Religion

Discuss anything interesting but not remotely Countdown-related here.

Moderator: Jon O'Neill

Do you believe?

Yes, I am very religious
13
16%
Yes, but not in a big way
7
9%
Unsure, I am agnostic
12
15%
No, I am an atheist
47
59%
 
Total votes: 79

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Jon O'Neill
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Re: Religion

Post by Jon O'Neill » Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:09 pm

Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
I'm a Christian.

(snipped)
This is a great post and I agree with the way you present the dichotomies of this debate.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
I've arrived at this point having considered the evidence, but also having met with God personally.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 9:44 pm
(Perhaps the word 'personally' was a bit unusual, but if prayer is talking to God, and prayers are answered, then it is personal. In fact, that's what the definition of Christianity is - a relationship with a living God!)
I think it's the word "met" here which is odd. I can talk to someone on the phone and see the results of their actions as a direct consequence of our conversation, but I wouldn't say that I'd met them. To say that you've "met" God will probably set off a lot of alarm bells with non-believers.

Anyway, I'm more interested in hearing about this:
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
Moving on to the 'experience' side, I have seen far too many lives completely transformed, and seen too many prayers answered for it to be a coincidence (and I'm a mathematician, so I can understand that coincidences can sometimes happen!) - I've seen people who have been healed through prayer, and seen people prophecy over others' futures with ridiculous accuracy.
Do you have some examples? Growing up as a Catholic, and from speaking to Christians of many different varieties in my life, I've seen numerous examples of prayer not working, including a couple of deaths from (medically) treatable cancers. The hit rate of cases of prayers being answered is roughly the same as the probability of all of those events happening without any divine intervention, for all prayers that I am aware of. I've also seen healings that are just pure fakery. I've seen, first-hand, prophecies that would appear impressively accurate to someone who did not understand the techniques employed by the person making them.

I'm ready to be convinced but it's an extremely high bar when you consider that we are looking to overcome every single thing that has been reliably observed or measured, ever.

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Re: Religion

Post by Phil H » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:56 pm

Probably the 'checkmate' moment in my ceasing to be a Christian was reading a site called "Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" I too have spent a long time in church and come across people who seem to have overcome addictions and other mental health problems, or even experienced improvements in their physical mobility. However, as the author of that site asks, why does God choose not to miraculously heal in the situation where a miraculous healing would perhaps be least disputable?

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Re: Religion

Post by Jennifer Steadman » Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:21 pm

Former churchgoer (not by choice) of 15 years checking in.

Absolutely hated going by about the age of 8 or 9 - same stories every year, not allowed to ask questions about Bible plotholes, told that if you didn't go to church you went to hell. (Really lovely to hear when you have a parent who doesn't go to church. Incidentally, the Sunday School leader who shared this idea with me ran off with a married parishioner a decade later and was ostracised from the church community.)

Had a great youth worker in my tweens who was very patient and honest about his own doubts and lack of answers, and attended the adult Alpha Course aged 14; both were positive and respectful experiences that helped me to understand why faith was important to people. I also inadvertently ended up experiencing some of the Youth Alpha course, which was absolute shit - patronising, brainwashing, smug - and heralded a several year long angry atheist phase, which could be described in the same adjectives :?

By about 14, I'd come to the conclusion that I was certain there was no god, but also that others were certain that there was at least one god. Schrodinger's certainty, I guess. Generally at peace with it all now - for as long as it's a vague construct somewhere in the distance, the odd carol service aside. I know people whose lives are stronger and happier for having faith, and people who have been tortured and poisoned by their faith. All things considered, religion has been a negative influence in my life, but unless someone specifically brings it up I'm not going to shout about it.

While I can't stand aggressive atheists, I'm definitely not judgement-free on some stuff: cultish stuff disturbs me (missionary work, social media feeds full of Bible verses, neo-evangelical churches), vicars who won't marry those who have been divorced before (it makes me sick to know that some people who escape domestic violence from a former spouse and rebuild their life with someone new can be denied the right to marry), those who reject marginalised people based on scripture... These are things I'm generally insulated from, and I'm lucky that my Christian friends and family are generally very progressive and not too intense (with me at least), but through them I hear of some disturbing stuff being enabled by people's interpretation of faith.

I've only ever come across 'prophesying' in conversation with a sober Christian at the pub 3 weeks ago who told me that she prophesied 9/11 (and saved several people's lives through prayer) and also that I was a lesbian. I am not aware of this being accurate.

Season 2 of Fleabag made me consider religion in a more interesting way than anything I've come across from Christians themselves.
Marc Meakin wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 11:16 pm
I do respect Christian values
What does 'Christian values' actually mean? Don't think I've come across the concept in a capacity that isn't dogwhistle vacuity at best (Breitbart etc), where tenets like 'love thy neighbour' don't seem particularly compatible.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
It is conceivable that Jesus is not God, but then who is he? Is he a conman? Has he lied to everyone to go down in the history books? But then how could he be the wisest, humblest most loving man to have existed. Perhaps he is mad then? But reading his biographies suggests to me that he isn't..
This came up at Alpha and was (imo) the weakest argument put forward - I've never understood why this is meant a convincing argument to a non-believer. Charismatic snake oil salesman/pathological liar/fantasist is infinitely more believable than the Christian interpretation of Jesus.
"There's leaders, and there's followers, but I'd rather be a dick than a swallower" - Aristotle

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Re: Religion

Post by Mark James » Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:40 pm

Jennifer Steadman wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:21 pm

Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
It is conceivable that Jesus is not God, but then who is he? Is he a conman? Has he lied to everyone to go down in the history books? But then how could he be the wisest, humblest most loving man to have existed. Perhaps he is mad then? But reading his biographies suggests to me that he isn't..
This came up at Alpha and was (imo) the weakest argument put forward - I've never understood why this is meant a convincing argument to a non-believer. Charismatic snake oil salesman/pathological liar/fantasist is infinitely more believable than the Christian interpretation of Jesus.
Also why couldn't Jesus just be the wisest, humblest most loving human ever without having to be the son of God.

I'm sure we can all agree that humans can be absolute douche bags but wouldn't it be more plausible that there could have been at least one really sound dude who tried to live his life being as loving as possible to all things without invoking the supernatural?

Humanity often deserves to have the reputation of a virus with shoes. Donald Trump's doing us no favours and we're probably going to destroy ourselves through global warming or nuclear holocaust but then look at all the cool stuff we've done.

It's like when people think aliens must have built the pyramids. They never talk about the road network or sewage system, far grander feats of engineering if you ask me. Humans actually raised the entire city of Chicago to install piping but we couldn't have aligned some bricks in the desert? Give us some credit. It only took 66 years from the first powered flight before we got to the moon. We're pretty amazing really. Couldn't one dude have been just that bit more amazing than everyone else?

When Christians bang on about Jesus I can kind of get on board. He had some pretty cool ideas. And the good ideas are good whether whoever is supposed to have come up with them existed or not. But when you start going on about prayer working or having personal relationships with non physical entities that practically defy description I'm sorry, you've lost me.

I'd rather believe Jesus was just a man. It would make me more inclined to believe I could live up to his example.

P.S. the so called "new atheist" movement is a monumental shit house of wankery which has done immeasurable harm, possibly on a par with religious extremism.

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Re: Religion

Post by Thomas Cappleman » Tue Aug 27, 2019 10:04 pm

Mark James wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:40 pm
Also why couldn't Jesus just be the wisest, humblest most loving human ever without having to be the son of God.
Except he then comes out with statements like "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" and "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven", and claiming to be able to forgive sins (see Mark 2). Sure you could go with the idea where all the bits that seem acceptable were his, and the God-related bits were from his disciples (I remember Philip Pullman doing a whole book on that a few years ago), or something similar. But without picking and choosing from the only source of what he said, you end up with him making a lot of controversial claims if he isn't what he says he is.

Similarly with Marc's respecting "Christian values" and the Ten Commandments, that's probably selecting ones like "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Do not murder", but skipping the fact that they're preceded by (both sequentially and in importance) by "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before[a] me." and "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." respectively.

(For those who don't know I am a Christian, on a similar basis to Dan).

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Re: Religion

Post by Ian Volante » Wed Aug 28, 2019 12:13 pm

It seems to me that a lot of what's believed is simply down to whatever was the official belief of the most powerful political groupings in the 4th century CE. As far as I've seen, there's nothing less believable about such things as Arianism as there is about orthodox dogma; quite what the bloke himself said or didn't say seems to me irrelevant, given that much of it was written/rewritten/edited/lost/ignored long after the fact. Jesus's wife as an inconvenience to be left in the Apocrypha? Why are only four gospels considered canonical?

Basically, it all smacks of post hoc convenience for whatever group that found such ideas most useful at any given time, and to follow such dogmatic bits and pieces feels utterly illogical in the context of the way we live many centuries later.
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Re: Religion

Post by JimBentley » Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:40 pm

Thanks Dan for your very interesting and thought-provoking post. It was fascinating to read it. But, a couple of things:
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
To suggest that there is no credible evidence at all for Christianity
I don't think that anyone is disputing that Christianity exists, it's the basic tenets that people have problems with. You say that there are many accounts of Jesus, but all of these were written centuries after his supposed existence. Why are there no contemporary accounts?
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
multiple books written well before Jesus' life that predict Jesus' coming
No, they predicted the coming of a god (or godlike being), which is pretty much a universal trope in the writings of early civilisations. Nothing is specific about an incarnate "Jesus". That was invented centuries afterwards.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
It is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a God using logic and science and reason
It's not possible to prove the non-existence of something that doesn't exist, though, isn't it? Surely the onus is on the people who think that God does exist to prove that he (or she or it or whatever) does exist? Pretty sure that's how this sort of thing works.

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Re: Religion

Post by Adam Gillard » Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:18 am

My perspective on religion...

I'm a Jew by accident of birth, through matrilineal descent over who knows how many generations. I believe in God largely because I want to, and because I've been conditioned to do so in my upbringing, not because anyone has delivered a particularly compelling argument or evidence. This is what one might call "faith". I'm quite happy to trust to this faith to an extent (almost blindly), because my religion is a core part of my identity and my daily life and I don't want to lose that. So I *want* to believe, because it provides an amount of comfort and meaning to my life, prayer being a big part of that, as others have said.

I'm sure others can find the same comfort and meaning in being a good person while also being certain there is no God, and that's a good thing, too. On the other hand, a Rabbi or a Priest or an Imam is probably about as likely to be found shagging someone else's wife or kiddy fiddling as anyone else, and this happens all too often as a perversion and abuse of authority. It does irk me when religious figureheads are treated as living saints by a feverish cult following.

The best things about religion are pretty much universal from the little I know of other religions. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism to name but a few all preach charity and lovingkindness (as do non-religious people who aren't pricks, admittedly). They also seem to borrow from each other culturally in religious rituals and scriptures, probably because they either come from the same ethnic / geographical background or because they've had a lot of trade dealings, intermarriage etc. over the centuries, or perhaps just simple plagiarism.

The worst things about religion are generally tribalistic but probably less universal, such as doctrines to evangelise / oppress / murder those not of the faith. This is something that has dogged centuries of conflict between most of the religions I've mentioned, and is not unique to religion but occurs with other tribalistic divisions, from someone's race to which sports team they follow. Religion has historically been and still is one of the worst culprits for this kind of division and militancy though.

If I had been born into another faith, I'm pretty sure I would have had similar beliefs and lifestyle, and would be similarly happy with my lot. If I had been born into an atheist / agnostic family / community then I'd probably follow that too; I can't imagine that I would have "found" God. I don't think I'm better than anyone else by having a faith, or by virtue of that faith being Judaism rather than any other.

Now for a perspective on Judaism specifically, seeing as that's the religion I know most about. Like most religions, there's a whole spectrum of different levels of observance based on different interpretations of religious laws. My sect is generally labelled "Modern Orthodox" in this country, but isn't entirely "modern" in taking a strict Biblical view on things such as gay sex and having religious rituals that are not open to women. These are key issues that have been addressed more in other Reform / Liberal / Progressive sects, and are only slowly beginning to be addressed in Orthodox sects (we're behind the curve on this). Each person is entitled to their own views of course, and for myself, I hope that we can promote respect and equality before we lose people from the faith because of these shortcomings and exclusionary views.

In terms of the "truth" of Judaism, one of the main arguments that is repeated is that most religions had "one man" experience a prophetic revelation, whereas Jewish tradition holds that around 2.5 million people (the "Children of Israel") experienced God's revelation at Mount Sinai for the giving of the Torah (aka Bible / Old Testament) following the Exodus from Egypt. The basis of this argument is essentially "you can't make up such a bold claim; surely this would have been refuted at the time".

However, there is more concrete evidence of plagiarism in the Bible, not least the story of Noah and the Ark being predated in writing by an almost identical story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The apologist position for these difficulties is that the Bible is a mixture of literal and allegorical passages, and some of the allegories (e.g. the Creation story) are quite naturally written in a style that would have been familiar to people in that geographical region / culture at the time, or that are palatable for finite human beings who can't comprehend the workings of an infinite God. The view is maintained in Judaism that the Bible is authored by God, and I like to believe that, because if it wasn't, then it would be a bit awkward for my whole faith-based lifestyle.

tl;dr: I'm happy and proud of my religion but I can't pretend it has all the answers or that I don't have doubts. It's important to respect people of all backgrounds, and of course anyone can be a good or bad person.

PS - I'm quite taken aback to see how many people use a capital 'G' when writing 'God'; this is seen as a mark of respect among those who believe in God and I didn't realise it was so widespread. All the same, I appreciate the respectful tone in this thread of those who don't believe in God.
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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sun Sep 01, 2019 6:41 am

That was quite an interesting post so thanks for that. I might respond better later.
Adam Gillard wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:18 am
PS - I'm quite taken aback to see how many people use a capital 'G' when writing 'God'; this is seen as a mark of respect among those who believe in God and I didn't realise it was so widespread. All the same, I appreciate the respectful tone in this thread of those who don't believe in God.
I think people just do it out of "convention" because they see other people doing it. I often use lower case but if you search this thread I'm sure you'll find me slipping into upper case. Also people use "God" as a name for a god. And names normally have the initial capital so it can depend on the context.

And while he doesn't come here any more so probably won't be able to defend his position, I do think that Junaid writing PBUH every time he mentioned Mohammed was ridiculous and about as sycophantic as you can get. Surely it loses its effect if you abbreviate it anyway and shows you're not committed to it - like it's just an afterthought. Do it properly or not at all!

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Re: Religion

Post by Mark James » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:05 am

I would imagine the word God is capitalised often because predictive text does it automatically.

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Re: Religion

Post by Mark James » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:20 am

Thomas Cappleman wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 10:04 pm
Mark James wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:40 pm
Also why couldn't Jesus just be the wisest, humblest most loving human ever without having to be the son of God.
Except he then comes out with statements like "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"
Oh right. So he wasn't all that humble after all.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sun Sep 01, 2019 4:07 pm

Adam Gillard wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:18 am
My perspective on religion...

I'm a Jew by accident of birth, through matrilineal descent over who knows how many generations. I believe in God largely because I want to, and because I've been conditioned to do so in my upbringing, not because anyone has delivered a particularly compelling argument or evidence. This is what one might call "faith". I'm quite happy to trust to this faith to an extent (almost blindly), because my religion is a core part of my identity and my daily life and I don't want to lose that. So I *want* to believe, because it provides an amount of comfort and meaning to my life, prayer being a big part of that, as others have said.
If I had been born into another faith, I'm pretty sure I would have had similar beliefs and lifestyle, and would be similarly happy with my lot. If I had been born into an atheist / agnostic family / community then I'd probably follow that too; I can't imagine that I would have "found" God. I don't think I'm better than anyone else by having a faith, or by virtue of that faith being Judaism rather than any other.
This is quite interesting, but I also find it a little bit strange. I find myself wondering whether you do actually believe in god (note the lower case g!) or whether it's just some game you play just to be part of the community that you're in. If someone held a gun to your head and said "Is Judaism the objectively correct religion? Answer correctly or I'll shoot!" what would you say? We can assume that the guy with the gun somehow knows the truth himself.
Now for a perspective on Judaism specifically, seeing as that's the religion I know most about. Like most religions, there's a whole spectrum of different levels of observance based on different interpretations of religious laws. My sect is generally labelled "Modern Orthodox" in this country, but isn't entirely "modern" in taking a strict Biblical view on things such as gay sex and having religious rituals that are not open to women. These are key issues that have been addressed more in other Reform / Liberal / Progressive sects, and are only slowly beginning to be addressed in Orthodox sects (we're behind the curve on this). Each person is entitled to their own views of course, and for myself, I hope that we can promote respect and equality before we lose people from the faith because of these shortcomings and exclusionary views.
On this then, presumably you personally take a more "modern" view on things like gay sex even if your sect doesn't? A lot of people would say that religion is fine as long it doesn't cause you to interfere with other people's rights. And so presumably if you ever had a son, you wouldn't inflict the ritual barbaric form of amputation on him that followers of your religion have done for thousands of years?

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Re: Religion

Post by Fiona T » Sun Sep 01, 2019 10:00 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 4:07 pm

On this then, presumably you personally take a more "modern" view on things like gay sex even if your sect doesn't? A lot of people would say that religion is fine as long it doesn't cause you to interfere with other people's rights. And so presumably if you ever had a son, you wouldn't inflict the ritual barbaric form of amputation on him that followers of your religion have done for thousands of years?
This is where I see the difference between faith and religion. If you follow a doctrine as truth, I don't see how you can pick and choose. And there's some very weird stuff in the old Testament. Whether or not there's a god/God, religion was a construct to make people, mostly illiterate, compliant \(and straight).

It was a discussion I gently had with my mum a few times - If you (Christianity) are "right", how can the believers of Judaism/Muslim etc equally believe they're right too? A massive number of you who think your beliefs are right, must be wrong,
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Re: Religion

Post by Marc Meakin » Mon Sep 02, 2019 8:23 am

Or all wrong
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Re: Religion

Post by JimBentley » Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:43 pm

Adam Gillard wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:18 am
tl;dr: I'm happy and proud of my religion but I can't pretend it has all the answers or that I don't have doubts. It's important to respect people of all backgrounds, and of course anyone can be a good or bad person.

PS - I'm quite taken aback to see how many people use a capital 'G' when writing 'God'; this is seen as a mark of respect among those who believe in God and I didn't realise it was so widespread. All the same, I appreciate the respectful tone in this thread of those who don't believe in God.
Not at all tl;dr, I thought it was really interesting (I know you don't post much in these sorts of threads but I was kind of hoping you'd post something here and am glad you did).

As to using a small "g" for god, I've always made a point of doing this, but nobody's ever noticed (or remarked on it) before. But I think for most people, even atheists, it's just a kind of convention.

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Re: Religion

Post by Rosemary Roberts » Tue Sep 03, 2019 8:49 pm

You would probably call me an aggressive atheist. I don't have any quarrel with religious people who simply want to follow their own creed and try to be good people, but I do quarrel, very readily, with anybody who claims that their beliefs should govern the way other people behave.
Most religions were quite patently concocted by men to enable them to control the behaviour of their womenfolk. In many cases, “not letting women have any freedom” is still a major tenet of their belief. This is as true of South American Catholics and Bible-belt Texans as it is of Islam.
I have no patience with any of it.

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Re: Religion

Post by Phil H » Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:25 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 6:41 am

I do think that Junaid writing PBUH every time he mentioned Mohammed was ridiculous and about as sycophantic as you can get. Surely it loses its effect if you abbreviate it anyway and shows you're not committed to it - like it's just an afterthought. Do it properly or not at all!
Would it have been OK if he had written "peace be upon him" the first time and then copied and pasted it, or should he have typed it in full each time?

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Wed Sep 04, 2019 5:53 pm

Phil H wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:25 pm
Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 6:41 am

I do think that Junaid writing PBUH every time he mentioned Mohammed was ridiculous and about as sycophantic as you can get. Surely it loses its effect if you abbreviate it anyway and shows you're not committed to it - like it's just an afterthought. Do it properly or not at all!
Would it have been OK if he had written "peace be upon him" the first time and then copied and pasted it, or should he have typed it in full each time?
Haha - I think a copy and paste would be acceptable in this case.

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Re: Religion

Post by Zarte Siempre » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:50 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 5:53 pm
Phil H wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:25 pm
Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 6:41 am

I do think that Junaid writing PBUH every time he mentioned Mohammed was ridiculous and about as sycophantic as you can get. Surely it loses its effect if you abbreviate it anyway and shows you're not committed to it - like it's just an afterthought. Do it properly or not at all!
Would it have been OK if he had written "peace be upon him" the first time and then copied and pasted it, or should he have typed it in full each time?
Haha - I think a copy and paste would be acceptable in this case.
Callum has an excellent story about PBUH, but I don't know how to attract his attention to get him to put it here....
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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:09 pm

Zarte Siempre wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:50 pm

Callum has an excellent story about PBUH, but I don't know how to attract his attention to get him to put it here....
This might summon him:

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Re: Religion

Post by Ian Volante » Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:26 am

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:09 pm
Zarte Siempre wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:50 pm

Callum has an excellent story about PBUH, but I don't know how to attract his attention to get him to put it here....
This might summon him:
I'd have tried a pentagram first.
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Re: Religion

Post by Elliott Mellor » Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:34 pm

Fiona T wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 10:00 pm

It was a discussion I gently had with my mum a few times - If you (Christianity) are "right", how can the believers of Judaism/Muslim etc equally believe they're right too? A massive number of you who think your beliefs are right, must be wrong,
This is one of the things that I have always struggled to understand. There are a multiplicity of different religions that and although there is overlap amongst some of them, by and large they are different.
Consider these statements:
I am 5'5.
I am 5'6.
I am 5'7.
They are all possible answers to how tall I am, they all have overlap (they agree that I'm 5 foot and some number of inches) and people may give different answers based on several factors, but really only one (or none) can be correct. If the entire population of the world was in conflict about how tall I was, though, at some point you'd think that I'd be requested to have a concrete measuring done to eradicate any doubt. With no definitive ruling which, if any, is correct why are people believing one over another instead of just taking the "none are correct unless proven otherwise" stance? I'm interested to hear why people chose a specific religion if they weren't raised in one and it "stuck".

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Re: Religion

Post by Fiona T » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:47 pm

Elliott Mellor wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:34 pm
This is one of the things that I have always struggled to understand. There are a multiplicity of different religions that and although there is overlap amongst some of them, by and large they are different.
Consider these statements:
I am 5'5.
I am 5'6.
I am 5'7.
They are all possible answers to how tall I am, they all have overlap (they agree that I'm 5 foot and some number of inches) and people may give different answers based on several factors, but really only one (or none) can be correct. If the entire population of the world was in conflict about how tall I was, though, at some point you'd think that I'd be requested to have a concrete measuring done to eradicate any doubt. With no definitive ruling which, if any, is correct why are people believing one over another instead of just taking the "none are correct unless proven otherwise" stance? I'm interested to hear why people chose a specific religion if they weren't raised in one and it "stuck".
The people who think you're 5'5 have a measuring stick that says you are 5'5. They know they're right. Other measuring sticks are wrong.
The people who think you're 5'6 have a measuring stick that says you are 5'6. They know they're right. Other measuring sticks are wrong.
The people who think you're 5'7 have a measuring stick that says you are 5'7. They know they're right. Other measuring sticks are wrong.
8-) <-2m-> 8-)

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Re: Religion

Post by Marc Meakin » Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:20 pm

I have a measuring stick that says I am 167 centimetres.
Am I wrong if it also says 5'7
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Re: Religion

Post by Elliott Mellor » Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:23 pm

Marc Meakin wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:20 pm
I have a measuring stick that says I am 167 centimetres.
Am I wrong if it also says 5'7
No, the measuring stick is. 167cm is 5'6 (ish)

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Re: Religion

Post by Martin Long » Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:11 pm

I don't believe in God but haven't given it an awful lot of thought throughout my life. I would be happy to be labelled as either agnostic or atheist.

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Re: Religion

Post by Callum Todd » Tue Sep 17, 2019 4:22 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:09 pm
Zarte Siempre wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:50 pm

Callum has an excellent story about PBUH, but I don't know how to attract his attention to get him to put it here....
This might summon him:
It worked! Didn't even know that was a thing on c4c.


So I had an R.E teacher at school who was very nervous about treating all things Islamic with the proper respect when discussing them in his class. This was most obvious when he had to discuss The Prophet, as he would say "peace be upon him" or even "peace and blessings be upon him" at every single instance of referring to or naming The Prophet, even if he had to do so multiple times within once sentence.

Once, we were doing a class specifically about the history of Islam. After an opening 10 minutes of telling us about the life and times of Mohammed, in which he must have uttered the respectful platitude approximately 80 times, he realised that he had forgotten to take the register at the beginning of the class (presumably forgotten in his dizzying nervousness brought upon him by the thought of having to discuss Islam for a whole class without instigating an international religious furore). The first name on the register was that of a kid named Muhammad Ali. Still in full religious appeasement mode, he began the roll call:

"Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him..."

Cue laughter from the whole class, distraught shame from the teacher, and then indignant calls from Muhammad's classmates as to where their "peace and blessings" were when their names were read out without such tributes.
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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Tue Sep 17, 2019 5:16 pm

Nice.

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Re: Religion

Post by Matt Morrison » Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:12 pm

Haha, ghreat.

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Re: Religion

Post by JimBentley » Wed Sep 18, 2019 2:42 pm

Ha, that is excellent.

When I was at school, R.E. used to be compulsory for the first two years of secondary school, but I dropped it as soon as I could. I don't think we ever got around to Islam, but that was in the mid-1980s and obviously things have changed since then. I'd be interested to hear how it goes now. Is it more about the history of the religion or does it also describe the ideology? If you start examining the ideology, then that's going to bring up a lot of conflict. I can't imagine that most girls in this country can be OK with Islam's attitude towards women, for example. Or gay people being cool with Islamic attitudes to homosexuality.

Matt, get Heather to reply here. She must surely be our go-to person on this.

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Re: Religion

Post by Matt Morrison » Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:39 am

She possibly is, though I think she a) hates C4C and b) tries to avoid doing work outside of work. But I'll ask!

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Re: Religion

Post by Marc Meakin » Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:16 am

Matt Morrison wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:39 am
She possibly is, though I think she a) hates C4C and b) tries to avoid doing work outside of work. But I'll ask!
How can you hate C4C.
Isn't it instrumental in you guys getting together ?
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Re: Religion

Post by Callum Todd » Thu Sep 19, 2019 12:56 pm

Marc Meakin wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:16 am
Matt Morrison wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:39 am
She possibly is, though I think she a) hates C4C and b) tries to avoid doing work outside of work. But I'll ask!
How can you hate C4C.
Isn't it instrumental in you guys getting together ?
Maybe that's why she hates it.
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Re: Religion

Post by Dan Byrom » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am

OK, I'm going to have a go at replying to a lot of responses I've had. Sorry it's taken so long!

My first response is that one very positive result of posting on here has been seeing the thoughts of people who exist in completely different circles to me. I had not realised until now how much of an effect the people around you can have on your beliefs. Many of my good friends are Christians, and a lot of the information I have received is from the church. That's not to say I don't trust my friends aren't being honest and my church leaders aren't speaking with wisdom, but I've definitely felt more of an urge to do a little more private investigation, and talking with people who are completely outside of the Christian bubble. That's not to say I've changed my beliefs at all for the moment, but they require a lot more looking into I think.
Jon O'Neill wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:09 pm

I think it's the word "met" here which is odd.
You're right - 'met' is quite an odd way of phrasing it, and perhaps it doesn't quite align with bumping into someone on the street, for example, but I don't think I'd change the wording. Christians believe God is alive and all-powerful, and so I argue that, though 'interacting' with God seems completely weird, believing in a God who cannot interact with us is even weirder.

Different people respond to 'God' (or whatever psychological/spiritual thing there actually is) in different ways (that I have seen or am aware of).

Prayer is the obvious example of talking with God. Most people imagine this as just a wish list of things which you ask God for, which isn't exactly correct. Oftentimes prayer can involve being quiet and 'listening' - sometimes God speaks in pictures or signs. For example, over the last few weeks/months, when people have been praying with/for me, the image of a tree providing shelter has often come up. (This seems quite vague, and I expect you'll be sceptical of this - so am I! If my faith was down to this alone, it wouldn't last a minute, but in addition to lots of other factors, it means something.) Other times, God speaks through 'conviction'. In other words, sometimes, after praying, we might feel a particular urge or desire to say or do something that doesn't seem to make any logical sense. ("Why do I feel so strongly that I should go over there and talk to that person?")

Another example of 'meeting' God is the through the Holy Spirit. If you want a theological understanding of the Spirit then I'm really not the person to talk to, but one way of seeing it/him is like a piece of God that settles in us, and can help us 'be more Godly', for want of better phrasing. Honestly, this stuff confuses me a lot. I've seen some people have what they'd describe as powerful encounters with the Spirit, where they break down crying or laughing, describing the feeling as like something being released from inside them - I have never felt this myself, and, again, on the few occasions that I have witnessed this, I'm always very sceptical, but, again, things like this happen often enough that the flimsiness of each individual thing doesn't cause everything to tumble down. In a less dramatic fashion, often people pray for more of the Spirit, and attribute newfound feelings of joy/hope/love to it/him - I have experienced this myself.


I realise the above must look utterly ludicrous to anyone who isn't a Christian, but I'm better off being honest about it than trying to frame it as something that isn't that weird and hiding the nutter stuff away.


Jon O'Neill wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:09 pm

Do you have some examples?
Here are some examples I have seen/heard of. I often doubt their authenticity but have not been able to come up with alternate explanations.

Healing:

I have never been healed, or had God heal someone through me, that I can remember vividly. When I was younger, I was extremely ill (I remember feeling unable to even move in my bed) - my family prayed for me, and ten minutes later I was completely fine. I'm annoyed that I can't really remember everything but I often find myself assuming I was exaggerating my illness. That said, if God can heal, why do I doubt?

I have heard second hand from a friend who saw someone with one leg longer than the other get prayed for and visibly see the shorter leg get longer.

I don't have any more personal examples, except from what I've heard people talk about in church, but you can have a look at this page to find plenty: https://www.facebook.com/healingonthestreets

Prophecy:

My Mum and Dad couldn't find a flight with seats left anywhere to go to Seville (my Mum's birthplace) - I can't remember the exact reason. They were prayed for. Someone prayed and came up with an exact flight number and company which had two seats left on it - even when they went to the travel agency after the prayer and asked for a flight to Seville and were told there was none, until they offered this flight number.

There's a church leader called Mike Pilavachi who gets 'words of knowledge' regularly. I've seen him talk a few times, and seen some of the stuff he's said, and I'm utterly convinced he's not a conman. Of course, I can't force you to come to this conclusion yourself without meeting him yourself - but here's a handy video of his you might like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZeBUBFapx4. Here's a few examples of things I've seen him say.

- "There's two of you who are friends, and at 4:20pm this afternoon, you said to each other, if Mike says something about us, then we'll have to become a Christian"

- "Your name is ______, and in the last week or two you've had an engagement broken, and it's not the first time that's happened. I think God wants to meet with you and let you know he loves you."

I can't remember them all, but there are many more in the same vein. They always seem so specific, and he can't be getting fed secret info for so many different people constantly.



Unfortunately I have seen clips of people making stuff up completely, or shooting their arms out to a crowd of people who all fall over, or pastors buying themselves Lamborghinis. Unfortunately, this stuff happens, and a lot of Christians will tell you that they love Jesus, but despise the church because of all the things over history that the church has done in Jesus' name that has not been about him or in his nature.



Ok that's one down, I don't have the time to make them all this long.


Jennifer Steadman wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:21 pm
Former churchgoer (not by choice) of 15 years checking in.
I appreciate your stance. If going to an alpha course (which I haven't yet, but I'd like to) didn't convince you, then there's probably not much chance that I'll be able to on a countdown forum. I'm grateful that you've considered it and made an informed decision.

Phil H wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:56 pm
Probably the 'checkmate' moment in my ceasing to be a Christian was reading a site called "Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" I too have spent a long time in church and come across people who seem to have overcome addictions and other mental health problems, or even experienced improvements in their physical mobility. However, as the author of that site asks, why does God choose not to miraculously heal in the situation where a miraculous healing would perhaps be least disputable?
This is a really interesting, good argument. I've never heard of an amputee being healed, and if God is all-powerful, why wouldn't he? I can't really argue with this tbh. I'm going to look into this more.

Mark James wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:40 pm

I'd rather believe Jesus was just a man. It would make me more inclined to believe I could live up to his example.
T.Cap posted a good response to this.

JimBentley wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:40 pm
Thanks Dan for your very interesting and thought-provoking post. It was fascinating to read it. But, a couple of things:
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
To suggest that there is no credible evidence at all for Christianity
I don't think that anyone is disputing that Christianity exists, it's the basic tenets that people have problems with. You say that there are many accounts of Jesus, but all of these were written centuries after his supposed existence. Why are there no contemporary accounts?
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
multiple books written well before Jesus' life that predict Jesus' coming
No, they predicted the coming of a god (or godlike being), which is pretty much a universal trope in the writings of early civilisations. Nothing is specific about an incarnate "Jesus". That was invented centuries afterwards.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
It is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a God using logic and science and reason
It's not possible to prove the non-existence of something that doesn't exist, though, isn't it? Surely the onus is on the people who think that God does exist to prove that he (or she or it or whatever) does exist? Pretty sure that's how this sort of thing works.
I'd love to be able to post an articulate, well-informed response to these questions. Unfortunately I don't have the answers. But I can add a couple of things with the help of Google. This page here posts a few prophecies about Jesus that do seem pretty specific, so I contend that point: https://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/biblica ... d-by-jesus. According to Wikipedia, the four gospels in the Bible were written within 110 years of Jesus. This also helps me answer Ian's comment about 'powerful political groupings' - yes it's possible these four in particular were chosen to be included based on political agendas, but there's also a possibility they were trying to rule out inaccuracies and present the most reasonable texts.

Adam Gillard wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:18 am

tl;dr: I'm happy and proud of my religion but I can't pretend it has all the answers or that I don't have doubts. It's important to respect people of all backgrounds, and of course anyone can be a good or bad person.
I agree completely with the tl;dr, and completely respect your position, and can relate a lot with what you have said. In my case, it would be very difficult to stop being a Christian, as a lot of my friends are Christians, and going to Church is a staple of my week. However, Christianity is either true or false, and the repercussions of it being either are a matter of eternal life and death, so I'm not willing to sit idly and comfortably - I'd rather try and find the truth.

Fiona T wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 10:00 pm

It was a discussion I gently had with my mum a few times - If you (Christianity) are "right", how can the believers of Judaism/Muslim etc equally believe they're right too? A massive number of you who think your beliefs are right, must be wrong.
This is a difficult question. A part of me hopes I'm wrong so that I don't have to worry about other people's post-death futures, and another big part of me hopes that perhaps Judaism/Christianity/Islam are similar enough that we'll all be alright... They are after all based on the same texts, and the same God... This is more hope and speculation than any concrete belief though.

Rosemary Roberts wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 8:49 pm

You would probably call me an aggressive atheist. I don't have any quarrel with religious people who simply want to follow their own creed and try to be good people, but I do quarrel, very readily, with anybody who claims that their beliefs should govern the way other people behave.
For me, talking to other people about my faith is scary, and something I'm always naturally reluctant to do, but, given the appropriate circumstances (such as a thread specifically for talking about religion), I can't not talk about it. Firstly, it's a huge part of who I am - it's how I'm defined. Secondly, it's a matter of our eternal futures, and is real or not real, so I can't just sit around comfortable that I'm going to heaven and other people are not without doing something about it. Of course, I'm against people rubbing it in your face though if you don't want to hear it - those people who stand on the street telling everyone they're going to go to hell unless they repent drive me up the wall as much as they do anyone else, and I find it hard to believe that they're doing a good job of convincing anyone.



Ok that'll do for now. Well done if you made it this far! :lol:

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Re: Religion

Post by Phil H » Tue Oct 01, 2019 9:17 am

Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am


Ok that'll do for now. Well done if you made it this far! :lol:

Fair play for taking the time to write all this and being a gent about it throughout. In a way I don't want to challenge it, but I may yet come back and do so...

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Re: Religion

Post by Paul Worsley » Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:39 pm

Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am
I have heard second hand from a friend who saw someone with one leg longer than the other get prayed for and visibly see the shorter leg get longer.
Type "faith healer leg trick" into YouTube to see see it first hand, complete with an explanation of how it's done.

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Re: Religion

Post by Jon O'Neill » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:24 pm

Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am
OK, I'm going to have a go at replying to a lot of responses I've had. Sorry it's taken so long!
Thanks for replying. You have an interesting perspective, possibly unique amongst the largely-atheist c4c. So it's interesting to hear.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am

My first response is that one very positive result of posting on here has been seeing the thoughts of people who exist in completely different circles to me. I had not realised until now how much of an effect the people around you can have on your beliefs. Many of my good friends are Christians, and a lot of the information I have received is from the church. That's not to say I don't trust my friends aren't being honest and my church leaders aren't speaking with wisdom, but I've definitely felt more of an urge to do a little more private investigation, and talking with people who are completely outside of the Christian bubble. That's not to say I've changed my beliefs at all for the moment, but they require a lot more looking into I think.
We are all guilty of confirmation biases like this. Like it or not we all move in circles of people who are broadly similar to us - economically, politically, demographically - whether by accident or choice. It's very easy to find oneself inside an echo chamber so I always do my best to seek out dissenting opinions. I also try to put myself in the shoes of those people who disagree with me, even on issues that I find to be very cut and dried.

For example, almost all my close friends are left-wing and atheist (some "aggressive"), like me. But I often find myself in debates with my friends where I am defending Christianity, Islam (or religion in general) or conservatism just to find where we really differ, or to make sure there are no flaws in their arguments. At work (in Finance) the people are a lot more right-wing, so I find myself having the same debate but from a different perspective.

Anyway the long and short of it is that whatever view I come to is very well considered and has been challenged from all angles, by myself and others from a range of views. Also I love to argue, so that helps.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am
Jon O'Neill wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:09 pm

I think it's the word "met" here which is odd.
You're right - 'met' is quite an odd way of phrasing it, and perhaps it doesn't quite align with bumping into someone on the street, for example, but I don't think I'd change the wording. Christians believe God is alive and all-powerful, and so I argue that, though 'interacting' with God seems completely weird, believing in a God who cannot interact with us is even weirder.

Different people respond to 'God' (or whatever psychological/spiritual thing there actually is) in different ways (that I have seen or am aware of).

Prayer is the obvious example of talking with God. Most people imagine this as just a wish list of things which you ask God for, which isn't exactly correct. Oftentimes prayer can involve being quiet and 'listening' - sometimes God speaks in pictures or signs. For example, over the last few weeks/months, when people have been praying with/for me, the image of a tree providing shelter has often come up. (This seems quite vague, and I expect you'll be sceptical of this - so am I! If my faith was down to this alone, it wouldn't last a minute, but in addition to lots of other factors, it means something.) Other times, God speaks through 'conviction'. In other words, sometimes, after praying, we might feel a particular urge or desire to say or do something that doesn't seem to make any logical sense. ("Why do I feel so strongly that I should go over there and talk to that person?")
The tree and the urges sound to me like things my brain does as well, but I just put them down to spontaneous thoughts coming into my head - not the result of prayer. It sounds like you wouldn't attribute this to prayer either, if you didn't already believe that it was prayer causing these feelings. If you haven't before then I'd suggest reading about Confirmation Bias, which is a well-established psychological effect that sort of describes what I believe is happening here.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am
Another example of 'meeting' God is the through the Holy Spirit. If you want a theological understanding of the Spirit then I'm really not the person to talk to, but one way of seeing it/him is like a piece of God that settles in us, and can help us 'be more Godly', for want of better phrasing. Honestly, this stuff confuses me a lot. I've seen some people have what they'd describe as powerful encounters with the Spirit, where they break down crying or laughing, describing the feeling as like something being released from inside them - I have never felt this myself, and, again, on the few occasions that I have witnessed this, I'm always very sceptical, but, again, things like this happen often enough that the flimsiness of each individual thing doesn't cause everything to tumble down. In a less dramatic fashion, often people pray for more of the Spirit, and attribute newfound feelings of joy/hope/love to it/him - I have experienced this myself.


I realise the above must look utterly ludicrous to anyone who isn't a Christian, but I'm better off being honest about it than trying to frame it as something that isn't that weird and hiding the nutter stuff away.
I appreciate the unguarded honesty - it's refreshing to hear in debates like this.

The thing that's not quite clear to me here is, when you have a newfound feeling of joy/hope/love, why is that attributed to the Holy Spirit, and not just "you"? What about newfound feelings of angst/stress/hatred? Where are those attributed when they arise?
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am
Jon O'Neill wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:09 pm

Do you have some examples?
Here are some examples I have seen/heard of. I often doubt their authenticity but have not been able to come up with alternate explanations.

Healing:

I have never been healed, or had God heal someone through me, that I can remember vividly. When I was younger, I was extremely ill (I remember feeling unable to even move in my bed) - my family prayed for me, and ten minutes later I was completely fine. I'm annoyed that I can't really remember everything but I often find myself assuming I was exaggerating my illness. That said, if God can heal, why do I doubt?

I have heard second hand from a friend who saw someone with one leg longer than the other get prayed for and visibly see the shorter leg get longer.

I don't have any more personal examples, except from what I've heard people talk about in church, but you can have a look at this page to find plenty: https://www.facebook.com/healingonthestreets
The story from when you are a child is vague enough memory that we will never know if it was something supernatural, but could easily be a combination of you not knowing how ill you were, you just getting better at that time by coincidence, or another psychological phenomenom - the placebo effect. Again, if you haven't read about this then I would recommend that you do because it is hugely powerful and rears its head in many forms.

Derren Brown did an interesting show (I think it was Miracles for Sale) where he got up in front of an audience and told them that he was a charlatan and wasn't really a healer, but that he was going to attempt to heal them with the same techniques that faith healers use. Then he got people up on stage and told them that they ailments were healed. And it actually worked. People years later still write to him to let him know that they are still healed.

As someone mentioned, the leg trick is a classic con. The fact that this one is near the top of examples of faith healing that you're aware of should raise alarm bells.

Faith healing makes me cringe slightly because I know of two examples of family of people I know who have eschewed medical treatment of cancer in favour of prayer, both unsuccessfully. I actually find it devastating the amount of unnecessary suffering that happened because of this. I know this doesn't disprove faith healing but it's probably two examples amongst thousands that are caused by people looking at examples of a) the placebo effect working, b) just plain luck that someone gets better, c) pure fakery like the leg length con.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am

Prophecy:

My Mum and Dad couldn't find a flight with seats left anywhere to go to Seville (my Mum's birthplace) - I can't remember the exact reason. They were prayed for. Someone prayed and came up with an exact flight number and company which had two seats left on it - even when they went to the travel agency after the prayer and asked for a flight to Seville and were told there was none, until they offered this flight number.
Fair enough, I can't think of a logical explanation for that. But it does seem weird that out of all the prayers that could be answered, it was that particular one on that particular day. From an atheist perspective I think of that as just a coincidence - there's a whole C4C thread of those (http://www.c4countdown.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1667) most of which happened to people who didn't pray for the outcome.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am

There's a church leader called Mike Pilavachi who gets 'words of knowledge' regularly. I've seen him talk a few times, and seen some of the stuff he's said, and I'm utterly convinced he's not a conman. Of course, I can't force you to come to this conclusion yourself without meeting him yourself - but here's a handy video of his you might like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZeBUBFapx4. Here's a few examples of things I've seen him say.

- "There's two of you who are friends, and at 4:20pm this afternoon, you said to each other, if Mike says something about us, then we'll have to become a Christian"

- "Your name is ______, and in the last week or two you've had an engagement broken, and it's not the first time that's happened. I think God wants to meet with you and let you know he loves you."

I can't remember them all, but there are many more in the same vein. They always seem so specific, and he can't be getting fed secret info for so many different people constantly.



Unfortunately I have seen clips of people making stuff up completely, or shooting their arms out to a crowd of people who all fall over, or pastors buying themselves Lamborghinis. Unfortunately, this stuff happens, and a lot of Christians will tell you that they love Jesus, but despise the church because of all the things over history that the church has done in Jesus' name that has not been about him or in his nature.
Cold reading and hot reading are two more areas that you should direct your research into. Again, Derren Brown (I'm not his biggest fan but in this area he is very good and entertaining) has shown time and time again how these effects are acheived. It won't disprove Mike Pilavachi, but it should allow you to see how the above could be possible, without religion.

Another question is why does he in particular have this gift? Is he a prophet? Surely more people than just Mike would be able to consistently make these predictions.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am

Ok that's one down, I don't have the time to make them all this long.


Jennifer Steadman wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:21 pm
Former churchgoer (not by choice) of 15 years checking in.
I appreciate your stance. If going to an alpha course (which I haven't yet, but I'd like to) didn't convince you, then there's probably not much chance that I'll be able to on a countdown forum. I'm grateful that you've considered it and made an informed decision.

Phil H wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:56 pm
Probably the 'checkmate' moment in my ceasing to be a Christian was reading a site called "Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" I too have spent a long time in church and come across people who seem to have overcome addictions and other mental health problems, or even experienced improvements in their physical mobility. However, as the author of that site asks, why does God choose not to miraculously heal in the situation where a miraculous healing would perhaps be least disputable?
This is a really interesting, good argument. I've never heard of an amputee being healed, and if God is all-powerful, why wouldn't he? I can't really argue with this tbh. I'm going to look into this more.

Mark James wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:40 pm

I'd rather believe Jesus was just a man. It would make me more inclined to believe I could live up to his example.
T.Cap posted a good response to this.

JimBentley wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:40 pm
Thanks Dan for your very interesting and thought-provoking post. It was fascinating to read it. But, a couple of things:
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
To suggest that there is no credible evidence at all for Christianity
I don't think that anyone is disputing that Christianity exists, it's the basic tenets that people have problems with. You say that there are many accounts of Jesus, but all of these were written centuries after his supposed existence. Why are there no contemporary accounts?
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
multiple books written well before Jesus' life that predict Jesus' coming
No, they predicted the coming of a god (or godlike being), which is pretty much a universal trope in the writings of early civilisations. Nothing is specific about an incarnate "Jesus". That was invented centuries afterwards.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:01 am
It is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a God using logic and science and reason
It's not possible to prove the non-existence of something that doesn't exist, though, isn't it? Surely the onus is on the people who think that God does exist to prove that he (or she or it or whatever) does exist? Pretty sure that's how this sort of thing works.
I'd love to be able to post an articulate, well-informed response to these questions. Unfortunately I don't have the answers. But I can add a couple of things with the help of Google. This page here posts a few prophecies about Jesus that do seem pretty specific, so I contend that point: https://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/biblica ... d-by-jesus. According to Wikipedia, the four gospels in the Bible were written within 110 years of Jesus. This also helps me answer Ian's comment about 'powerful political groupings' - yes it's possible these four in particular were chosen to be included based on political agendas, but there's also a possibility they were trying to rule out inaccuracies and present the most reasonable texts.
Adam Gillard wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:18 am

tl;dr: I'm happy and proud of my religion but I can't pretend it has all the answers or that I don't have doubts. It's important to respect people of all backgrounds, and of course anyone can be a good or bad person.
I agree completely with the tl;dr, and completely respect your position, and can relate a lot with what you have said. In my case, it would be very difficult to stop being a Christian, as a lot of my friends are Christians, and going to Church is a staple of my week. However, Christianity is either true or false, and the repercussions of it being either are a matter of eternal life and death, so I'm not willing to sit idly and comfortably - I'd rather try and find the truth.
It's good that you are compelled to challenge your beliefs. Of course, you don't have to denounce Christianity and stop going to Church if you find that you start to question the fundamentals. As you allude to, from a practical perspective, religion is about a lot more than a relationship with God and following the lessons of the texts. Religion is as much about a sense of community than it is about following Psalm 133 to the letter, or believing that it is the word of some supernatural power. I guarantee that a very significant proportion of religious people don't actively challenge their belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful being and if they ended up in a discussion like this one would acknowledge the same doubts that you have.
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am
Fiona T wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 10:00 pm

It was a discussion I gently had with my mum a few times - If you (Christianity) are "right", how can the believers of Judaism/Muslim etc equally believe they're right too? A massive number of you who think your beliefs are right, must be wrong.
This is a difficult question. A part of me hopes I'm wrong so that I don't have to worry about other people's post-death futures, and another big part of me hopes that perhaps Judaism/Christianity/Islam are similar enough that we'll all be alright... They are after all based on the same texts, and the same God... This is more hope and speculation than any concrete belief though.
I think if you go with the "same God" argument, it's much less of a leap than some that you have to make in being religious. With that said, if you're right, I'll be burning in hell soon... so here's hoping you're wrong!
Dan Byrom wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:49 am
Rosemary Roberts wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 8:49 pm

You would probably call me an aggressive atheist. I don't have any quarrel with religious people who simply want to follow their own creed and try to be good people, but I do quarrel, very readily, with anybody who claims that their beliefs should govern the way other people behave.
For me, talking to other people about my faith is scary, and something I'm always naturally reluctant to do, but, given the appropriate circumstances (such as a thread specifically for talking about religion), I can't not talk about it. Firstly, it's a huge part of who I am - it's how I'm defined. Secondly, it's a matter of our eternal futures, and is real or not real, so I can't just sit around comfortable that I'm going to heaven and other people are not without doing something about it. Of course, I'm against people rubbing it in your face though if you don't want to hear it - those people who stand on the street telling everyone they're going to go to hell unless they repent drive me up the wall as much as they do anyone else, and I find it hard to believe that they're doing a good job of convincing anyone.

Ok that'll do for now. Well done if you made it this far! :lol:
Thanks for engaging.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Fri Apr 24, 2020 11:59 am

I find it interesting how different forms of unscientific / delusional / superstitious etc. (delete as appropriate) beliefs are seen very differently by society.

If you're a climate change denier or you're anti-vaccine, you're not just wrong, but you're some sort of baddie. If you think the Earth is flat or you deny the moon landings happened, you're a nutter but probably harmless enough. But if you big in a big guy in the sky, this is not only perfectly normal but it's often seen as discriminatory (sometimes even racist) to criticise your view.

Obviously with the climate change and vaccine thing, these are seen as potentially more dangerous because your beliefs are likely to lead to dangerous behaviour (probably more if you're anti-vaccine and you have children because I'm not sure how much most people's individual behaviour is affected by climate change belief). But these are still just delusional beliefs on the same level as the others. I don't think these people are morally or intellectually worse. It's just bad luck that their particular brand of delusion is more dangerous for the planet.

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Re: Religion

Post by Callum Todd » Sat Apr 25, 2020 7:36 am

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Fri Apr 24, 2020 11:59 am
I find it interesting how different forms of unscientific / delusional / superstitious etc. (delete as appropriate) beliefs are seen very differently by society.

If you're a climate change denier or you're anti-vaccine, you're not just wrong, but you're some sort of baddie. If you think the Earth is flat or you deny the moon landings happened, you're a nutter but probably harmless enough. But if you big in a big guy in the sky, this is not only perfectly normal but it's often seen as discriminatory (sometimes even racist) to criticise your view.

Obviously with the climate change and vaccine thing, these are seen as potentially more dangerous because your beliefs are likely to lead to dangerous behaviour (probably more if you're anti-vaccine and you have children because I'm not sure how much most people's individual behaviour is affected by climate change belief). But these are still just delusional beliefs on the same level as the others. I don't think these people are morally or intellectually worse. It's just bad luck that their particular brand of delusion is more dangerous for the planet.
The danger thing is definitely a big factor, but I think the reason that anti-vax (or is it anti-vacc??) and climate change denial are seen as more nutty delusions than faith in a personal god have a few more reasons* too:

- It's an unfalsifiable hypothesis, whereas the other beliefs you mentioned absolutely are falsifiable. They are negative assertions (vaccinations DON'T work, climate ISN'T changing due to human activity). Therefore, as it is easy to prove a positive assertion contrary to them (there is ample irrefutable evidence that vaccinations DO work, and that human activity DOES change climate), they can be proven to be false. Because you can disprove a negative claim very easily by simply proving the positive. But the existence of a god is a positive claim that, so long as it isn't too specific on the details, can't be disproven.

- Religion is (at least historically, and surely still currently) a more widely held belief. It's easier to dismiss a belief as a crackpot delusion when only a tiny minority (and often a seemingly eccentric minority) of people propose those views. It also manifests itself in our society in big, serious, visible ways. Everyone has some churches, mosques, etc. in their local area. I doubt you can, on the skyline of your local town, point to the dome of the anti-vax congregation house, or the (chimneyed) spire of the climate change deniers' HQ. This makes us take it more seriously.

- sort of tied into the harm point here, but religion clearly has, or at very least has had, some genuine positive societal benefits to it. If this wasn't true then it couldn't have survived the process of evolution for so long. This for me is the strongest argument for taking religion seriously, and it really baffles me how so many people who claim to be very pro-science, and often use fragments of Darwinism to beat the religionists with, fail to confront the phenomenon of religiosity on Darwnistic terms. Naturally the same can't be said of anti-vax and climate change denial.


* I'm not giving any of these reasons as an argument for the truth of the God claim, as some do. I think they just help explain the respectful attitude towards religion in societies that have largely moved past the superstitions such beliefs entail.
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Re: Religion

Post by Mark James » Sat Apr 25, 2020 8:47 am

A new chart entry this week, Dome of the Anti-Vax Congregation with their album Spire of the Climate Change Deniers.

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Re: Religion

Post by Marc Meakin » Sat Apr 25, 2020 9:23 am

Where is Greta Thunberg
GR MSL GNDT MSS NGVWL SRND NNLYC NNCT

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Re: Religion

Post by Conor » Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:18 am

In addition to Callum's points: most religious people are brought up that way. It's a basis for their moral modus operandi, and if that works for them, I can certainly get why many don't dig too deep to find out if it's actually true.

In contrast, most people who hold these sort of fringe beliefs like anti-vaxx or climate change denial or some conspiracy theory seem to actively seek out such beliefs. I wonder how many so-called 'flat-earthers' actually believe in it. I think it's more of a 'protest belief' - against scientific advancement and society in general. It's not through a lack of education, these delusions seem to thrive in more affluent and well-educated countries that are lacking in social cohesion.

It's also no coincidence that a lot of these beliefs are morally expedient in absolving the individual of responsibility (in contrast to religion which typically does not). Climate change denial means we have no responsibility to change our expansive lifestyles, anti-vax means no responsibility to contribute to a shared pool of epidemiological risk and, to take a recent example, these 5g conspiracy theories mean no responsibility to getting on with our lives quietly and letting healthcare professionals do their jobs.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sat Apr 25, 2020 3:36 pm

Some interesting stuff here, but I would take issue with this:
Callum Todd wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 7:36 am
- sort of tied into the harm point here, but religion clearly has, or at very least has had, some genuine positive societal benefits to it. If this wasn't true then it couldn't have survived the process of evolution for so long. This for me is the strongest argument for taking religion seriously, and it really baffles me how so many people who claim to be very pro-science, and often use fragments of Darwinism to beat the religionists with, fail to confront the phenomenon of religiosity on Darwnistic terms. Naturally the same can't be said of anti-vax and climate change denial.
If we look at religion surviving as an evolutionary thing, then that doesn't mean it has to have societal benefits. It basically just means that it has the means to survive like a selfish gene. Sure, most genes that survive probably do so by being beneficial to the organism they are in, but not all of them. But it's an even further leap to say that they benefit society as a whole. Evolution doesn't generally work on that level.

It might be worth reading this about Richard Dawkins and memes, and watching the YouTube video embedded at the bottom of the article. Also this on the Wikipedia.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:20 pm

Conor wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:18 am
In addition to Callum's points: most religious people are brought up that way. It's a basis for their moral modus operandi, and if that works for them, I can certainly get why many don't dig too deep to find out if it's actually true.
I don't think religious people generally have different morals from other people in their culture. They might say stuff like "But objective morality can't exist without God", but that's not where their morality actually comes from.

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Re: Religion

Post by Conor » Sun Apr 26, 2020 10:59 am

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:20 pm
Conor wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:18 am
In addition to Callum's points: most religious people are brought up that way. It's a basis for their moral modus operandi, and if that works for them, I can certainly get why many don't dig too deep to find out if it's actually true.
I don't think religious people generally have different morals from other people in their culture. They might say stuff like "But objective morality can't exist without God", but that's not where their morality actually comes from.
Probably not, though my point was more that they know quite directly from where they take their morals rather than what they actually are.

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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Sun Apr 26, 2020 1:33 pm

Callum Todd wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 7:36 am
- It's an unfalsifiable hypothesis, whereas the other beliefs you mentioned absolutely are falsifiable. They are negative assertions (vaccinations DON'T work, climate ISN'T changing due to human activity). Therefore, as it is easy to prove a positive assertion contrary to them (there is ample irrefutable evidence that vaccinations DO work, and that human activity DOES change climate), they can be proven to be false. Because you can disprove a negative claim very easily by simply proving the positive. But the existence of a god is a positive claim that, so long as it isn't too specific on the details, can't be disproven.
I think it's intellectually a very poor position to believe some hypothesis that can't be proven or disproven.
Conor wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:18 am
In addition to Callum's points: most religious people are brought up that way. It's a basis for their moral modus operandi, and if that works for them, I can certainly get why many don't dig too deep to find out if it's actually true.
And to quote this bit again, but for a different part of the quote - I'm not sure I do get why so many people don't dig too deep. With fairly well-off people in "first world" countries at least. I think it's pretty bizarre actually. It's not even just about going out of your way to question your religious beliefs - if you ever watch / read / listen to any sciencey stuff, you'll come across people talking about the big bang and the start of the universe, and "How did we get here?" etc. And that will then automatically encroach on your religious territory and at least make you think about it. I'd go so far as to say that you'd really have to go out of your way to not question it.

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Re: Religion

Post by Callum Todd » Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:03 am

I'll address your replies to my points here Gavin. But first just a clarification: none of what I said was in defence of religious belief, which I do believe to be unnecessary (and in some circumstances positively harmful) in the modern age. This is all just to attempt to answer your question as to why religion isn't put in the same class as crackpot delusions, even by those who think the specifics of the beliefs are a bit mad.
Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 3:36 pm
Some interesting stuff here, but I would take issue with this:
Callum Todd wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 7:36 am
- sort of tied into the harm point here, but religion clearly has, or at very least has had, some genuine positive societal benefits to it. If this wasn't true then it couldn't have survived the process of evolution for so long. This for me is the strongest argument for taking religion seriously, and it really baffles me how so many people who claim to be very pro-science, and often use fragments of Darwinism to beat the religionists with, fail to confront the phenomenon of religiosity on Darwnistic terms. Naturally the same can't be said of anti-vax and climate change denial.
If we look at religion surviving as an evolutionary thing, then that doesn't mean it has to have societal benefits. It basically just means that it has the means to survive like a selfish gene. Sure, most genes that survive probably do so by being beneficial to the organism they are in, but not all of them. But it's an even further leap to say that they benefit society as a whole. Evolution doesn't generally work on that level.

It might be worth reading this about Richard Dawkins and memes, and watching the YouTube video embedded at the bottom of the article. Also this on the Wikipedia.
We absolutely must "look at religion surviving as an evolutionary thing"; there's no "if" about it. To not do so is positively anti-Darwinian. Thank you for the links. I am very familiar with Dawkins' position on religion in the context of memetics. The Selfish Gene is my favourite book (soon to be replaced by Stuff and Consciousness, I'm sure) and I've read it many times. I've also read his 'Viruses of the mind' essay quoted from in that article, and watched the video embedded at the bottom of it. To my shame, I haven't read Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine but I have read her short paper Memes and the evolution of religion: We need memetics too.

I accept that memes do not have to be a positive thing for their host, and that meme viruses are - or at very least can be - a thing. However, religious beliefs are prevalent in every single human society ever found. If a new isolated population were found on some remote island today that we'd never known about before and we studied their culture to find they didn't have religion, every scientist in the world would be flabbergasted. The fact that religion is synonymous with human culture begs the question: can a human population survive into stability (as a child surviving into adulthood) without religion? If so, then why has that seemingly never happened? Surely if we could, we would have found populations that had done so?

So if religious belief is necessary for the survival of a human protosociety, then surely by definition it "[has] societal benefits", at least in its early stages (after which we might agree it can probably be discarded). This argument might at points sound a bit like group selection, but it's really not; it's more like treating religion as a phenotype of the memes that give rise to it, rather than as merely a collection of memes. You can see Dawkins himself challenged along these lines in this debate, although the filming of that debate is incomplete and shoddy, which will come as no surprise if you are aware of the absolute clusterfuck that was Pangburn Philosophy at the time of recording.
Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 1:33 pm
Callum Todd wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 7:36 am
- It's an unfalsifiable hypothesis, whereas the other beliefs you mentioned absolutely are falsifiable. They are negative assertions (vaccinations DON'T work, climate ISN'T changing due to human activity). Therefore, as it is easy to prove a positive assertion contrary to them (there is ample irrefutable evidence that vaccinations DO work, and that human activity DOES change climate), they can be proven to be false. Because you can disprove a negative claim very easily by simply proving the positive. But the existence of a god is a positive claim that, so long as it isn't too specific on the details, can't be disproven.
I think it's intellectually a very poor position to believe some hypothesis that can't be proven or disproven.
Absolutely 100% agreed. But its unfalsifiability still places it in a different category of belief to climate change denial and anti-vaxx (thanks Conor for the correct - if seemingly odd - spelling of this). You can argue that it's an equally (or even more) ludicrous category, and I think I would agree, but it's enough to explain a difference in perception.
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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Mon Apr 27, 2020 1:32 pm

Callum Todd wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:03 am
However, religious beliefs are prevalent in every single human society ever found. If a new isolated population were found on some remote island today that we'd never known about before and we studied their culture to find they didn't have religion, every scientist in the world would be flabbergasted. The fact that religion is synonymous with human culture begs the question: can a human population survive into stability (as a child surviving into adulthood) without religion? If so, then why has that seemingly never happened? Surely if we could, we would have found populations that had done so?

So if religious belief is necessary for the survival of a human protosociety, then surely by definition it "[has] societal benefits", at least in its early stages (after which we might agree it can probably be discarded). This argument might at points sound a bit like group selection, but it's really not; it's more like treating religion as a phenotype of the memes that give rise to it, rather than as merely a collection of memes. You can see Dawkins himself challenged along these lines in this debate, although the filming of that debate is incomplete and shoddy, which will come as no surprise if you are aware of the absolute clusterfuck that was Pangburn Philosophy at the time of recording.
Well I haven't watched that debate yet, but I might have a look at it at some point. I still think that you're putting the cart before the horse though (or some other analogy that might be appropriate). If all human societies acquire religion, it doesn't follow that the religion is necessary for human society. It could just mean that human society is a very ripe and fertile ground for the religion meme. No human society has ever existed without harmful viruses either (presumably).
Gavin Chipper wrote:
Sun Apr 26, 2020 1:33 pm
I think it's intellectually a very poor position to believe some hypothesis that can't be proven or disproven.
Absolutely 100% agreed. But its unfalsifiability still places it in a different category of belief to climate change denial and anti-vaxx (thanks Conor for the correct - if seemingly odd - spelling of this). You can argue that it's an equally (or even more) ludicrous category, and I think I would agree, but it's enough to explain a difference in perception.
I think that's fair enough and is probably at least part of the explanation. But for some reason, we also allow religions to hold some special position where they become a significant "part of the person" or their culture, so to question it becomes gravely insulting or in some way discriminatory. This is a ridiculous position for people to take. And it goes a long way to explain why it is deemed acceptable to chop the ends of babies' penises off.

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Re: Religion

Post by Callum Todd » Mon Apr 27, 2020 3:03 pm

Gavin Chipper wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 1:32 pm
Callum Todd wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:03 am
However, religious beliefs are prevalent in every single human society ever found. If a new isolated population were found on some remote island today that we'd never known about before and we studied their culture to find they didn't have religion, every scientist in the world would be flabbergasted. The fact that religion is synonymous with human culture begs the question: can a human population survive into stability (as a child surviving into adulthood) without religion? If so, then why has that seemingly never happened? Surely if we could, we would have found populations that had done so?

So if religious belief is necessary for the survival of a human protosociety, then surely by definition it "[has] societal benefits", at least in its early stages (after which we might agree it can probably be discarded). This argument might at points sound a bit like group selection, but it's really not; it's more like treating religion as a phenotype of the memes that give rise to it, rather than as merely a collection of memes. You can see Dawkins himself challenged along these lines in this debate, although the filming of that debate is incomplete and shoddy, which will come as no surprise if you are aware of the absolute clusterfuck that was Pangburn Philosophy at the time of recording.
Well I haven't watched that debate yet, but I might have a look at it at some point. I still think that you're putting the cart before the horse though (or some other analogy that might be appropriate). If all human societies acquire religion, it doesn't follow that the religion is necessary for human society. It could just mean that human society is a very ripe and fertile ground for the religion meme. No human society has ever existed without harmful viruses either (presumably).
You're right that to say that the ubiquitous presence of religion in human cultures is proof of its evolutionary adaptiveness is putting the cart before the horse. I don't think I was doing that, although looking back at what I posted it does read that way. Maybe me this morning was using faulty logic, or maybe he was just communicating poorly; I don't remember.

I guess the debate comes down to is religion adaptive or maladaptive, i.e. has it had a useful by-product that encouraged human evolution to co-opt it for the benefit of both, or is it just a parasite or memetic virus that has multiplied greatly throughout human populations despite all the while harming it. I would maintain that, depsite my belief that the era of religions being useful to human thriving has long passed (not to say that we should discard it without replacement, as that would leave a void in our pysches which have religious dependence hardwired into them by countless generations of evolution), they have evolved with remarkable success in every human culture because they have been useful to us in proto-civilisations (for some further reading, see the debate on metaphorical truth vs. literal truth, which has been quite in vogue recently).

To me it seems quite obvious how the common religious dogmatic calls to obedience, authority-fearing, in-group tribalism, procreation, and above all responsibility would help provide the order, structure, and renewability that is desperately needed to create a human civilisation out of the relative chaos that went before. These memes are highly successful because they encourage not only the procreative multiplication of themselves, but also of their hosts (us).

They may have even evolved separately, from independent geneses in different human cultures (particularly in the most isolated ones). That fact, if true, combined with their status as a phenotype rather than merely a collection of memes, makes them a more remarkable phenomenon than gene-based things such as viruses, and therefore not really analogous.

Rather than the memetic virus argument, I am proposing something more like a mutual benefit relationship between human genes and religion memes, albeit one that continues to benefit the religion memes indefinitely while only having served us so far as forming complex civilisations (see another chapter of the Selfish Gene - "You scratch my back, I'll ride on yours").

I can see the strength of the virus argument, but I think it fails to cover some of the details above, about how religion memes can (at least in the context in which they first boomed) benefit their hosts. But I'm glad this is the debate we're having, as it treats religion for what it is: a fascinating meme-phenotype phenomenon. This is where debate on religion should be had, in my opinion, as I believe it is the only place in which it can be had honestly. The framing of the issue as religion as just another odd belief doesn't do it justice.
Gavin Chipper wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 1:32 pm
Callum Todd wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:03 am
Absolutely 100% agreed. But its unfalsifiability still places it in a different category of belief to climate change denial and anti-vaxx (thanks Conor for the correct - if seemingly odd - spelling of this). You can argue that it's an equally (or even more) ludicrous category, and I think I would agree, but it's enough to explain a difference in perception.
I think that's fair enough and is probably at least part of the explanation. But for some reason, we also allow religions to hold some special position where they become a significant "part of the person" or their culture, so to question it becomes gravely insulting or in some way discriminatory. This is a ridiculous position for people to take. And it goes a long way to explain why it is deemed acceptable to chop the ends of babies' penises off.
Agreed again, although perhaps not 100%. The debate of religion itself, as a set of ideas and especially as a biological phenomenon, is completely open season to me. Any taboos against it, be it blasphemy law or just polite squeamishness, are silly and unhelpful. But I don't think it's a bad thing to be respectful of the religious beliefs of an individual. To go off on the ludicrousness of the god hypothesis as a whole while in debate with one person on their personal beliefs is to treat them as an interface for the entire cultural phenomenon of religiosity, which is a bit silly. Combine that with the fact that most religious people's beliefs are at the very least not harmful, and often actually make them very nice people, polite inquiry (without taboo) is definitely the way to go on that front in my opinion.
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Re: Religion

Post by Gavin Chipper » Mon Apr 27, 2020 10:14 pm

Callum Todd wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 3:03 pm
I would maintain that, depsite my belief that the era of religions being useful to human thriving has long passed (not to say that we should discard it without replacement, as that would leave a void in our pysches which have religious dependence hardwired into them by countless generations of evolution), they have evolved with remarkable success in every human culture because they have been useful to us in proto-civilisations (for some further reading, see the debate on metaphorical truth vs. literal truth, which has been quite in vogue recently).
I don't think atheists have a void in their psyches, and I don't think most of them have replaced religion with something else specific.
To me it seems quite obvious how the common religious dogmatic calls to obedience, authority-fearing, in-group tribalism, procreation, and above all responsibility would help provide the order, structure, and renewability that is desperately needed to create a human civilisation out of the relative chaos that went before. These memes are highly successful because they encourage not only the procreative multiplication of themselves, but also of their hosts (us).
It's possible that religion has had benefits - I definitely wouldn't rule that out. But I suppose it's difficult (impossible probably) to come up with a way of testing how much and in what way, and whether its positive benefits would ever have been required for human survival.
I can see the strength of the virus argument, but I think it fails to cover some of the details above, about how religion memes can (at least in the context in which they first boomed) benefit their hosts. But I'm glad this is the debate we're having, as it treats religion for what it is: a fascinating meme-phenotype phenomenon. This is where debate on religion should be had, in my opinion, as I believe it is the only place in which it can be had honestly. The framing of the issue as religion as just another odd belief doesn't do it justice.
There are obviously big differences between religious beliefs and the other things I mentioned so it isn't just another odd belief as you say. However, people who are fairly well-off and well-educated and living in the 21st century, and who carry on with these beliefs without proper critical thought, are letting themselves down I would say.
Callum Todd wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:03 am
Absolutely 100% agreed. But its unfalsifiability still places it in a different category of belief to climate change denial and anti-vaxx (thanks Conor for the correct - if seemingly odd - spelling of this).
Can this even be said to have a "correct" spelling? Anti-vaqqs.
Agreed again, although perhaps not 100%. The debate of religion itself, as a set of ideas and especially as a biological phenomenon, is completely open season to me. Any taboos against it, be it blasphemy law or just polite squeamishness, are silly and unhelpful. But I don't think it's a bad thing to be respectful of the religious beliefs of an individual. To go off on the ludicrousness of the god hypothesis as a whole while in debate with one person on their personal beliefs is to treat them as an interface for the entire cultural phenomenon of religiosity, which is a bit silly. Combine that with the fact that most religious people's beliefs are at the very least not harmful, and often actually make them very nice people, polite inquiry (without taboo) is definitely the way to go on that front in my opinion.
Obviously the way I talk on here is different from how I address people in "real life", and I don't go out of my way to offend religious people. I am happy to have a friendly debate with them though, if they are also up for it.

Not as long as your reply, but I think I've addressed the things that needed it most!

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Marc Meakin
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Re: Religion

Post by Marc Meakin » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:04 am

Amen to that
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Dan Byrom
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Re: Religion

Post by Dan Byrom » Wed Apr 29, 2020 7:46 am

Conor wrote:
Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:18 am
In addition to Callum's points: most religious people are brought up that way. It's a basis for their moral modus operandi, and if that works for them, I can certainly get why many don't dig too deep to find out if it's actually true.
This has become a very pertinent question for me ever since I first posted on this thread.

I've realised that it would be extremely scary and difficult to turn my back on Christianity as it is the basis for how I live my life, and many of my friendships too. I don't know if I could ever do it.

That's not to say I'm in that place right now, but I'm trying my best to get a more rounded perspective of the world, and this forum is helping me see other perspectives. Particularly Callum's comments on religion as an evolutionary tool have been very interesting to read and seem to make a lot of sense.

I do believe 'finding out if it's actually true' is a challenge to both the religious and the atheists though. The answer to the question "does God exist?" is certainly not obvious, even if you're convinced one way or the other.

So, thanks! And keep the debating going!

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Re: Religion

Post by Fiona T » Wed Apr 29, 2020 9:44 am

Whilst debate is interesting, and those of us who don't believe do naturally question how other people can possibly believe (hopefully without using insults or put downs!), I think the worst possible outcome of this thread would be if someone for whom religion was such an essential part of their life questioned their beliefs to the point of not believing. I imagine it would be akin to a bereavement.
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Dan Byrom
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Re: Religion

Post by Dan Byrom » Wed Apr 29, 2020 10:59 am

Don't worry about me Fiona. I'm not currently close to that point, and I suspect there's a good chance I won't ever be, but it is something I think I ought to investigate. It's a question of truth, not personal happiness. After all, it says in Corinthians:

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

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