social interaction?

“Home churching” is a growing phenomenon among some Christian groups. It boils down to small, self-guided groups meeting in a home rather than in a formal church building. Their flexibility is their advantage: they can accommodate divergent time demands; they can undertake humanitarian initiatives on a short turnaround, and they can accommodate truly intelligent discussion on a wide range of present and future issues.

Additionally, Web 2.0 technologies may be making brick-and-mortar churches obsolete. In her blog The Digital Sanctuary, Cynthia Ware asks the question: “If peering, sharing, and open-source thinking become the norm and collaboration emerges as the dominant paradigm of our era, how will faith communities reflect and respond to this new world?” With the blogosphere, communities are forming that can and do deal with issues avoided in traditional religious meetings.

Hawking has discarded the idea of life after death and emphasized the need to fulfill our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to the question on how we should live, he stated: “We should seek the greatest value of our action.”

Mormon humorist Robert Kirby has suggested that individuals do two hours volunteer work for every hour they spend in church. Perhaps he is on to something. Maybe local nongovernmental organizations (or NGOs) are the churches of the future. Maybe service to our fellow man will replace church services.

This idea does not resonate well with Glenn Beck and his ilk. Beck recently tried to convince television audiences that ‘social justice’ (the term that many Christian churches use to describe their efforts to address poverty and human rights) should not be the purview of religion. “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run [away] as fast as you can,” said Beck.

Many of my friends, however, seem more interested in service to humanity than they are with institutional religion and attending traditional religious services. And I don’t think this is an uncommon phenomenon.

One possible problem with this approach is that as our civilization gains in knowledge and experience, where will we get the ethical and moral component? If we don’t find this with institutional religion, where will we find it?

According to Sam Harris, we can find it in science:

Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors—ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics. But, clearly, there are scientific truths to be known about how we can flourish in this world.

R. Dennis Hansen is currently employed as a planner for a federal resource management agency in Utah. He enjoys traveling and has lived in and/or visited and/or worked in over 40 countries on five continents. Hansen is a member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association and Engineers without Borders.



COMMENTS

Roger, “obsolescence” seems to be less accurate than “evolution” as a descriptor for these observations.

“post-post, I always wonder how people can tell what other people are thinking. Even moreso when they can tell what other people are thinking /subconsciously.”

since ‘Emerging Threats and Challenges, Bible-Style’ now has plenty of comments, please allow me to comment on Abraham’s above question at this blog.
If one might say that Christians (and those of other faiths) ought to be given the benefit of the doubt concerning their ulterior motives and visceral reactions, then can we give the same benefit to Communists, White Nationalists, militant Islamics, and so forth and so on? sort-of. However we do know everyone has a combination of good & bad intentions, the degree of each depending on the individual in question.  In my mind (it is naturally very subjective) Christianity is a special case, as Christians do a great deal of charity and often attempt to comply with Christ’s prescription to forgive their enemies (which is extremely difficult to do as their enemies are highly likely to perceive such as weakness).
Yet it can’t be denied the Old Testament (which Christ did not abolish) is a violent tome, and that the crucifixion, to fulfill the prophecy of Christ’s resurrection and all that has followed, was a violent act consciously & subconsciously lodged in the minds of Christians.

Hmm…  I think an important sociological trend to notice is that industrialization tends to lead to less adherence to religious idealism within a society.  Many people depart from their faiths or consider themselves to be “non-practicing”.  There are many reasons, but this is just a general tendency in industrializing civilization.

The cultural shift may take several more generations to create a more significant impact on social norms.  I would hope that the extremists and overzealous fundamentalists would forsake their causes sooner rather than later.  However, it is tough to shake the staunch religious beliefs that were ingrained in people during their childhoods.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

One problem with this essay is that it could’ve been written 150 years ago: “The church is obsolete; the Industrial Revolution is going full steam!” It could’ve been written in the 15th century: “The church is obsolete; we now have the printing press!” It could’ve been written 2100 years ago: “The church (temple?) is obsolete; we just designed the Antikythera mechanism!” What I’m trying to say is that the author’s tactic of trying to discredit the church based on the fact that science and technology is advancing is doomed to failure.

I found some of the ways used in this essay to discredit the church weak.
Example 1: “Institutional religions are also having a hard time dealing with contemporary issues like stem cell research, gene splicing, cloning, global climate change, and geoengineering. ” 
ME: The expression “Having a hard dealing with…” is just a belittling way of saying, “having a lively debate concerning…” There is indeed lots of debate going on in religious circles concerning, for example, what criteria should be used to determine death. Having that debate is a sign of health, not of weakness.
Example 2: “...meetings, masses, rites, ceremonies, sermons, etc. frequently appear more relevant for a bygone era than they do for today’s modern society. “
ME: The word “appear” can just as easily be replaced by “appear to me”. It’s subjective, pure and simple. Even if church attendance is on the decline, there are still hundreds of millions for whom this assertion strikes as mere opinion.
Example 3: “Mormon humorist Robert Kirby has suggested that individuals do two hours volunteer work for every hour they spend in church. Perhaps he is on to something. Maybe local nongovernmental organizations (or NGOs) are the churches of the future. Maybe service to our fellow man will replace church services.”
ME: If community service among churchgoers (and I mean un-church-related community service) is greater, percentage-wise, than community service among non-church-goers, this statement will be considered odd, to say the least. (Psst, I think the percentage _is_ greater.)

There are some _good_ ways to discredit parts of the church world. I wish this essay would have detailed some of them.

Just to drive my point home:
“meetings, masses, rites, ceremonies, sermons, ... they are frequently boring.”

As a lover of science, I find a lot of science lectures boring. Should we use that as a way to discredit education?

Religion seems to be going strong here in Utah. When the religion tries to get its people jobs feed them and then advocates public service and procreation they get growth. They really do believe that if your not Mormon you can’t be capable of good. If you drop the religious ball your out of the game, ostracized. Why would anyone want to drop the hocus pocus when the rational world is just out to make a buck. Its lonely out there and science is just another job that needs a market. If “good” doesn’t pay - it won’t be researched. Unless your religion is the profit motive there is no moral compass in science. Just look at the drug companies and the FDA.
Institutional religion is a social policy engine with economies of scale. Its not going anywhere.

The challenge here is that Dennis seems to have a pretty limited idea of the breadth of modern religion. My denomination’s magazine sponsored the Darwin Exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. I would say that suggests that we are fairly comfortable with the notion of evolution. I have been at conferences in which the guest speakers talked about chaos theory and string theory and how they relate to our living and our faith. Without wanting to sound fat headed, I expect I have a much better understanding of modern theology and religious thought than Steven Hawking. I wouldn’t dream of making public statements about the cutting edge physics and cosmology that he deals in, though I follow it as best I can. I don’t know why he feels he can make what are essentially religious statements.

As I said in the other thread, religion is about relationship. Relationship with ourselves, our world and the Divine, however you wish to define that. Science is about process. No matter how closely we are about to describe the process of the universe’s existence, we will not be able to define our relationship to that universe. (Not that there aren’t people who don’t try.)

Keeping in mind that religion is properly about relationship and science about process, the two can and should be able to work in harmony. For instance religion providing an ethical framework in which to undertake science.

Unfortunately there are as many religious trying to do science over in their own image as there are scientists setting up religion as a straw man in order to knock it over and declare that it is dead.

Having said that, I believe that institutional religion is going through a major shake up and will look completely different in 20 years. That isn’t a bad thing and in fact I am looking forward to it.

Pastor Alex, I enjoyed your comment. I agree that science is about process: in particular, epistemic process. Religions use many epistemic processes, and they should use science. I also agree that religion is about relationships, and perhaps particularly the ethics and esthetics of relationships rather than the epistemics of relationships, which is something that science should help with. Science can give us great insight into the mechanics and compositions of relationships, but if we practice the things that make relationships of the strongest sort, that motivate us as groups to the most strenuous actions, then we are engaged in religion.

Pastor Alex:  As Lincoln has pointed out, religion is also very much about process.  In fact, Alfred North Whitehead is the godfather of Process Philosophy and Theology.  This philosophy is very much about both relationships and process, and is very relevant to the world today.

I would argue that the religion you give as an example is very much the exception and not the rule.  It has been estimated for example that 50 percent of Americans (with a an even higher percentage among the conservative Christian community) don’t believe in evolution.  Hopefully, that number will decrease in the future.  But what does that say about the religions that are at odds with evolution?

Abraham:  Your point that things are no different now that they were hundreds of years ago has some merit, but the thing that is unique today is the increasing rapid rate of scientific and technological advances.  Top-down managed church (Catholics, Mormons, etc.) will not be able to keep up, to stay relevant.

On the issue of church goers doing good deeds, I would argue that if individuals didn’t waste so much time in church (discussing inane points of doctrine) they would have even more time to do “good works.”

I think most religions are important as it relates to community relationships.  And they can provide important input in moral and ethical questions.  But too frequently they get involved in peripheral issues liquor control, use of condoms, gay marriage, etc.  Areas that cause them to lose their focus.

The process in process theology is the concept that God proceeds through time and changes as a result. This is instead of the unchangeable God who is outside of time. Still your point is taken, any generalization is incomplete.

In reference to church people and good works, the studies that I have read suggest that church people volunteer more and give more to NON CHURCH charities than non church people on average. I would suggest then that the time they spend in worship which encourages such behaviour is time well spent.

Abraham, agreed:
not all organized religion is boring; Tammy Fae Bakker was interesting for her garishness. The comedic aspects of religion are legitimate, right? even if the humor is unintentional.

“If you drop the religious ball your out of the game, ostracized.”

That is correct, Mormons even disown their own family members who stray. Why can’t those such as Abraham grasp the full meaning of: “Institutional religion is a social policy engine with economies of scale. Its not going anywhere”?

Post-post, take it from a Mormon: not all Mormons disown family members that leave Mormonism. Those that disown family members aren’t behaving in accordance with their religion, so far as I’m concerned.

I didn’t write “all” Mormons, however it is common for Mormon fathers to in some way punish recalcitrant children—we both know sons of Mormons who have been penalized.

We both know fathers identifying with every major ideology that punish recalcitrant children.

Lincoln, you’re arguing with someone whose “agreement” with the statement that not all ceremonies and sermons are boring consists of a snarky statement about Tammy Faye Bakker.

I know Mormons who have practically disowned certain of their children for merely abandoning Mormonism but personally know no children of any other faiths who have disowned certain of their children for such. Having written that, I happen to like Mormonism (and Islam) for polygamy.
As an aside, I like American Islamics esp., because they leave visitors alone—if you visit mosques you see they don’t usually feel pressured to convert guests. What Islamics do outside this country is a different ball game.

Yes, Mike, yet:
“I know Mormons who have practically disowned certain of their children for merely abandoning Mormonism but personally know no children of any other faiths who have disowned certain of their children for such.”
stands. If you want a polygraph from me, Will Do 😊

Abraham calling me snarky?—he ought to know!

“We both know fathers identifying with every major ideology that punish recalcitrant children.”

PS,
the above is where the disagreement started, for save for Mormons I personally do not know children of other faiths who have been shunned for straying from the faiths in question.
But again, I like Mormons as I like Islamics—neither have ever done anything wrong to ME. When I took Intro to Islam in college, a local mosque was welcoming and stayed out of the way.

For Christianity to survive it is going to have to get honest. Could it survive after admitting Jesus is a fictional character? Can it admit its’ entheogenic past? Can it explain its’ symbolism, alchemy and astrology?
I think that it can not but “institutionalized” religion is a bigger question. There I think of “industrialized” religion in a post industrialized world. Here I wonder if morality isn’t a product. One can discover the ugly side of any group - child molestation, ostracism, exploitation of the dying for donations, advocating inequality of women and developing a position of power from which to dictate sexual behavior. Presently Church attendance can range from voluntary to compelled.
Can it offer bread and fishes i.e employment? Can it offer healing i.e. health care? Can it demonstrate a true morality that has no victims? Can it deliver meaning, order and a sense of belonging while not being coercive? Need it be tethered to believing and talking to imaginary friends?

You ask the right questions, Drake411; wish there were answers available.
Didn’t mean to pick on Mormons at all—why on Earth would anyone in the know think Mormonism is worse (or better) than other faiths? Mormons give good health-advice.

BTW, I never heard of Buddhists treating their children harshly, not that such is unheard of—I have simply never HEARD of it.

I did not mean my essay to be anti- any particular religious institution.  I wanted to express my concern that I feel institutional religions are ill prepared to deal with the ongoing explosion in scientic and technological innovation.

Perhaps a model that is suited to rapid change is Process Theology.  And even though the writings of Alfred North Whitehead are fairly dense and difficult to read, there are many popularizers of his work.  There is no institutional Process Church, but the theology might serve as a valuable adjunct to one’s personal spiritual beliefs.

@Drake411

Those are all good questions and ones that I, and many in my denomination have been struggling with for the last decade.

As to the ethical questions, I would say that while we aren’t perfect we have some of the toughest policies around that kind behaviour around. That said, I think there are more denominations out there than you think who take those questions seriously.

There are an increasing number of denominations who strive to include women as equals, (there are more women then men entering ministry in my denomination), who treat LBGT folks with dignity and inclusion, (we ordained our first “out” transgendered person, and had another minister come “out” as transgendered” recently. She is staying in her congregation.)

I tell people that it isn’t my job to make them come to church, but to let them know that the church is there when they need it.

As for whether Jesus is fictional, that’s another discussion entirely, but I will say that there have been people for years in the church who don’t believe in a historical Jesus, but still come to church for the community and fellowship.

@dennis
I don’t completely agree with Whitehead, but he does raise some interesting points. You might want to google progressive Christianity or emerging church. You will see some very interesting stuff.

Can’t someone say religion (will leave spirituality out of this) is necessary fluff—escapism? if one accepts—whatever one’s definition of acceptance is—religion as fluff where is the objective ‘Sin’ in that? a MMJ or peyote church is as real as any.
Why is worshipping shoelaces less valid than worshipping Jesus? because a self-appointed rube says so?

“I wanted to express my concern that I feel institutional religions are ill prepared to deal with the ongoing explosion in scientic and technological innovation.”

I imagine that you are unaware of the famous case of the conjoined twins, where C. Everett Koop referred the case to a Manhattan rabbi.

“When the team of 20 or so [medical] professionals were awaiting Rabbi Feinstein’s decision, and indeed, were expressing impatience at the lapse of time, which interfered with their private, professional lives significantly, Dr. Koop quieted the group with the following statement:

  “The ethics and morals involved in this decision are too complex for me. I believe they are too complex for you as well. Therefore I referred it to an old rabbi on the Lower East Side of New York. He is a great scholar, a saintly individual. He knows how to answer such questions. When he tells me, I too will know.”

Lest you think that Rabbi Feinstein was ignorant of the medical technicalities, and just based his decision on “religious” things, I can assure you that that’s not the case.

I accept religion because it is the opposite of reality: when you examine behavior you see humans are generally incompatible; or at least the great masses of males are violent (which is the same thing). So religion is to escape from that reality; nothing more. To say otherwise is a mystification incompatible with transhumanist values as they have been presented in the past couple of decades.
We have to be flexible but not at the risk of becoming pretzels—being everything to everyone.

I like Christianity more than other faiths, yet that is mostly because of having gone to K-6 Sunday School; religion gets programmed into the subconscious and there is no way to remove it—which includes bad religion.
Abraham wrote here it isn’t right to speculate on what others are thinking. Alright, so when Leon Kass, a religious person said ‘everybody must die on schedule’ (or a very similar words) it might not be entirely fair—in Abraham’s eyes—to speculate on his motivations. But that Kass was being a reptile by saying such is no speculation, because there is always a code of sorts… in this case Kass was saying ‘everyone must die on schedule [save for those I care about]’.
Abraham, doesn’t the Bible say “let no man deceive you”?

Religion doesn’t have all the answers, but neither does science. The problem isn’t answers, but the kind of questions we are or are not asking. Science and religion deal in different kinds of questions, though pushed far enough they begin to overlap. We need a dialogue, not two parallel monologues.

post-post, you get me Kass’s exact quote in context (minus the personal commentary), then I can comment.

Your assertion: “the great masses of males are violent ...So religion is to escape from that reality; nothing more” is really shaky. Just take Islamists for example. Do you think they’re escaping violence? (If I’m misinterpreting you, it’s because your poetic writing style is hard for me to understand.)

What would it take to refute the statement “institutional religions are ill prepared to deal with the ongoing explosion in scientic and technological innovation”?  Providing example after example of religious journal entries dealing with scientific and technical issues? Anyone can do just that just by Googling for a few minutes. (I found a really neat one dealing with human-animal chimeras.) It seems to me that enough religious scholars are quite prepared to deal with such an explosion. It’s just that their usually conservative leanings lead them in ways that tend to lean in the opposite direction as the author of this post. And that’s what the real plaint this author has.

Abraham, you are right that “conservative leaning” decisions are an important part of my concern, particularly if these decisions are made by ignoring scientific evidence.  And I’m not convinced that the majority of religious leaders are prepared to deal with a future of rapid change.

@post-post [07/28  at  10:50 PM]

I like Christianity more than other faiths, yet that is mostly because of having gone to K-6 Sunday School; religion gets programmed into the subconscious and there is no way to remove it—which includes bad religion.

For that reason, my wife & I did not allow our 3 children to be exposed to any formal religious dogma and they never attended a church service until they did so on their own initiative after they were 18.

Until a child learns to think critically (and 18 is probably still to young to have developed a solid foundation in critical thought) IMO it is child abuse to allow a barrage of authoritarian brainwashing to infiltrate their impressionable minds. Of course parents can do as they choose and subject their progeny to whatever philosophical ideas they wish. Mostly the parents themselves are generationally influenced by unquestioned belief systems and continue to inculcate similar beliefs in their children.

I raised mine to a set of guidelines I have called Universal Morality and previously posted those tenets here at IEET. They are model citizens and contribute positively to society. Religion was a necessary step in societal evolution as I have also written here with along with your agreement to those comments (with your misreading of my name as “Burl”) but now it is time for humanity to wake up to a post-religious era and take responsibility for themselves and not live in thrall to a vestige of ancient tribal cohesion.

Peace to ALL

Pastor Alex writes: “As for whether Jesus is fictional, that’s another discussion entirely, but I will say that there have been people for years in the church who don’t believe in a historical Jesus, but still come to church for the community and fellowship.”

I think that’s absolutely honourable and admirable. In a different (less secular) social environment than I find myself in I might well do the same thing.

But I wonder how sustainable it is in the long run. Once people have stopped actually believing in this stuff, isn’t it just a matter of time (albeit perhaps a few generations) before they find other ways to get community and fellowship. If we don’t believe Jesus existed, let alone was/is the person the Bible says he was/is, then why tell each other stories about his supposed life every Sunday? Surely there must be more interesting ways to spend one’s time.

I think Dennis is right. Traditional religions provided a package of psychological services which can now be better delivered by other means (such as positive psychology).

“And I’m not convinced that the majority of religious leaders are prepared to deal with a future of rapid change. “

I see you added the word “majority.” I’ll let that slide.
Frankly, I’m not convinced that the majority of _scientists_ are prepared to deal with a future of rapid change. The reason is because chances are the change is in a field not their own.

“Do you think they’re escaping violence?”

Why, yes, most Islamics are not violent. Poetic? I prefer poetic to the current Newspeak—but every man to the devil his own way.

“And I’m not convinced that the majority of religious leaders are prepared to deal with a future of rapid change.”

To say the least, Dennis.
Abraham might want to go out to observe what is going on; one can’t Google everything. Fieldwork consists of far more than Googling & blogging. If one wants food, one goes to the refrigerator;
if one wants the Word of Jesus, one reads the Bible;
if one wants to know exactly what is going on, one has to go out to observe.

‘And I’m not convinced that the majority of religious leaders are prepared to deal with a future of rapid change.’

‘Frankly, I’m not convinced that the majority of _scientists_ are prepared to deal with a future of rapid change.’

Suspect that this holds true for most of us, even we who take an interest in transhumanism and the future. I’ve mentioned in a previous thread how I sometimes feel a little lost already with the present rate of change. Alvin Toffler and ‘Future Shock’ comes to mind.

And if the singularity really does happen, I doubt any of us will be ready for it. Rapture of the utterly bewildered perhaps.

Some will adapt to it, Paul; young people may be confused by their parents (who own the world, after all) memes, however they wont be as stuck in the past.
That’s not me though, couldn’t get away from Christianity even if I tried, it is in-wired and on top of that I meet Christians all the time who try to push those Christian buttons using guilt and all the rest of their bag of tricks:
“tricky as a priest.”

I’ve just been looking at an earlier thread on Mike Treder’s article “Life Sucks and Then You Die”. I actually think that’s too negative. I don’t think life is THAT bad. Or maybe I’m just lucky. Sure there’s pain and suffering, and the inevitably of mortality frustrates our hardwired self-preservation instinct, but there are good times too.

But I like the “rapture of the utterly bewildered” comment. That sounds about right to me. Already now a lot of people are thoroughly bewildered by the pace of (technological and other) change.

As for whether scientists or religious believers/leaders are better prepared to deal with a future of (even more) rapid change, I guess it’s a question of striking the right balance between faith and doubt. Scientists excel at doubt, by which I don’t mean that we are immune from neurotic responses to evidence that challenges our beliefs, but on the whole we tend to be more willing to question them. In a sense that’s the whole point of science, and it helps to keep our beliefs accurate and evidence-based. But the point of having beliefs is not only to have an accurate model of reality, it’s also to provide a basis for action. Sometimes religious people are better at life, because they have solid beliefs that provide a basis for action, and which they don’t question every time a new piece of evidence comes along. But like I say, it’s a balance.

Burt:  In Mormonism, on the first Sunday of each month, members are encouraged to give their testimonies (usually of absolute faith in the church and its leaders).  The meeting has always made me uncomfortable, so I rarely go.

This biggest problem for me personally is when parents either overtly or covertly encourage their young children to bare their testimonies.  This seems like a very bad example of indoctrination, or brainwashing if you will.

The concern you express seems very germaine.

Thank you, Roger, for this piece. It is amazing how neutral you were able to be in the writing and how yet we read a point of view in our responding. Such makes for good dialog, no?
When writing my thesis, one of my readers asked me if culture or religion can evolve. It is a provocative question.
What you raise, though, is that: the need for religion to evolve beyond the mythology and doctrine, to reach into the deeper meaning and bring it to the level of congregational discourse.
I believe in Scripture and I believe in science. Needing to make an either/or choice would mean disconnecting from a piece of my being. It seems as delusional to me to deny our spirit (our need for faith/hope/charity/connectedness/empathy in spite of evidence to the contrary) as believing in *a* God (a masculine, puppeteer outside of time and a coming Omega point) is delusional. Do we choose to reach for unity and harmony or do we choose to reach for survival of the fittest?
Institutional religion is begining to fracture. The little publicized split in the Lutheran church is of seismic proportions and should be a wake up call for all mainline denominations. Religion is starting to reform along not denominational lines (as in the past) but along conservative/literalist and progressive/interpretive lines.
Religion is a way not to be simply a social club but a place where people learn to enact and live out the deeper meanings found in their scriptures. It is a shaping of culture, a shaping of behavior, a shaping of a world view. .
Institutional religion is just one manifestation of the broader shift happening occuring within sociological evolution. The issue is not science vs. religion, but wholeness vs. tribes. The question for us now is can we best survive as a species in a culture of inclusivity or a culture of exclusivity?

@dor I’m wondering what iPan would say about this emphasis on “wholeness vs tribes”, and “inclusivity” and “exclusivity”. I’ve discussed the tension between automony and connectedness with him on other threads, and this seems to be relevant here also. Perhaps we need to be both/and on this as well. An excessive emphasis on wholeness and inclusivity can sound to some ominously like some kind of Borg-like collective. Maybe we actually do need the tribes, the exclusivity. Come to think of it, perhaps we need to be both/and about “both/and” and “either/or”. It’s also the tension between synthesis and analysis: you need both. You need to disaggregate, as much as you need to aggregate. Vive la différence, resiste que tu existe.

Actually I’m not sure that believing in a coming Omega point IS delusional. But my more important (from my perspective) point is the one above about traditional religions providing a package of psychological services that can better be delivered by other means. For example: yes to our need for faith, hope, charity, connectiveness and empathy. But why do we need religion or “scripture” for that?

It seems to me rather that some people have a strong aesthetic response to particular religious traditions, and for such people (which I guess would include Pastor Alex, Lincoln Cannon, Abraham and yourself) it makes sense to find your path within the progressive / interpretive wings of those traditions. As I said on the “Emerging Threats and Challenges, Bible-style” thread, that’s absolutely fine with me. But I think it’s also important to recognise that there are many, many other ways to find (and promote) faith, hope, charity, connectiveness and empathy, and whatever other virtues we tend to associate with the word “spirit”, than via traditional or even non-traditional religion.

That said, I’m not sure I’m really disagreeing with you in any very fundamental way. “Religion is a way not to be simply a social club but a place where people learn to enact and live out the deeper meanings found in their scriptures. It is a shaping of culture, a shaping of behavior, a shaping of a world view.” Sounds about right to me. I would only add the words “at its best” after “religion”: we must not be in denial about the reality of very destructive, divisive forms of religion. Religion is not “good” in itself: like technology, it can be used for good or for ill.

@peter

1.) For me, Scripture is a portal. It is not to be worshipped itself (becoming a false God), but helps me to understand and express my beliefs. It is important because people hold it to be important. My scripture is not more important than someone else’s, but it is more meaningful to me.
And that is key here: realizing that because something is not important to us individually, doesn’t make it unimportant.
Is it time to move past institutionalized religion? Well, no, because institutionalized religion is still important to many people.
But institutionalized religion should not be the sole basis on which our laws or ethics are developed. Religion is not science nor is religion law in a secular and free society.

2.) For me, wholeness is the goal. Unity of diversity (as I think CygnusX1 has said). The co-existence of different cultures, beliefs, crops, species, etc. keeps things in check. Diversity is important because the cosmic truths (both scientific and spiritual) are too large for us to understand. We need various perspectives.

3.) All of that said, when do ideas become dangerous? One of the New Atheists (was it Dennet?) said something like “ideas to die for” endanger the whole. When a group decides that dying and killing are justified because of their ideology, then society as a whole has a problem. Religion is not the problem. Taking violent action on behalf of an ideology is a problem. Whether the ideology is religious or secular, acting on it in a way that harms or takes away rights from others is where the red flags and warning bells should start to go off.

4) To Roger’s point, institutionalized religion *should* be helping people to learn to live with change. It should be taking the underlying belief system (e.g. social justice, forgiveness, redemption, etc.) and demonstrating how that applies in the world today and tomorrow. IMO, it does a great disservice to congregants and to God by restricting interpretation to dogma that was developed ages ago. The mythology should help to explain the belief system, not the other way around.
In a future where unlearning will be as important as learning, institutional religion is most useful if it can not provide answers but ask questions that provoke people to grow and discover together and live in ways that respects the fabric of humanity.

post-post responded to my question: “Just take Islamists for example. Do you think they’re escaping violence?”  with: “Why, yes, most Islamics are not violent.”

I specifically said “Islamists” not “Islamics.”  But now the course of the conversation has changed, so you need not respond to this.

@dor Not much to add, as I said before I think we’re largely in agreement. But for me I don’t think wholeness IS the goal. In fact I’m not entirely sure what it means. Isn’t it largely a matter of perspective? You can emphasise the wholeness and one-ness of the universe, or you can focus on its diversity and divisions.

On that line, I wonder how far I can really agree that “taking violent action on behalf of an ideology is [necessarily] a problem”. Suppose the “ideology” is something like protection of minorities, and the “violent action” is proportionate, well-targetted action aimed at preventing an atrocity against a minority. It’s still violent, it’s still on behalf of an ideology, but I’d still be in favour of it.

I guess that’s what makes me a utilitarian. For me the goal is really to make myself and those around me happy. Wholeness, transcendence and spirituality play a role in that, but as ends in themselves they just seem too opposed to autonomy for me to be entirely comfortable with them. I guess we are both capable of being disgusted with fundamentalism, especially when used as a pretext for violence, but in my case I also have (much milder) misgivings with an excessive emphasis on wholeness and avoidance of fundamentalism. I guess there’s something I like about the moral clarity of fundamentalisms, including strong atheism, even while recognising the immense harm they can do.

As people want power more than freedom, they also want power more than piety.

Science and Religion are not at odds.
Science proves only what is true.
Religion is based on stories by men in tents telling stories from the iron age or before.

If Gods were real - then Science would prove them true.
But Science always tends to prove the opposite.

If there was a Real God then Science would be the churches greatest allye.

We have fewer churches because people aren’t thrown in jail for herasy anymore. More people can read, and more people are educated now than before. I know the Earth rotates around the Sun, contrary to what any religous book may tell me.

Remember, Day of the Sunne, Sunday,was originated to worship the Sun God, and ,Day of Saturn, Saturday, was started to worship the God Saturn. How many Christians take off Saturday to worship Saturn? In the future we will loose the meaning of going to church on Sunday also.

@ dave
It’s funny, I don’t believe in any of the gods that you don’t believe in. The Being I worship neither contradicts science or is provable by science as it is practiced today. Since you can’t prove a negative, the fact that science has nothing really important to say about faith is immaterial.

Like many athiests you don’t have a really good grasp on what religion and faith are truly about. If you are interested we can have a deeper conversation on the subject.

Dave, real scientists would be quite surprised to hear your claim that science always tends to prove that God isn’t real.

Also, the two sentences following “Science and Religion are not at odds” do nothing to support that statement.

Finally, you really need to check out Hank Pellissier’s post on 7-23-11 at the following link: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/pellissier20110719

Or one can say religion is necessary fiction for the insecure; to give moral guidance for traditional families; social clubs, obviously; charity; meditation; rites & rituals to soothe minds; religious pageantry, music and art; to meet spouses and partners; Travelling to exotic locales- for instance the Holy Land; succor for the sick and dying, and of course funerals. Plus a shopping list of other aspects.
Metaphysics doesn’t interest me much anymore as it tends to mire down in philosophy rather than spirituality—whatever spirituality may be.

In sum, religion is the opiate of the masses.
Then again, I tend to take anything Karl Marx said with a grain of salt.

Religion is a NECESSARY opiate, a fact Marx did not comprehend.
All sorts of fictions rule our lives; familial fictions; romantic fictions.
All kinds. People need illusions.
The games people play, Ronaldo.

The preceding note from post-post was a clarion call for all atheists to join a religion.

Why didn’t you write agnostic?

Whichever. You can answer for either atheists or agnostics. Just explain to them why fictional religion is necessary for them.

“Just explain to them why fictional religion is necessary for them.”

Not for them, but the majority of humanity, which can include agnostics, appears to want the escapism of spirituality/religion. Not to pick on religion/spirituality, either; escapism takes many forms: the arts & entertainment, eros (to put it more innocently), family, etc. During the Holiday Season even atheists will partake of the religious festivities, they will get into the spirit of it (if not the spirituality); they diplomatically refrain from saying ‘Humbug’—which means in some sense they are acquiescing in the religion/spiritualism included in the rites and rituals of holidays.
Thus not even atheists are quite as atheistic as they may seem. Plus, many atheists are actually agnostics who are IMO rightly being more decisive in referring to themselves as atheists instead of agnostics. Our minds play tricks on us, so it is best to continually and carefully foster in one’s mind a delineation between aforementioned aspects of what IMO is escapism. If one examines the behaviors of well-known religious extremists it will be discovered that they are not all that different from the rest of us. David Koresh for instance let his spirituality run riot with his imagination until eventually he became the opposite of what he intended. Koresh did not wake up one morning and say to himself: “I will start a cult and maneuver in a way to result in the burning deaths of scores of my acolytes.”
Koresh is a far-fetched example, nonetheless our minds play such tricks we have to always cautiously monitor the illusions.
At any rate, Ronaldo, I now see I will be having these discussions for decades, so it is best to get used it now!

@Ronaldo

Your assumption is that because religion is fiction for you that it is fiction for the religious. That may or may not be true. Reality is mediated through our understandings and beliefs about the world. That is why you can’t change a person’s mind by proving them wrong with facts. They will just interpret the facts differently or stop listening. In a very real sense we create the world we live in.
Religion is real, and we need to work to shape religion and the religious in positive ways. It is even possible to learn something from people who are religious without taking on their doctrine.
By the way it is possible to change, but that change happens through relationship and story, not by argument.

“Your assumption is that because religion is fiction for you that it is fiction for the religious. “

Speaking about assumptions…
Religion is not a fiction for me.

“That is why you can’t change a person’s mind by proving them wrong with facts. “

As my teacher used to say, “never generalize.”  I can identify a few hundred people whose minds were changed by proving them wrong with facts. But /in general/, as you say with your last sentence, you’re right. And you’re especially right about learning from religious people.

@Pastor Alex: Your assumption is that because religion is fiction for you that it is fiction for the religious. That may or may not be true. Reality is mediated through our understandings and beliefs about the world…In a very real sense we create the world we live in.

You are absolutely correct, TRUTH is subjective and we do create our own world. What is true is what a person believes is true but beliefs are always subject to change. Facts are also subjective - just because a consensus believes certain perceptions are factual and true merely makes them factual and true for the consensus and is just as individually subjective for each of those in the consensus. There are NO absolute truths beyond Cogito Ergo Sum and sum persons even question that. The only objective truths are tautologies and those may not be universally accepted by everyone.

A person’s religion (belief system) is analogous to a computer’s operating system everything that comprises that person’s reality is interpreted via the filters (beliefs) and created to comport to those beliefs. When information is encountered that doesn’t comport (compute) it is either relegated to the bit bucket (ignored) or throws and exception and has to be managed by the person’s consciousness. Sometimes “facts” will pique the consciousness and after reflection the belief system finds a way to accomodate the new information which then becomes “truth” until it is supplanted by “truer” information.

As I wrote previously, religion provides a common belief and social structure that binds groups of similarly minded people and gives the groups an evolutionary advantage by aiding, supporting, and nurturing the members and next generations making survival of the group and its progeny more likely.

Peace to ALL,

Burt

Or perhaps religion is in fact merely escapism. If it is we will have to find out the hard way.

“There are NO absolute truths beyond Cogito Ergo Sum….”

And the absolute truth of that statement, I suppose. Right?

Ronaldo, I happen to like religion, however it may be because I’m less intelligent and more susceptible than wiser men. IMO Hank was correct in writing Christians are imbeciles; their hearts are in the right place but I worry about their brains!
If the definition of religion/faith is nexus, nomos; if the definition is virtually synonymous with Arthur Koestler’s truism “charity is what keeps civilization in its orbit”, then no argument. Notice, though, how we discuss religion philosophically, not spiritually: religion is supposed to be from the soul/spirit. Einstein said science without religion is blind, religion without science is lame, yet he said so in a different era and his dictum might become obsolete—don’t know if absolute truths exist, but do NOT think eternal truths exist.
Most of all, we will never live in a moral world; no consensus on morality exists and even if hypothetically there were a consensus concerning morality there would be no way to require compliance. In Puritan Massachusetts for awhile after 1620, a general consensus did exist but it was not universal nor permanent.
Morality is relative to time & place.

Religion = Spirituality + Politics.
Spirituality is difficult to objectify and discuss yet “we humans are all Spiritual beings”, (this is undeniable!) The duality of (spiritual) mind and body is “real”. What drives this curiosity and incessant strive for understanding? I still proclaim it is “the” fundamental question that supports the “Spiritual mind” (“Who am I?”) Therefore Spirituality is much more than merely escapism, however our pursuits to overcome this existential angst are manifest in various forms of escapism and religious associations. Does music make your heart burst with joy? Does Astronomy give you awe and “that joy wonderously suppressed?” (I cannot adequately explain these feelings!)

We each have a choice to pursue existential joy through exploration of “the” fundamental question, all paths and journeys vary, but they all lead ultimately to the same place?

One objective truth “must exist” beyond space & time, (eternally & timeless) the “Potential” remains & simply IS!

@Ronaldo: And the absolute truth of that statement, I suppose. Right?

No - that is a subjective truth for those who believe that they exist because they think that they do. Because truth only exists in the mind of believers, the only absolute truth is, to them (and all of us), the persistent illusion of their/our own physical existence.

@post-post: Most of all, we will never live in a moral world; no consensus on morality exists

Morality is subjective as well just as truth is - each of us lives in our own moral world. We live by our moral precepts or fall short of them but it is our morality - the morality we have created in our own minds. There may be consensus among others - 2 will do - or there may be general consensus among a group or sect as in the case of an organized religion.

As far as a universal morality goes, and I have created my own version previously posted at IEET (see Universal Morality my comment on 03/08 at 6:26 PM) which hardly has drawn   a consensus at IEET or anywhere else it has been proffered although there were some positive reviews here and there, however a consensus is only necessary to affect a group dynamic. As to compliance, the power of verbal persuasion is the only legitimate process to engender compliance. Violence and corporeal coercion have been used in that pursuit from familial banishment, tribal expulsion, inquisitions, to the Puritan’s pillories with limited success due only to fear and loathing.

BTW technically you are correct the Puritans were post-post 1620, the year that the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. They wanted nothing to do with the Pilgrims who were religious separatists from the Anglican tradition espoused by the Puritans who arrived in 1630 and dominated (usurped by many accounts) the lands and religious dogma from Boston to Salem culminating in the famous Witch Trials. (This is just a pedantic point to differentiate the authors of the first Thanksgiving from the Puritanical founders of my home state who are most often lumped together as a single entity.)

Peace

An example of an entire nation (Puritan Massachusetts was of course not a country) that attempted to be Christian was Cromwell’s regime in the 1650s; for its time it was fairly Christian-oriented, there was a rough consensus; however it was not a success except possibly as a steppingstone to the Revolution of 1688.
As for the future, which is what counts for technoprogressives: many adjectives can and will describe what is to come—“decency” is not one of them. What will our present definition of virtue mean a thousand years from now? as far as I know, nothing whatsoever.

Roger’s article deals with the “obsolecence of institutionalized churches” and not with the broad category of religion.
What the institutionalized church had historically done was brought together people within a given area to create community. In it we learned to learn from one another, to share and reshape our understanding of faith and of God. That model served to ask congregants to be both teachers and students, forging a communal belief, reflecting the values of our neighborhoods.
Then we began to see the rise of demagogues. Rather than theology, it was based on a social agenda and politics. For some Christians, the faith began to be defined by Rushdoony and Schaeffer. It is this voice, that is militant and that wishes the American legal system to be based on biblical law, that colors our perception of religion in general and Christianity specifically.
Perhaps the rise of radical Christianity comes in part because of the failure of the institutional church.
Many people do not want to abandon religion/spirituality because religion speaks to the interconnection between ourselves, others and the cosmos. I, for example, seek not escapism nor myth but a better understanding of humanity and our place in creation. Church has the potential to be a unifying force that underscores the importance of acceptance and social justice.
The institutional church, in perhaps relying too heavily on dogma and doctrine sometimes failed to help people go beyond myth and escapism. As enrollment declined, instead of evolving, they found a “new market” by embracing a more extreme, fundamentalist congregant which began the split between conservative and progressive believers.
For technoprogressives the challenge is to reach out to the religious and let them know that reason and faith can and do co-exist. We need to create new communities that understand secular humanism as an extension of faith for some people, ones that are open to awe without judgement and mystery without superstition.
We ought not expect people to choose between science and technology on the one hand and love and grace on the other. It is a losing proposition, especially in the face of emerging technologies which at first blush seem frightening and forboding. It will, after all, take the power of love and grace to ensure a just and equitable future.

“Many people do not want to abandon religion/spirituality because religion speaks to the interconnection between ourselves”

Many people DO want to abandon religion/spirituality because of the ulterior motives involved, which many of them sense negates the spiritual content, leaving an empty vessel providing what is IMO of marginal spiritual value: the spiritual equivalent of junk food.
If the Bible says (to paraphrase): “let no man deceive you”, such includes all members of any house of worship or any religious/spiritual group anywhere; the Bible does not say,
“let no man deceive you, save for someone who in the name of God wants to manipulate you as a puppet.”
IMO it is better to have no religion at all than bad religion; in fact it might be better to be alone than have bad friends. Our worst enemies are friends who give us bad advice.

@post-post
“Our worst enemies are friends who give us bad advice.”
Do you really believe that?
I think “our worst enemies” are those who would thwart our autonomy and decide that they know what is best for us, regardless of our feelings/needs/experience or opions and who will use any means necessary, including violence, to exert their will.
If we have free will, we can always ignore advice.

This anit-religion discussion as attached to the"obsolescence of institutional churches” is very interesting. It strikes me that there may be similarity between anti-religion and anti-government passions. In both government and institutional church, change is slow and the emphasis is often more on the dogma/rules/law than the result or the outcome. People are expected, to some degree, to bend or morph to accomodate the whole. They are also two of the institutions most removed from technology.
As we move further into a time of rapid change, how do rethink these institutions rather than abandoning them? How do we support personal experience while protecting communal decision-making? How do come together wiithout expecting one another to bend to the will of the powerful?

“Many people DO want to abandon religion/spirituality because of the ulterior motives involved,”

Or, because they haven’t bothered searching for trustworthy spiritual leaders who give excellent advice. (The way you describe things, post-post, these leaders don’t even exist.)

“The way you describe things, post-post, these leaders don’t even exist.”

They exist, but they are very difficult to find; the leaders who want to pull the wool over our eyes greatly outnumber them. BTW, why call them leaders and not advisers?
But to address the topic: obsolescence of institutional churches. Actually the family is more obsolete than religion, that’s why we need the diversity of gay marriage and poly. Alienation in families is an increasing problem that IMO can only be addressed by providing alternative families and alternative religions

“the leaders who want to pull the wool over our eyes greatly outnumber them.”

You continue your record of assertions without statistical support.

“BTW, why call them leaders and not advisers?”

OK, fine, advisers.

“Actually the family is more obsolete than religion, that’s why we need the diversity of gay marriage and poly.”

That would make logical sense if and only if the success (and we can hash out what success means later) of gay marriage and poly exceeds that of traditional marriages. (I’m speaking about logic only; I’m not stating my opinion about these types of marriages.)

“You continue your record of assertions without statistical support.”

When Google and Wiki first come online it was a challenge to look up stats, now I’m tired of doing it; let a statistician do that if he were to be so inclined. However everything else you write in your last comment is correct. At one time I wanted to be a futurist more than anything—today the validity of your last paragraph is more apparent and IMO disappointing: religiosity appears to be based not on piousness but on sentimentality, and being nostalgic myself experience indicates it seems to be a negative trait not positive; backward-looking not forward-looking, at a technoprogressive site such might not be appropriate. And these are matters of opinion which cannot be Wikied or Googled for stats.
At any rate, is religion increasingly outmoded? My judgment call at this time is yes it is.

BTW:
religion is inherently sentimental, for instance the canonical scriptures are almost exclusively (save for eschatology) oriented towards people & events of thousands of years ago.

“Alienation in families is an increasing problem that IMO can only be addressed by providing alternative families and alternative religions”

According to glaad and The Ali Forney Center:
*One in four teens rejected by their families becomes homeless
*Up to 40% of the homeless youth in the US identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender
*Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who are rejected by their families are at higher risk for depression.

There you go:
remove the stigma of GLBT and GLBT families and we remove the rejection.
Glad we are in agreement, dor.

One more diatribe for today:
what concerns me about Christianity is the repressed violence not only in Christians but also within the Christian faith itself. As you know, animal & human sacrifice were (perhaps still are as anomalies) a part of faiths; not merely religion but spirituality as well—to a certain extent.
A remnant of animal/human sacrifice is—just for instance, not to pick on Christianity—in Christianity expressed in a desire to crucify others in some way: financially; psychologically, etc. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice object, yes, but a relic of that supreme, ancient, sacrifice is a latent urge to do the same to mere mortals (and no, I have no stats to back that up).
To keep it short, if Christianity cannot overcome the urge to sacrifice and crucify, then I would want Christianity to become obsolescent.

“for instance the canonical scriptures are almost exclusively (save for eschatology) oriented towards people & events of thousands of years ago. “

The over-generalization here was too much to ignore. It’s as if the scriptures, to you, have nothing to teach about morality or psychology (whether in the laws or in the narrative), which, for the most part, is timeless.

Still: scriptures are oriented towards the past and NOT the future.

According to George Pyle, editorial writer for the Salt Lake Tribune:

“There are only two religions in the world. One is Arrogance. The other is Humility.

The Arrogants have it all figured out. They know the secrets of the universe. They know what God is, what God wants, what God will punish them — or, more likely, punish other people — for. The certainty of it all, the ability to avoid thinking for oneself, has been attractive to many peoples throughout history.

The Humbles know they do not know. They sense that the universe is full of secrets, which they may never grasp. They take comfort, then, in the idea that even though they don’t know it all, there is a deity, a creator, a force of nature, that does, and that, whether by faith, by good works or by grace, each of us might receive a glimpse of the bigger picture, if not in this life then in the next.”

My blog piece was written more for the Arrogants.  Their time may be rapidly waning with the acceleration of scientific and techological innovation.

“Their time may be rapidly waning with the acceleration of scientific and techological innovation.”

That is good news.
There is no true disagreement with a theological scholar in a religious setting commenting on the first century CE; writing, say, on Jesus being resurrected on the third day. However is there any purpose in doing so at a technoprogressive site? is religious commentary in a secular setting for balance? perhaps so
yet it doesn’t appear to be the intent of the majority of commenters.

There are two types of arguments in the world. One is where you set up strawmen and knock them down. The other is where the arguments are real.
Yes, George Pyle, that was for you.

Few would claim scriptures are thoroughly based on the past- nothing more. But scriptures are based more on the past than the present/future. The Old Testament is a BCE tome (or Holy book, if you will); the New Testament was written by Paul and certain other followers of Jesus—we don’t know who they were exactly, we don’t know who John of Patmos, who supposedly wrote the book of Revelation, was. There is dispute concerning the identities of those possessing the same names living circa the first century CE.
Beyond this, no matter how valuable the spiritual/moral, etc., content of scriptures, they are more suitable for more primitive peoples, such as—in America—the Amish. IMO complex, complicated technological societies cannot be religiously oriented, as the illusory memes of religion are infused with valid memes.

Illusory memes, IMO, ought to be minimized.

There’s a lot more to the term"primitive” than just a lack of technology.

Also, if “illusory memes ought to be minimized”, and you “accept religion because it is the opposite of reality”, then as these memes get more and more minimized, you’ll be accepting religion more and more, right?

Further up in this thread dor wrote:

“This anit-religion discussion as attached to the"obsolescence of institutional churches” is very interesting. It strikes me that there may be similarity between anti-religion and anti-government passions. In both government and institutional church, change is slow and the emphasis is often more on the dogma/rules/law than the result or the outcome. People are expected, to some degree, to bend or morph to accomodate the whole. They are also two of the institutions most removed from technology.
As we move further into a time of rapid change, how do rethink these institutions rather than abandoning them? How do we support personal experience while protecting communal decision-making? How do come together wiithout expecting one another to bend to the will of the powerful?”

I think this is a useful comparison; at the same time there are important differences between government and religion.

Reflecting on debates I’ve had with those with “anti-government passions”, I see two strands: (i) a tendency to focus on shortcomings of existing governance mechanisms and then throw out the baby with the bathwater; (ii) a (more legitimate imo) concern about oppressive, overly top-down forms of government. In a way the very word “government” suggests top-down approaches, and the more fashionable “governance” does little to change that. At their best, institutions we currently refer to as “governmental” are nodes in a well-functioning, self-organised mode of collective decision-making. Perhaps what we really need to do is to change the terminology.

Traditional religious institutions play a different, and in my view more dubious kind of role, and in this context I think I’m broadly in agreement with post-post. Even if we see scripture (whichever one we’re talking about) as a “portal”, of largely symbolic value, we are still focusing on and (therefore) promulgating illusory memes, and soiling the valid memes - such as wisdom literature - by keeping them associated with myths and superstition. It’s not that I want to come over all Dawkins, but I think post-post has put his finger on a real problem here, and it’s one that even the most liberal Christians and other religious types need to take seriously.

Religion, including institutional, organised religion, will not go away any time soon, so the questions dor asks are good ones. But they are not necessarily the best. Those of us who are less aesthetically drawn to those memes might to better just to ignore them, starve them of the oxygen of publicity they need to thrive and so distort our cognitive processes. Those of us for whom life without them seems bleak and miserable need to stop describing them as “portals” and start/keep doing the important work of sorting out the wheat (“love thy neighbour as thyself”) from the chaff (“and on the third day he rose again”).

@peter wicks
“Reflecting on debates I’ve had with those with “anti-government passions”, I see two strands: (i) a tendency to focus on shortcomings of existing governance mechanisms and then throw out the baby with the bathwater; (ii) a (more legitimate imo) concern about oppressive, overly top-down forms of government. In a way the very word “government” suggests top-down approaches, and the more fashionable “governance” does little to change that.”

These same two strands (i.e. shortcomings of the mechanisms and oppressive, overly top-down approaches) are what is applied to ridicule institutional church. People resist/reject the use of story/myth to “tell the old, old story” and find the (often male) hierarchy as coming between themselves and their experiences with the sacred.
Government would do well to learn from the decline of the institutional church and the rise of pentacostal zealotry. When emphasis is on the system/the mechanics of institution, those being served become starved for connecting that institution to their day-to-day lives. The waning of the institutional church has not meant a decline in religion; it has meant a rise in political activism to create (in the US) a more Christian society. The decline of government control, likewise, is showing up as a rise in flash mob take-overs.

“Those of us for whom life without them seems bleak and miserable need to stop describing them as “portals” and start/keep doing the important work of sorting out the wheat (“love thy neighbour as thyself”) from the chaff (“and on the third day he rose again”). “
Point well taken; you are correct. For some, Scripture has become a false idol, becoming the object of worship. (During my faith journey I came to see that even Christ could be made into a false idol when the image/symbol of Christ took precedence over the teaching/instruction.) Shakespere is centuries old, but we read it because there are universal truths. Scripture is similar. While it is ancient it is relevant because it is a way of looking at a life of spirit, but only if we are dedicated to separating the wheat from the chaff.

“then as these memes get more and more minimized, you’ll be accepting religion more and more, right?”

Yes; call it Peak Religion, if you will.

I don’t dislike institutional churches as much as a religious person might perhaps think from the comments. Now, metaphysics is for theologians; but practical matters are something anyone can comprehend, and Peter Wicks in his future of Europe thread hit on something important concerning America’s love/hate relationship with government: it is somewhat of a neurosis—Americans want big government but naturally not the unintended consequences of big government. How this relates to institutional churches is that churches have done great charity work, and if the welfare state goes belly-up (which appears at this moment to be a distinct possibility)  churches can do more than they have done since the 1930s.
Religion often leaves a bad aftertaste, yet when a family is hungry, the food at a soup kitchen can taste better than that.
We always attempt to look at the bright side of life at IEET, don’t we?

> “Americans want big government “

Again with your statistics-less claims, post-post?

So Americans don’t want big government, it just popped out of nowhere, like THAT? perhaps big government arrived from outer space (and to hell with statisticians, Ronaldo: figures lie and liars figure 😊
At any rate, I’ll go with you half-way on faith/religion; no farther. When one subscribes to IEET, it doesn’t say:
“I hereby promise to accomodate metaphysical viewpoints expressed at IEET.”

Ronaldo, please re-read the IEET Purpose statement via the link below; it mentions nothing about religion being a significant key to exploring possibilities, nor does it obligate any blogger to go into detail on any related topic with any religious or spiritually-oriented blogger at IEET:
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/purpose

Statistics aren’t worth it (this is all IMO naturally) concerning religion/spirituality.

At any rate everything I have witnessed indicates religion/spirituality is tantamount to right-wing socialism: people are when you examine their behavior—not what they say—incompatible beings, so they need religion/spirituality as a nexus; not The nexus, but A nexus.
Nomos.
However religion/spirituality is not genuine in a scientific, verifiable, sense and often not even sincere. But I accept-tolerate religion/spirituality as a veneer, a veneer similar to civilization itself in its superficiality. As for the future, I don’t know—but neither do you nor does anyone else; everyone, including the religious, are making it up as they go along… feeling their way in the dark.
What sort of statistics could one furnish in reference to such?

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