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Rants / Debates (Serious) > Religion just fucks things up (or does it?!!) > read and decide > the very interesting discussion :)

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message 1: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Hours and hours of time being wasted debating whether President Obama is a muslim or a christian.

People screaming at each other and worrying about a muslim group wanting to build a community center in Manhattan. Would they be upset if it were a YMCA?

Asshats trying to convince people that the founding documents of the U.S.A. were based on christian principles.

Gay marriage opposed because an invisible asshole in the sky might not like it. Besides, it's icky, right?

Fuck religion.

Now ask me and maybe I'll tell you what I really think.


message 2: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments Heh. Now, I understand the frustration and sentiment, but I don't think religion always fucks things up.

I'll use my "go to" example here. I work for a Catholic Franciscan institution that was started by nuns who wanted to make a difference in the world. Without religion they may not have formed an order, banded together, and impacted the poor of Milwaukee so positively over decades. I'm proud to follow the tradition of such strong, dedicated religious women.

That said, I agree with you about the mosque issue, and I agree that religion can and has been used as the rationale for endless examples of tragic behavior.

I like Phil's post. That's the spirit. Let's not fuck around. Get it out there!

Also, Phil lives in Utah, and I'd probably hate religion if I lived in Utah, too.


Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) It's not the religion, it's the person practicing the religion. You'll find good and bad representations of people from all walks of life.

I completely understand your need to vent though.


message 4: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments RandomAnthony wrote: "HAlso, Phil lives in Utah, and I'd probably hate religion if I lived in Utah, too. "

:-)


Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) I couldn't live in Utah. NO clue how you do it.


message 6: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments I vent a lot.


message 7: by Jaimie (new)

Jaimie (jez476) | 664 comments I have in-laws in Utah and we won't even go to visit.

I feel your frustration, Phil!


message 8: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Yeah, I think it works both ways. In most religions there's a call to action to "make things better," and depending on where one puts the emphasis (and all sorts of other psychological matters too) people can do good or do harm. Many people I've known involved in any kind of justice action/health care/social work are there because of a religious motivation, and until recently, most hospitals were started by religious organizations. As far as I know, the number one and two charities in the US are Catholic Charities and Lutheran Charities.
Also I'm the daughter of a minister and he was great. He was motivated by love and most of the people I grew up with in church were the same way. I no longer believe, but I'm not traumatized or anything. I know there is a lot of good there.

However, I'm as sick as it's possible to be of people using it as an excues to be hateful, judgmental, trying to control other people's lives, and who are just plain scared to live and use their brains. Fuck that, absolutely.


message 9: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Badly worded penultimate sentence, but I guess the meaning is clear.


message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Great use of "penultimate," Rebecca.


message 11: by Carol (new)

Carol | 1679 comments I'm definitely on the Phil side of this. I can hardly express myself without snark. Can't the kind, good-deed doers form groups that don't involve a religion? Aren't we past trying to explain life's little mysteries with blind faith?


Jackie "the Librarian" | 8993 comments I'm the daughter of a minister, too, and it bugs me how so often Jesus' message of "love one another" gets completely forgotten by some groups that say they are Christian.

I don't recall Jesus EVER saying, "judge and hate those people because they are different."


message 13: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Rebecca wrote: "As far as I know, the number one and two charities in the US are Catholic Charities and Lutheran Charities."

And every one of those you could name is just as happy to take MY money as that of a believer. Most also accept taxpayer money. The name of the charity says nothing about the source of funding.

Some non religion-based charities and do-good organizations (happy, of course, to accept donations from believers):

American Red Cross
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Amnesty International
UNICEF
Planned Parenthood
Doctors Without Borders
GLAAD


message 14: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) Jackie "the Librarian" wrote: "I'm the daughter of a minister, too, and it bugs me how so often Jesus' message of "love one another" gets completely forgotten by some groups that say they are Christian.

I don't recall Jesus EVER saying, "judge and hate those people because they are different."


I agree. There are way too many human beings who will twist anything to serve their own selfish purposes.


message 15: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Phil wrote: "Rebecca wrote: "As far as I know, the number one and two charities in the US are Catholic Charities and Lutheran Charities."

And every one of those you could name is just as happy to take MY money..."


Well, sure. Is that supposed to be a bad thing? They don't see themselves as your enemy, especially if you want to help them in their work.

I'm not quite sure of the point of listing all those other very good organizations. Of course I'm aware they exist, and good work is good work. But that doesn't contradict anything I said. Being quite sleepy I'm not going to take the time to look up why The Red Cross is The Red Cross, but it's a good question. And I think you might be surprised how much it would affect those organizations if you removed the people who felt religiously motivated to take part, even Planned Parenthood and GLAAD. That's part of the trickiness of the liberal religious - they don't have any problem doing things through secular organizations.


message 16: by Phil (last edited Aug 20, 2010 10:32PM) (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Perhaps I was reading too much into your earlier comment. I interpreted it to mean that religion is good because religious organizations are capable of giving to good causes. My list of secular organizations doing the same was meant to demonstrate that religion is not necessary for good deeds to be done.

Some people do good only because it earns brownie points with their deity? That seems fucked up.


message 17: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24154 comments Mod
Phil wrote: "Some people do good only because it earns brownie points with their deity? That seems fucked up. "

This is a strange conclusion to draw about motivations.

When religious people act to help others, it's because their faith and beliefs (including the examples set by Jesus or whoever else they look to) inspire them to do so.


message 18: by Jonathan (last edited Aug 20, 2010 11:08PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments I've often heard, and it may be true, that I live in the zip code with the highest percentage of atheists in the country.

So I've been involved with enough discussions of this general type to know that I probably shouldn't wade into this one...but here goes. I am a Christian.

What does this mean?

Well, this does not mean that I personally am to blame for the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the persecution of Galileo, or anything that Glenn Beck has ever said on any subject.

Likewise, it does not mean that I personally deserve credit for the music of Bach, the poetry of Milton, or the artworks of Michelangelo--although those things all derive directly from Christianity too (a fact that often gets lost in anti-religious rants).

I do not think that being a Christian makes me a better person than my atheist neighbors.

But I do think that being a Christian makes me a better person than I would otherwise be--better to my wife, to my family, to my colleagues, and even to strangers.

So, what I'm saying is that I disagree with the basic premise of the thread. There's a lot of bad things that get said and done in the name of religion, but that doesn't discredit faith, in my opinion, nor does it mean, as Christopher Hitchens put it, "God is Not Good." The idea just doesn't hold up for me.


message 19: by Stacia (the 2010 club) (last edited Aug 20, 2010 11:16PM) (new)

Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) Nice post Jonathan.

I understand not always wanting to wade into the discussion. Sometimes getting on the merry go round of this topic goes nowhere and achieves nothing. I'm a Christian myself (even though I'm not always the best representation of it with my crude behavior). All I can say is that you have to make the walk a personal thing and not let what others think affect you, even when it can be hurtful. If people really know you, and can feel that you are sincere, then they'll understand why it's important to you. Sometimes Christians forget that the reason for choosing the faith is to get to know their maker, not to impose their rules on others.

There will always be extremists misrepresenting their faith - from all religions. That's why I fully understand the rant of the original poster. There's a lot of people out there doing bad things in the name of a religion or a god.

And yes, I'd have a hard time living in Utah. Not because I have anything personal against Mormons (or any other denomination or religion for that matter), I just don't want to be preached at when I'm only trying to buy groceries and get the heck out of the store.


message 20: by Sandy (last edited Aug 21, 2010 12:46AM) (new)

Sandy Hyatt-James (sandyhyatt-james) It's isn't religions that are the problem. It's some of the nasty purveyors of them that are. Most world religions have peaceful philosophies at their foundations.
Although an atheist myself, I feel sorry for deeply Christian women in my country (England) who are deemed unfit to be in the clergy. What an insult, to have your parishioners decamp, for no other reason than that you're a woman,and then go and find somewhere else, that has a male vicar.


message 21: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Just for the record, I lived in Utah for two years as a non-member of the dominant religion -- and I was never "preached to" in the grocery store or anywhere else, for that matter. In my life I've found Southern Baptists in Texas to be far more judgmental and narrow-minded than most of the people I came to know in Utah.


message 22: by ms.petra (new)

ms.petra (mspetra) Thank you Jonathan for being so eloquent. I see why you are an author. I agree, my faith helps me become a better person. As I get older I realize why people say not to discuss politics or religion at a cocktail party...but I never really listen to what I should/shouldn't do. That being said, I have been interested in religion my entire life. I was not raised by religious parents and I was fascinated by the devotion practiced by classmates and friends but never quite got it myself. I took religious studies classes to learn about different faiths, as if I were researching buying a new car. I always practiced "the golden rule," but it was not until I faced several personal crisis as an adult that I realized the value of having a faith to guide me. I converted to Catholicism as an adult because I wanted my daughter to be something and I loved the churches, tradition, and fellowship. I would say I am a spiritual person, even if I am not a regular attendee at mass. My biggest problem with organized religion is that it seems to be all about the money. I see the televangelist in a $1000 suit or a priest driving a fine car and it really makes me ill. I think about someone like Mother Theresa and all she accomplished and that is amazing. Imagine what she could have done with some money. Unfortunately in today's world many have handed over charity to the government and religion has just become another big business.


message 23: by Mary JL (new)

Mary JL (maryjl) | 250 comments One size does not fit all. There are thousands of Christians in most large cities. Are they all the same? Unlikely, don't you think?

Sure, some Christinas are pushy, judgemental, mean and so on. And of course, some are not. And in this paragraph, you could substitute any group name---business owners, atheist, student---and it would be true.

You cannot give a blanket statement about ALL Christinas, anymore than I could type "All college students abuse alcohol". If I said that, I would be accused of being inaccurate, as it obviously is not true.

Christians, like any any group, is made up of individuals. The fact that some--maybe even many--Christinas--may be intolerant does not invalidate Christianity as a whole.


message 24: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen | 7087 comments Phil wrote: "Perhaps I was reading too much into your earlier comment. I interpreted it to mean that religion is good because religious organizations are capable of giving to good causes. My list of secular o..."

I grew up Lutheran, and am now married to a Catholic. One difference, as I understand it, is Lutherans believe you can get in to heaven through good works. Catholics are more into trusting in the kindness of a loving god who will forgive us if we haven't always made good choices.

In Lutheran Sunday School, we used to argue with the teacher about the Lutheran church's belief that an unbaptized infant will not get into heaven. Catholics are genuinely shocked at this idea. While they endorse baptism, it is not required for an innocent infant to enter heaven. In my opinion, Lutherans are way too wedded to the idea that we are born "black with sin."


message 25: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Jonathan wrote: "But I do think that being a Christian makes me a better person than I would otherwise be--better to my wife, to my family, to my colleagues, and even to strangers."

How does that work, exactly (no sarcasm, just a question)? Are you saying that without christianity you would do horrible things? If you found out tomorrow that god is fiction, would you turn into someone else?


message 26: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 79 comments What was it Stephen Weinberg said, "Good people do good things and bad people do bad things, but it takes religion to make good people do bad things"? Replace the word 'religion' with 'dogma', i think, but otherwise a fair point.The fact that people can use a belief system so readily to justify they're prejudices and crimes says a lot.

While i think there are some people (very, very few in my opinion) who have been turned round by religion, most people who do good works and say it is because of their faith would do that anyway. And if someone is doing good BECAUSE they either expect reward or fear punishment after they are dead then this does devalue it, although the good effect is still there, and often the good they are doing is tainted - i refuse to give to religious charities because of those who use some of the funds to proselytise.


message 27: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Phil wrote: "How does that work, exactly (no sarcasm, just a question)? Are you saying that without christianity you would do horrible things? If you found out tomorrow that god is fiction, would you turn into someone else? ..."

It just means that reading and thinking about the Bible have affected who I am in ways that are dearly important to me and that have enriched my experience of life more than I could hope to express. In some ways, that may sound like an abstract and complicated idea, but to me it actually seems very simple.

The "without Christianity would you do horrible things" question is great and interesting--it made me smile--but unfortunately I don't have some dramatic conversion story to offer like John Donne or St. Augustine, so I don't really have a valid point of comparison from which to speculate about my possibly regrettable and scandalous behavior in such a hypothetical scenario.

The idea of God being "revealed as a fiction" is a little melodramatic, I think. "God" doesn't seem to me like a matter readily proved or disproved, at least not the way I think of these things.

But maybe I could answer your question this way: if I were suddenly to wake up one day with a radically different conception of the entire world and everything in it--alpha to omega--then I would inevitably be a changed person. But that would probably be true for most people, wouldn't it?


message 28: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Barb wrote: "The "without Christianity would you do horrible things" question is great and interesting--it made me smile"

That question came to mind because of a discussion I had with some sister missionaries about five years ago. When they found out that I do not believe in any deity, they asked me, "If you don't believe in god, what makes you do good things in your life?"

To me, the implication seemed to be that if they did not fear big brother, they would act out in all sorts of inappropriate ways.

Odd thought, that, and thus my question to you.


message 29: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24154 comments Mod
I will pray for you, Phil.


message 30: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Lobstergirl wrote: "I will pray for you, Phil."

I don't believe you said that.


message 31: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24154 comments Mod
Oh ye of little faith, Larry.


message 32: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Barb wrote: "Fuck being a good Christian, how about just being a good person."

Barb, I totally get that you don't like intolerant, small-minded bigots and/or ideologues who say and do wretched things in the name of religion. And I get that Phil doesn’t care for such people either. I’m with you both on that.

It’s the other parts that I don’t get: Phil’s idea that religion itself is an awful thing (which I took for hyperbole at first, but now I’m thinking was meant more or less literally) and your idea that a person who has arrived at good values through religion ought to just dump the religion and keep the values that he or she has derived from it.

I mean this question sincerely and not in a hostile way at all: Would you advise that a good, decent person who was raised in, for instance, a Lutheran household--a person whose values, identity, and sense of self are wrapped up in an identification with, say, a Swedish, Lutheran, Minnesota heritage--just forget about all of that background? And if so, why?

My problem with this is that I honestly don’t see where the harm is in someone acknowledging that his or her values have been shaped by being part of a religious tradition, so long as those values are enriching, humane, and productive. By the way, I’m very into cultural history and the history of ideas in general, not only religion, so the concept of not caring about why people are as they are, or how they got to be the way they are, seems very alien to me.


message 33: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "I will pray for you, Phil."

Thank you.


message 34: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Lobstergirl wrote: "Oh ye of little faith, Larry."

What could you possibly know about my faith?


message 35: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Jonathan wrote: "It’s the other parts that I don’t get: Phil’s idea that religion itself is an awful thing (which I took for hyperbole at first, but now I’m thinking was meant more or less literally)"

I think there are many reasons to call religion an awful thing. There are the countless inhumane things done throughout history in the name of religion; there are the lives ruined and families torn apart by religion (homosexuals ostracized by family, children being disowned for this, that or the other); there is the inherent self-righteousness of those who believe their god is better than your god, and you'll burn in hell for eternity; there are the exploiters who use the innocence of others to enrich themselves via the "I am the only path to god" line.

Religion is one more way to separate people into different camps to divide them against each other. It is also a way to end any discussion or exploration of how (or why) things work simply by declaring that "god did it, and we're not meant to know." Science, schmience. Ignorance is bliss, dontcha know.


message 36: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24154 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "Lobstergirl wrote: "Oh ye of little faith, Larry."

What could you possibly know about my faith?"


You said "I don't believe you said that." My response was a play on words: believe/belief/faith...

Tongue in cheek.


message 37: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Hee I knew that. :)


message 38: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24154 comments Mod
Phil wrote: "Jonathan wrote: "It’s the other parts that I don’t get: Phil’s idea that religion itself is an awful thing (which I took for hyperbole at first, but now I’m thinking was meant more or less literall..."

Without religious groups in America, we wouldn't have had an Abolition movement. Without Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, how far would civil rights have gotten.


message 39: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24154 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "Hee I knew that. :)"

So you're a master baiter....


message 40: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Oh my.


message 41: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Religious zealots of any stripe get on my nerves very quickly. It seems to be all about ego and control, and not about peace and love.

I heard a quote on the news recently from a woman who was decrying the Ground Zero Mosque brouhaha. She said, "They're trying to take Jesus out of everything these days. Can't even pray in public anywhere anymore. It's just not right."

It just seems to me that if Jesus were all-seeing and all-powerful, he would be able to stand his ground on this issue without a problem, and wouldn't be too concerned about where a community center would be built.


message 42: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) It's true. All Joes are not jerks.


message 43: by Félix (last edited Aug 21, 2010 08:12PM) (new)

Félix (habitseven) I know a couple, maybe. And all jerks are not named Joe. Some are named Fred.


message 44: by Félix (last edited Aug 21, 2010 08:20PM) (new)

Félix (habitseven) I find that jerks by any name are commonly just misunderstood by those who call them jerks. When you come across a jerk named Joe who's a religious zealot, it's like a perfect storm.


message 45: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "Without religious groups in America, we wouldn't have had an Abolition movement. Without Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, how far would civil rights have gotten."

We'll never know. But we can't say these things would not have happened.


message 46: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11628 comments BunWat wrote: "Once again we arrive at the place where the opponents of religion shadow box with the straw man, and the defenders of religion point out that it is a straw man and no one is convinced.

Because ..."


See above, wherein I stated, "Religion is one more way to separate people into different camps to divide them against each other."

How many ways do we need? This one is especially powerful because of the (assumed) eternal consequences and the pure emotional nature of it.

Remove religion from the equation and haters will have to find some other emotional hook to gain followers (or power, or cash).


message 47: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Haters are pretty resourceful that way, I find.


message 48: by Jonathan (last edited Aug 21, 2010 08:42PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Phil wrote: "There are the countless inhumane things done throughout history in the name of religion; there are the lives ruined and families torn apart by religion..."

That's all true. But to some extent I think you're objecting to the sustained rottenness of much of human history. And I'm not sure that if you were to take religion out of the equation you would get an appreciably prettier picture. Although the use of pure atheism as a pillar of the social contract has only a very limited track record, the results are not especially promising. Consider Stalinist Russia, for instance.

In any event, just from a historical standpoint, in the past, as today, religion was often the lens through which people saw their world. And the moral record of all this is fascinatingly equivocal.

During the era of slavery in the US, there were theologians in the South who justified human bondage on the basis of supposed--and I think everyone would now agree, spurious--biblical principles. Yet the most powerful voices of the Abolitionist movement in the North were ministers like Henry Ward Beecher, who justified emancipation, likewise, on the authority of scripture.

With regard to religion being a call to scientific ignorance and cultural backwardness, I'm sorry, but that's an invidious caricature. Although it accurately describes a very small number of persons who make noise on certain school boards, to paint all people of all faiths as inherently shallow and dumb is not a sound or defensible line of argument.

It's also not an especially comprehensive view from a historical standpoint: Newton wrote vastly more during the course of his long life about religion than about physics. He didn't find the two subjects incompatible at all. (Of course, his writings on physics are important and what he said about religion pretty forgettable..)

Anyway, I can understand that you are an atheist, Phil. I know many, and we get along just fine.

What seems strange to me, however, is that you think people like me, who aren't atheists, are stinking up your neighborhood. Isn't that awfully similar to the self-righteous attitude you are objecting to in others? Or is there a nuance that I'm missing? Maybe you're the world's first Puritan, fundamentalist atheist...

[Edited to add: Sorry, I see now that while I was composing this BunWat and Lobstergirl made many of the same points...and more succinctly.]


message 49: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Custard ... isn't that French?


message 50: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Anyone who hates mayonnaise is a friend of mine.


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