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Learning To Respect Religion


GeorgeW
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There is an interesting (at least to me) Op-ed in the NYTimes today by Nicholas Kristoff that touches on various issues discussed in this forum and cites some authors (like Haidt) that have been discussed here as well.

 

http://www.nytimes.c...eligion.html?hp

 

The thesis, I think can be summarized by a quote he cites from a new book titled "Religion for Atheists:"

 

"One can be left cold by the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Buddhist Eightfold Path and yet at the same time be interested in the ways in which religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, make use of art and architecture, inspire travels, train minds and encourage gratitude at the beauty of spring,

 

George

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Interesting. Is this part of the swing back toward some form of spirituality in the void created by our mechanistic view of matter and the universe since Newton and others set us on the current path? It seems to have that flavour about it; a realisation by many that science can only tell us about observed truths, not those truths within us which cannot be "observed" by science. It is the "will to meaning" at work as Viktor Frankl may have said. Maybe.

 

Regards

 

Paul

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Paul,

 

I think it is more of a reaction to the dogmatic, over-the-top, anti-religious proclamations by the very public anti-theists.

 

In essence, I think the message is: Not all religious people are fundamentalists; Not all religious people are simple-minded ignoramuses; And there are some socially redeeming features of religion.

 

George

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A reaction to the bad taste left in the mouth from the nasty tirade pouring from militant atheists in recent years then? So it speaks more to public perception through the media than it does to any social shift in attitude with regard to the spiritual void that the secular "complete faith" in science has unintentionally brought?

 

Regards

 

Paul

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Paul,

 

This is just my take.

 

The loudest and most strident get the most public attention. And, this would be fundamentalists and anti-theists.

 

George

 

The squeeky wheel gets the oil :)

 

Maybe the new atheist movement has had it's day and the general consensus in society is now naturally moderating to a more central position. Maybe the likes of Alain De Botton and Jonathan Haidt are reading the signs well and will sell some books as a consequence, which is a good thing. We need more atheists like these two.

 

Regards

 

Paul

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Maybe the likes of Alain De Botton and Jonathan Haidt are reading the signs well and will sell some books as a consequence, which is a good thing. We need more atheists like these two.

 

I agree.

 

George

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I'm reading Religion for Atheists currently. I'm finding it very interesting and it isn't trying to sell religion in any way, other than to say we could recognise the positive benefits it employed. The author often points out the 'dark side' (my words) of religion and the control mechanisms it implemented as well as the positives.

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Yes, I only heard the TED talk and read about Alain de Botton in Wikipedia but I think that the most accurate description is "presenter and entrepreneur". He wants to sell books. I am sorry, but I think that de Botton and Haidt do not bring anything serious to the discussion. de Botton had no concrete examples of how his ideas could be carried out. He grabbed all these positive cliches about the church - I guess that's why he got a thunderous ovation - and said atheists could be like that or do that without religion, as if - as if he were a prophet!. The comments about education and the church were uninformed - almost silly. Do any of us think that teachers, at least in K-12, don't strive to teach in a way that reaches all modes of learning? The mention of church calendar went nowhere. I didn't any hear specific examples for atheists although I could give a list of non-religious rituals of friends.

 

His book came out in 2011. In 2009 I ran across a thread of atheists discussing charitable giving. In this case which non-profits weren't tainted by religion. There is another group of atheists who have joined an interfaith alliance in their community for the purpose of doing good.

 

OK,OK, His books will do some good. It may encourage others to follow the examples I listed above.

 

quote of his from wiki: 'Religions are in the end too complex, wise and fascinating to be abandoned simply to those who happen actually to believe in them'.

 

Dutch

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It is my opinion that Haidt inherited much of his perspective from the likes of Jung. I am referring here to a body of thought that began to flourish before WW I, WW II, and the large scale genocides of the 20th century. At this time, two models of reality struggled to reach the pinnacle of human thought. There was Freud's "disease" model, which Jung came to reject. Jung, and others, began to ask different questions about God and nature. In general, they began to ask "what makes us well?" The problem, has already been noted .... the large scale negative that came out of two world wars and multiple instances genocide.

 

What I sense in Haidt is summed up in the word "compassion". It is as if Haidt read Whitehead, I do not know if he has or not. According to Whitehead, the destruction of the past can be a very dangerous proceeding. Jung agreed.

 

Myron

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Myron,

 

He talks some in his book about various influences on the field of moral psychology and those who influenced his thinking. He does not mention Jung or Whitehead. Of course, that doesn't mean that there could be no influence on him. He also outlines various schools of thought such as empiricism, nativsim and rationalism.

 

George

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Myron,

 

He talks some in his book about various influences on the field of moral psychology and those who influenced his thinking. He does not mention Jung or Whitehead. Of course, that doesn't mean that there could be no influence on him. He also outlines various schools of thought such as empiricism, nativsim and rationalism.

 

George

 

George,

 

Ah! You found the words, exactly. Beginning with Kant, the idea was to blend empricism and rationalism while preserving the nativism assumed by the rationalists. That same ideal is found in Jung, Whitehead, James, Dewey, etc.

 

Yes, Haidt is in this tradition as is John Searle.

 

You saved me a lot of time, thanks.

 

Myron

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Myron,

 

Haidt calls his view "intuitionism," i.e. our moral judgements are basically intuitive. He says that first our moral intuitions kick in when confronted with a moral issue. Then, if challenged we "post hoc" try to give rational reasons. But, even then, people are often unable to give coherent, rational reasons for their moral judgements.

 

I personally became aware of this years ago when discussing capital punishment with my father (me opposed, him in favor). He said that his reason was deterrence. I informed him that the data does not support that. However, he was still not persuaded. Then, I thought, what if they data were to show that capital punishment was a real deterrent? I realized that this would not have persuaded me to support it. We both had deeper moral intuitions which we were unable to rationalize.

 

I think this is often true in social and political debate. On the surface we argue facts (like stimulus vs. austerity to cure the deficit, cutting or raising taxes, etc.). But, there are deeper values that motivate our position. And, we often cannot articulate these values - they are intuitive.

 

George

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Myron,

 

Haidt calls his view "intuitionism," i.e. our moral judgements are basically intuitive. He says that first our moral intuitions kick in when confronted with a moral issue. Then, if challenged we "post hoc" try to give rational reasons. But, even then, people are often unable to give coherent, rational reasons for their moral judgements.

 

I personally became aware of this years ago when discussing capital punishment with my father (me opposed, him in favor). He said that his reason was deterrence. I informed him that the data does not support that. However, he was still not persuaded. Then, I thought, what if they data were to show that capital punishment was a real deterrent? I realized that this would not have persuaded me to support it. We both had deeper moral intuitions which we were unable to rationalize.

 

I think this is often true in social and political debate. On the surface we argue facts (like stimulus vs. austerity to cure the deficit, cutting or raising taxes, etc.). But, there are deeper values that motivate our position. And, we often cannot articulate these values - they are intuitive.

 

George

 

Yes, agreed. And, the purpose found first in Spinoza, then in Kant, and then in Whitehead formed the original progressive (Christian) movement.

 

If I might, let me say this ... why not find a means for people to "articulate" ... the question being the supremacy of the "means" or the supremacy of the "articulation".

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are some excellent points here.

 

I have to wonder if people's seeminly renewed interest in religion has to do with what's happening in the world? A professor told me once that the birth of a child, severe illness, or fear are common causes of increase in religious interest, or at least curiosity. I'm not saying that it's true, but it's certainly interesting. I can attest to it in my own self, anyway. Is it possible that with the world as it is right now, people are less comfortable assuming there is nothing more than this?

 

My friends I used to joke about how religious people got on the Y&R as soon as someone was on their deathbed. The rest of the time, life as usual!

 

The problem with both fundamentalists and rabid athiests/antitheists is that they are typically a minority but are loudest, wildest, and make for better newsclips. People who take the middle path, whatever their religion or non-religion, don't make the evening news. Everyone gets lumped in together, which isn't fair or accurate.

 

Perhaps, when talking to atheists/anti-theists, the focus ought to be less on "religion" and more on "faith." Religion is man-made, and is flawed. Faith is spiritually-made, too individual to be considered "flawed." The very word "religion" can make people defensive and angry. "Faith" is fluid, and personal.

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Another voice in defense of institutional religion: Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat.

 

If interested, there is a review here:

http://www.nytimes.c...ristianity.html

 

Or an interview with the author here:

http://thedianerehms...nation-heretics

 

He takes on both the left (individualistic, "narcissistic," spiritual) and right (fundamentalists & prosperity theology) and makes a defense of the church as an institution. His analysis of why mainline religion is on the decline is interesting (based on the review and interview; I haven't read the book). He attributes it in part to partisan politics leaking into religion (e.g. Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson, preachers and politicians).

 

George

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