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Is there any reason, any religion should still exist?

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Anuj brings up this question in Objectivism and Buddhism asking "Is there any reason, any religion should still exist?"

 

Let me preface this with some listening materials available on ARI that a search on "religion" produces.

I've listened to Religion vs. Man by John Ridpath. He looks at the three religions of the west as well as several from the east.

 

His answer to this question as I paraphrase it from his presentation:

 

God or religion arises whenever there are questions that seem to be unanswerable.

 

In the face of secular answers that have been provided historically, what remains of religion has "evolved" to "survive" in an ever changing intellectual landscape. From a principled on principle approach Creationism in Camouflage: The "Intelligent Design" Deception by Keith Lockitch looks at this trend. Again, paraphrasing an overview:

 

In this sense, religion still exists because it is adapting itself to the changes taking place around it.

 

 

Here are some supplemental materials on the ideas of Aristotle and their impact on religion in the past:

More encouragingly, investigations into the The Foundations of the Renaissance by Andrew Lewis trace the relatively unknown Aristotle in the declining years of the Greek city/state, the spread of classical culture by the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, thru the Hellenistic lead-in to the Dark and Middle Ages. The discovery of Aristotle by the Muslims in conjunction with Ayn Rand's radical notion of how ideas shape history, are plausibly responsible for the Golden Age of Islam. By the time Christianity discovered two of Aristotle's works, the bubonic plague had passed and the church and feudal lords encouraged literacy.

 

Hungry minds devoured these works, perhaps setting the stage for what happened next after the crusades brought the discovery of more of Aristotle's works as well as study guides back from their encounters with the Muslims.

 

Here's another search of ARI on "Aristotle".

From these, Aristotle For Objectivists and Aristotle and the Renaissance by Robert Meyhew, as well as Aristotle's Theory of Knowledge by Greg Salmieri give some nice overviews for individuals interested in such topics.

 

 

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Indoctrination of children by parents and care givers, school teachers etc. during the formative years of cognition subvert the natural inclination toward reason and understanding from experience i.e. reality, and replace it with a predisposition for evasion, mysticism, and emotionalism as adolescents and adults.. from which only a few escape, many of which are on this forum.

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Religion has given us some wonderful buildings, and somebody has to pay for the upkeep.  It has given us wonderful music, too, but secular organizations do a good job of maintaining it.

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@ StrictlyLogical: I would have to add the reinforcement of the described predisposition by radio and television and popular print publications.

 

@ Reidy: That's a novel approach to regarding it. Imagine the Gideon Bible being replaced by Atlas Shrugged on the hotel nightstand as a source of spiritual inspiration for the weary traveler. 

Edited by dream_weaver

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Thank you Weaver, as I myself wanted to create a separate topic on this.

 

I think even in this forum we have members (especially new and perhaps some old) who appreciate religious philosophy. This very question popped up to me while reading one of DA's recent posts. Therefore, some of the questions I think this topic should seek answers for are:

  1. Is there any question that religion can answer that Objectivism can not ?
  2. Is there any way religion can still be beneficial to the world ?
  3. Do you (Objectivists) still hold any religious beliefs ? If so, why and does it help ?

Until I read The Atlas Shrugged, I personally had been agnostic and perhaps too lazy to read any scriptures even though my family follows Jainism. I remember the part about Live and Let Live, which i like though.

Edited by Anuj

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Personally, I look forward to the day that religion is merely a matter of historical reference. In today's "politically correct" environment, educating children about history, science, (and I hope one day philosophy becomes a part of the complete education) or even establishing norms of social conduct, the hazards of offending the religiously defensive are many. Religion should be understood for its historical significance. I grew up having spent eight years in a Catholic school, and, in contrast to many people I've met, including many Christians, I believe I have a better understanding of Christianity as a Western institution. But institutions undergo changes, be they reformed or fade into insignificance. I'd like to thank Nicky (Objectivism and Budhism, post #34) for the suggestion that the Vatican be transformed into a sort of theme park. It wouldn't that different from Aboriginal Americans performing their native dances in full costume. And I'd like to thank Anuj for initiating this discussion, (although I know he tends to disapprove of any openly disrespectful expressions against religions.) And I wish to acknowledge the late-great George Carlin, for his irreverent lecture: "I Used to be an Irish-Catholic," from the Class Clown album.

He and many other irreligious satirists helped to reenforce my own childhood doubts about the "one true faith" and to encouraging a life of rational thought. Edited by Repairman

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Thank you Weaver, as I myself wanted to create a separate topic on this.

 

I think even in this forum we have members (especially new and perhaps some old) who appreciate religious philosophy. This very question popped up to me while reading one of DA's recent posts. Therefore, some of the questions I think this topic should seek answers for are:

  1. Is there any question that religion can answer that Objectivism can not ?
  2. Is there any way religion can still be beneficial to the world ?
  3. Do you (Objectivists) still hold any religious beliefs ? If so, why and does it help ?

Until I read The Atlas Shrugged, I personally had been agnostic and perhaps too lazy to read any scriptures even though my family follows Jainism. I remember the part about Live and Let Live, which i like though.

You're most certainly welcome.

 

Religious philosophy intrigues me in-so-far as it is still philosophy, i.e., a power from which no man may escape. Still, StrictlyLogical suggests that there are some here who have escaped from the clutches of religion, I would submit, though, not from the power of philosophy. Religare (relegere) has an etymology that was teased out in Ridpath's Religion vs. Man fits with the notions of: to bind or bind fast, as well as to re-read. Philosophy strikes as a deeper investigation. Philosophy asks what is it to bind. What lies behind or underneath the binding process.

 

To take your three questions under this consideration

1. Are there questions religion has addressed (note, not answered) which Objectivism has not? I would submit yes.

2. Is there any way religion can be beneficial to the world? — Can a wrong approach serve to contrast or augment a right approach? i.e., be beneficial?

3. If the distinguishing characteristic of a religious belief is the use of faith in the acceptance of a credo, I would submit no. A religious belief would serve as a hindrance to the reliance on reason as the sole means of knowledge, while trying to substitute faith in its stead.

 

Atlas Shrugged came significantly later in my exposure to Objectivist literature. It is only as of late that I am gaining an appreciation for some of the more subtle intricacies of Miss Rand's nuances.

Edited by dream_weaver

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To take your three questions under this consideration

1. Are there questions religion has addressed (note, not answered) which Objectivism has not? I would submit yes.

2. Is there any way religion can be beneficial to the world? — Can a wrong approach serve to contrast or augment a right approach? i.e., be beneficial?

3. If the distinguishing characteristic of a religious belief is the use of faith in the acceptance of a credo, I would submit no. A religious belief would serve as a hindrance to the reliance on reason as the sole means of knowledge, while trying to substitute faith in its stead.

 

  1. Could you share what those are? 
  2. Yes, of-course! When you have two or more alternatives, it is wise to look at both the rights and the wrongs of each. In the topic Objectivism and Buddhism, there was a reason pointed out that Kids would be more rebellious if it were not for Religion. If there is any truth to that statement wouldn't you rather preach a mix of religious philosophy and Objectivism to your kids. 
  3. I agree. 

P.S. : I personally would rather let my kids be rebellious than preach something that I do not accept. 

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I understand this is a diversion...

 

... there was a reason pointed out that Kids would be more rebellious if it were not for Religion....

Personally, I worry that my kid is not rebellious enough. I can understand a kid hiding much of the rebellion from their parents, but when growing up I knew some kids who just weren't rebellious in thought. They seemed to be little mirrors of their parents' conservatism. It made me retch then, and now I pity them. 

 

Still, I doubt there is a link between religion an a lack of rebellion.

Edited by softwareNerd

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Still, I doubt there is a link between religion an a lack of rebellion.

If anything, it's the opposite. Of all the kids, I think I was the longest holdout at my conservative childhood church, which was made up for in intensity later. Then, look at pastors' kids!

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"Is there any question that religion can answer that Objectivism can not ?" ~ Anuj

 

No, but religion can make you feel better about the answer, or worse depending...

 
Do you enjoy doing math?   Does it give you peace of mind to know that every time you add 1 + 1 you will arrive at 2??  Religion avoids math anxiety by working the problem backwards.  Religion provides the answer (revealed) and then explains how to get there (ritual).

 
How often have you heard a religious person say, "Everthing happens for a reason"?  That statement gains potency when times are hard.  A Creator creates order, and that provides a great deal of comfort in uncertain times.  Do you know why the heretic is so despised?  Because he is the greatest threat to an orderly universe.

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Still, I doubt there is a link between religion an a lack of rebellion.

 

 

 

Theistic religions are built on the existence of an all-powerful and all-knowing 'God'; who has to be respected and obeyed. Religious parents instill fear in their kids by stating if you do good and live a virtuous life you would go to 'Swarga' (heaven). But if you sin, 'Naraka' (hell) will be your afterlife.

 

Though I understand that there may be various other factors, I think if you remove religion from the equation, comparatively one may nurture a more courageous child. Perhaps a rational one too, if the concept of life as the most important 'value' is well understood.

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Though I understand that there may be various other factors, I think if you remove religion from the equation, comparatively one may nurture a more courageous child. Perhaps a rational one too, if the concept of life as the most important 'value' is well understood.

I'm not sure about either of those things, in net, over time. Using myself as an example, I'm both courageous and rational. I still have remnants of rational*ism*, but that seems to exist in plenty of types of people, not just those with conservative Christian upbringings, like myself.

But, both those things are different than rebellion, which is more about independent thinking without regard for authoritative influences.

Also, I don't think religion ruins understanding of "the value of life" for kids, either. All kids pretty much just play and do whatever they want. If they then make it out of their teen years with a certain amount of independent thinking, that prior childhood playing will inform "value of life" for them -- not some explicit lessons from religion, or outside of religion.

Personally, I think the biggest damage religion inflicts is on how a person thinks. The notion that someone is watching over you at all times has vast implications on inner thought -- problem solving, value choices, assigned importance on different life events, perceived self-efficacy, etc. etc. etc.

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I think that it would be beneficial to first define “religion” and be clear on the meaning before an answer to the question of “Is there any reason, any religion should still exist?” can be found.

 

As a starting point, the definition of religion, per Merriam-Webster, can be: as an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.

 

Based on this definition with the belief in gods, it may be simple to answer the question by making an argument that gods do not exist and therefore the belief in gods is not rational and since religion stems from a belief in gods, religion is not rational and therefore there is no reason any religion should still exist.

 

However, it has been theorized that religion arose out of a human need to understand the world in which we live. Religion provided, and provides, explanations for those things that humans did and do not understand e.g. thunder is the noise that Thor’s chariot makes as he rides into battle and a person goes to paradise after death if they accept Jesus.  If you accept the religious beliefs then you have your understanding thus fulfilling your need and the world became a less confusing and therefore better (maybe) place to live.

 

Based on this, the definition of religion may need to be expanded to something like: religion is the acceptance of something as existing, as true, and/or as correct without the ability to prove and/or explain why or how the something exists, is true, and/or is correct. Or in other words: religion is a faith in something.

 

If this is the case, then it becomes much more difficult to answer the question of whether there is any reason any religion should still exist. If religion provides people with an understanding of the world that they desire/need, then it could be argued that that is a reason that religion should exist.

 

Now some might argue at this point that there is no reason that any religion should exist because science and philosophy can provide an understanding of the world without faith. However, I do not think that this is the case and I think that religion, based on the expanded definition, does and should exist.

 

Based on the expanded definition of religion, faith in anything is a religion and anyone can follow that religion. There does not have to be a deity, or rituals, or places of worship, in order to have faith. All that is required is that one cannot prove or explain an understating of that which they consider to be true and/or correct.

 

The reason I think there is a need for religion is because the bulk of human knowledge, either an individual’s knowledge or the collective knowledge of the human race, is built on steps, that is one piece of knowledge is built upon another or: A leads to B which leads to C which leads to D. I recognize that the accumulation of knowledge is not always linear, e.g. the knowledge of how to build a fire came before the knowledge of the chemical process of fire, but, in general, it appears that knowledge is built on steps.

 

So at this point, it appears that religion, based on the expanded definition, is all around us and many, if not all, people practice religion in one form or another. You may understand and be able to explain everything about D and know that D is true and correct based on your experiences or whatever, but if you do not also understand and cannot explain everything about C, B, and A, then what you have is faith that C, B, and A are correct, and therefore you follow a religion.

 

Now there is not necessarily anything wrong with this. It is possible that due to lack of time, or motivation, or intellectual capacity, or some other reason, you are not able to understand or explain everything about C, B, A. This does not necessarily mean that D is not correct or true, rather it just means that you have, and need, faith in C, B, and A. For example, I know from personal experience that if my car is running properly it will get me down the road, this would be D. I do not know and cannot explain the mechanics and physics and everything else about why my car get me down road, that is C, B, and A. So I have faith that C, B, and A are true and correct therefore follow a religion.  

 

So back to the question of is there any reason any religion should still exist. If we accept the expanded definition of religion above, then the answer is yes. Religion needs to exist because you, the individual, with all of the limitations of a human, finite time, finite energy, etc., has and needs to have faith in things and therefore you have religion.

 

Of course, another definition of religion could produce an entirely different answer.

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No, but religion can make you feel better about the answer, or worse depending...

...on whether or not the person has built up his entire existence around a set of lies which can be "validated" for him in a compartmentalized fashion with complimentary religious lies.

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"Is there any way religion can still be beneficial to the world ?" ~ Anuj

 
Yes, of course.  Art, architecture, charity, literacy and the preservation of historical literature, are its most obvious beneficial contributions to the world.  But religion must be divorced from politics; specifically, religion must be disarmed.

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So back to the question of is there any reason any religion should still exist. If we accept the expanded definition of religion above, then the answer is yes. Religion needs to exist because you, the individual, with all of the limitations of a human, finite time, finite energy, etc., has and needs to have faith in things and therefore you have religion.

No human has a *need* to "have faith." If this isn't the opposite of Objectivism, I don't know what is. Humans have a literal need operate on no faith, in order to navigate the world around them.

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"Is there any way religion can still be beneficial to the world ?" ~ Anuj

Yes, of course. Art, architecture, charity, literacy and the preservation of historical literature, are its most obvious beneficial contributions to the world. But religion must be divorced from politics; specifically, religion must be disarmed.

Anything religion can do, *non*-religion can do better.

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It is possible that due to lack of time, or motivation, or intellectual capacity, or some other reason, you are not able to understand or explain everything about C, B, A. This does not necessarily mean that D is not correct or true, rather it just means that you have, and need, faith in C, B, and A. For example, I know from personal experience that if my car is running properly it will get me down the road, this would be D. I do not know and cannot explain the mechanics and physics and everything else about why my car get me down road, that is C, B, and A. So I have faith that C, B, and A are true and correct therefore follow a religion.  

 

Firstly, I would argue that "all religion is faith" but "all faith is not necessarily religion".

 

Secondly, the knowledge about how a car operates may be only necessary for car manufacturers and mechanics. It is sufficient for me to observe (observed knowledge) or know (learnt knowledge) that not baking powder but cement is used to build a wall. But it is not necessary depending on my profession to know why cement is adhesive. 

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"Do you (Objectivists) still hold any religious beliefs ? If so, why and does it help ?" ~ Anuj

 
LOL, there's an invitation to enter the lions' den.  I'll pass, except to make the general observation that a disinclination towards murder, theft, falsehoods and breach of contract makes it possible to agree on rules, if not methods, of acting as traders in a free market.

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... Humans have a literal need operate on no faith, in order to navigate the world around them.

 

And yet here we are, having apparently survived your literal need for millennia, continuing to be fruitful and multiply.  Just dumb luck I guess :P

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And yet here we are, having apparently survived your literal need for millennia, continuing to be fruitful and multiply. Just dumb luck I guess :P

I'm going to take this as a joke.

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Motivation, reason, and morality need not be based on faith. Regarding the operational understanding of one's car, the safety of the food and water we consumer, or the explanation of evolutionary biology, there are experts who can provide detailed, accurate, and honest explanations, if we need them. Generally, we do not need them, and we proceed through life with the expectation that the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit of the plane we travel in meets all the necessary qualification, and values life. And that the guy driving toward you at a rate of 60mph will stay in his/her lane, because he/she values life. And that the doctor knows what he/she is doing. Yet, it is a gamble; most of us every day are playing the odds, and most of us are winning. We win, because the vast majority are rational enough to value life, at least their own.

 

Random probability taken personally is what I call luck. (I don't know who said that first, but Penn Gillette used it once.) In response to the question, "Is there any reason, any religion should still exist?" My response remains a firm: No. Reason is necessary, not faith.

 

I've had a few responses from fellow atheists and doubters as to the necessity of religion. Many believe it may be the only answer to the reformation of criminal minds. These are people who may not necessarily value life. But how to treat the sociopath is another problem for another page. Maybe religion is the treatment of the present for them. I'm not so sure it's the final answer, but if there's any truth to it, time will tell.

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I'm going to take this as a joke.

 

Of course you are.  You might have said, "Humans have a literal need operate on reason, in order to navigate the world around them," in which case there'd be no argument.  But you chose to try killing two birds with one stone and missed.

 

To seriously argue that humans (qua human) have no need to operate on faith at all is a false dichotomy.  History demonstrates that humans have operated on reason and faith in order to navigate the world around them for millennia.  "Here be dragons" specifically refers to dangerous places that weren't known, therefore requiring early explorers to have faith that their skill as seaman would be sufficient to the task of navigating them beyond the horizon of their knowledge and home again.

 

"To boldly go where no man has gone before (and lived to tell about it)"

It's one thing to assert that reason is supreme, but to carry the argument to the point where faith is irrelavent is amusing given the historical record.  You are talking about human beings, aren't you??

 

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Of course you are.  You might have said, "Humans have a literal need operate on reason, in order to navigate the world around them," in which case there'd be no argument.  But you chose to try killing two birds with one stone and missed.

You're nit-picking.

It's like he said "Humans need to eat uncontaminated food", and your response is that "humans can tolerate quite some contamination".

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