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Does Religion have value?

  1. Feb 19, 2007 #1
    It seems that most discussion on religions centers on whether a given religion is true or false. The conclusion is that it is unknowable or that the 'winner of the war' will decided.

    It might be interesting to discuss whether or not religion has VALUE to the individual and/or to society. Would someone who actually believed that sinners will 'burn in hell' behave the same as an atheist who believes that 'this is it'?

    Do first generation atheists behave the same as second generation atheists? Are atheistic countries 'more' or 'less' stable than theistic countries?

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  3. Feb 19, 2007 #2
    This may be a side note, but I would like to emphasize that religion is not the opposite to atheism. Buddhism for example, is an atheistic religion.
  4. Feb 19, 2007 #3
    I agree. There are enough definitions of religion that even communism might be construed as worship of the state. For this discussion, lets limit religion to groups that worship or revere a supernatural diety.
  5. Feb 22, 2007 #4
    Religion certainly has some value. Although it was originally a way for humanity to identify and become familiar with the world around him, today I would say religion is a way for people to develop morality.

    Atheistic communities (and countries) usually are more 'unstable' because religion does have an effect of building a stronger community. Albeit the latter condition, atheistic countries are usually secular, and can simply allow any view of philosophy to coexist.
  6. Feb 22, 2007 #5


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    Not at all.
    The one who believes another should burn in hell for, say, wearing long hair, is far more eager to give that person a taste of what he is going to experience down there.
  7. Feb 22, 2007 #6
    Nationality is a huge factor in building stronger and larger communities, probably better than religion most of the time.
  8. Feb 22, 2007 #7


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    Another point:

    It is utterly irrelevant whether or not religion may be assigned a "value" or not.

    At its heart, religion makes a nonsensical claim about the EXTERNAL world (namely the existence of some God that has created the observable universe), and the crucial point is we should not go on about making indefensible claims about the world, however uplifting or down-treading the claims might be for our psyches.
  9. Feb 22, 2007 #8
    The history of Science seems to be a history of nonsensical claims about the EXTERNAL world (random chance created the observable universe! Pleease! You should not go on about making indefensible claims about the world!). "But science has experimentally proven its claims", but quantum theory states that the scientist decides what to measure so, like religion, you see what you want to see. "But science continually evolves towards the ultimate truth" but quantum theory indicates an evolution towards Uncertainty. Substitute Proof for God, the laws of Moses for the Laws of science, note the rituals of the experiment and bow down to your idols (Einstein, fractal patterns, little models of molecules etc.) and above all, fight back in blind panic when your 'beliefs' come under attack. Science IS religion, and the biggest value they both share may be their insistence we live in a certain, knowable world, don't worry people, you may not know what's going on but we do. The time has come for both science and religion to confess. Say after me "I don't know, I don't know".
    I'd love to say all the above "is" true but, sadly, I don't know. :bugeye:
  10. Feb 23, 2007 #9
    Religion is a very important tool for organizing people and making them accept laws by nature and education instead by the laws being enforced by the government. so religion can be used as a crime reducer and a motivator.
  11. Feb 23, 2007 #10
    But is that really so? Sure, most people will say that religion teaches some kind of morale, but that might not be the entire story. Is the reason that you do not kill or steal that you are afraid God will find out and punish you? Would it be bad, strictly evolutionary to kill everyone around you?
  12. Feb 23, 2007 #11
    well of course its not the whole story, but in the past laws didn't exist like now, so religion was really needed. i mean in sweden ppl mayb atheists but they won't start doing crime, because its not in their way of life anymore. as for the strictly evolutionary part, i'm afraid i didn't quite understand what u meant !
  13. Feb 23, 2007 #12


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    What panic?
    We see what we see.
    Then we start thinking about it. Sometimes, we will think wrongly about what we have seen.
    That's all there is.
  14. Feb 23, 2007 #13
    Tenets of x religion: unfalsifiable.

    Tenets of science: a good theory must be falsifiable.

    Religion: morality is eternal, although what exactly denotes morality and what doesn't such as condoning slavery and an eye for an eye, is subject to change only by an act of God or by man and in circumstances that defy logic?

    Now this is good, pity most people are incapable of following it.

    Science: all laws are subject to change and reinterpretation when more rigorous or better laws come along.

    And to add, no scientist bows down to any idolatrous figure, they just offer them congratulations until they can figure out how to stick a knife in his/her theories back.

    Science is but one death after another.

    Niels Bohr.

    I could go on.

    In answer to the OP, religion has a great grounding in morality for a society living in the classical and ancient periods of our history. But if it cannot change or adapt to new ideas of morality, then it is destined to stagnate, it's lack of willingness to progress is what holds it back as good moral theory. It simply chooses to answer modern ethics by claiming it has an a priori right to morality, but even then it picks and chooses which laws to follow. Seemingly with little consistency, why are women allowed to uncover there heads or talk in church? They were forbidden in The New Testament, why are these discarded?

    I'm not meaning to pick on the Abrahamic faiths at all(Don't get me started on some of the more fundamental Islamic beliefs) All religions are guilty of some of the above, it's simply that I do not know as much about other religions.

    Religion could be a force for good, but so often it has been corrupted by politics and by hypocrites, the basis is sound within a historical context, but there are just too many hypocrites playing with the text and using it to mean whatever they feel like at the time, no theistic religion is without blame in this regard: albeit that usually it isn't the tenets of faith that are to blame, but specious rewriting of facts in a new context to disallow something it was never meant to even cover.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2007
  15. Mar 1, 2007 #14
    What religion has done for the human race is unbelievable. Even if a God doesn't exist religion still has provided spiritual evolution for many, evolution that was necessary for other fields of study to take off.
  16. Mar 1, 2007 #15
    A moral person is good regardless of laws or religion.

    An amoral person needs laws and religion to guide his or hers behavior,

    An immoral person ignores both laws and religion.

    The value of religion lies in the knowledge that there is something greater than ourselves, that there is some purpose and order to the universe and our lives.
  17. Mar 1, 2007 #16


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    As corrupt as most religion gets its value remains evident in how it has preserved much of the world's secular knowledge through many centuries of warfare, natural disaster and persecution. Such was the role of the monk that they protected not only scripture but also many records of secular significance.

    There is more evidence of value in that the church for some time was the sole center of eduation for a population of illiterate people.

    And what Royce has pointed out shows another valid contribution to society by religion.
  18. Mar 1, 2007 #17
    The core tenets of the New testament are a very worthy moral code, so religion obviously has it's uses and is worthy and I'd go so far to say that in prehistoric times it probably had an evolutionary advantage cohering early societies to one common moral code, much like a code of laws does in secular terms.

    I think you can only really judge the acts of selfish individuals, nations and general immorality as nothing to do with religion but more to do with human nature. Religion is often merely the gloss politicians have put over there actions to allow them to sleep at night, for the separation of church and state I am eternally grateful.
  19. Mar 1, 2007 #18


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    Actually I'd say that religion has borrowed tenets from laws of early social arrangements. A lot of opportunities to come up with social laws presented themselves during times of hardship or conflict within primitive and early society. They were solved by decisions that were based on common sense by elders who had the experience to do so. It is possible that the way these decisions worked and the positive results soon became mythological miracles attributed to leaders who were considered gods. From there you can imagine the extrapolation to wide spread relgious organizations (and corruption).
  20. Mar 1, 2007 #19
    Oh I'm not going to argue exactly where moral codes come from, they obviously developed long before religion did, the golden rule for example existed long before Jesus said "do unto others as you would be done by.", religion codified such moral laws, made them easily accessible and that's where it's role lay.

    I think though in primitive societies the leaders of the tribe were probably a) a religious leader such as a Shaman/druid/mystic: who would explain religious and philosophical mysteries, and a leader who would have the Shaman as an advisor/mentor. Thus the role of religion was probably very influential. Why would anyone - who often were living at a basic subsistence level - move hundreds of tones of stones to a place with no real gain as such, if it weren't for the obvious influence of religion.

    Obviously primitive societies could not fathom the deeper mysteries of the world, for this they turned to some sort of mystic to divine what was happening. I believe that such a social structure would have a real benefit to early societies, giving them a common purpose and a reason for their actions. Understanding hardship and death and all the mysteries of the natural world would have been somewhat bemusing without some guide to explain them, albeit in purely theological/philosophical terms.

    I remember seeing a program about how the religious experiences that some believers perceive can be reproduced without religion, merely by stimulating certain brain areas under scientific conditions, as with many things like this some people could be made to feel a sense of serenity an odd sense of other presence and many of the things we associate with a religious experience. Some people could be made to feel nothing and it was a sort of spectrum, it was suggested that such behaviour was encoded in the brain at some level. Although of course I'm not suggesting God put it there, just that it has been a part of our societies for so long that the evolutionary benefit of such behaviours have become part of our make up. I firmly believe if we abandoned religion and turned to secularism, sooner or later someone would invent a church of the humanist secularists.:smile: Me though, I'm firmly agnostic, and likely to remain that way.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2007
  21. Mar 1, 2007 #20
    Also as somewhat an aside, when Man first settled and adapted agriculture, with the abundance of food, there were population explosions. Religion gave the otherwise idle people something to do, build temples, pyramids etc. After wars that seems to be their next favorite pastimes.
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