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MoEnzyme
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exploring religious thinking
« on: 2006-10-15 15:53:43 »
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Some of the things I've come to realize in my Church of Virus thinking and discussions.

Why do many atheists dismiss the "God of the Gaps" believers as dumb, when they are actually making a reasonable attempt to resolve a conflict between the persistence of abstract metaphors and the realities of science?  Many believers don't even attempt a resolution, the fairy tales win.  Is this not belittling an individual's attempts at reason in favor of an ideology of atheism?
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #1 on: 2006-10-15 16:01:15 »
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I took this into the #virus for some quick feedback, and was not disappointed.

<Mo> here's my post, however. http://www.churchofvirus.org/bbs/index.php?board=4;action=display;threadid=36595
<Vincent> sigh, vivement that I get better
<Vincent> peeking
<Vincent> indeed
<Mo> personally I tend to think like an atheist much of the time.  But I recognize how compelling religious ideas can be to any human mind.
<Vincent> This is true
<Mo> I even have my own ad hoc ideas about this God thingy I don't believe in . . . that's how compelling they are.
<Vincent> If not for some peculiarities in my development I am pretty sure I'd be deep into mystical-fairy tales-esoteric things
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #2 on: 2006-10-15 16:48:03 »
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Quote from: Mo on 2006-10-15 15:53:43   

Some of the things I've come to realize in my Church of Virus thinking and discussions.

Why do many atheists dismiss the "God of the Gaps" believers as dumb, when they are actually making a reasonable attempt to resolve a conflict between the persistence of abstract metaphors and the realities of science?  Many believers don't even attempt a resolution, the fairy tales win.  Is this not belittling an individual's attempts at reason in favor of an ideology of atheism?

It is dumb to accept a false explanation because it prevents (or at least seriously hinders) discovering a true explanation. In other words the "God of the Gaps" retards understanding.
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MoEnzyme
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #3 on: 2006-10-15 19:10:19 »
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I think we can only hope to achieve progressively less false explanations when it comes to these big picture issues.  God of the gaps, by definition does not compete with any "truth".  We can of course take issue where a believer falsely percieves a gap.  For example irreducible complexity is a false gap because complexity theory and its principles of self-organization already had that base covered when "irreducible complexity" was first coined.  I think we can reduce God of the gaps down to two rules. 1) Where science has discovered the answer religious explanations are inappropriate.  2) Where science hasn't discovered an answer believe whatever you want.  This doesn't seem retarded or dumb at all.  I think even most committed atheists follow these rules.  They just plug in a different conclusion for #2 than the theist.
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #4 on: 2006-10-15 19:13:57 »
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Quote from: Mo on 2006-10-15 15:53:43   

Some of the things I've come to realize in my Church of Virus thinking and discussions.

Why do many atheists dismiss the "God of the Gaps" believers as dumb, when they are actually making a reasonable attempt to resolve a conflict between the persistence of abstract metaphors and the realities of science?  Many believers don't even attempt a resolution, the fairy tales win.  Is this not belittling an individual's attempts at reason in favor of an ideology of atheism?

[Blunderov] What use is this "god of the gaps", or for that matter, any other god? The only reason I can see for having such a thing is to create a premise for the proposition that there is a "life after death". I find it impossible to conceive what this absurd abuse of language could even begin to mean; this, and god thingys, are devoid of meaning to me. I don't think this can be said to be an ideology.

[Merriam Webster]
Ideology
Function: noun
Inflected Form: plural -gies
Etymology: French idéologie, from idéo- ideo- + -logie -logy
Date: 1813

1 : visionary theorizing
2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture  c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

[Bl.] My particular atheism is none of this. My atheism is a complete and utter inability to understand what religious people are on about. The fact that atheists find it convenient, and even enjoyable, to pool their skills and hone their arguments is a matter of self defence, not ideology. Down all the long ages cunning minds have devised many and various schemes to rob men of their reason and it is necessary to be heavily armed at all times.

Best regards.
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #5 on: 2006-10-15 20:45:05 »
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Thanks Blunderov,

I think you assert a fundamental incomprehensibility to religious thought; that its a language trick which refers to nothing comprehensible.  I think from the point of view of its memetic persistence, it makes more sense to assume that there is in fact some sort of comprehensible programming churning in the minds of the adhereants -- intuition pumps as Daniel Dennet would call them.  Otherwise it would be impossible to maintain the fidelity of replication that religion enjoys.  Indeed it may be a variety of mental tricks at work, not just fear of death.  For one there is the persistence of anthropomorphism, and the metaphorization of childhood family relations.  For another there is greater tendency for humans to remember any story with supernaturalisms better than one without whether or not one actually believes the supernaturalism.  Even the human desire for knowlege gets metaphorically (though not actually) fulfilled by imbuing "our diety" with omniscience.  I think there are numerous side effects of our capacity for abstract thought, and various peculiarities of human memory that can explain the persistence of religious thinking.  I think this is one realization that sets Church of Virus apart from other groups of atheists.

As for "ideology" I think you made a good point.  Atheism is more of a simple idea, an atheism of the gaps, rather than an ideology.
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #6 on: 2006-10-16 02:39:38 »
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Dear Mo

We are fond of many things that are bad for our bodies, for example, sugars, fats, smoke and alcohol, and things that are bad for our brains, like taking consciousness altering drugs, getting involved in religions (and other kinds of fanaticism), and playing with memebots. Even when we know this can be harmful to to ourselves or our communities, some of us still can't help ourselves (e.g the only way Dees/Salamantis gets anyone to bother looking at one of the threads he starts, is if he disguises the contents or if others waste their time commenting on them. In that way, he relies on the feedback others provide him in a more obvious way than many other attention seeking delusionals.) The fact that we like the flavor of these things, whether physical or mental poisons, should not obscure the fact that they are harmful. In the same way that even though smoking or obesity  are insidious, not killing off the player quite as rapidly as hitting the wrong cylinder in a game of Russian roulette, does not meant they are any less dangerous than the ones where we can see the messy results immediately. Indeed, the person who plays Russian roulette just once is, no matter how silly, much more likely to survive longer and more healthily than the person who smokes or eats to excess. So too, religion's attraction might be comprehensible, but the harm it does is pervasive and insidious.

I think that there is already more than sufficient evidence to be able to say that religion - is both an artifact of a damaged brain (See FAQ: God Module and Church of Virus BBS: General: Science & Technology: Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II. as well as the discussions linking faulty pattern analysis and dopamine surpluses and deficits, e.g. FAQ: Best of Virus, Reply 10, Belief: Simply a surplus of dopamines), and is, along with too much Faux Television or other fascism - a way of causing brain damage; even if we avoid the temptation of pointing to the faulty thinking of even what are asserted to be the "best" religious thinkers (e.g. Blaise Pascal or Isaac Newton). Which is why I suggest that no matter how addictive you think that god thingies are, that Blunderov is still absolutely correct. If we value the way our brains function - and given that the more rational, the more brutally honest we can be with ourselves, we should leave major brain function altering technologies alone. Particularly when we recognize that we have only one brain, so when we change the way it functions, we can no longer rely on it to ascertain whether the alterations we have made are beneficial or not - and experience shows that these alterations can often be permanent. For example, research shows that most long term marijuana users end up with no patience, lousy memories and a tendency to over-trust both their intuition and their capabilities - even long after they are persuaded to stop (while I don't assert that one or the other is causative or symptomatic, or (likely) some combination, the association is indubitably strongly affirmatively correlated).

My observation is that religion is the same or worse. My recommendation is that it is probably best to leave this itch for others to scratch. Just as an excess of cocaine and alcohol can do, an excess of religion fries the brain. Had you any doubts, just look at Our Dear MisLeadertm who has combined the worst elements of both and in consequence has established a dreadful warning to the planet.

Now, when the religionist is able to persuade him - or herself - that it is alright to die for their beliefs - religious or patriotic - or to kill others on the same grounds, they become dangerous. Dangerous as individuals and dangerous as a society. The most religious and patriotic society in the western world today is the USA. Our actions around the planet are quite sufficient for the rest of the world to still regard the US as much more dangerous to world peace than even the most recent - and arguably most unpredictable, entrants to the "nuculear" club.

Once somebody communes from the poisoned cup of fellowship of conventional religions, they have abandoned reason and adopted belief either because of temporary social benefits or because they hope to find a better or perhaps fairer life than they have on Earth. Given our very great ability to detect unfair behaviour, along with our brilliant ability to cheat, and the chaotic nature of an uncaring Universe, I think that this last point goes a very long way towards explaining most of our obsession religion - for some apparently irrational reason.

I say apparently, because I think this is probably based in our ability to project ourselves and to empathise (think Schadenfreude). So most people seem to think that the world ought to be fair, that everything has a cause and that if we are caught being wicked, that we will suffer an upcomance. On careful observation, none of these things are borne out by practice. Wicked people become presidents, cheats prosper, bad things happen to the good (and the bad) and vice versa, and the distribution of wealth is determined more by geography than by fairness. So we play with god thingies to even this out in the next world as there clearly isn't enough time in this one. We invent insane and perverse religions (none more so than Christianity and Judaism) in what seems to be an attempt to force our fellow man to be fair. We band together with other people with the same color of mud in their belly-buttons in feeble attempts to cause better things to happen to us - or at least to attempt to prevent worse things from being inflicted on us, not recognizing the fundamental contradiction in the zero-sum worlds of conventional religion.

These form reasons why, from the time that somebody adopts irrational beliefs - any irrational beliefs - until they are cured or they die, they cannot be completely trusted to be honest. Because, no matter how reasonable they might seem to be, they have adopted the fundamental dishonesty of accepting through willfulness or through stupidity, something they don't know to be true or know not to be true, in preference to reality. Which means that they will not only probably do it again when they discover that society rewards people for dishonesty (manners, share, behave), but will also likely be dishonest at a deeper level where they lie to themselves and others about things in order to maintain the pretense that they are reasonable, sane and rational.

They are not.

No amount of pretense, and no amount of irrational religion, can establish reason, sanity or rational behaviour. It takes the opposite, to do that.

Kind Regards

Hermit
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #7 on: 2006-10-16 04:06:26 »
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Quote from: Mo on 2006-10-15 20:45:05   

...Indeed it may be a variety of mental tricks at work, not just fear of death... 

[Blunderov] Nice to see you in church again Mo. Atheism of the gaps? <giggles>

http://www.religionfacts.com/big_religion_chart.htm

"The Big Religion Chart".

According to this chart the only systems that do not make a claim of some sort of pesistence beyond death are:

Atheism (why this should even feature on a chart of religions is a mystery to me)
Confucianism (Arguably one of the first stirrings of the enlightenment)
Deism (Another method, like pantheism, of applying a sugar coating to the basic medicine of atheism
Falun Gong (An apparent whack job of note.)
Taoism (Eastern pantheism)

Otherwise the thread is consistent. It's perhaps worth remembering that one of the very first archeological indications of what we consider to be humankind is the burial of the dead; an intentional act of preservation for non food purposes. The interesting thing about this,TMM, is that even now most do not question that this behaviour is the dividing line between human and non-human. Not even chimps stuff their dead family members into holes hoping to hook up with them later. They know damn well they're never going to see them again.

The fear of death is just as universal to all times and all peoples as the presence of religion is. I think this is a lot more than just a random coincidence.*

Best regards.

*Anecdotally, I almost always get the question from theists "How can you handle living without at least some hope of eternal life? Apparently it is incomprehensible that life could have any meaning or purpose otherwise. How does one even begin to deal with such poverty of the imagination?


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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #8 on: 2006-10-16 11:48:41 »
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Quote from: Blunderov on 2006-10-16 04:06:26   

*Anecdotally, I almost always get the question from theists "How can you handle living without at least some hope of eternal life? Apparently it is incomprehensible that life could have any meaning or purpose otherwise. How does one even begin to deal with such poverty of the imagination?

One possible (and somewhat snarky) answer: "The same way I survive without Santa Claus, I grew up."
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #9 on: 2006-10-16 11:51:48 »
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Quote from: Mo on 2006-10-15 19:10:19   

I think we can reduce God of the gaps down to two rules. 1) Where science has discovered the answer religious explanations are inappropriate.  2) Where science hasn't discovered an answer believe whatever you want.  This doesn't seem retarded or dumb at all.  I think even most committed atheists follow these rules.  They just plug in a different conclusion for #2 than the theist.

This is simply untrue on both accounts. 1) If you already know the answer to how life began (ghod created it), there is no reason to figure it out. 2) Where science hasn't discoverd an answer a committed atheist (being a skeptic) will say they don't know.
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #10 on: 2006-10-20 10:51:03 »
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I don't see dealing with other possible programming so dangerous to mental health as you do, Hermit.  I see it simply as an imaganitive exercise in empathy and vision.  Just because I can imagine the world a certain way for particular context or even just for the pleasure of a good story does not mean in any way that my fundamental orientations to reality have altered.  I can enjoy vampire movies, even watch the DaVinci Code, and not suffer any loss of IQ points.  I don't suddenly believe in supernatural entities if I read or enjoy stories about them.

In any case, even from one atheist to the next, world views can differ considerably.  As Blunderov rightly corrected me, atheism does not have the characteristics of an ideology, and yet atheists have ideologies.  Some transhumanist visions of the world/future contain so much conjecture, that one may wonder whether some less serious cafeteria Catholics aren't operating more practically.  Between, uploading and the rapture, I think my first choice is neither.  But it makes for an interesting discussion to compare the two, and wonder if there isn't some common universal human emotional element at work in both ideas.  To me it all feels like an extra level of alienation, a desire to escape, disengage, etc. that I have no particular use for at this point in my life.  I'll just play SLacker when I feel that urge.
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #11 on: 2006-10-20 12:58:29 »
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Dear Mo

There is a difference between just playing with things, and swallowing them whole. Ask any cocksucker. Have fun but don't drink the kool-aid.

Bear in mind that having fun isn't the point of religion, they are generally speaking wickedly competent at ensnaring people - who are likely to become pissed off and possibly violent - if they ever figure out that you are using them as the mental equivalent of kleenex.

Kind Regards

Hermit

PS I find that Jews and* RSoF come the closest to being rational of the Western religious, but that Catholics, Amish and Mennonites are not far behind (and probably in that order). Most of the new agey feel-goodists (into which I'd put the bulk of the singularitians) are close to certifiable and would benefit from a reality check and medication. Then again, nine out of ten psychiatrists agree: reality is the leading cause of stress for those who are in touch with it[Lily Tomlin].

*I had to retract this. The next thing I read after writing this was this: In Israel, over half of Jewish population supports using torture.
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #12 on: 2006-10-22 23:25:46 »
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I don't see it as having fun so much as learning how to communicate with, or at least understand a person on their terms whatever oddities cloud their vision.  Each person can embrace the Virtues and avoid the Sins, but necessarily come to their realization in the middle of things.  Much of what we "know" is likely false to some significant degree or another.  History certainly backs me up on this.  I reckon that holding these Virtues and Sins will inevitably lead to some idol smashing, but I won't hazard a bet on when, how, and which one first.  That's up to you, the individual involved.  I simply hand you the tools, and wish you well.
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #13 on: 2007-12-11 15:09:58 »
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In the piece, “Artificial God,” Douglass Adams says perhaps religion is like money. Money is artificial. It has no intrinsic value. The value comes entirely from belief. Yet money serves a useful purpose; it’s a much easier way to barter than straight exchange of goods and services. As the Lily Tomlin quote above suggests, reality can be intensely stressful. Belief in the fantastical God can comfort the troubled, inspire compassion. The foxhole believers utilize an anxiety drug with less detrimental side effects than valium.  Perhaps we have use for an Artificial God.

Hermit, all the bad things you articulated in your post above would still be with us if religion were gone. Religious belief flavors despicable behavior, but doesn’t necessarily cause it. Minds are susceptible to programming. Interests exist to exploit those minds. Religious indoctrination is a methodology.

In the barrage of indoctrination messages perpetually spewed from all sources exposed, one will believe what one has the capacity to believe.

With all that said, dogmatic believers bore the bleep out of me. I know the unknowable for what it is, and I’m ok with it.
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I'm neither a scientist nor a scholar. I'm, primarily, an entertainer. That does not invalidate my ideas...but it does make them suspect.
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Re:exploring religious thinking
« Reply #14 on: 2007-12-11 17:35:08 »
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Quote from: Stringy on 2007-12-11 15:09:58   

In the piece, “Artificial God,” Douglass Adams says perhaps religion is like money. Money is artificial. It has no intrinsic value. The value comes entirely from belief. Yet money serves a useful purpose; it’s a much easier way to barter than straight exchange of goods and services. As the Lily Tomlin quote above suggests, reality can be intensely stressful. Belief in the fantastical God can comfort the troubled, inspire compassion. The foxhole believers utilize an anxiety drug with less detrimental side effects than valium.  Perhaps we have use for an Artificial God.

Hermit, all the bad things you articulated in your post above would still be with us if religion were gone. Religious belief flavors despicable behavior, but doesn’t necessarily cause it. Minds are susceptible to programming. Interests exist to exploit those minds. Religious indoctrination is a methodology.

In the barrage of indoctrination messages perpetually spewed from all sources exposed, one will believe what one has the capacity to believe.

With all that said, dogmatic believers bore the bleep out of me. I know the unknowable for what it is, and I’m ok with it.


[Blunderov] Hello Stringy. Welcome - sincerely. You seem a thoughtful sort which is welcome round here.

I don't think it can simply be assumed that in a world with no religion things would be much the same. Religion, IMV, does an immense disservice to humanity by enabling, and enobling, faulty thinking processes. It elevates rationalisation to a sublime art and it makes dissembling a virtue. It is not so much the headline catching religious excesses of whatever stripe that are the main harm IMV; it is this deep corruption  of the most important means humanity has at it's disposal to survive the future - the human intellect - that is devatatinglhto our chances. I don't think it is hard to make the case that a world in which magical thinking had no part would be a world much better equipped to survive and would also be more likely to do so in a just and egalitarian manner.

For the most part I'm inclined to let sleeping dogs lie; if someone is quietly religious and doesn't bother me I'm usually happy to return the compliment. That said, I cannot in all good conscience allow expressions such as "knowing the unknowable" to go unchallenged. What does that mean? Yes there are things we cannot know but "of that which we cannot speak we must necessarily remain silent" as the great man said. We cannot assign "godness" to the unknown just because it is the unknown any more than we can assign the colour blue to it.

Getting back to money, a fascinating subject and one that has long baffled me as my bank balance will testify,  I can't think of anything at all which has intrinsic value. Perhaps this is a failure of the imagination on my part but I strongly suspect that value is something we assign to stuf on the basis of criteria which very much depend on circumstances.

"Nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so" as another great man said. A thing is worth what another person is prepared to accept for it.

Best Regards.
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