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:-

LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 11:31:33

(And can anyone show me how to shorten a link?!)

Snorbs Wed 21-Nov-12 11:38:57

It doesn't matter if they keep those religious beliefs to themselves.

It does matter when those with particular barking beliefs such as young-earth creationism try to get it taught in science classes, rather than just in RE classes where it belongs.

It does matter when those with particular beliefs use public money to set up state schools that exclude children of parents who don't share the same beliefs
It does matter when those with particular beliefs kick up such a fuss that something as simple and obvious as allowing gay people, who may not even share the same beliefs, to marry becomes a monumental issue.

It does matter when those with particular beliefs are so strident that we end up with situations such as the recent case where a woman died in Ireland because of a religious-fuelled ban on abortions.

In short, it matters when other people's religious beliefs impinge on the lives and happiness of other people.

paperclips Wed 21-Nov-12 11:55:14

It matters what people believe when their beliefs impact upon others. To take op's example, When those extreme groups in the US refuse to let their children be properly educated, by not learning about established, tested, rational, science and scientific methods because it contradicts their belief, it is a problem.

It matters when people try to use their beliefs to oppress others eg Women, gay people, other religions. There are too many examples to list, pretty much all religions oppress women IMO.

It matters when people try to bring their religion into political decision making, like with the Right wingers in America. This affects every one else. So yes, it matters.

paperclips Wed 21-Nov-12 11:57:58

Snorbs -cross-post, I'm too slow. You have put it across better than me. Well said.

LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 12:03:22

Aside from the recent, tragic, death in Ireland, religious beliefs don't usually directly kill other people. Until it becomes hatred or war.

How about when a non-religious person lives in a state which is of a particular religious background? E.g. The UK is nominally and historically a Christian country so all state schools are meant to include Christian-based worship in their assemblies (not just church-linked ones). Should that matter to non-religious families?

Should countries separate church and state?

How much say should the state v parents have? E.g. The creationist v evolution teachings in the US.

How do you ensure education is non-religious/religious as parents wish?

confuddledDOTcom Wed 21-Nov-12 12:06:56

Yup, what they said. Even as a Christian I do not believe you can enforce your morals and beliefs onto someone else. We were all given freewill, not just to Christians.

I wouldn't want someone using their faith to rule a country in the Romney way, even if they held the same beliefs as me.

And in answer to your other question, copy this and add another square bracket in:

[ Americans believe in creationism]

StormyBrid Wed 21-Nov-12 12:11:26

Before considering how to ensure education suits parents' religious beliefs, should we not first establish whether they have the right to indoctrinate their children with those beliefs?

PieEyedAndLairy Wed 21-Nov-12 12:11:49

What Snorbs said. I'm all for separation of Church and State.

Snorbs Wed 21-Nov-12 12:17:34

The case in Ireland wasn't an isolated one-off. The religion-fuelled ban on abortions has directly led to other deaths where desperate women have resorted to using back-street abortionists and subsequently died of infection. And let's not forget JW's allowing their children to die rather than have blood transfusions, Christian Scientists allowing their children to die because they used prayer rather than medicine, kids being killed because their parents/carers thought they were possessed and needed to have the Devil beaten out of them and so on and so forth.

Essentially, what you're saying is that provided you ignore the many instances where religious beliefs have directly killed people, religious beliefs don't directly kill people.

The UK is nominally a Christian society but that's mainly because the CofE clings on desperately to its position of privilege. Historically it's been all sorts of different things. Yes, it does matter to (this) non-religious parent that my DD's school includes regular Christian worship. I'm fine with my DCs being taught about religion, I'm less happy with them being asked to praise a Christian god directly.

Should countries separate church and state? Absolutely yes.

The whole state-vs-parent thing, evolution/creationism thing is quite simple. School science classes should be where science is taught. Cosmology and evolution are science. Intelligent design/creationism are religious mythology and should be taught alongside other religious mythology in RE classes. If a parent wants their child to have specific religious indoctrination instruction, there's lots of time for that after school and at weekends.

What are your views?

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a Mormon, like Romney although I most likely would NOT have voted for him), this is what our church says on the matter;

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

The two statement are linked so while people are allowed to claim the right to worship as they wish, they are subject to the law. For example members of the church are forbidden in China to talk about their religion to Chinese nationals but allowed to meet for church on a Sunday.

I would therefore support a decision that church and state should be separate.

LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 13:13:44

What are your views? Not dissimilar to yours Snorb:-

That church and state should be separated. Do you think that will happen here?

That children should be given a proper education in science - not mixed in with religious studies.

But that I should obey the law of whichever country I happen to in (whilst trying to get the law changed if I disagree with it) e.g. I wouldn't try to drive in Saudi Arabia but would debate the issue with everyone I could.

LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 13:23:41

But I'm interested in everyone else's views whether they agree with mine or not.

Lovefoolme, I agree with you.

Personally I am happy for my children to be educated even with things that I either don't agree or believe in. It is a fact of life that other people won't always agree with you and that your children won't always agree with you. If my children weren't exposed to other beliefs and ideas then I feel that they would not be free to choose for themselves the way they way want to live their life. Sorry if I am going of on a bit of a tangent but that's the way my brain is going reading other people's comments.

LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 14:40:43

I am happy for my children to be educated even with things that I either don't agree or believe in

Me too but....

If you were a strict Catholic would you want them to be taught about contraception?
If you were a creationist would you be happy with them being taught evolution as fact?
If you were an atheist would you be happy with their school assumption that God exists?

As well as the state v individual issue I'm also interested in how far religious tolerance extends.

LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 14:43:45

Is there anyone on here who thinks religious beliefs DON'T matter?

(BTW, thanks confuddledDOTcom for the bracket tip)

I am an atheist. My eldest child will be starting school next year (not a church one, obviously!) so we will have the religious aspect of assemblies to contend with. However we have decided not to withdraw her from these, as the UK is a culturally Christian country and in terms of culture (Bible stories, hymns etc) I think it's useful stuff to be familiar with.

However, if I had the option of sending her to a secular school I would do so in a heartbeat. Religion belongs in an RE lesson, not assemblies or science lessons. As for creationists etc - science is about proving theories beyond reasonable doubt. If they can show me empirically measurable evidence for their stance on evolution and geology, then I will consider it. Otherwise it has no place in a science lesson.

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.

I would like others to be as tolerant of me and not keep turning up at my door with pamphlets

GrrrArghZzzzYaayforall8nights Wed 21-Nov-12 16:28:29

The US has separation of church and state in law. Doesn't stop Christianity affecting the science or history (actual history textbooks in the States being used in 2012 in state schools call the Trail of Tears good as it "brought Natives to Christianity" <ignoring the forced to or be killed and we'll take your kids either way bit>). It still fills school performances and education - I find I was taught a lot more about it in the US than most people I talk to have here in the UK through mandatory RE and I only went to 'secular' state schools. Unless schools/teachers actively try to be secular and/or multicultural, it remains in the status quo of Christianity regardless of law, I think, in countries with backgrounds like the UK and US.

nightlurker Wed 21-Nov-12 16:52:10

If I were Catholic I'd like to know when they will be taught about contraception, and be allowed to opt out.
If I were a young earth creationist, I'd let them be taught in the schools, and then I'd teach them what I believe at home.
If I were atheist, I'd be just fine letting the schools teach about God. I'd just teach them what I believe at home.

In the US, the Catholic church is being essentially forced to pay for coverage for contraceptives for their employees, or face a fine. I find this to be wrong.

As an aside, Romney was against the teaching of creationism in science classes.

nightlurker Wed 21-Nov-12 16:54:14

I live in the US and was given virtually no religious education at school. It must make a difference where you live.

nightlurker Wed 21-Nov-12 16:58:03

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.

GrrrArghZzzzYaayforall8nights Wed 21-Nov-12 17:02:02

nightlurker - often the only treatment for many female problems with a hormonal basis is hormonal contraception because research into those areas is really underfunded because doctors like to just shove the Pill at it. It may leave those of us who can't take it out of luck (I can't medically) but it is currently an essential tool is dealing with a whole load of medical problems, not just birth control, and withholding someone life saving medication on religious grounds isn't something insurance companies (It isn't the church, it's the insurance company the church pays) are allowed to do.

nightlurker Wed 21-Nov-12 17:05:54

Could they write in a provision for providing the birth control pill in cases where it is deemed medically necessary?

MadCap Wed 21-Nov-12 17:06:04

The Catholic Church absolutely should have to fund insurance that covers contraception where it branches out to businesses that aren't church related (ie. Schools and hospitals) Also unless your employer is the actual church you shouldn't be able to impose your religious views on your employees.

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 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 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.

nightlurker Sat 24-Nov-12 17:46:41

LoveFoolMe, honor killings, absolutely a cultural problem.

confuddled, the problem is that there has been a lot of corruption of Christianity from the time of Christ. The problem in Christ's time, that he put great attention in to correcting, was that the people had corrupted the doctrines and had lost focus on loving their neighbor. After the apostles were gone, without good tools for record keeping, it didn't take long for the doctrines to be diluted and changed.

I only believe in pushing morals on someone to the extent that it protects the innocent, and I am opposed to rewarding immorality.

Lovefoolme, I would say I think they are a cultural problem.

It did make me think about the witch trials and the McCarthy trials though and I wonder if we could ever link those all together.

It maybe a random thought train I have had, open to opinions on that.

headinhands Sat 24-Nov-12 19:38:49

I think this recent news story about a man accused of blasphemy is very relevant to this thread. He's now living in Finland due to the death threats.

nightlurker Sat 24-Nov-12 22:08:14

That's outright scary, hih.

GrimmaTheNome Sun 25-Nov-12 23:40:22

>the government once decided to take away the charitable status of all churches

that was silly of them. They should have still allowed churches to claim charity tax relief on those parts of their activities which were actually charitable rather than self-serving (there's a Buddist lot near us who do exactly that even though they are entitled to claim for everything they do - they appear to work to a higher ethical standard). The response of those churches 'They decided that if they were no longer charities they didn't need to do charitable work any more.' is really astounding...they are surely suppose to do charitable works because Jesus explicitly said to clothe the naked, feed the hungry etc.confused Don't think he mentioned anything about doing it for tax breaks -rather, 'pay unto caesar'.

CheerfulYank Mon 26-Nov-12 02:17:34

I am religious but don't care what other people Thomas Jefferson said " does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

I believe wholeheartedly in the separation of church and state. DH and I may send DS to a Catholic school, but we will pay through the nose for it. I don't see anything wrong with that. Taxpayers should not pay for religious schools IMO.

nightlurker Mon 26-Nov-12 04:13:59

Building a building to allow people to come and worship could be viewed as charity, as could donations to the poor. Also, when a church builds a building, the building is built with the money of the members who attend. For basic church expenses, the only tax that makes sense to me is to tax income of people working for a church, which I think they already do.

And agreed wholeheartedly with Cheerful.

I'm still astounded that India has blasphemy laws. On a side note, when I first heard about your anti-discrimination laws it was about a man who was arrested for singing "Kung Fu Fighting". I hope that the man in India is just one such anomaly, and not typical.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 15:39:32

>Building a building to allow people to come and worship could be viewed as charity, as could donations to the poor.

The latter, yes, absolutely - the former is debatable on several levels, starting with why people need a fancy building to worship in - don't think the gospels mandate it, rather the contrary. If it was my call, I'd give tax relief on multi-use halls if they were benefitting the wider community (which many church halls do) but not the actual church bit if it was separate.

>Also, when a church builds a building, the building is built with the money of the members who attend

Many of ours were built when the chuch pretty much taxed everyone, it wasn't voluntary donation. Any social club building is paid for by its members, without expecting automatic charitable status. I know you may not see it as a 'social club' but that's pretty much how it seems to outsiders who are having to subsidize through taxes.

I think in the UK the charitable status of churches has been raised recently in relation to the Plymouth Bretheren who are best known as isolationists!

nightlurker Mon 26-Nov-12 18:04:04

If the tax law were up to you grimma, would you tax the church's income, but still allow people who donate to churches to keep a tax deduction for the donation? Or, would you take away the deduction for donors, but leave the money the church receives untaxed?

If a church building was built with tax dollars, it should absolutely be open to the community. It would be unfair to tax it retroactively if that wasn't part of the original agreement, but I think government could allow them the option of paying a reasonable amount back to the government to end public use, if they don't want it open for the community.

The reasons for going to a social club are far different than the reasons I would go to church, so I do see a distinction. I don't think that subsidized and tax-exempt are the same thing, but I am opposed to subsidizing religions.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 18:11:56

>If the tax law were up to you grimma, would you tax the church's income, but still allow people who donate to churches to keep a tax deduction for the donation? Or, would you take away the deduction for donors, but leave the money the church receives untaxed?

I don't understand the distinction...are you in the US, maybe its different? Here if you 'gift aid' a donation the organisation gets the tax that would have been paid by the donor given to them, the donor doesn't get a tax deduction as such.

CheerfulYank Mon 26-Nov-12 18:27:42

Also, just to stir the pot, DH is literally a genius and is not convinced of evolution. grin Doesn't bother me.

nightlurker Mon 26-Nov-12 18:54:09


Yes, I'm in the US.

Churches don't pay taxes here, but don't receive federal money either. It would be hard to explain how it works without a quick overview of how the tax works, so here goes.

You can claim a standard deduction of about 12k, or an itemized deduction of a higher amount if you have certain qualified expenses, such as mortgage interest, significant medical bills, or charitable donations. If you donate 6k to charity and pay 6k in mortgage interest, but nothing else, you are no better off, tax wise, than if you hadn't given the donation. However, if you are wealthy and pay 12k in mortgage interest and donate 10k to charity, you could save yourself 3.5k in federal taxes, making your 10k donation only cost you an extra 6.5k.

The issue that's important to me to avoid is double taxation on money given with charitable intent.

cheerful I'm not wholly convinced of evolution either. I think that by and large it's decently likely to be true, but that it still doesn't tell the whole story. I think a little skepticism is always healthy, because not everything taught by science or religion is true, and sometimes what you think is clear and true turns out to be a half truth and far more complex than you could have imagined.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 19:44:11

I think a comparision of tax laws relating to charitable donations in two different countries is going too far OT even for my penchant for wandering grin

> I think that by and large it's decently likely to be true, but that it still doesn't tell the whole story. I think a little skepticism is always healthy

The thing about science is that it doesn't claim to be the whole truth - yet. Skepticism is indeed always healthy. That's the thing about science - you keep whittling away, asking the difficult questions. It does claim to be the best methodology for getting at the truth about the physical world.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 19:54:17

..and this brings us back to the OP - does it matter what people believe?

Yes - people who don't understand science well enough to get that evolution (with or without God's blessing) is how all the species on earth arose, are also unlikely to understand all sorts of other science which affect the world. Climate change, assessing medical risks, etc.

Snorbs Tue 27-Nov-12 07:34:00

US church's tax exemption is dependent on what they use their buildings for. As I understand it you cannot run profitable enterprises from the church buildings (other than the church itself) and you can't use it for political purposes.

There are a number of US churches that have been reported to the IRS for violating those rules by preaching from the pulpit that a vote for Obama is a literal vote for the anti-Christ.

nightlurker Tue 27-Nov-12 17:14:33

One job of a church is to teach morals, and then let the people choose who to vote for. People of different religions tend to vote different ways based on belief, but it's all ok as long as the church isn't endorsing candidates or parties.

Coming back to my last post, I think inquiry, search for higher truth, and an open mind might be a better approach, than skepticism, to a lot of things.

nightlurker Tue 27-Nov-12 17:24:57

Also, churches could pay sales taxes on religious texts they sell (depending on the state). Generally they aren't charged income tax, however. If a church does engage in non-religion related business, I am pretty sure it is taxed normally. If a church were to discriminate on the basis of race, I believe it could lose tax exempt status.

headinhands Tue 27-Nov-12 17:26:53

What does 'higher truth' even mean night? Is there a lower truth? Skepticism isn't having a closed mind, it's not accepting things without good evidence. That's just being rational.

nightlurker Tue 27-Nov-12 17:28:32

Newtonian laws, lower truth. Relativity, higher truth. Both are basically correct, but to be a "skeptic" of newton would be silly.

HolofernesesHead Tue 27-Nov-12 17:48:11

Grimma, a bit upthread you said that churches should only be able to claim charity tax relief on aspects of what they do that are genuinely charitable an not 'self-serving.' Sounds fair in theory...but in reality, how do you decide which is which? Some examples:

A church has a pastoral visiting group. They go and see elderly members of the congregation, some of whom have Alzheimer's. They may well encourage them to go to the doctor, or even take them to appointments, or take them shopping. Their visits make it possible for elderly people to live in their homes for longer, and to avoid nursing homes. Is this charitable or self-serving?

A vicar has taken a funeral, and makes repeated visits to the widow of the deceased. Neither the deceased nor the widow go to church, but the visits give the widow the opportunity to talk and to work through her grief. Is this charitable or self-serving?

The church runs a community cafe, into which the local police officer pops every now and then to talk to people and help with any problems. It's a mixture of church and non-church people who go, and not a week goes by without someone being helped in some way or other. Charitable or self-serving?

The church runs a Bible study group. In the course of this group's study, people open up and share all sorts of problems and pains, and find peace and healing. Charitable or self-serving?

Someone with untreated mental health problems goes along to this group, and is persuaded lovingly to seek help, and is supported by the group for years, and in turn becomes very supportive of others.

Do you see the problem? These things happen in churches all the time. IMO whether something is 'charitable' or 'self-serving' depends primarily on the attitude of the person involved. But most of the time, the things that churches do can't be neatly categorised into one or the other. Ideally, everything a church does should be charitable as charity just means love. How do we assess that for tax purposes? smile

Most churches run on a shoestring (in the C of E anyway), so to limit what they do by taxing them more heavily would reduce what can be offered to the community (e.g. the midweek communion service has to stop because the church can't afford to heat and light the church any more. The needs that were met there have to be met elsewhere, nearly always at a greater expense to the taxpayer, e.g. counselling). So keeping churches doing what they can do to meet the needs of others is good for everyone, whether you're a churchgoer or not.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Nov-12 14:36:36

I didn't say there was an easy dividing line...the same sorts of arguments may be applied to other 'charities' eg private schools. Some organisations seem to be able to manage to make the distinction themselves.

LoveFoolMe Wed 28-Nov-12 23:34:22

Also, just to stir the pot, DH is literally a genius and is not convinced of evolution.

What does yr DH think is the best explanation CheerfulYank?

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