Is religion beneficial or harmful to society?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Obi-Wan McCartney, Dec 1, 2008.

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  1. nancyallen Jedi Master

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    Nov 19, 2007
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    I think an ideological society regardless of belief is harmful. You have a society that is ideological on law and order, you have a police state. You have an ideological Islam society you have opression of women, preaching of violence against other beliefs, ect. Any time there is an ideological belief, someone who can't see the forest for the trees and is too wedded in their vision of their views is how the world has to be, that is harmful to society.
  2. LemmingLord Jedi Master

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    Apr 28, 2005
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    Luckily what's bad for one society is typically good for another. If youru society can't grow, it will get consumed by on that can.
  3. nancyallen Jedi Master

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    Nov 19, 2007
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    That's perhaps the other half of whether religion or beliefs are beneficial or harmful to society. Either society is able to grow and adapt to different views and ways of life or it dies out from being too ideological and set in it's views of their way having to be how the world has to be, how everyone in their society has to be.
  4. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 26, 2001
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    Well, hot damn. Something not only pertinent to the conversation, but one with which I can pretty much agree!

    I just have to be sure that we mean the same thing when referring to "ideology" -- specifically, that you mean not so much a prescription for how to think, but what to think. From certain perspectives, the concept that all questions should be addressed via rational inquiry could be considered an "ideology," but it does not give you the answers it wants you to memorize and repeat by rote, rather it tells you how to find them for yourself.

    It would seem that we could agree that dogma of any kind has potential harm that tends to outweigh the potential good. The issue, as it pertains to this thread, is that religion traditionally is a set of strict dogma that must be accepted and followed. Modern religions, particularly Christianity, have evolved certain more "liberal" sects that treat these things, as a wise pirate once said, "more like guidelines than actual rules." And frankly, that's fine. If every religious person treated their religion as a purely personal set of guidelines, I don't think I would have a problem with that; there are people out there who genuinely use Yoda's teachings as the basis of their philosophical beliefs.

    And good for them. As we discussed in another thread, it doesn't have to be factual to contain truth; that's what mythology is all about. From a societal level, that would likely do no harm.

    If religion were removed from society -- not by force or by law, but by everyone voluntarily giving up their belief -- then I don't think all conflict would disappear forever. Conflict comes from a perception that other people are fundamentally "other" from you, and we have plenty of ways to perceive Us-And-Them besides religion, be it monetary/class difference, racial difference, gender difference, whatever. And each one of those would have to pass, too, before we could move beyond our tribal past -- and again, that passing must be voluntary and desired by the vast majority. I'm talking 90%+.

    But, that being said, I think that religion is the #1 culprit of the us-vs-them mentality, and if that were to pass away it would be a giant leap for mankind.
  5. LemmingLord Jedi Master

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    Apr 28, 2005
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    Or the society because marginalized and absorbed. Which is what's happened to most religious socities in America.. They've been consumed, torn up, and divided between the major societies of humanism, consumerism and infotainment.
  6. LostOnHoth Chosen One

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    Feb 15, 2000
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    For me, this is how kind of how I intellectually measure the topic of this thread. I come to pretty much the same conclusion except in stronger terms, ie, if religion were removed from society then I think there would still most definitely be conflict in the world. The combatants might be harder to recruit but there will still be conflict. Why? Simply because much of the conflict that is attributed to religious differences has an underlying non-religious catalyst, namely (to quote Robert Pape) "a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the "religious" terrorists consider to be their homeland? (see Robert, Pape: Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism). In this regard, it is 'nationalism' rather than 'religion' which is the fundamental catalyst and fuelled by US and British military policies in the Persian Gulf, ie, organisations like al-Qaeda see themselves more as a force against the rise of aggresive Western "imperialism". Much of this is corroborated by Peter Bergen (No 1 world expert on Osama Bin Laden) in his two books "Holy War Inc" and "The Osama bin Laden I Know".
  7. nancyallen Jedi Master

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    Nov 19, 2007
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    To answer what is meant by ideological beliefs, it's slightly different from fundamentalist beliefs. There are fundamental religious beliefs or fundamental beliefs on the constitution because they are written out and set in stone. Atheism just to use an example rejects the tag of being fundamental because there are no fundamental concepts to the belief. Ideological beliefs on the other hand can pretty much be on anything. It can be, for example, terrorists demanding the release of one of their compatriots and if that means they have to kill the children they've taken hostage then that's not their problem, they're perfectly happy to do that because they are so set in their goals that they reject anything that doesn't agree with them, including how strong a taboo it is to harm children. And ideology can be for anything, it can be on the need for a totalarian police state to ensure order, it can be commiting acts of unspeakable evil on the promise of saving someone you love.
  8. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
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    Nancyallen, I think the one thing I'd want to add to that is that I think its only a particular kind of ideology that's a problem. For example, the taboo to harm children is part of an ideology as well. Freedom is part of an ideology. An ideology is just the beliefs of an individual or a group, and so I don't think they're neccessarily bad.

    That said, I think ideologies in general, definitely have the POTENTIAL to be very harmful, and we've seen that time and time again, and I think that point is not just when some is ideological, but when they are no longer willing to objectively look at their own ideology and instead will back it blindly and without really evaluating what it is that they're backing. I think its the replacement of rational thought and evaluation with emotion and blind loyalty that allows ideologies to become harmful, and can make nearly any ideology harmful in those circumstances.
  9. nancyallen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 19, 2007
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    With that said perhaps it is ideology more than religion that can be harmful to society. Certainly religion can be harmful, however I would say it is the ideology behind it that causes it. Someone who believes, wrongly, that homosexuals are to be put to death their very existence is a blight on the world (it's actually homosexual activity that's condemned), because they are too ideological in this way of thinking and not on other tenets of religion such as compassion and acceptance. Also ideology is not limited to religion, the example with the terrorists using children to try and force the release of one of their compatriots were said to be ideological Marxists, and the story they are from included those who were ideological for Ireland striking a blow against the hated British, for the environment and for demanding something that did not exist (some Swiss financial bonds from memory). So if we were to look at what might be harmful to society I would be looking at ideology and how cemented the society is in their ideology, whether they are too cemented in their ideals to handle different views.
  10. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
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    Well, someone's ideology is, often, heavily influenced by religion (obviously not in the case of the nonreligious, but for those that are religious, religion IS going to usually be one of the largest factors). So I'd say its more that religion can be a very powerful component in a destructive ideology. Of course, sometimes the religion plays no part in what makes the ideology destructive, and it shouldn't automatically be presumed to have had that effect. Its why I'd say that religions should ONLY be held responsible for what they actually tell their followers to do, and for what the religious organisation itself does. Its the difference between a Catholic doing a bad thing and the Catholic Church doing a bad thing or telling Catholics to do bad things. I'm not going to hold the religion responsible for the first, but the second two I think its entirely fair to hold the religion responsible for.

    I think it should always be looked at to see WHY it is that an ideology is destructive or harmful though, and only hold responsible the sources for that part of the ideology, and not all influences.
  11. nancyallen Jedi Master

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    Nov 19, 2007
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    We go back to the example of religious ideology being used to justify persecution of homosexuals. If we look at the letter of religious law it is homosexual activity that's the problem. That is what the religion states, even then to dogmatically enforce this is harmful to society because it promotes treating those who are different with contempt as well as ignoring what else religion has set in stone, such as how it is not their place to judge. However say the Catholic church goes beyond condemning homosexual activity, say they target homosexuals full stop. Not only do they get it wrong they do a great deal of harm to society, they become almost like fundamentalist ideological Islam, which is generally pretty bad. Either way, the Catholic church should know better.
  12. Master_Starwalker Manager Emeritus

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    Sep 20, 2003
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    It's also not a universally accepted belief that Christ's message and acceptance of homosexuality are incompatible with one another.

    Edit: I would also argue that regardless of whether or not they are incompatible, the church's interference in Prop 8 is an example of religion being harmful to society.
  13. LemmingLord Jedi Master

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    Apr 28, 2005
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    Which society? :)
  14. Master_Starwalker Manager Emeritus

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    The society made up of the citizens of the United States of America(as it strips rights from their fellow citizens) at the very least and indirectly, possibly the society of those who identify as Christian(as it reinforces the perception that Christians are bigots.)
  15. Qui-Gon_Reborn Manager Emeritus

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  16. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    You can't really prove any sociologic point by citing works of fiction.

    You don't know that, as nobody's lived in a religion-free society. You could look upon religion as a touchstone by which we develop our science. Maybe, by thinking in terms of the Creator and eternity through religion, it has enlarged our frame of reference... enhanced our ability to think freely.

    Not saying that that's the case, just putting your statement in perspective.

    Same thing; you may as well say that progress is undesirable and that, therefore, strife is undesirable. Depends how you look at it... And which religion you follow.
  17. Qui-Gon_Reborn Manager Emeritus

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    Fiction is a way in which we explore sociological points. Fiction goes where I cannot; I use what I have read to expand upon topics that I am considering.

    Perhaps quoting and citing fiction serves the same purpose for me that quoting the Bible does for religious individuals, since the Bible is, scientifically and historically speaking, nothing more than a fictitious sequence of mythological tales.

    You don't know that, as nobody's lived in a religion-free society. You could look upon religion as a touchstone by which we develop our science. Maybe, by thinking in terms of the Creator and eternity through religion, it has enlarged our frame of reference... enhanced our ability to think freely.

    Not saying that that's the case, just putting your statement in perspective.[/quote]

    Don't worry, I understand what you're saying. Please, don't worry about offending me or anything; I've been offended by the best, and we're just having a civil discussion.

    Well, I believe that religion hampers the ability to think freely as when one places faith in something that does not physically exist, it becomes possible for anyone to take advantage of this blind devotion and bend your thoughts and information that you ingest. Everything you can think of is now thrown into light by something that is designed not to make sense, and that's dangerous.

    "Find Hitler in your heart, not your mind," the Nazis said. And many did, embracing this powerful faith as a religion, enabling them to be controlled.

    I am not comparing Hitler to Jesus in any way, just putting your statement in perspective. ;)

    Same thing; you may as well say that progress is undesirable and that, therefore, strife is undesirable. Depends how you look at it... And which religion you follow. [/quote]

    Not that I'm wishing for World War III or something, but human beings need something to struggle against in order to progress. That's why the first hominids invented tools; as a means of advancement to overcome strife. Religion cultivates strife in the world; not something that's good for society, but that's good for civilization.
  18. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    Nicely spoken.

    *clicks QGR's user name*

    You're.... 15???
    Welcome to the Senate!
  19. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 26, 2001
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    I disagree. But that is a topic I'm considering starting another thread for entirely, once I've written up the opening post.

    I don't think you're wrong to, in some ways. This touches on an issue I have with Christianity:

    Hitler kills 6 million Jews. According to Christianity, he burns in Hell for eternity for his act of genocide.

    Those 6 million Jews also burn in the same Hell, also for eternity, because they didn't love Jesus.

    Hitler, who tortured the 6 million for a finite period of time, is called a monster; yet God/Jesus, who will torture them all infinitely and indiscriminately, is called righteous, just, and -- most heinously -- compassionate.

    We see the danger in religion in all the people who refuse to give a straight answer when asked "What would you do if God asked you to kill?" and in the people who do give the straight answer "I would do so without hesitation."

    Those who can make you believe absurdities...
  20. nancyallen Jedi Master

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    Nov 19, 2007
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    [image=http://i36.photobucket.com/albums/e7/nancyallen/CatchVingtDeux-X.gif]
  21. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
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    That's got nothing to do with the topic and it's inaccurate.

    Jacques Chirac

    AKA Jacques Rene Chirac
    Born: 29-Nov-1932
    Birthplace: Paris, France
    Gender: Male
    Religion: Roman Catholic
  22. DVCPRO-HDeditor Jedi Master

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    Nov 24, 2006
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    Christendom. There's a difference between Christianity and Christendom, as I will get into if (and when) you post that thread. :)
  23. Qui-Gon_Reborn Manager Emeritus

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    Yup, 15 in Earth years. ]-} Thanks! :D

    Well, I meant what I said in a different way. Jesus, as a historical man with no supernatural powers of ANY kind, was a good human being, while Hitler was, quite simply, a monster.

    However, you're right about what you said concerning one of the principal problems with Christianity. That the poor children living in some death-ridden village in Africa and who never have harmed another human being in their lives will burn in Hell because they didn't know about God...that just doesn't make any sense!

    "I don't mind going to Hell for being an atheist. All my friends will be there." :p
  24. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
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    I believe religion is a good thing, so long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others. The problem is that almost every religion emphasizes that it is divine and all the others are wrong.

    I would take a stand that I WILL NOT respect a belief that doesn't respect the rights of others. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, even the terrorists that destroyed the World Trade Center. After they hijacked those planes and harmed others, they went too far.
  25. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
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    I read a very enlightening interview with Philip Pullman recently, in which he made the point of calling Stalin's Russia (or perhaps it was Mao's China, I can't remember) a theocracy.

    Once again, I was reminded that atheism is really a poor term for what many atheists try to convey about themselves with it. That is, of course we ARE a-theistic: we don't worship or believe in any gods. But for me and many others, it's much more than that; we're a-religious. And I think it's important to include non-spiritual dogma in the category of 'religion' as well. It's silly to separate dogmatic ideologies based on whether or not there is supernatural belief involved, because if a religion turns out to be true then the "supernatural" elements are a real and functioning part of how the universe works, so they're not really supernatural at all.
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