Does it matter what religious beliefs other people have?

(72 Posts)
LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 11:14:01

I was a bit shocked to discover how many people in the USA doubt evolution. Do you think it matters what other people believe? Why (or why not)?

If you need the background, this was the data I was amazed at:-
www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/americans-believe-in-creationism_n_1571127.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

If I were an atheist, I'd be fine with the school assuming that God exists. I wouldn't want my child being taught that any one set of religious beliefs is fact, but in more of a "this religion believes" and "that religion believes" manner.

This is what we're planning to do - it's only started to come up recently, and only because of the preschool nativity.

giraffe213 Wed 21-Nov-12 17:33:26

Religious beliefs do matter because they affect every part of a person's life. That doesn't mean that everyone should have to conform to the majority belief, however. Everyone believes in something - even atheism is believing that there is no God, when this cannot be proven. I think everyone should have the right to believe what they believe teach that to their children.

For example, the OP mentioned evolution - the vast majority of people in the UK do believe the human race came into existence through evolution, but it isn't a proven fact like other facts in science. It takes just as much faith as believing God created us, to think that there was nothing, then life evolved in single cells, and now we can see, feel, have conscious thought and emotions, etc. How did the eye evolve when it wouldn't have served any purpose until every part was in its proper place? Nobody was there to observe evolution happening and nobody can repeat it in the science lab. I understand why most people believe creationism shouldn't be taught in a science lesson, because it is a minority view and makes no sense if you don't believe in God, but I don't believe evolution should be taught as fact in a science lesson either, just as the main theory. If you don't believe in God then it is the most accessible and acceptable explanation for how things came to exist as they are, but it isn't proven beyond reasonable doubt.

There should definitely be freedom for people to express alternative beliefs and teach them to their children. Just because they're in the minority, doesn't automatically mean they're wrong. The cases that have resulted in needless death are different because nobody has a right to take away a person's life.

Incidentally, the tragic case in Ireland shouldn't have happened because Irish law allowed for abortion to save that mother's life.

GrrrArghZzzzYaayforall8nights Wed 21-Nov-12 17:41:07

Unless the Church starts an insurance company it really isn't in a position to write anything. Insurance companies in the States cannot change their policies on religious grounds (an individual may refuse treatment for religious grounds but an insurance company cannot refuse to pay on religious grounds) and since all insurance companies now have to provide birth control and the Catholic Church has to give its employees insurance, no, it can't. It would be like Catholics refusing to pay NI because some of the money goes to pay for birth control. They are buying an insurance policy that includes birth control, that is all.

nightlurker Wed 21-Nov-12 19:50:41

I did a little more research. Nuns do not have to have it provided to them, and neither do certain other religious employees who are hired on the basis of religion.

It's when they open up a hospital or university and hire people from all faiths that the law asks them to pay for it.

LoveFoolMe Thu 22-Nov-12 07:30:17

Thejoyfulpuddlejumper Oh and as for how far my tolerance extends - I am happy for others to believe whatever they like as long as 1) they don't shove it down my throat and/or try to convert me, and 2) it brings no harm to anyone.

That second one's quite subjective though don't you think? Where's the line between parental influence and neglect?

Snorbs Thu 22-Nov-12 09:20:41

If I were an atheist, I'd be fine with the school assuming that God exists.

In itself, that would give the impression from the school that some religions are more right than others. "Assuming that God exists" is a mindset rooted in the Abrahamic religions.

Would you be fine with the school assuming that Odin, Vili and Ve existing as-per the Norse beliefs?

headinhands Thu 22-Nov-12 18:18:56

Giraffe can I just respond to some of the points in your post?

Firstly the position of atheism is not a faith based position. I cannot say there is no god, but what I can and do say is that there is no evidence for there being a supernatural god who intervenes in human affairs. Furthermore it is not for the atheist to prove there is no god, it is for the believer to prove there is a god as you can't prove a negative.

Secondly the word theory in the phrase 'the theory of evolution' is not there to denote a lack of evidence or substance. “A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step—known as a theory—in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon.” (copied from www.livescience.com) Evolution isn't just some scientist's hunch. It's museums and labs full of evidence that repeatedly strongly suggest the same conclusion. I think what confuses people is that the word theory has a distinct scientific meaning that is different to it's general use.

Thirdly the human eye probably started out millions of years ago as a random mutation that resulted in a single light sensitive cell. Those life forms that had this mutation for some reason had a better chance of survival, it probably helped them not get eaten as they could sense the light getting dimmer and move away from that area. Those that survived obviously had a better chance of passing their genes on through reproduction and so on over millions of years. A constant process of certain mutations being beneficial and some making a short life more likely. I'm explaining it really badly but you get the gist. If Evolution told me that the eye just came into being as we know it today I would also be incredulous so it's important we understand how it evolved to see how it makes beautiful, clear sense.

Lastly with regards to your claim that If you don't believe in God then it [evolution] is the most accessible and acceptable explanation I just wanted to remind ourselves that lots of, if not most Christians understand and take on evolution now, I know that the Vatican's position on the issue is one of acceptance. Creationism makes no sense to a lot of Christians too! I can see now, that when I was a Christian I had little to no understanding of evolution. It was only after having lost my faith for some years that I read about it, it wasn't really an issue as my change in position had happened outside of the scientific 'stuff'.

nightlurker Thu 22-Nov-12 19:16:45

snorbs, it would really depend on the nature of the God and the nature of worship. Any human sacrifice or fertility rituals and I'd be vehemently opposed to it. If it's based on human morality, and encourages children to love their neighbors, not steal, not murder, not covet, postpone sexuality until marriage, and other such things, I highly doubt I'd object, as long as my kids weren't being pressured into worshiping.

nightlurker Thu 22-Nov-12 19:25:50

I've been religious my entire life and as long as I can remember I've been open to the idea of evolution, and I'm American. I have never believed in a young earth.

Snorbs Thu 22-Nov-12 20:21:47

nightlurker, would now be a bad time to point out that one of the very core beliefs of Christianity is based on human sacrifice?

I think you could even make a convincing argument that human sacrifice was the central pillar of the entire Christian faith. Jesus's death was the blood sacrifice that God required to atone for all our sins.

Pretty much all Christian places of worship are covered in symbolic representations of the way he was killed. In fact, many have numerous quite gruesomely realistic statues of a man being sacrificed to a god.

If that's not a religion based on human sacrifice I don't know what is.

giraffe213 Thu 22-Nov-12 20:33:07

headinhands, thanks for your reply. I do understand a fair bit about evolution from university and other study, and I still consider that it is not the only possibility. There are a lot of unanswered questions that tend to be overlooked. If I wasn't a Christian I probably would accept evolution without question, and would have spent less time looking into it as well, but it isn't head-in-the-sand refusal to accept it. Incidentally, when I was at school (not a faith-based school, either) it was taught as 'this is the main scientific theory and this is the evidence that supports it'. I think that is a much better treatment of the subject than in many schools where they teach 'this is how human life came into being', as if it were as cut-and-dried as 'this is how the heart works to pump blood around the body', which is something that can be observed and tested today.

I know that many Christians do believe evolution but I don't think that is because they are more informed or have understood evolution better. I think it's because they have understood their God and his word less well and have been swayed by all the pressure around them to conform to what the majority is saying. That was the point of my last post, in part, that we shouldn't have to conform to the majority opinion.

I'm not sure there is more onus on me to prove there is a god than on an atheist to prove there isn't. We all choose whether we believe in God or not - the issue isn't scientifically provable in either direction. I have seen God's intervention in human affairs many times, in my own life and others, but I know it could be explained away by anyone who didn't want to accept that is what it was.

headinhands Thu 22-Nov-12 20:43:03

^ How did the eye evolve when it wouldn't have served any purpose until every part was in its proper place?^

It was reading that line in your post amongst others that clearly portrays a substantial misunderstanding of evolution giraffe.

headinhands Thu 22-Nov-12 20:54:02

So giraffe if I said I believed a magical unicorn created the universe and that because you can't prove it's not the truth I should have my beliefs acknowledged and considered in science lessons would that seem reasonable to you? If you allow one groundless evidence-less explanation into a science lesson in the interests of fairness we should be teaching every conceivable explanation there ever was. Seem sensible?

giraffe213 Thu 22-Nov-12 22:03:59

I didn't say creationism should be taught in science lessons, I actually said I understood why it isn't. What I did say is that I don't think evolution should be taught as fact (meaning undisputed fact).

Yesterday I pulled the example of the eye off the top of my head. Maybe it could have happened. However, I do think the concept of a "random mutation that resulted in a single light sensitive cell", combined with all the other random mutations needed to produce the eye as we know it today, also combined with all the other random mutations needed to produce every aspect of all the other amazing, intricate parts of our bodies that have such specific functions, takes some faith to accept. That's a lot of randomness producing such order and purpose.

I suppose it's fairer to say that I did understand a fair bit about evolution at the time when I was studying and looking into it, whereas now I have baby brain and am crashed out on the sofa rather than getting the books out and reminding myself of why I came to the conclusions I did. I wasn't planning to get into a full on evolution/creation debate in any case, just using it as an example of majority vs minority beliefs.

headinhands Thu 22-Nov-12 22:25:44

When you said I don't believe evolution should be taught as fact in a science lesson either, just as the main theory. it suggests you would want other explanations broached in that lesson which brings me back to the problem with your view of the word theory again.

There are no other scientific theories for how humans got here. if you want the Christian explanation fielded under that heading in a science lesson you would need to include every single explanation anyone could muster as all of them are equally valid seeing as none have any proof whatsoever.

The magic ingredient with evolution is time, lots of it. Millions and millions of years of it improving by way of natural selection again and again. If a mutation proved good for a species it follows that it had a better chance of being replicated whereas if it was bad it naturally died out. And it's that happening for a brain achingly period of time that got us to the amazing breathing, thinking, feeling human you see when you look in the mirror. And also the tired, underpaid and overworked one I see when I occasionally have to look grin

giraffe213 Thu 22-Nov-12 23:11:41

Again, I haven't said I want creationism to be taught in science lessons. I think I have been clear on that in all my posts, so I'm not sure how you have reached that conclusion.

How the human race came into existence is a historical question that could be addressed through science, religion or maybe some other field. That's why I said evolution should be taught "as a theory", rather than as fact. Perhaps I am using the word theory as a layman would rather than a true scientist. I didn't mean there are other science-based explanations, but while there is some evidence to support evolution, there is other evidence that causes problems for it and remains unanswered.

Anyway I really don't want to get into a creation/evolution debate here or anywhere else in cyberspace.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 22-Nov-12 23:31:25

>there is other evidence that causes problems for it and remains unanswered.

Would like to hear what that is. Of course science always has 'unanswered questions' but that doesn't mean that scientists are on the wrong track - they keep asking the questions and whittling away to get a better and better understanding of the true nature of reality. Religions more or less give up and say 'I dunno...so God must have done it'

>Anyway I really don't want to get into a creation/evolution debate here or anywhere else in cyberspace.
Very wise. If you didn't even realise that the progressive evolution of the eye is pretty well understood (and eyes are so darned useful to survival that different creatures have evolved them entirely independently - octopuses eyes aren't inside-out like mammalian eyes) then you're unlikely to convince many people I'm afraid.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 22-Nov-12 23:42:10

Anyway OP, like everyone else I think it matters greatly what people believe - for the sorts of reasons Snorbs and others have already laid out.

>Oh and as for how far my tolerance extends - I am happy for others to believe whatever they like as long as 1) they don't shove it down my throat and/or try to convert me, and 2) it brings no harm to anyone.

yes...the problem is that so many belief systems do result in harm, not least to the person doing the believing.

LoveFoolMe Fri 23-Nov-12 00:08:27

the problem is that so many belief systems do result in harm, not least to the person doing the believing.

Why do you think it harms the believer GrimmaTheNome?

nightlurker Fri 23-Nov-12 00:25:46

snorbs, with human sacrifice, it's specifically the practice of believers killing another human being in order to please God. To do that would directly violate Christian principles. Jesus was killed as a martyr by unbelievers.

I have never been satisfied with "God must have done it" on matters of science. Atheists are probably more drawn to the sciences because it is where many go to understand the world, but there are many believers every bit as intrigued.

Snorbs Fri 23-Nov-12 07:53:31

Oh. Right. So a killing by believers in order to please a god is bad.

A killing by "unbelievers" (Jesus was a Jew killed on the orders of senior Jews) who were unwittingly following God's plan for them to satisfy His desire for a blood sacrifice to get round His own rules, and the subsequent near-fetishisation of the very instrument of torture used in that killing, is a righteous enough occurrence to base an entire religion on.

Got it. Makes perfect sense.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 23-Nov-12 08:45:17

Religion doesn't necessarily harm the believer but it can. To take the rare but extreme example, suicide bombers. Someone has already mentioned belief systems which eschew conventional medicine. But beyond those obvious but not common cases, if your core philosophy is based on faith, it can impair your ability for rational thinking in other areas (^can^, I'm not saying that many believers don't manage to effectively compartmentalised their thought processes).

nightlurker Fri 23-Nov-12 16:22:37

I'm no fan of the cross snorbs, and disagree that the sacrifice he gave was centered at his death.

I may be naive in saying this, but I'm utterly and completely convinced that the terrorists who do this are often brainwashed by people who want power, by leaders who don't generally believe in the religion but are looking for ways to use religion as a means of power. In my opinion, religion is only evil when evil people use it, and is an incredible force for good when good people use it.

LoveFoolMe Sat 24-Nov-12 10:12:17

Do you think honour killings are a cultural problem or a religious one?

confuddledDOTcom Sat 24-Nov-12 15:54:18

It's the difference between faith and religion. I won't ever say that I'm religious and if people ask will say no, I once said I want to start saying I follow The Way which is the original name for Christianity to break from the religiousness. Religion (particularly Christianity, I can't answer for other religions but I should imagine it's the same) tends to get into doing things for action sakes, literal interpretations of things that weren't written for the 21st century. As I've said a lot lately I don't believe that you can enforce morals on someone else and I don't believe that God wants us to either. We were all given freewill and we can't expect to be allowed to use our own if we want to take other's away from them. Faith is personal, it's about what I believe is right for me, it's about how I have a relationship with my god.

It's very easy for people to use religion to their own ends, half quote here and there to say what they want/ need it to say. Anyone can say they do something in God's name, but it doesn't mean that they are right. After all, how many times a day do you hear people use God's name when something goes wrong?

In Australia the government once decided to take away the charitable status of all churches, get some more money from tax. In a rather unprecedented move the leaders of every denomination met together to discuss it. They decided that if they were no longer charities they didn't need to do charitable work any more. The government quickly realised that they couldn't cope without the good that the church does. It would be the same in any country, the church works hard for their community, not just for the Christians who attend the church but the area they serve. My church volunteers at the homeless shelter, cooking food, scrubbing toilets, talking to people etc, it's not about more people to preach to because we don't, we just get on with helping, it's just about serving which is something our church puts a heavy priority on. It is easy when you see the bad things done in the name of religion to forget that there's also a lot more good done.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now