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What's not to like?

(31 Posts)
MargotQuaker Mon 01-Aug-11 10:22:16

I would claim there is nothing in religion which is deplorable and essential-- hence no final reason for anyone to reject it.

What it provides is a basis for idealism, and for always looking for the Bigger Picture. It contributes to one's own happiness, by minimising the impact of private griefs-- not by saying they will all be fixed in Heaven, but by calling attention to the fact that the world is still beautiful and others have immense happiness while I myself have grief.

It does not require superstition or tribalism. As far back as the oldest bits of the Old Testament, the Jews were required to treat with kindness the "stranger within their gates". It does not compete with science on science's terms. The phenomena of religion will eventually get a scientfic explanation. Religion and science share the obligation not to make out that one knows when one doesn't.

Some people find the whole idea of worship unwelcome; but they too can spend an hour with others open-mindedly trying to see what it is that matters most-- and this is worship. And the stories of religion, while one has to treat them with caution, amount to a source of inspiration and rejoicing.

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Aug-11 11:07:57

I agree that religion can be like that, and at it's best, it is. But I think what most people have a problem with is that in real life, most people don't "do" religion like that at all, and use it as an excuse for tribalism, judginess, hypocrisy, etc. The problem isn't the central religion, but the things that people then do with it.

GentlemanGin Mon 01-Aug-11 11:29:50


I'm afraid there are plenty of reasons to reject it. For example the fundamental requisite for being a Christian is to believe that the only way to salvation is by belief / acceptance that Jesus was a God. The son of a being who created the Universe.

I simply don't believe that. It's not a deplorable requisite, but is one reason, as an example, as to why I and others are not religious.

MargotQuaker Mon 01-Aug-11 11:45:00

GentlemanGin: Sorry friend you aren't reading carefully enough. I said Nothing deplorable AND essential. I reckon to be Christian and I don't believe that. Or did I miss something? whose definition of Christian are you appealing to?

MargotQuaker Mon 01-Aug-11 11:48:11

Essential beliefs for a Christian: that Jesus paid more attention to God than most of us and got it right more often, as regards what God wanted him to do-- ie what he could do that would make it more likely that humans would care for one another.

Essential ethos for a Christian: that my own well-being is important but not essential; what matter is the wellbeing of everyone.

GentlemanGin Mon 01-Aug-11 11:54:01

Margot. Then you aren't a Christian. That is my understanding of the fundamental of being a Christian. You accept Christ as your saviour.

worldgonecrazy Mon 01-Aug-11 12:11:05

Margot - I prefer to use the term 'honouring' rather than 'worship', but they may because I'm a panentheist and it makes more sense from that perspective.

I agree with GentlemanGin re Christianity, I thought the first and base tenet of Christianity was accepting that sins could only be forgiven and mankind 'saved' through the salvation of Jesus Christ? I'm not a Christian so I am happy to be corrected on that.

MargotQuaker Mon 01-Aug-11 14:49:40

There are Quakers who don't identify as Christian and Quakers who do. I honour Jesus (to use worldgonecrazy's term) and although I don't think Jesus saved us from our sins I do think he helped to save us from despair. Easter means a huge amount to me. I do not think Jesus has or would want to have a claim to holiness that excluded the claims of other religious inspirers.

I sit in Meeting for Worship whenever I get the chance and try to put down my own agenda and pick up God's. Who is to say that is not worshipping; but my fellow Quakers who are non-theists are still trying to put down their personal agendas and pick up the biggest agenda imaginable. We are doing the same thing and the same clarifications come to us in worship.

tawrag Mon 01-Aug-11 14:54:56

Easter existed before Jesus. It's from oestrus (latin) via oistros (greek). It's just about new life in spring. Nothing to do with religion even though religious people pretend it has.

onagar Mon 01-Aug-11 16:10:57

Religion could be like that, but mostly is not.

Generally a religion becomes a club which uses its growing member base to pressure people to follow the rules of those in charge. To flout the laws of the land and to demand changes and special privileges. It is often used as a means of abusing minorities and discouraging personal responsibility and morality. (replacing these with blind obedience to the leaders of the religion to the point where we are currently struggling to make one large religion cut down on the amount of child abuse it allows its priests to indulge in)

It discourages rational thought in the same way since members of a religion are expected to and praised for believing in what they are told without examination and for their resistance to any kind of debate.

Generally religion is responsible for holding back advances in civilisation and typically fomenting conflict.

MargotQuaker Mon 01-Aug-11 16:11:17

Not just about new life in spring. It's about how a man can be the victim of cowardice and injustice, torment and execution, and the story still have a "happy ending", still be capable of inspiring heroic behaviour in those who follow after. It's about all the stories where things seemed to get as bad as they could get and then quite unreasonable good came out of them.

MargotQuaker Mon 01-Aug-11 16:15:49

Onagar: I have to insist that altho British Quakers have occasionally been guilty of superstition or intolerance, in general we have been expected to work things out for ourselves and then live them. In fact, the 2007 National Quaker Week poster had the headline "Thou shalt think for yourself". One must not tar everyone with the same vilification.

onagar Mon 01-Aug-11 16:23:59

Oh and as for the definition of Christianity I only only suggest you read this extract from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

onagar Mon 01-Aug-11 16:26:42

MargotQuaker You claim then to have found one group of religiouis people who are not such a bad influence. Congratulations (if true) but it doesn't help your claim that religion is not deplorable.

MargotQuaker Mon 01-Aug-11 16:32:29

It shows that religion doesn't have to be deplorable! it invalidates any claim that religion is always and essentially deplorable! Great stuff-- since we need all the idealism and persistence in the face of cruelty and corruption that we can muster...

GentlemanGin Mon 01-Aug-11 16:37:07

MargotQuaker, I actually respect the Quakers most out of all the Christian strands. Some years ago I did a fair bit of research into the many different Christian denominations and non-denominations. The Quakers seemed like the most rational, egalitarian and open minded of all of them.

BelleDameSansMerci Mon 01-Aug-11 16:41:15

But all the organised religions, even Buddhism, are inherently sexist. How can that not be deplorable?

onagar Mon 01-Aug-11 19:32:15

Actually if you define religion as sitting quietly then it may be mostly harmless, but you can only so define it for yourself. This is rather like deciding that war is about knitting small pink mittens and then expecting us to agree that war is therefore a good thing.

Back in the wide world where religion lives it is something quite different.

MargotQuaker Tue 02-Aug-11 18:17:22

@Onagar. I didn't say religion is a good thing on the whole; I think it would be very hard to get an even-handed dossier of evidence together, and hence it would be very hard to settle the question. I would concede much of what anyone would say about religion frequently having been tribal and superstitious and coercive. --I said the example of Quakers proved that religion could be idealistic and inspiring and socially useful without being tribal or superstitious or coercive or in other ways harmful.

@BelleDameSansMerci: how do you make out that Quakers are sexist?

BelleDameSansMerci Tue 02-Aug-11 18:22:18

I didn't specify Quakers. They're not but Christianity most certainly is.

onagar Wed 03-Aug-11 11:29:01

If people are going to be religious I'd probably much prefer they were Quakers. I can see how a Quaker might think that what they do (or don't do) demonstrates that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with religion.

However, it doesn't help because the vast majority of religion is quite different. In fact I'm not sure that it even is religion in the usual sense of the word.

Most religions have a 'right way' that is handed down by god in one way or another. Those who follow the right way are good and those who don't are evil and will get what's coming to them at some point.

Remember it's a religious belief that AIDs was created by god to make homosexuals suffer. Not all religious people believe it, but you have to be religious to think it at all. This says a lot about the way religions work and what they contribute.

MargotQuaker Thu 04-Aug-11 20:16:36

Perhaps Onagar would concede that we desperately need idealism, provided it does not come at the price of superstition and tribalism. We also need the willingness to keep on being generous, open, honest etc even when generosity, openness, honesty etc seem to be penalised. In my view nothing other than religion makes this dogged, dogged idealism likely. Therefore religion has to be purged of superstition and tribalism so that we can have the good things about it without the bad.

Moreover the materials for this sort of tolerant, scientific, provisional faith are there in the Bible. (I grant you there are also materials there for a faith which is highly tribal and superstitious, but...) The most useful text in Micah vi,8, where "walk humbly with thy God" means "Just go on remembering how much you don't know".

Likewise gloss the two key commandments as "Worship only that which really matters, and love your neighbour as yourself even when it is gravely inconvenient". And treat with scepticism any dogma which requires you to be intolerant of other cultures or religions.

onagar Fri 05-Aug-11 11:30:01

MargotQuaker, if you are aiming for idealism without superstition and tribalism then I can't argue with that. That should be everyone's aim.

I honestly think religion (in the usual sense of the word) is totally unsuited to that goal. Most people at one time or another have tried to unscrew something with a kitchen knife and this is similar. You know it might work, but mostly you will cut your finger and scratch the casing.

Common sense ought to get us where we are going - 'enlightened self interest'.
After all we are stuck here on earth. It probably wasn't our first choice of destinations smile but we must make the best of it while we are here.

ElBurroSinNombre Fri 05-Aug-11 14:56:22

Aren't you bothered about the truth of our existence?
A stripped down version of your argument seems to be; religion makes you (and others) feel better and encourages you to behave in an idealistic and altrusitic way so therefore it is a good thing. No need to ask anymore questions.
I would argue that you can have those qualities without religion and in fact you can have them and also be intellectually honest about the world around us- something that is impossible with religion (IMO).

ElBurroSinNombre Fri 05-Aug-11 15:14:28

By the way, referring to yout initial post, religion does already have a scientific explanation;
It is an evolved behavour that has in our evolutionary past either increased our chances of survival or increased our chances of procreating. Like so many areas of human behavour and regardless of the cultural element, all religions are incredibly similar. They are all to do with celebrating and coping with rites of passage (birth, death, marriage etc).

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