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A post concerning both religion and secularism

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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evangelhumanist
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A post concerning both religion and secularism

#1 Post by evangelhumanist » July 30th, 2008, 12:12 am

Something that has long bothered me in my on-line conversations (even some time ago when there was a Forum for the Humanist Association of Toronto) is the amount of time that is spent fighting about whether there is a god or not, about whether, if there is, anybody can figure out what it wants or not.

I keep thinking that if that energy were spent on trying to move all of humanity forward (both the secular and the religious), we would be a lot further ahead by now. Part of my raison d'etre, and one of the reasons I've stopped reading the four horsement (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens -- and don't forget Michel Onfrey) is because there's so much negative energy being wasted in all of it.

As a very firm atheist (no, not agnostic), I have no beef against anyone holding religious beliefs. What I insist upon is that those religious beliefs not be forced upon others. Those who believe that their god detests homosexuals would be well-advised not to be gay, leaving in peace those who may be. Those who believe that they should pray instead of getting a blood transfusion are free to do so -- provided that they are of age to make such decision, and of sound enough mind to make a responsible choice.

Quite honestly, I think that we humanists need to make some of the first moves in this regard. That means being welcoming of persons of sincere religious faith, and not only that but respecting their honest faith so long as it is not foist upon anyone else.

Once we stop all the fighting, we can perhaps turn our combined energies to more fruitful causes...

kbell
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#2 Post by kbell » July 30th, 2008, 2:22 am

I don't think you'll find anyone on this forum who disagrees with your post, evangelhumanist, probably because nobody here believes in God so we don't waste our time fighting over the question. Were there believers in the Humanist Association of Toronto?

That said, the fact that some people might choose to debate the issue on other fora doesn't mean they're not doing useful things as well. When I read debates on the God question, I often get the impression that - for atheists, at least - it's just a bit of fun. They enjoy sparring and it can have a useful function in helping people to develop their critical thinking and debating skills.
Kathryn

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jaywhat
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#3 Post by jaywhat » July 30th, 2008, 6:17 am

Also Dawkins, for one, is not as aggressive as is often portrayed - see the last page of the current Radio Times.

Nick
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#4 Post by Nick » July 30th, 2008, 10:24 am

First of all, a hearty humanist welcome to you Evangelhumanist!

I have no objection to any humanist just living their own life, and letting others be. It's a policy I could use myself on occasion. However, for me personally, I have to disagree. For several reasons.

Humanism, as a concept is only a concept because of the religious. If god were not in the picture, then humanists would just be 'nice guys & gals'.

Many people may find comfort in belief in a god, but (as Dawkins says) this doesn't make it true. Kids may derive pleasure in imagining the moon is made of cream cheese, but we shouldn't teach that in science classes.

I also have a beef about people believing in god precisely because they don't keep it to themselves, but continue to peddle misinformation to the young and gullible. They also IMO do not have the right to promote homophobia as divine, nor should they be permitted to promote the rejection of blood transfusions. In parts of Africa, condoms are regarded as a plot to make men permanently sterile. Should that similarly be accepted if they claim it 'by faith'?

It is also somewhat difficult to object to the promotion of religious nonsense without a reason. I.e. that it is false. Hence the necessity IMO to continue to promote the alternative to belief in god.

Having said all that, most people don't take their religion seriously (at least in this country) and make their own judgements. I am also perfectly happy to co-operate with believers , as fellow humans, on a day-to-day basis. But to offer no resistance would lead to the spread of religious nonsense, and the retardation of human development that is likely to follow.

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Parapraxis
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#5 Post by Parapraxis » July 30th, 2008, 10:41 am

I think that if religious peoples were to be less inclined to try and enforce their (religious) views on other people and we lived in a society whereby religion was a more personal, rather than collective, matter, then perhaps the anti-religious writers would be less "aggressive" in tone or style; however I think the problem lies in that a lot of religious people try to inflict their ideology onto everyday life and this is perhaps what fuels the vehement writings of religious critics.

I would love if everybody who was religious in whatever way, shape or form, could keep it personal. I would have a greater respect for all religious peoples if they were to do that, unfortunately certain religious people try and inflict their ideologies onto everyday life, and I do not think this should be tolerated. I do believe that everyone has a right to their own opinions and beliefs, but I believe more strongly everyone has a right to their own reasoned opinions and beliefs.
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#6 Post by Maria Mac » July 30th, 2008, 11:20 am

Hi evangelhumanist
evangelhumanist wrote: Those who believe that their god detests homosexuals would be well-advised not to be gay, leaving in peace those who may be.
My first thought on reading this was to point out that, as homosexuality isn't a choice, that it would make more sense to advise homosexuals not to take the bible literally or choose religious fundamentalism as their world view. Then I remembered that belief isn't necessarily a choice either; people can't help what they believe and one of the things that turned me from being non-religious and happily minding my own business to being anti-religious was a TV programme I saw many years ago which described how a young, gay man was unable to reconcile his homosexuality with his religious belief and ended up committing suicide.

Too many views held by people of "sincere religious faith" are hurtful and damaging and, while I might respect the right of people to believe whatever they want, I also reserve the right to challenge damaging views - just as those who hold them have the right to challenge mine. I'm inclined to go a step further and say it is the responsibility of humanists to challenge such views if our broader aim is to "move humanity forward", as you put it. Thanks to the internet, I have read the testimonies of many erstwhile fundies who have deconverted only because they were exposed to arguments from people who weren't prepared to leave them in peace. When they abandoned their religion, they also abandoned a lot of personal anxieties about sin and hell as well as their bigoted, illiberal views. That's what I call fruitful.

As this thread is mainly about the behaviour of humanists, I'm going to move it to HSF.

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jaywhat
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#7 Post by jaywhat » July 30th, 2008, 3:09 pm

And the genetic-gay subject was well (IMO) protrayed on BBC1 last Thursday with the documentary on/by John Barryman (if I've got his name right) - the actor in Torchwood and Dr Who.

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wizzy
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#8 Post by wizzy » July 30th, 2008, 7:30 pm

The John Barrowman thing was quite interesting, although I don't really think I learnt anything new. I think what was particularly significant was when he interviewed a man who claimed to be an "ex-gay" This man had been openly and actively gay for about 17 years or something, before deciding it was upsetting his parents too much and so decided to "stop being gay" and I think he got married. During the conversation he compared it to giving up smoking - i.e you might still want to smoke but you choose not to.

So in his case at least (and I suspect in the case of most other "ex-gay" people) he was still gay, but not actively.

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Alan H
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#9 Post by Alan H » July 30th, 2008, 8:07 pm

That sounds interesting [---][/---] I wish I'd seen it.
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1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

evangelhumanist
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#10 Post by evangelhumanist » July 30th, 2008, 8:15 pm

wizzy wrote:I think what was particularly significant was when he interviewed a man who claimed to be an "ex-gay" This man had been openly and actively gay for about 17 years or something, before deciding it was upsetting his parents too much and so decided to "stop being gay" and I think he got married. During the conversation he compared it to giving up smoking - i.e you might still want to smoke but you choose not to.

So in his case at least (and I suspect in the case of most other "ex-gay" people) he was still gay, but not actively.
There are a great number of stories (some of them in the peer-reviewed psych journals) of people who have attempted this. In the large majority of such cases, the individual reverts to type and all too often, families are hurt.

It's a crying shame that so many feel themselves forced to be other than what nature intended them to be, but societal pressures (especially when religion is involved) can be enormous. I myself have known two people in similar situations, one of whom eventually killed himself, the other bitterly divorced and denied most access to his kids.

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jaywhat
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#11 Post by jaywhat » July 31st, 2008, 6:42 am

The Barryman prog was 1/3 on the subject of nature/nurture and tonight it is Colin Jackson ex Olympic star and the next week it is a musician.

lukanator
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#12 Post by lukanator » August 27th, 2008, 12:47 pm

evangelhumanist wrote:Something that has long bothered me in my on-line conversations (even some time ago when there was a Forum for the Humanist Association of Toronto) is the amount of time that is spent fighting about whether there is a god or not, about whether, if there is, anybody can figure out what it wants or not.

I keep thinking that if that energy were spent on trying to move all of humanity forward (both the secular and the religious), we would be a lot further ahead by now. Part of my raison d'etre, and one of the reasons I've stopped reading the four horsement (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens -- and don't forget Michel Onfrey) is because there's so much negative energy being wasted in all of it.

As a very firm atheist (no, not agnostic), I have no beef against anyone holding religious beliefs. What I insist upon is that those religious beliefs not be forced upon others. Those who believe that their god detests homosexuals would be well-advised not to be gay, leaving in peace those who may be. Those who believe that they should pray instead of getting a blood transfusion are free to do so -- provided that they are of age to make such decision, and of sound enough mind to make a responsible choice.

Quite honestly, I think that we humanists need to make some of the first moves in this regard. That means being welcoming of persons of sincere religious faith, and not only that but respecting their honest faith so long as it is not foist upon anyone else.

Once we stop all the fighting, we can perhaps turn our combined energies to more fruitful causes...
I'm in agreement more or less.

To me, religion is not the problem in the same way guns as inanimate objects are not the reason for gun crimes. Guns don't kill people, and religion doesn't kill people. Decisions and insanity kill people. Religion is like how the Swamp Thing described his monsterism formula...it only enhances your essence, makes you more of what you already are. Good people who know right from wrong didn't learn that from religion, and we've all seen people perform terribly inhuman acts in the name of religion.

I have no problem with religion; it's the religious who are the problem. Imposing one's belief system upon someone else strikes at the most basic, fundamental human trait: free will.

Ted Harvey
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#13 Post by Ted Harvey » September 1st, 2008, 2:34 pm

Evangelhumanist congratulations on a thought provoking post. I sympathise with the wish that we could all just get along with moving humanity forward. But my long experience in trying to ‘touch base’ with many religionists over matters of common concern is that the (Dawkins?) mantra that “belief will always trump reason” prevails at least in the immediate situation. In other words, no matter what evidence, reasoning or counter-view you put to many religionists in the end they resort to “Well that what I believe we must do, even if I cannot prove it”. Moreover the very efficacy of your secular arguments is cited as some sort of devious ‘science’ or secular devil’s work.

With reference to your feeling that:
Part of my raison d'etre, and one of the reasons I've stopped reading the four horsemen (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens -- and don't forget Michel Onfrey) is because there's so much negative energy being wasted in all of it.
As we are already agreeing; to each their own, but for me the wasted negative energy came from having to endure, and at times confront, the intolerance, discrimination and encroachments of religionists in so many aspects of my life. To first read Dawkins, Hitchens et al was for me a burst of negative energy – boy oh boy, here were the things we could, and should, be saying loudly and freely in the open space to belong to all of society.

I now find myself pointing out to hardly believing younger people that the reasoned proclaiming of the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens etc were barely allowable just a few decades ago in conventional British society – and could carry significant negative consequences for career and reputation.

Ted Harvey
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#14 Post by Ted Harvey » September 1st, 2008, 2:39 pm

Seems my posting ability is still as poor and irritating. I above should have said:

To first read Dawkins, Hitchens et al was for me a burst of positive energy

Sorry readers and I promise to try harder :redface:

evangelhumanist
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Re: A post concerning both religion and secularism

#15 Post by evangelhumanist » September 1st, 2008, 4:07 pm

I do find, however, that I can have quite positive, enlightening and interesting conversations with religious-minded people. Among my regular interlocutors are an Anglican (in the U.S. "Episcopalian") and a Jewish mystic. We do not always agree on everything, but it is amazing the amount of common ground we can find by basing our arguments -- whatever our peculiar beliefs are, and let's face it, even secularists have beliefs they can't "prove" -- on sound reasoning.

Of a certainty, we talk past one another from time to time, as our use of language so often encapsulates belief and is itself frequently irrational (or misleading). But with patience, we are learning from one another.

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