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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: On Morality and Spirituality
So I was wondering for a while about the concept of externally influenced morality.  The religious, christians especially (note the small C) like to say that atheists are immoral, since without a god they have no reason to be civil to their fellow man.  Ignoring for a moment the atrocities committed in the name of our gods throughout recorded history, I can't see that this assertion is anything but a self-serving and obvious lie. 

It annoys me to no end that christians (and I use this term to describe religious people in general) believe themselves to be kind hearted solely because there's an eternal punishment if they are not.  This kind of 'be nice or be punished' attitude is part of the problem, as if we need to be coerced into being nice.

I was a church-going child, largely thanks to my mother, who - especially later in her life as cancer slowly ruined her - tried to find her own solace.  Like my father though I discarded religion as nonsense when I was about 14.  To this day I cannot believe that a rational mind can believe, really believe, in god and heaven and literal creation.  It's an antiquated construct, one that served to unite the savages when there were no other institutions to do it.

Now though we have larger, more intricate societies, with unparalleled education and laws and systems that work.  I have to believe that the christians are the truly dangerous amongst us, gathering as they do in their little groups and being nice because they're scared of being punished.  Fuck their tiny little brains if they believe they are superior or that they are the chosen.  Instead, I call them the bribed, the deceivers, the evil in a kind veneer.  How else to describe a group that is essentially admitting they'd run amok without their god, when they accuse all men of doing so under atheist conditions?  Takes one to know one, you shifty fuckers.

I don't think anyone who knows me would doubt my honesty, sincerity and kindness.  I'm a nice guy, even without a god spying on me from above.  Frankly, I don't need an external force for morality, and I'm somewhat aghast at people who do have this need.  In the same way I wonder why they can't be nice except at xmas, I wonder why they can't be nice without their god?

Religion taught me one useful thing: do unto others as I'd have them do unto me.  Good rule.  I'm nice 'cause that's how I'd prefer to be treated.  A kindness offered is usually returned.  So that's my morality sorted, how's yours?

The next thing I wonder about is spirituality.  I don't really know whether my particular happiness stems from any known branch of a spiritual tree: I wake up happy and generally love to be alive every day.  Shit happens, it's all good, what's next?

It's probably just a result of the chemical soup my brain swims in, but I'm generally happy with my lot.  Even when things don't go well I'm not too bothered by it.  I don't need a god, mother nature, benevolent trees or animal spirits in my life.  I'm content to keep on doing what I'm doing, happy and kind, with no real expectation of reward.  So far it's working for me.

But I wonder.

Do other people need this?  Would they be well served by some sort of belief system beyond this new ipod makes me really happy?

If so, what should it be?  I don't think the old schools work well anymore.  I'd like to see some sort of defocused happiness weak-ritualized set of motions and reflexes for the modern age, to keep the god-needy happy when we blow their old tenets to smithereens.  My thinking is simple: If they need something to hang on to, we should give them something that makes a lick of sense, 'cause this shit they're latched on to now is ridiculous.
BLEARGH
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User title: I can haz cheezburgrz?
Member since Aug 2009 · 23 posts · Location: Samford, QLD, Australia
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Quote by NFG:
I'm a nice guy, even without a god spying on me from above.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

the lighthouse of despair is nice AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Well, not to YOU.  That's crazy talk.
BLEARGH
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Member since Nov 2007 · 121 posts
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"No, MY set of beliefs that started out as a guy telling everyone to be nice to each other is superior to YOUR set of beliefs that started out as a guy telling everyone to be nice to each other."
An aggressive campaign of attempted conversion ensues and lots of people die.
And that's my big problem with religion. It's riddled with contradictions that don't hold up to even cursory scrutiny and yet so many stand with glazed over eyes and fixed grins utterly convinced that this all means they're a good person, while telling everyone else that they're wrong and going to their purgatory of choice, without any basis in reason. 
Isn't religion supposed to be a personal journey, that of you and your own relationship with whoever you believe is life's CEO? So why do you feel the need to force it on others or use it as the reasoning behind doing something nice or achieving something? Is it the ultimate in modesty, or do you really view yourself as one of someone's many millions of marionettes, with no control over your own actions and destiny? Perhaps it's just a convenient excuse to use if you go on a murdering spree, thankfully one that no longer holds up under modern law.
Organised, particularly Western, religion does serve a purpose of uniting people who may well have nothing else in common, but that's another big problem; it's false socialising. You wouldn't spend 3 hours a week in a room holding hands and singing with a group of people just because you all use the same brand of toothpaste, for example.
I'm of the mind that, back in early civilisation, the most powerful man in the village was not the chief, it was actually the soothsayer/medicine man/wise man. He was the one with the power to influence, based on what he'd 'seen in a vision' or 'been told by the gods'. And isn't this desire to control, coupled with a bunch of fables thrown in for good measure, all religion really is?
Science has proven just about every non-fable religious story to be a pack of lies designed to control a population who didn't know any better.
This quote from my Hillsong (look it up and try to convince yourself they're not just in it for the money) housemate sums up a very broken attitude to her belief system: "The Christian church is so old, so out of date, it's a relic from the past and doesn't reflect modern times. That's why I like Hillsong; because I can turn up in a short skirt and nobody complains".

As for the spiritual, at least they attribute their belief system to things that have been proven to exist - plants, animals, nature - and many of the associated characteristics can be observed in the relevant object. If this means a strong and peaceful attitude towards protection of the only inhabitable rock in space that we have, go right ahead.
"...either stop and think or fuck right off" (TheOutrider)
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Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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Quote by Vertigo:
Isn't religion supposed to be a personal journey, that of you and your own relationship with whoever you believe is life's CEO? So why do you feel the need to force it on others or use it as the reasoning behind doing something nice or achieving something?

The idea of religion as a personal journey is actually a pretty modern concept. Lutheranism didn't happen until what, the 16th century? And even then, the point was to allow privileged and educated people to read the Bible their own damned selves. A lot of our opinions about religion are colored by recent social and political developments, and even then it's in countries with European roots that we even think about individual liberty to make decisions like that. Luther's intention never was about upending the authority of the Pope or allowing lay interpretation. Quick digression to link to info about the Westboro Baptist Church:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church

I'm not particularly spiritual myself, nor do I have any beliefs that one might describe as religious. But as somebody who very nearly became an archaeologist, I'm not so quick to dismiss any religion. Yes, a great many people abuse and misinterpret the rules for their own benefit and to maintain a power structure that exploits other people. But that's not unique to religion, that's something that occurs in any financial or governmental institution. Religion makes a compelling and convincing target for that sort of criticism, but to single it out isn't exactly fair either.

One of the problems with history is that a dry record of the facts doesn't always convey the information, much less the wisdom gained. "The king passed judgment on child custody" is boring. "Solomon drew a sword and declared that the child should be cut in half, so that both women claiming motherhood would leave with an equal share. But the real mother, fearing for the life of the baby, renounced her claim so that the child might live." is thrilling and exciting. And it's almost certainly not true, in spite of the real life lessons that would come out of the story. What's screwy is that everybody knows the story about Solomon and fairness even without a religious background or a belief system of his or her own.

Religion is where shared culture starts. Jews who had no other national identity carried laws and a distributed government in exile thanks to their religion. It's too early in the morning for me to think of other examples in support of that assertion, but I will say unequivocally that I think religion has more positive than negative effects on society. And even if we were keeping score, it's not fair to denounce the whole concept as outmoded or irrelevant.
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Quote by Kendrick:
Yes, a great many people abuse and misinterpret the rules for their own benefit and to maintain a power structure that exploits other people. But that's not unique to religion, that's something that occurs in any financial or governmental institution.
This is exactly why I love having you around.  I do feel strongly that I am somewhat behind the curve in conversations of this type when you pipe up and say things like this.  Thank you for the very interesting point.

Quote by Kendrick:
Religion makes a compelling and convincing target for that sort of criticism, but to single it out isn't exactly fair either.

[...]

I will say unequivocally that I think religion has more positive than negative effects on society. And even if we were keeping score, it's not fair to denounce the whole concept as outmoded or irrelevant.

I think religion is a necessary evil, a useful construct for keeping the savages in line until we sort out something new and honest to replace it.  I used to believe that the religious were welcome to their beliefs as long as they weren't trying to change my world with it, but I'm more and more of the opinion that to tolerate without comment these patently ridiculous ideas is to tacitly approve them.  I do not, so I cannot.  While it may not happen in my lifetime, I've no doubt the concept of religion will fade eventually, as our science, knowledge and experience reduce its foundations to so much metaphorical rubble.  Good riddance.

Until we replace it though, I do wonder if it's not better to leave it alone, so that it keeps the ethically challenged from running amok, like dogs off their godly leash. 

Wow, that sounds harsh.  =)

FWIW, while I may have heard the Solomon story before, I would never have been able to recall it or remember its lesson before you mentioned it.  For sure, the christians are more likely to have heard it than I am.
BLEARGH
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Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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Quote by NFG:
Quote by Kendrick:
Yes, a great many people abuse and misinterpret the rules for their own benefit and to maintain a power structure that exploits other people. But that's not unique to religion, that's something that occurs in any financial or governmental institution.
This is exactly why I love having you around.  I do feel strongly that I am somewhat behind the curve in conversations of this type when you pipe up and say things like this.  Thank you for the very interesting point.

Heh. You're not behind the curve, but we all might be a little guilty of just a spoonful of solipsism. You know how economists always think that every injustice is an economic problem? Child psychologists also think everything is related to childhood trauma, and nutritionists think every malady can be cured with a better diet. All these people are viewing some well-known problem through the prism of their own knowledge or training.

People who observe a problem with religion don't always fall into this trap, but often they do. That's not to say the criticism is invalid, but it's always worth evaluating the path someone took to get to a conclusion. I'm acutely aware that my own views of religion are colored not only by being from New York (where one is surrounded by rabbis and muftis and priests at all hours) but also from living in the American south (where people use religion to justify accumulating wealth.) So I expect and appreciate diversity, but I also have a healthy cynicism about the motivation of the religious.
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Came across this in my RSS feeds this morning:

Amongst the non-believers of this world, there appears to be a split in thinking between:

1.) Those that think religion is good - regardless of truth - for some people.  Religion is useful for those who are trying to get sober, for those who have no where to turn, for those that might not follow society's rules, for those who might not otherwise respect others, for those in complete despair, and for those that need the idea, the concept - as a new drug - to get off another one.

2.) Those who think religion and the idea of God is never good for anyone.

That's more or less our discussion here, which is a rather remarkable coincidence.  She ends the discussion by saying that, although she has always favoured the first way of thinking, she now leans towards the second, as it seems less cynical about the capabilities of her fellow man.

I'm pretty cynical myself.  I lean towards 1, until we have a deity-free construct to help shift everyone to 2.
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Brisbane's Athiests
Over on facebook someone I met during a particularly interesting conversation started a Brisbane Athiests group and invited me to it.  Interesting people are interesting.

Coincidentally, someone else on FB messaged me a religious question a day later.  My fb profile states, under Religious Views:  "'God' is an antiquated cultural artifact."  He asks me what this meant.

My reply, which is the point of this post, was this:  It means the concept of god is a cultural leftover from the dark ages, when stormy skies scared us, and we hid in our mud huts and we sought to explain the world by inventing sky men with bad tempers.

I read an interesting thing by a guy who said something similar once about it being an antiquated social or cultural construct that we, as a progressive society, should start thinking about leaving behind, like so many other things we no longer need.  I wish I could remember who said it or where I read it...

If I might pad out this post with a quote from the fb group mentioned above...  I wrote this, which echoes earlier sentiments in this thread, but which I feel reflects particularly well the idea that we can still have kindness and beauty in a harsh, godless world:

Quote by NFG:
I used to grant people the freedom to believe what they wanted. Increasingly, as I get older (and I'm a lot older than you, so perhaps you'll be embittered like me one day) I am less inclined to grant this. Religion is a crutch for the weak-minded. The universe is harsh, pointless and we're all gonna die. Get over it.

Create the beauty yourself: be nice to each other, support each other, make beautiful things. We don't need religion to make the world a better place. Discard it like so many security-blanket trappings of childhood.
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I read Pharyngula a lot.  It's written by a biologist professor, and focuses primarily on the silliness and abuses of religion.  A while ago he desecrated some Catholic communion wafers, taking pictures of them with nails in them, thrown in the trash, covered in coffee grounds.  This is now known as 'the cracker incident' and Catholic do-gooders still harangue him about it.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/sacrilicious.jpg]

A point he made in a recent post is that people who focus on the cracker incident are missing the point, in much the same way modern news is skipping over real news to focus on Tiger Woods' return to golf.

They're all asking precisely the wrong questions. Here are two hypothetical newspaper headlines; which of them is trivial, and which is High Crazy, needing more explanation?

Headline A:
MAN THROWS BREAD IN TRASH
It's just a cracker, he says

Or Headline B?
MAN BELIEVES BREAD IS GOD
It's the most precious object in the world, milllions say
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Hey muslims: This is why you have a bad reputation.
I should be clear: I think everyone who believes in any god has a weak mind, incapable of reason, or they're deceitful.  Pascal's Wager be damned, you're an idiot.

Muslims, however, brandish a special kind of intolerant idiocy.  I bring you three facts:

1. Muslims are still threatening to kill an artist who drew a picture of mohammed with a bomb on his turban.

You whiny little shits, get over yourselves.  The world will be better served by a little tolerance than you fuckers running amok every time someone offends you.  Grow some fucking spines.

2. The creators of South Park have been warned about "violent retribution" for making a cartoon that features mohammed in a bear suit.

Now, this is interesting.  Militant islamists are freaking out over a cartoon, which shows someone in a bear suit, who might be mohammed.  The networked bleeped out all mentions of the bear suited character's name, so at no time was it actually stated that mohammed was inside. 

So you've got muslims threatening violence 'cause they heard someone might have insulted their god.

So, what, any reason will do?  What's next, you'll be shooting people 'cause a friend of your uncle's buddy said they were rude to your god one time?  Yeah, way to preach a peaceful path.

3. an Iranian cleric said earthquakes were caused by immodest women.

Guys, seriously, grow up.  How pathetic is it that you're still treating women like slaves?

Of course, christians have their mouthpieces claiming similar things about women.  Screw them too.
BLEARGH
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Subject: god and its mid-life crisis (and maybe other things)
One of the funny things I find about christianity is that, if youve read the old and new testaments, the demeanour of the supposed god changes dramatically between both (aka the midlife crisis...christis?) of the testaments, in the old he is an angry venegful god who enjoys the slaughtering of anyone who wrongs him (probably why so many wars happen in his name, if god kills people than it must be ok), whereas in the new he is seen in a lovey dovey "your sins are forgiven" temperament...and how do people rationalise this...

"oh well its because he sent his son (who is also him, but in human form...HOW DOES THIS MAKE HIM HIS OWN SON!!) to die for us so that we could be saved from our sins and therefore because we have no sins he is nice to us"
(of course this is a much less complicated explanation than that which i was given, but it is the jist of what was said)

as you can see the explanation doesnt in any way explain why/how the demeanour of the god suddenly changed...it just did...and nobody questions it!

thats one of my main arguements with religions. religious people read a book (which may or may not be fiction) from 1000+ years ago and dont question it, they dont look to see if anything within the books is irrelevant today, but instead believe that everything within it is the answer to any question directed towards religion. it takes a very closed-mind/mentally ill/scared-of-the-world type of person to not question why they are believing a book which they have no idea is truth or just fictional.
money cake..ayumyumyumyumyumyum
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Member since Apr 2010 · 32 posts · Location: Brisbane
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In reply to post #11
Subject: Hey muslims: This is why you have a bad reputation.
I have watched both the original episode where they can say Mohammad's name and the following episode where it is censored out due to extremist threats. My personal opinion on this is the terrorists win. They have effectively silenced our media by making threats on innocent lives. When threats like those of terrorists are complied to, we are no longer a free country. They have the control and it’s about time something was done. We are already losing the battle because we are too afraid to put all Muslim people in the scope of our attack. Fair enough, when it comes to killing unarmed people is wrong and get none anywhere. But if we tell for example Afghanistan, we will place an embargo on them, (So nothing can come in or out of their country), for 1 week every time a innocent life from our countries is lost due to terrorism, I bet you the people of that country will weed them out for us.

Before anyone goes, "well that makes us as bad as them". No it doesn't because the terrorists come from those countries and are therefore the responsibility of that particular social group. They hide them, give them funds, help them kill our people and let the terrorists manipulate their children. So let them choose, they can play nice and peacefully and give us the terrorists or we do exactly as the terrorists ask and leave them alone. No aid, no trade no help. We are not attacking them; we are just not helping them because they reward our attempts at a peaceful world, with the death of innocent lives.

Ps. I guess you could also look at incentives as well as disincentives. Such as aid for handing over top terrorists, and not placing tariffs on goods they export.
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Kinkas: Have you watched Charlie Wilson's War?

America could do a lot more to shore up countries after fucking them over.  Waltz in, kick ass, and leave the place in ruins (optional: gut their resources too) and who's surprised there's a simmering hatred left behind?

Blocking Afghanistan won't work, it's not the regular people who are the problem.  A very small component is doing most of the damage, and it's a very difficult war to win.  You want to change hearts and minds?  Get in there and build infrastructure, give them real, legitimate government, educate their children.

Terrorism, like guerilla warfare, isn't going to be won in battles or blockades.  You need to give them productive lives so they can live free and happy.  Currently they live in mud huts and eat rocks - of course they're pissed off.  Nothing better to do than blow shit up.

...Wait, what's this got to do with radical muslims, many of whom live in rich countries?

Ugsey: don't you start pointing out inconsistencies in the bible.  Who's got time to read that list?  ;)
BLEARGH
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Member since Apr 2010 · 32 posts · Location: Brisbane
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In reply to post #12
Subject: god and its mid-life crisis (and maybe other things)
The whole thing with religion is not to question god. You accept he exists and all these things are possible. Bascially at a young age children who don't know better are indoctrinated. Its the equivalent of shoving crayons up your nose until your IQ reaches 40. You can still function, but you are incapable of distinguishing between fact or fiction and have no independent thought what so ever.

I have been down this road many times. They are stupid, its is so dam frustrating how stupid they are. But we can only try to "enlighten" so to speak as mainly as you can. Some are literally just to far gone. And I have just seen that you read my post on the BA group, with the hospital analogy.
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