Thursday, December 21, 2006

Is Religion Inherently Homicidal?





A group calling themselves Real Men For Jesus argue that Jesus wasn't really the Bleeding Heart liberal he pretended to be, because after all he went around overturning tables, and was belligerent and destructive and made messes for other people to clean up, just like a macho man is supposed to do--just like George Bush, for example.


[. . .]

Generally speaking, there are two factors that tend to make a religious tradition violent. The first is proselytizing--the more actively the religion seeks to gain adherents the more violent they tend to be. The second factor is related to the first: the more the religious tradition demands that its adherents believe in extremely implausible stories the more violent it will tend to be.

(Via Chapel Perilous.)


Aside from being a "disease of infancy," religion can be viewed as a kind of evolutionary test. Because a species that breaks free of the conceptual boundaries erected by superstition and metaphysical dogma is likely to be formidable, with a significantly higher chance of surviving than a species that chooses willful stupidity over reason.

19 comments:

Ray Palm (Ray X) said...

Mac:

Aside from being a "disease of infancy," religion can be viewed as a kind of evolutionary test. Because a species that breaks free of the conceptual boundaries erected by superstition and metaphysical dogma is likely to be formidable, with a significantly higher chance of surviving than a species that chooses willful stupidity over reason.

But that assumes that those "enlightened" ones who can see beyond superstitution have enough influence to keep the species from destroying itself. It's a matter of "might" (political power) versus "right" (correctly seeing the world outside dogmatic blinders). Consider the two sides of the same coin: fundamental neo-con "Death to the Islamo-Terrorists" conservatives and the radical "Death to the Infidels" Islamic extremists. Is there really that much difference between ultra-rightwing Christian conservatives and the Taliban? Being a rational, secular person means nothing to either side, even if the facts presented by such a person can't be denied. In fact, both sides consider such an individual to be a common enemy.

Consider who's in power in the White House and some of those opposing him in the Mid-East: secular humanists are caught between these opposing powers, not a good place to be.

Ray

Carol Maltby said...

Religion is also practice and experience that does not depend on belief. And it's also a community that in its connectedness and ability to work for life-affirming and positive goals is often stronger than each of its component parts.

You sound as ignorant and Talibanic as James Randi when you rant about how you despise religion in general like that, without acknowledging the way in which it can work for the good of individuals and society.

You are writing about crypto-terrestrials, entities that don't always seem to be subject to our notions on how time and space work, yet you knock metaphysics? Geez. Maybe you need to work on some of those "conceptual boundaries" yourself.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this the other day.

A lot of religious commandments make sense as a way of encouraging good practice in the tribe - not eating pork, not sleeping with your sister, etc. However, it is all done in the way your treat a child: "Tidy your room or the monsters under your bed will eat your toes in your sleep."

Rules are the next step up and help you maintain a society using the next tool in a parent's arsenal - threatening the child: "Don't hit your brother or you get a clip round the ear."

I suspect they are natural stages in the evolution of a society given the starting conditions - groups that didn't would tend to tear themselves apart. Negative aspects do creep in with them both (as Arthur C. Clarke implies with the phrase) but that is partly from what RAW calls mistaking the map for the territory so rather than a means to an end it becomes the end and accrues all sorts of negative aspects (especially as people use the mechanisms for their own benefit).

I assume the next stage is for us to start acting like grownups and not naughty children: not actually needing laws applied to us because we act responsibly of our own volition. I've boiled it down to one concept: "don't fuck with other people's shit" (or as some prophet once said: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" - The Ethic of Reciprocity/The Golden Rule. There is a good reason it crops up in so many religions). Obviously this would also apply to the state level, removing the weird inequality that, while we can't go around murdering people, governments seem to think it is allowable to go over to another country and kill swathes of people there.

The tricky thing is that if 50% of people did this they'd get shafted by everyone else. In some ways it would have to happen rapidly and globally. A cultural singularity? Perhaps an event that demonstrated our place in the Univserse? Alan Moore's Watchmen shows this kind of thing being engineered. Would it happen naturally? Would it happen at all? Is that what this (big sweeping motion of the arm) is all about?

Anonymous said...

Mac,
I find it confusing and troubling that while you seem to be willing to accept a theory that we are living on a hollow Earth alongside an as-yet-undetected intelligent and technologically advanced species, despite the fact that there are thousands of non-Governmental, highly educated, highly curious, and objective researchers and users of the many technologies we now have (geologists, meteorologists, etc) who have yet to show any actual evidence at all.. (everyone on the planet can now use Google Maps and see there are no big holes on the poles with space-ships flying out)..

You believe in all this, yet you wish to dismiss those of faith as people who choose "willful stupidity over reason". Excuse me, the "more a religious tradition demands that its adherents believe in extremely implausable stories the more violent it will tend to be" is just complete nonsense. Hinduism, Buddhism -- both very very elaborate "religions", with plenty and plenty of "implausable stories". When was the last time there was a hindu or buddhist religious war?? Just because White People who have been Christians in culture have waged wars in their religion's name -- ach.. it really disappoints me, this logic. Blatantly absurd and tiny-brained thinking.

At a point where we can talk all this snobbery about "technology", whilst at the same time we haven't really a clue as to even the origin of our conscious Selfs.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that IMHO even without organised religions, as long as there are anomalous phenomena to be perceived, superstition will be rife....and superstition sows the seeds of religion.

Mac said...

I find it confusing and troubling that while you seem to be willing to accept a theory

That I accept the theoretical possibility of something in no way entails I'm a person of faith.

W.M. Bear said...

Everyone --

See H. Allen Orr's review of Dawkin's The God Delusion in A Mission to Convert in the current issue of The New York Review of Books. This review very knowledgably discusses many of the issues raised here (in the process of deconstructing -- in an accurate-seeming way, to my mind -- Dawkin's book.

The second factor is related to the first: the more the religious tradition demands that its adherents believe in extremely implausible stories the more violent it will tend to be.

The true villain, it seems to me, really is DOGMATIC belief of whatever stripe, religious or secular. As Orr points out in his review, many secular movements, such as Nazism and Communism have resulted in far more death and destruction than, say, Christianity ever did. And it seems fairly clear to me that the degree of violence associated with these movements had little to do with the impossibility of the beliefs associated with them. As I said, it is that fact that beliefs -- WHATEVER their nature -- take on the coercive force of dogma that turns them into killing machines.

Anonymous said...

You're rapidly losing credibility in droves with this "religion is bad because judeo-christians have been mean" angle, Mac..

W.M. Bear said...

Mac -- As a kind of antidote to Dawkins (if this is where you're cominng from), I would strongly suggest reading William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience, the classic work on the subject from a scientific -- granted "soft science" psychological -- perspective. I would also strongly suggest reading the review I linked to in my post above. Dawkins' arguments are fatally flawed, and one of the things we -- as anomalists especially -- need to do is to separate the exoteric side of "religion" with its various fundamentalisms (really what Dawkins is addressing himself to) that are, in effect, really just sinister methods of social control and the occult or esoteric side of the whole subject which, in fact, opens out onto our vistas of research in the paranormal, UFOs, etc., etc.

Anonymous said...

Mac:

As some others have noted, I find it ironic that you deal with a wide array of anomalous subjects, but frequently bash religion. You want to go after a particular religious leader, or even a denomination, go ahead. But to state:

Because a species that breaks free of the conceptual boundaries erected by superstition and metaphysical dogma is likely to be formidable, with a significantly higher chance of surviving than a species that chooses willful stupidity over reason.

... is to sound a lot like Jerry Clark does in the CTH debate underway.

Like W.M., I would suggest James, if you haven't already read it.

You should also know that, on either the paranormal, or religion, agnosticism is the only logical course - that skepticism that walks the narrow path between blind belief in the divine (which is, let's face it, inherently paranormal itself), and blind dismissal of the possibility of any divinity.

Best regards,
Paul

Anonymous said...

what Paul said...

Anonymous said...

Mac:

I would also point out that the two worst and most murderous tyrants of the 20th century, Hitler and Stalin, were non-religious - indeed, their regimes, espeically Stalin's, were decidedly and officially atheist, and made a point of persecuting religious leaders (although Hitler treaded a bit more carefully here). Further, many of the leading opponents of both regimes were religious people, and leaders.

In other words, things are never as easy, or as black and white, as you or the original quote make out here.

Paul

Ray Palm (Ray X) said...

Paul:

You're not implying that religion as an overall concept can never be examined or even criticized? (Even politics doesn't get that benefit.)

Mac:

Am I wrong to assume that you weren't "bashing" people of good faith, but were just questioning the negative aspects of religion?

Ray

Mac said...

Ray--

You're right on the money. And I would hazard the opinion that religion, by and large, has more negative impact than positive.

W.M. Bear said...

You're not implying that religion as an overall concept can never be examined or even criticized? (Even politics doesn't get that benefit.)

It's one thing to criticize religion and quite another to dismiss it completely out of hand as a wholly pernicious influence completely without any redeeming qualities, as Dawkins does in The God Delusion.

Personally, after a long attempt to be a functioning atheist in my youth, I have come around to a belief (which I would never attempt to foist off on to anyone else) somewhat similar to what Albert Einstein's seems to have been. Unfortunately, in discussions of this issue, this belief comes off SEEMING like a version of "Intelligent Design," although, to my way of thinking, it really is not. ID is mainly camouflaged Creationism and, as such, is to be deplored ESPECIALLY because this fact in and of itself renders it intellectually dishonest. But let's not throw the baby Jesus out with the holy water (especially not on Christmas eve!)

Happy (religious) holidays, everyone!

Anonymous said...

You're only losing credibility with those who wish to hang on to their myths and come to the defense of them.
I've always held that religion is for the spiritually weak, which most find contradictory. Let go the archetypes, they are no longer needed. The hindus and bhuddists--for the most part--know their stories are just that;metaphors, morality plays, not to be taken literally. That's the difference between east and west. And of all the religions I've studied, I find the hindu and bhuddist stories to be the most plausible.

Mac said...

Bsti--

I agree. I have a lot of respect for Buddhism, which I don't regard so much as a "religion" than a *practice* -- with scientifically proven health benefits, at that.

W.M. Bear said...

While I, on the other hand, have a lot of respect for Hinduism, which strikes me as the only religion supported (in all its wild, wonderful, and confusing variety!) by a truly plausible (because complex and non-dogmatic) metaphysics. Hinduism has also given the West yoga, which has definitely health benefits.

Anonymous said...

Mac, you need some serious education in theology, philosophy, and world's religions.

Are you an agent? An agent for the Greys? I am starting to wonder..