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Author Topic: Religious Fanaticism  (Read 2969 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 26, 2006, 12:52:12 AM »

This is carried over from another thread, found here: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,10598.msg144190.html#msg144190


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I would like to get back to this, though on another thread at some point. I realise that what I said was harsh, I just hate it that people will harm each other because of stuff like that. I mean, this isn't about survival or self-defense or anyting like that, it's about people who have some religious argument with 99% of the rest of the world, and want to stay in some building, and are willing to participate in violence, to even openly invite a violent reaction.

I agree it is a terribly sad situation.  But, I'd point out that there are mentally unbalenced fanatics in all populations.  Thus I think that is important to not immediantly condemn any sort of system based on the actions of its fanatics.  It is also important to not over emphasize the role of religion in this conflict - it is primarily a property dispute.  Greek law is a little curious, but in America this would be a non-issue - whoever owns the property decides who can and cannot live on it.

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I don't know enough about soviet history to know how much of an effect atheism had on their activity, but I would say that this is probably a matter of perspective.

I'd say it had some impact on the blowing up of churches, executions of clergy etc.  Afterall the masses need their opiate taken away.

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From your viewpoint, I expect that you would say that man is fallen (his reason is corrupt), and so man can't rely on reason alone; thus the need for God. I would say the opposite.

I think the best governments are those that balance power with systems of checks and balances.  An unchecked atheistic regime is just as scary as any theocracy.


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So you see certain religionists as not being true or valid respresenatives of your belief system, but still maintain that reason alone won't do it. Likewise, I see certain atheists as not being valid representatives of what a reasonable or rational person would be. I'm not sure that we could ever come to an agreement on the subject, though I think you were right to point out that using my logic (as stated) one could also dismiss atheism.

To an extent the state most approaching rationalism to have ever existed was the Third Reich.  The euthanasia programs for people who were a great burden to society would only have been effective in a society that had lost its Christian scruples. 

I'm not trying to convince you that a Christian theocracy would avoid these pitfalls.  Merely I am arguing that:

1. Removing religion from a state will not remove the social ills that are often ascribed to religion.  The historical examples ranging from Stalinism in the USSR, Hoxer in Albania, Mao's cultural revolution in China and to extent Hitler throughout Europe (for instance, a quarter of all Polish Catholic priests were killed by the Nazis) show that has not been the case.  The removal of religion from these societies are usually only exacerbated existing problems.

2. A state governed solely on rationalism has no better a chance of avoiding potential problems.  Amoral rationalism can easily justify the vast majority of the crimes of the Third Reich.  The Soviet Union and Maoist China also drew upon their version of rationalism as inspiration for their atrocities. 

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I would add though that, from my perspective, to rephrase your sentence, "If all parties involved were to act in a more reasonable manner [whether atheist, Christian, or whatever doesn't matter], the problem would be solved."

Perhaps they ARE acting rationally.  The Esphigmenou monks wish to be martyrs for their cause - so this would preclude vacating their monastery and purchasing their own property.  The Patriarchate wishes to augement its own power - so this would preclude allowing monastics who are critical of it to remain in Esphigmenou.

I'm not arguing against rationalism (or atheism for that matter) entirely.  In certain areas of society they are great.  But when applied to the whole of society they are a major disaster.  There is nothing to prevent an entirely evil action from being done as long as it is rational.  The twentieth century demonstrated how deep of a flaw that is in rationalism, when it is allowed to run its full course.  The only force to stop one from doing the evil yet entirely rational act is that which is spiritual.   

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lubeltri
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2006, 01:10:39 AM »


1. Removing religion from a state will not remove the social ills that are often ascribed to religion.  The historical examples ranging from Stalinism in the USSR, Hoxer in Albania, Mao's cultural revolution in China and to extent Hitler throughout Europe (for instance, a quarter of all Polish Catholic priests were killed by the Nazis) show that has not been the case.  The removal of religion from these societies are usually only exacerbated existing problems.

You're right---don't forget the bloodbaths of martyred priests and religious in the Spanish Civil War and under the Calles government of Mexico in the late 1920s. Oh, and the aftermath of the French Revolution.
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2006, 02:05:35 AM »

Nektarios

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I agree it is a terribly sad situation.  But, I'd point out that there are mentally unbalenced fanatics in all populations.  Thus I think that is important to not immediantly condemn any sort of system based on the actions of its fanatics.

Fair enough, I was over-reaching to say what I did about religion generally because of the actions of a few.

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I'd say it had some impact on the blowing up of churches, executions of clergy etc.  Afterall the masses need their opiate taken away.

Maybe. Again, I don't know a lot about Soviet Russia. One of the things that did suprise me about it was something I read in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago--or rather, something I didn't read. I was an Orthodox Christian at the time, so I was somewhat suprised by his lack of stories about how religion, and especially Orthodox Christianity, had gotten people through the camps. I mean, I didn't expect Fr. Arseny, but I didn't expect what he wrote either, which basically made it sound like religion was about as good (though no better than) any other method for getting through the camps alive and sane. I can't ever remember reading that work and thinking "Boy, it's a good thing he was a Christian! How lost he'd have been without God!" I'm not sure what I'm getting at, other than I think atheism is misunderstood sometimes as being either amoral or nihilistic. More on this in a minute (about atheistic regimes)...


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I think the best governments are those that balance power with systems of checks and balances.  An unchecked atheistic regime is just as scary as any theocracy.

Probably true. In fact, I've sat here for a while trying to articulate what slight edge an atheistic government might have, and everything I could think of could be turned around against me. I hate when that happens.  Grin

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To an extent the state most approaching rationalism to have ever existed was the Third Reich.  The euthanasia programs for people who were a great burden to society would only have been effective in a society that had lost its Christian scruples.

Personally, I think Hitler (and by extension Nazi Germany) was a sort of Religionist-of-all-trades. He pursued any and every superstition and religious belief/practice, if he thought it would give him an edge. He tried to exploit everything from Christianity to the ancient German beliefs, and everything in between. In that way, he wasn't a madman because of his religious beliefs (or lack of them), but because... he was a madman. It is not unknown for even Christian nations (or empires) to tolerate practices that we today would find despicable. I think Germany did whatever it could to thrive, and was an equal-opportunity abuser of philosophies and religions.

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1. Removing religion from a state will not remove the social ills that are often ascribed to religion.  The historical examples ranging from Stalinism in the USSR, Hoxer in Albania, Mao's cultural revolution in China and to extent Hitler throughout Europe (for instance, a quarter of all Polish Catholic priests were killed by the Nazis) show that has not been the case.  The removal of religion from these societies are usually only exacerbated existing problems.

I would agree that removing religion violently or quickly (which I think is what happened in your examples) doesn't simply cure all of the ills that are supposed to be from religion. However, I will say that, of the overviews of scientific studies that I've seen, there seems to be a tendency for more secular nations to be better off than more religious nations. In these studies they use things like life expectancy, literacy, homicide, suicide, etc., and (the two I've read about anyway) found that generally the more religious a society is, the worse off it is.  So, a rather religious society like the U.S. would be near the bottom, and a rather secular society like Japan would be near the top. Of course, not even the people who do these studies claims that they absolutely demonstrate causation, but they are an interesting departure from the assumption that the less religious someone is, the less moral or stable. I guess the thing that will prove or disprove this is how westernized, free, increasingly secular nations, like the Czech Republic, Finland, Denmark, etc., fare in the coming centuries. If Europe is able to prosper (supposing they remember that it's ok to have kids, though that's a seperate issue), then maybe we'll get to the point where it's considered "common sense" to believe that atheistic nations can be just as moral and stable as religious ones. If it doesn't, then I guess I'll have a lot of (re)thinking to do.

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2. A state governed solely on rationalism has no better a chance of avoiding potential problems.  Amoral rationalism can easily justify the vast majority of the crimes of the Third Reich.  The Soviet Union and Maoist China also drew upon their version of rationalism as inspiration for their atrocities. 

I would agree that they are about equal in terms of the potential for failure. My initial response (and one that I was going to make above) is that it might be easier for an atheistic/rationalistic to correct their course, since they only have to reason their way out of things, changing some beliefs, rather than change the focus of their entire society, perhaps down to their very worship and the meaning of their daily lives. There might be something to that, but I have to admit that reason can be hijacked just as easily, and real reason just as easily resisted. Science itself is filled with examples of scientific breakthroughs that were ignored or shunned by scientists, only to be propped up by scientists living a generation or two later as great breakthroughs. I certainly wouldn't make reason my God, for I would agree that man does indeed go astray quite a bit (I just think that reason is the best thing we have). In the end, I think you are right in saying that both ways are open to abuse.

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Perhaps they ARE acting rationally.  The Esphigmenou monks wish to be martyrs for their cause - so this would preclude vacating their monastery and purchasing their own property.  The Patriarchate wishes to augement its own power - so this would preclude allowing monastics who are critical of it to remain in Esphigmenou.

This sort of gets into the rationality of believing in a God who cares about that kind of stuff to begin with... and I've offended enough people for one week. Smiley

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The twentieth century demonstrated how deep of a flaw that is in rationalism, when it is allowed to run its full course.

But that's just it, I don't think that it has been given a chance. I mean a legit chance, not some crazy revolution, or racist madman, or self-serving dictator. Again, I think in the next few generations we'll have a better picture of it as Europe continues to secularize. That is a slow, natural process. Anytime a philosophy is just forced onto people there will probably be a violent or bitter reaction against it. That's true for society at large just as much as for individual human beings (biologically). If you try to force something foreign into them, you shouldn't expect good results. But if they willingly take something down--something that some call poison and others call a cure--then we can wait and see how the body/society reacts.
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2006, 04:11:59 AM »

Maybe. Again, I don't know a lot about Soviet Russia. One of the things that did suprise me about it was something I read in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago--or rather, something I didn't read. I was an Orthodox Christian at the time, so I was somewhat suprised by his lack of stories about how religion, and especially Orthodox Christianity, had gotten people through the camps. I mean, I didn't expect Fr. Arseny, but I didn't expect what he wrote either, which basically made it sound like religion was about as good (though no better than) any other method for getting through the camps alive and sane. I can't ever remember reading that work and thinking "Boy, it's a good thing he was a Christian! How lost he'd have been without God!" I'm not sure what I'm getting at, other than I think atheism is misunderstood sometimes as being either amoral or nihilistic. More on this in a minute (about atheistic regimes)...

I know precisely what you are talking when you say there was something missing - I've had that same sort of feeling in other situations.  I think your point is legitimate, but what is worth taking into consideration is that a rather large number of prisoners in the Gulag were themselves communists that were the victims of the purges and many others grew up primarily after the revolution (especially the large number of WWII POWs that were put into the Gulags) - so many were miltantly atheist before they set foot in the camps or had had little exposure to religion in their lifetime. 

Have you read Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich?  The religious theme is very subtle, yet there are little clues throughout the novel alluding to it.  Then the final conversation between Ivan and Alyosha is entirely about religion - it is clear that Ivan is a believer, but it is a subtle belief.  The curious thing is that Alyosha almost seems like the traditional Orthodox starec, yet is baptist.  There is a large grey area between outright atheism and a well developed confession of Orthodox Christianity.  There were clear diffrences between prisoners who had lost all dignity in the camps and those who struggled to keep a sense of dignity - in a very spiritual sense.  Thus small acts like taking one's hat off while eating or refusing to smoke cigarette butts were deeply spiritual. 

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Personally, I think Hitler (and by extension Nazi Germany) was a sort of Religionist-of-all-trades. He pursued any and every superstition and religious belief/practice, if he thought it would give him an edge. He tried to exploit everything from Christianity to the ancient German beliefs, and everything in between. In that way, he wasn't a madman because of his religious beliefs (or lack of them), but because... he was a madman. It is not unknown for even Christian nations (or empires) to tolerate practices that we today would find despicable. I think Germany did whatever it could to thrive, and was an equal-opportunity abuser of philosophies and religions.

I tried to avoid this from moving directly to Hitler.  It is too easy to dismiss the whole system as just the work of a single madman.  The problem with that is the Nazi regime took a massive amount of manpower to function, requiring thousands of willing members and true believers.  These true believers saw the atrocities of the Nazi program as part of the cost towards rendering a better society of the future (rid of undesirable elements such as the handicapped, criminals etc - let's avoid the oversimplified cliche...).  That still leaves the problem that rationally speaking, there is nothing immoral (if rationalism is the basis of our morality) about an euthanasia program to rid society of various burdens holding it back from progress. 

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I would agree that removing religion violently or quickly (which I think is what happened in your examples) doesn't simply cure all of the ills that are supposed to be from religion.

While all of these were violent and quick, the USSR was relatively long term.  Even after religion had been greatly diminished, people sought to find something spritiual or spiritualize something to fill a seemingly inherent need.  This often took the form of a personality cult (look at modern North Korea for an example of just how religious this non-religion has become).  Even Krushchev saw this and pointed it out in his 1956 secret speech.  To me this shows just has natural and instinctive the human need for spirituality is; a need so great that one is even willing to worship their oppressors if all else fails.

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However, I will say that, of the overviews of scientific studies that I've seen, there seems to be a tendency for more secular nations to be better off than more religious nations. In these studies they use things like life expectancy, literacy, homicide, suicide, etc., and (the two I've read about anyway) found that generally the more religious a society is, the worse off it is.  So, a rather religious society like the U.S. would be near the bottom, and a rather secular society like Japan would be near the top. Of course, not even the people who do these studies claims that they absolutely demonstrate causation, but they are an interesting departure from the assumption that the less religious someone is, the less moral or stable. I guess the thing that will prove or disprove this is how westernized, free, increasingly secular nations, like the Czech Republic, Finland, Denmark, etc., fare in the coming centuries. If Europe is able to prosper (supposing they remember that it's ok to have kids, though that's a seperate issue), then maybe we'll get to the point where it's considered "common sense" to believe that atheistic nations can be just as moral and stable as religious ones. If it doesn't, then I guess I'll have a lot of (re)thinking to do.

I think Europe very often gets misrepresented.  There are still some deeply religious pockets within Western Europe.  I'd argue that Christianity has put the brakes on rationalism in Europe - Christian social teaching (more to the point, modern Catholic social teaching) is still a powerfull and important force in Europe.  Even the idea that there is such a thing as an inalienable right is certainly a spiritual concept - not one borne out of rationalism.   

In practice, most atheists that I've come across are moral and upstanding people.  But this morality doesn't come from rationalism (which has no "brakes" to keep it from spinning out of control).  Most still have spiritual values of some sort.  They will contribute to charities, refrain from causing pain to others, believe that people should do good etc - yet this sort of universal values in society are ultimately from some sort of spiritual system.  A number of "atheists" that I know are adopting more and more Eastern philosophical/religious ideas into their lives.  At least for the time being, American and European societies will remain under the guidance of some spiritual princinples.

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But that's just it, I don't think that it has been given a chance. I mean a legit chance, not some crazy revolution, or racist madman, or self-serving dictator. Again, I think in the next few generations we'll have a better picture of it as Europe continues to secularize. That is a slow, natural process. Anytime a philosophy is just forced onto people there will probably be a violent or bitter reaction against it. That's true for society at large just as much as for individual human beings (biologically). If you try to force something foreign into them, you shouldn't expect good results. But if they willingly take something down--something that some call poison and others call a cure--then we can wait and see how the body/society reacts.

If this evolution does take place in Europe and religion entirely dies out, there is little to stop an Orwellian society from forming.  And supposing the old religion does die out in Europe, most likely there will be new ones.  People have from the very start been on a spiritual quest, even among the most primitive tribal societies - not a mere praying to a contrieved god for the crops to grow, but seeking out a true spiritual transformation.  I don't see why Europeans would stop this quest (even if many are on an hiatus for the time being).  I don't mean this as an apologia for Christian Orthodoxy - as I don't think that can be arrived at rationally.  But I am arguing that atheism, by ignoring the inherintly spiritual nature of humanity is doomed to failure as a philosophy if it is ever allowed to be taken to its full conclusion.  Or to put it more eloquently - "Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." 
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« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2006, 10:27:14 AM »

The issue to me is not religion, but the misuse of religion.  It's a human issue, and religion or no religion, that is the factor that will not change.

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I think atheism is misunderstood sometimes as being either amoral or nihilistic.

Ultimately it is, because there are no absolutes.

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However, I will say that, of the overviews of scientific studies that I've seen, there seems to be a tendency for more secular nations to be better off than more religious nations.

How did they get to be better off and how do they survive now, through moral or immoral means?
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« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2006, 12:50:26 PM »

I hope you all don't mind, but I'm gonna try to trim down some stuff here, otherwise I'll be spending 4 hours a day writing responses for this thread, lol.

Nektarios

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Have you read Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich?...

I haven't yet, though I plan on doing so eventually. I just got a book for Christmas with various letters by (and about) Solzhenitsyn, so maybe what you are speaking of will be in those as well. I'll keep my eye out for it.

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I tried to avoid this from moving directly to Hitler...

That's fair enough. It's not like Hitler hypnotized them from 1934 onwards. I still don't know that what he did was caused by, or even allowed by, atheism. I'm sure many seemingly religious nations throughout history would have accepted the systamatic murder of, or even mass murder of, a group of people, if they thought it benefited them; the sacrificed Incan children, or enslaved africans, were killed in societies in which religion was an important (probably the most important) thing. It seems to me that the more common cause is nationalism or greed or some other worldly self-interest, and religion or irreligion is just a covering. I think this works against some atheists as well. Dawkins, for instance, seems set on the idea that Bush only went to war because of (or at least primarily because of) his religious beliefs, which I think is untrue. Bush's rhetoric after 9/11 may have had a strong religious tone to it, but that doesn't mean that it is his only, or even necessarily his main, motivating factor. And I think it certainly is not the motivating factor for most people who support the war. (not trying to take this into politics, just bringing up a recent example of how religion, or irreligion, can be given an unduly exaggerated importance in the thought process/actions of a nation).

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That still leaves the problem that rationally speaking, there is nothing immoral (if rationalism is the basis of our morality) about an euthanasia program to rid society of various burdens holding it back from progress.

Well, I could think of various reasons that an atheistic society might not get rid of those who some might consider burdens. Whether it is "rational" is, I think, like everything else in life (including religious faith), subjective.  What is rational to one person (e.g., if we pray to God it will rain), is irrational to another; and vice versa. Having said that, a few reasons that I wouldn't support killing those with handicaps. While slippery slopes are not good arguments, I think it is nonetheless a valid point that it would be hard to determine where exactly the cut off point is for who is and is not handicapped. Is a war hero who loses a leg in the war handicapped? How about the 4 star general, a brilliant strategist, who loses his hearing from an explosion? Is the CEO who is an alcoholic handicapped enough to kill? The child born addicted to a drug? A child born deaf? What about someone who has residual (mild) schizophrenia? I think it is perfectly reasonable to let those who can live to live. Deafness, or paralysis, or mental illness, can be (obviously) debilitating, but it doesn't render a person useless. In fact, I would go so far as to say that no living person is completely useless. I used to go with my Mother (an LPN) to the houses old elderly people, and sometimes mentally handicapped people, who were unable to care for themselves. I can tell you that I learnt a lot more about myself, and humanity in general, from those visits, than I did from entire years of public education.

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While all of these were violent and quick, the USSR was relatively long term.  Even after religion had been greatly diminished, people sought to find something spritiual or spiritualize something to fill a seemingly inherent need.

Yes, and I would say that they should have been given spirituality back, not just as part of a war effort, but to whatever extent they wanted. It didn't matter how long the Soviet Union went on, the whole thing was that they had ripped the people's beliefs from them at the beginning. I wouldn't expect an atheistic push like that to work any more than a similar religious one (e.g., the Egyptian Akhenaten pushing monotheism). So, if I could clarify something from my last post, the atheism would not only have to slowly and naturally come into a culture, but would also have to be accepted by that culture. The people would have to be free to choose or reject that unbelief. That's something that I don't think anyone would say about the Soviet Union.

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... yet this sort of universal values in society are ultimately from some sort of spiritual system.

Well I couldn't agree with that one. I mean, I can understand how you'd say so, since I assume that you believe that God gave the world morality, and thus any time someone is moral (even if they are only doing what is "written on their heart"), they are doing something spritual. Not believing in that particular God, I don't think my morality must come from him. I would say that there is a sort of moral compass in us, which manifests itself in similar primary moral beliefs across a lot of societies. Don't murder. Don't steal. And so forth. I don't think that there is a spiritual reason for this, just psychological, cultural, and biological reasons.

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But I am arguing that atheism, by ignoring the inherintly spiritual nature of humanity is doomed to failure as a philosophy if it is ever allowed to be taken to its full conclusion.

Like I said, we'll see. Smiley  If atheism is incorrect for denying a spiritual nature, then it will ultimately be shown to be an untenable position. The problem right now is that atheism is just now beginning to reach some level of acceptability on a cultural level. It was not too many generations ago that you could be imprisoned, and even executed, for being an admitted atheist. Even now, atheist is often a fast lane to being disowned, losing your job, or being shunned by your neighbors. Why? Because for some reason, people honestly believe as welkodox does: that atheists are ultimately amoral and nihilistic. Being an atheist today has rightly been called "coming out of the other closet". So far from being disproved, atheism hasn't even been given a chance yet.
 

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Ultimately it is [amoral and nihilistic], because there are no absolutes.

I think this is a thread all it's own, and something that's been touched on in the past, but I'll try to run down my reasons for not believing this. A lack of absolutes doesn't equal immorality or nihilism, unless you have been told by others that it does. There is no one, set standard of morality. If there was, there wouldn't need to be 1,001 Christian commentaries for every subject. Is contraception right or wrong? Divorcing a 4th time? Abortion when the mother's life is at risk? Is slavery inherently evil? Is racism evil? Is lying to people always wrong? Christianity seems to flucuate on these and many other moral questions, depending on the time, the people, etc. Of course, the obvious response is "Yeah, but what some people thought wasn't the issue. It's what God thinks". But that's exactly the point, everyone thinks that they know what God thinks, yet no one can prove it "absolutely". If there is a God, and she wanted morality to be crystal clear, then why did she write morality "on our hearts" (to quote Paul), and give such a disputed book of rules (the Bible)?

Also, do you really believe that atheists are amoral and nihilistic, or is that just an argument that you've heard and are now repeating? I mean, do you really go around every day expecting that there are 15,000,000 atheists around you, who at the drop of a hat might murder you or rape your wife, just for kicks? Whatever psychological issues you might have living in a world where there were no "absolutes," I'd have to think that it'd be even harder to live in a world where you thought that 15 million (and maybe some of the 15 million agnostics?) were out running wild, ready to harm or kill you at a moment's notice. If it sets your mind at ease, I can assure you that I don't want to hurt you, I don't think "woe is me!" every day, I might see some really good reasons to live, and I might even try to be moral.

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How did they get to be better off and how do they survive now, through moral or immoral means?

Well that's a matter of perspective. Are we judging the person according to Orthodox moral belief? Buddhist? Islamic? Secular Humanist? According to some belief systems they are the most moral people on earth. According to others they would be some of the most immoral people on earth. You can't simply assume your own belief system as though it is self-evidently the superior set of moral beliefs.
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« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2006, 02:05:43 PM »

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I There is no one, set standard of morality. If there was, there wouldn't need to be 1,001 Christian commentaries for every subject. Is contraception right or wrong? Divorcing a 4th time? Abortion when the mother's life is at risk? Is slavery inherently evil? Is racism evil? Is lying to people always wrong? Christianity seems to flucuate on these and many other moral questions, depending on the time, the people, etc. Of course, the obvious response is "Yeah, but what some people thought wasn't the issue. It's what God thinks". But that's exactly the point, everyone thinks that they know what God thinks, yet no one can prove it "absolutely". If there is a God, and she wanted morality to be crystal clear, then why did she write morality "on our hearts" (to quote Paul), and give such a disputed book of rules (the Bible)?

I believe there are absolute principles, if which lived and acted upon would be able to answer the questions you pose.  I believe behind our realm of human perception and experience, there is an absolute reality to which there is an ultimate yes/no to your questions.

The issue of why doesn't God tell us exactly what he wants or what is right in all instances, or why doesn't he present himself to us as individual believers to erase doubts, is of course the realm of faith.  To many, that will of course always remain a sort of intellectual get out of jail free card.  There is of course the broader issue of how do we know anything is "true" or "real", and in truth how much of what we accept in the world around us is really just a matter of faith.

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do you really go around every day expecting that there are 15,000,000 atheists around you, who at the drop of a hat might murder you or rape your wife, just for kicks?

I believe given the right circumstances, people are capable of things they never imagined, including homicidal violence.

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I might see some really good reasons to live, and I might even try to be moral.

Yes, you might try, but ultimately you will fail (as all of us will).  None of us are really "moral" in the real sense.  That means in an absolute sense, morality doesn't exist in humans.  There are only degrees of morality, all of which without an absolute are really just perceptions of what is moral.  That doesn't mean that there aren't atheists out there who do good things, are cheerful, have generally happy lives, etc.

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Are we judging the person according to Orthodox moral belief? Buddhist? Islamic? Secular Humanist? According to some belief systems they are the most moral people on earth. According to others they would be some of the most immoral people on earth.

My question was in response to this statement

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However, I will say that, of the overviews of scientific studies that I've seen, there seems to be a tendency for more secular nations to be better off than more religious nations. In these studies they use things like life expectancy, literacy, homicide, suicide, etc., and (the two I've read about anyway) found that generally the more religious a society is, the worse off it is.

My question was how did these societies get to be better off, and how do they sustain themselves?  Was it through moral means, immoral means, or a combination?  My belief is that what you view as indications of prosperity and progress due to lack of religion, are not brought about through morality but through a system that is inherintly immoral in many ways.  There are winners, and there are losers in materialism and always will be.

Ultimately, if there is no absolute reality, then I think one has to take the view that all "morality" is provisional subject to change at some future juncture.  What it really means is what the majority view as being "moral" is the standard of morality.  That will always lead in some ways to the tyranny of the majority, and somehow to the exploitation and or elimination of somebody in the minority.

Without an absolute reality behind our human perceptions, I think one can likely only draw the conclusion that what drives our existence is something along the lines of the Darwinian model of natural selection.  That is why I think atheism is not simply amoral, but when you contemplate it, it is nihilism.  There is simply no meaning to life beyond our own biological propogation.

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You can't simply assume your own belief system as though it is self-evidently the superior set of moral beliefs.

I don't.  I subject my faith to constant evaluation, doubt and introspection.  I was raised in a non religious household, I've seen that side of the fence.
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« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2006, 09:22:07 PM »

Well, there's no sense in me arguing that a non-absolutist position has merit. Even though I would defend a contextualist view, it would surely be taken as a relativist position in a forum like this. The same could be said of the rest of my beliefs, I just felt that I owed it to Nektarios to continue the discussion since he obvious had put some time into his post(s), and he had a lot of good points to make, and I was wrong on some of my points. I'm not sure what else I can gain by posting here though. If I tell you how much happier I am as an atheist, how much time I've spent thinknig about it, or how willing I am to admit when I've gotten something wrong, will that persuade you that not everyone on "this side of the fence" is completely off course? If I try to argue that there can be purpose to life without a God, will that persuade you? If I try to say that there is a reason to be moral, other than the God in the sky, would it mean anything? If I pointed out that you are an atheist as well (as it related to hinduism, zoroastrianism, etc.), and that the only different is that I happen to go one god further, will that help you to see my position? Don't get me wrong, I believe you when you say: "I subject my faith to constant evaluation, doubt and introspection". I just think people need to be at a certain point to consider atheism on it's own terms, and I realise that very few committed Christians are at that point, for reasons of piety and respect for what they've already learned, among others.
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« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2006, 09:57:10 PM »

If this evolution does take place in Europe and religion entirely dies out, there is little to stop an Orwellian society from forming.  And supposing the old religion does die out in Europe, most likely there will be new ones.  People have from the very start been on a spiritual quest, even among the most primitive tribal societies - not a mere praying to a contrieved god for the crops to grow, but seeking out a true spiritual transformation.  I don't see why Europeans would stop this quest (even if many are on an hiatus for the time being).  I don't mean this as an apologia for Christian Orthodoxy - as I don't think that can be arrived at rationally.  But I am arguing that atheism, by ignoring the inherintly spiritual nature of humanity is doomed to failure as a philosophy if it is ever allowed to be taken to its full conclusion.  Or to put it more eloquently - "Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." 

There is a definite aspect of the human psyche that we have dubbed 'spiritual'; however, I do not know that this needs to be satisfied by a formal religion, adherence to a traditional system of morality, or even a belief in the metaphysical or supernatural. The fulfillment of this spirituality can be done through technology, science, knowledge, and/or self(or collective)-advancement. The human psyche needs a god, but it is perfectly capable of using itself for that purpose.
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« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2006, 10:25:48 PM »

Well, I could think of various reasons that an atheistic society might not get rid of those who some might consider burdens. Whether it is "rational" is, I think, like everything else in life (including religious faith), subjective.  What is rational to one person (e.g., if we pray to God it will rain), is irrational to another; and vice versa.

I don't know that I would agree with this assessment, rationality is dependent on consistency...if a position is inconsistent, it is irrational; if, however, a position is consistent it is rational. I would regard National Socialism as rational because of it's relatively consistent adherence to Nietzschean philosophy (in fact, it was probably more consistent than Nietzsche himself). Deism is fairly rational for a religious position because it removes God enough from day to day life as to prevent the inconsistencies found in most religions. Agnosticism is, of course, the most consistent of all beliefs about religion because it is independent of any axiomatic system. Atheism is rather irrational because it asserts an absolute while using standards that prohibit the use of absolutes. Most versions of Christianity are also quite irrational for various philosophical and theological reasons, though I am tempted to make Orthodoxy an exception...we claim irrationality as part of our faith (consider Pseudo-Dionysius) and if you axiomatically negate the absolute validity of a system, using said system in an absolute manner inherently creates a contradiction...not that Orthodoxy is entirely devoid of reason, but it may be sufficently far from it to negate the use of reason alone in determining internal consistency.

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Having said that, a few reasons that I wouldn't support killing those with handicaps. While slippery slopes are not good arguments, I think it is nonetheless a valid point that it would be hard to determine where exactly the cut off point is for who is and is not handicapped.

Perhaps social value could also be taken into account and a rational cost-benefit analysis be performed; this would be a rational standard that would prevent your slippery slope, so from that perspective, to answer your questions:

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Is a war hero who loses a leg in the war handicapped?

No, if you undermine the confidence of the military in the state you will have far more problems than caring for a few disabled vets.

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How about the 4 star general, a brilliant strategist, who loses his hearing from an explosion?

No, he's still a brilliant strategist.

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Is the CEO who is an alcoholic handicapped enough to kill?

No, If he's still a CEO and sufficently functional that the stock-owners are confident in his abilities he clearly is contributing in some way to society.

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The child born addicted to a drug? A child born deaf?

Yes and Yes, while they certainly have the potential to grow into productive members of society, they are less likely to than your average child, thus it would be prudent to spend the resources on more promising children. Unless, of course, the society is in such dire straights that it needs offspring no matter the cost in which case it would be reasonable to dedicate the resources needed to exploit every opportunity to gain new members.

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What about someone who has residual (mild) schizophrenia?

Depends, is this person a productive memeber of society? Or does his schizophrenia make him dependent and a drain on society? It would probably depend on the degree of mental illness.

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I think it is perfectly reasonable to let those who can live to live. Deafness, or paralysis, or mental illness, can be (obviously) debilitating, but it doesn't render a person useless. In fact, I would go so far as to say that no living person is completely useless. I used to go with my Mother (an LPN) to the houses old elderly people, and sometimes mentally handicapped people, who were unable to care for themselves. I can tell you that I learnt a lot more about myself, and humanity in general, from those visits, than I did from entire years of public education.

No human may be completely useless (except, possibly, those in a vegetative state, but even then their continued life can offer continued moral support to friends and family); however, that does not mean that every human gives society a benefit that exceeds their cost.
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« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2006, 10:29:29 PM »

Without an absolute reality behind our human perceptions, I think one can likely only draw the conclusion that what drives our existence is something along the lines of the Darwinian model of natural selection.  That is why I think atheism is not simply amoral, but when you contemplate it, it is nihilism.  There is simply no meaning to life beyond our own biological propogation.

Actually, to be consistant, if you deny the existance of a metaphysical, not even biological propagation gives meaning to life; eventually the universe, expanding at an increasing rate, will tear all matter into its most elemental pieces, and biology will cease to exist. If biological propagation (and with it cultural, technological, knowledge, social, etc) offered true meaning to life indefinitely, atheism would be a far easier position to embrace.
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« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2006, 12:45:25 AM »

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Well, there's no sense in me arguing that a non-absolutist position has merit.

Fundamentally I think it's an argument that has no resolution either way, God cannot be proven or disproven.  I can't argue you in to belief, nor do I have an interest in doing that.
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« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2006, 02:13:28 AM »

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That's fair enough. It's not like Hitler hypnotized them from 1934 onwards. I still don't know that what he did was caused by, or even allowed by, atheism. I'm sure many seemingly religious nations throughout history would have accepted the systamatic murder of, or even mass murder of, a group of people, if they thought it benefited them; the sacrificed Incan children, or enslaved africans, were killed in societies in which religion was an important (probably the most important) thing. It seems to me that the more common cause is nationalism or greed or some other worldly self-interest, and religion or irreligion is just a covering. I think this works against some atheists as well.

While I wouldn't say that atheism was the direct cause of the tragic elements of the Nazi program, without a moral absolute it is very hard to develop an argument against the rational idea of cleansing society.  It is only the irrational belief that a person who is a burden on society must be allowed to live.  This is not a mere slippery slope argument - this occurred in multiple societies already.

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While slippery slopes are not good arguments, I think it is nonetheless a valid point that it would be hard to determine where exactly the cut off point is for who is and is not handicapped.     

That is exactly the problem of a rationalistic society - it can't truly be rational.  Some arbitrary ethical norms will have to be established in order for society to function.  More to the point - whose rationalism is rational, the slave of Metropolitan Philip, Paradosis or Asterikos?   

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So, if I could clarify something from my last post, the atheism would not only have to slowly and naturally come into a culture, but would also have to be accepted by that culture. The people would have to be free to choose or reject that unbelief. That's something that I don't think anyone would say about the Soviet Union.

Of course there was forced de-religonisation in the Soviet Union, but there were also a large number of people who gleefully rejected their religions.  From them and their memoirs (and ever since glasnost such things are being published like there is no tomorrow) a rough idea of one type of atheist society can be observed. 

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Well I couldn't agree with that one. I mean, I can understand how you'd say so, since I assume that you believe that God gave the world morality, and thus any time someone is moral (even if they are only doing what is "written on their heart"), they are doing something spritual. Not believing in that particular God, I don't think my morality must come from him. I would say that there is a sort of moral compass in us, which manifests itself in similar primary moral beliefs across a lot of societies. Don't murder. Don't steal. And so forth. I don't think that there is a spiritual reason for this, just psychological, cultural, and biological reasons.

That's actually not at all where I was coming from.  Even today's atheists in Europe have to appeal to moral absolutes such as human rights.  All of these are indebted to some degree to European Christianity.  In pure atheism, there can't be absolutes like that.   

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If atheism is incorrect for denying a spiritual nature, then it will ultimately be shown to be an untenable position. The problem right now is that atheism is just now beginning to reach some level of acceptability on a cultural level. It was not too many generations ago that you could be imprisoned, and even executed, for being an admitted atheist. Even now, atheist is often a fast lane to being disowned, losing your job, or being shunned by your neighbors. Why? Because for some reason, people honestly believe as welkodox does: that atheists are ultimately amoral and nihilistic. Being an atheist today has rightly been called "coming out of the other closet". So far from being disproved, atheism hasn't even been given a chance yet.

I think the term atheist is mostly a misnomer.  Europeans prefer the term non-religious which is more apt.  For the sake of your argument you should separate a pure philosophical atheism from a secularist approach that still allows for ethical absolutes and spiritual fulfillment of people. 

Rationalism and a skeptical world view have their place in an advanced society.  But they are only good as far as they go.  As GiC said in another thread, there is a reason why Nietzsche went crazy.   

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There is a definite aspect of the human psyche that we have dubbed 'spiritual'; however, I do not know that this needs to be satisfied by a formal religion, adherence to a traditional system of morality, or even a belief in the metaphysical or supernatural. The fulfillment of this spirituality can be done through technology, science, knowledge, and/or self(or collective)-advancement. The human psyche needs a god, but it is perfectly capable of using itself for that purpose.

When God is replaced by the things you mentioned, the result has nearly always been disaster, whether the new God is the Aryan Ãœbermensch, a personality cult of a leader or a rationalistic political system. 
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« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2006, 02:30:58 AM »

When God is replaced by the things you mentioned, the result has nearly always been disaster, whether the new God is the Aryan Ãœbermensch, a personality cult of a leader or a rationalistic political system. 

I think we will learn more about the effects of non-theistic spirituality on society throughout the course of this century. However, I suspect they will not be as devastating as you suggest. Worshiping a particular race or personality is one thing, worshiping knowledge, technology, or even humanity as a whole is entirely another.
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« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2006, 11:26:25 PM »

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I think we will learn more about the effects of non-theistic spirituality on society throughout the course of this century.

Depends exactly what you mean by non-theistic.  Some forms of Buddhism are non-theistic in a sense and most Eastern philosophy/religion has an impersonal deity at best.  While not the One God, these don't pose the radical danger of the afore mentioned personality cults. 

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. Worshiping a particular race or personality is one thing, worshiping knowledge, technology, or even humanity as a whole is entirely another.

Knowledge and technology have the same potential to become Orwellian.  Somehow though, I imagine that you'd enjoy being part of something like a Borg collective Tongue 

What do you mean by "humanity as a whole"?  The sort of humanstic approach to life in Western Europe already? 
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2006, 12:05:01 AM »

Depends exactly what you mean by non-theistic.  Some forms of Buddhism are non-theistic in a sense and most Eastern philosophy/religion has an impersonal deity at best.  While not the One God, these don't pose the radical danger of the afore mentioned personality cults. 

True, there are many examples in the far east of fulfilling the human psychological need with non-theistic means...though these do include a metaphysical element distinct from the physical reality, something I do not believe to be completely necessary.

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Knowledge and technology have the same potential to become Orwellian.  Somehow though, I imagine that you'd enjoy being part of something like a Borg collective Tongue 

You know I would. Wink Though, while I believe a merger of biological and mechanical/electronic to be inevitable, I dont think it necessarily need be along the same lines of the borg collective, I dont see a destruction of individuality as a nessary conclusion of such a system.

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What do you mean by "humanity as a whole"?  The sort of humanstic approach to life in Western Europe already? 

Essentially.
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« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2006, 04:59:50 PM »

After thinking about this, any sort of humanistic system (in the European sense) would still be religious - i.e how can one study the great works of European culture (Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Kierkegaard being examples) without dealing with religious issues?  Even in a society whose god is culture or humanistic values, the relics of Christian society and the concepts of absolute good and morality based upon that will always remain.  That will provide the balance to keep society from going the way of Nietzsche again. 

Another thing to consider in the post-Christianization of society is what happens when Christian social structures like the family break down? (and no, I'm not talking about a handful of homosexuals obtaining civil unions)  Russians of the younger generation are non-religious by choice (those born in the 80s grew up in the era of perestroika).  Yet as the current Russian demographic crisis looms, Russians are simply killing themselves off with abortions, alchoholism and amazingly low birth rates (this makes Germany and France's demographic problems look like nothing). 

More close to home, is the rise of single parenthood, cohabitation and the breakdown of traditional single family life in the United States.  The statistic published by the major newspaper here (The Arizona Republic) stated that 40% of babies born in 2006 in America were to unwed mothers.  The divorce rate in America is just staggering.  The number of women whose children have multiple fathers is also amazingly high.  None of these situations are ideal for child rearing (obviously there are cases where it is unavoidable, so I don't mean this in a moralistic sense); the statistics are that kids from such homes do worse in school, are more likely to have social problems, use drugs, be abused by an adult etc.  In the long run, dealing with this is going to be huge burden on society, and as long as marriage and the traditional family life are obsolete this problem isn't going to rectify itself. 

To counter Justin's objection to using the Soviet Union or Third Reich as examples of atheism and rationalism applied (that they don't count since they used brute force to apply their systems), the free chosen atheism of the Russian youth is leading a a demographic crisis that will leave their country largely irrelevent save for a huge nuclear cache and the breaking down of the American family in a society that is only nominally religious.  To be fair, I think religion has let society down in America - from listening to the religious right, you'd think that gays and illegal immigrants are the only thing wrong in America right now, despite the former being too small of a group to really matter  and the latter's likely assimilation in the long term.   
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« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2006, 06:41:44 PM »

After thinking about this, any sort of humanistic system (in the European sense) would still be religious - i.e how can one study the great works of European culture (Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Kierkegaard being examples) without dealing with religious issues?  Even in a society whose god is culture or humanistic values, the relics of Christian society and the concepts of absolute good and morality based upon that will always remain.  That will provide the balance to keep society from going the way of Nietzsche again. 

However, these humanistic principles don't necessarily need be based on religion, as the discipline of philosophy teaches us, they can be arrived at independent of God. Granted, they came into our society through Christianity, but they are not uniquely Christian and their continuation does not necessarily imply continued Christian influence.

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Another thing to consider in the post-Christianization of society is what happens when Christian social structures like the family break down? (and no, I'm not talking about a handful of homosexuals obtaining civil unions)  Russians of the younger generation are non-religious by choice (those born in the 80s grew up in the era of perestroika).  Yet as the current Russian demographic crisis looms, Russians are simply killing themselves off with abortions, alchoholism and amazingly low birth rates (this makes Germany and France's demographic problems look like nothing). 

I fear that I, at least, do not share your concerns about birth rates. It would seem to me that there are far too many people on this planet, and especially in our country, as it is. Perhaps it's because I'm a westerner at heart and believe that vast tracks of land and large open spaces absent of humans is the ideal, but when I travel through the midwest and the east I am disgusted by the number of people. If anything, I believe we need to drastically reduce our population, and I'm sure the same is true for European Russia.

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More close to home, is the rise of single parenthood, cohabitation and the breakdown of traditional single family life in the United States.  The statistic published by the major newspaper here (The Arizona Republic) stated that 40% of babies born in 2006 in America were to unwed mothers.  The divorce rate in America is just staggering.  The number of women whose children have multiple fathers is also amazingly high.  None of these situations are ideal for child rearing (obviously there are cases where it is unavoidable, so I don't mean this in a moralistic sense); the statistics are that kids from such homes do worse in school, are more likely to have social problems, use drugs, be abused by an adult etc.  In the long run, dealing with this is going to be huge burden on society, and as long as marriage and the traditional family life are obsolete this problem isn't going to rectify itself. 

More 'social problems' and drug use are the only great social ills resulting from this decline of the nuclear family? Of course, the era with the most widespread drug problem in American history was the second half of the 19th Century when the nuclear family was in full effect. I would suggest that the only thing a strong family aids in is enforcing conformity, in some cases this is socially benificial, but I submit that it is not so in all cases, in many cases it is a detriment, especially if the fact that our society is based on the ideals if individualism is taken into account.

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To counter Justin's objection to using the Soviet Union or Third Reich as examples of atheism and rationalism applied (that they don't count since they used brute force to apply their systems), the free chosen atheism of the Russian youth is leading a a demographic crisis that will leave their country largely irrelevent save for a huge nuclear cache and the breaking down of the American family in a society that is only nominally religious.  To be fair, I think religion has let society down in America - from listening to the religious right, you'd think that gays and illegal immigrants are the only thing wrong in America right now, despite the former being too small of a group to really matter  and the latter's likely assimilation in the long term.   

These last examples you gave of atheistic societies are probably fairer than giving the examples of totalitarian regimes. However, I am not convinced that our social problems are any worse than those of those of past, more religious, societies. How many people, if given an (informed) choice, would prefer the 16th Century to the 21st?
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« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2006, 07:20:16 PM »

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I fear that I, at least, do not share your concerns about birth rates. It would seem to me that there are far too many people on this planet, and especially in our country, as it is. Perhaps it's because I'm a westerner at heart and believe that vast tracks of land and large open spaces absent of humans is the ideal, but when I travel through the midwest and the east I am disgusted by the number of people. If anything, I believe we need to drastically reduce our population, and I'm sure the same is true for European Russia.

While I'd agree that birth rates in idustrial societies don't need to be particularly high, the current birth rate in Russia when combined with other social and public health problems, is making Russia unsustainable. 

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More 'social problems' and drug use are the only great social ills resulting from this decline of the nuclear family?

I think that is the tip of the ice berg (lowering of educational standards, increased crime rates, decreased productivity).  It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of a few generations.  At this point, I don't see how this is contributing to society in a positive way. 

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However, I am not convinced that our social problems are any worse than those of those of past, more religious, societies.

That isn't precisely what I'm arguing (at least I don't think), rather that the withering away of religion from society and the colapse of religious social structures isn't going to be the wildly positive thing that it is hailed to be by some.  Also that some degree of religion is needed in society to prevent the extremes of atheism and rationalism (i.e Soviet Union and Third Reich).

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How many people, if given an (informed) choice, would prefer the 16th Century to the 21st?

At first I thought, 21st century - no brainer.  But, thinking about it there are too many variables.  21st century Darfur isn't looking like such a wonderful place to live, for instance - even places in Europe (say Albania or Belarus) could be worse than a 16th century aristocrat's life.  A more apples to apples comarison would be a more religious area of the EU opposed to a more secularised area.   
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« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2007, 06:35:13 AM »

To some Our non-existant radical leader of Christianity once said:
3 "Enter in through the narrow gate; because wide is the gate, and broad is the way which leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in through it.  14 O how narrow the gate, and confined is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it! MATTHEW CHAPTER 7:13-14

I had a nightmare right now and the the most embarrassing and humiliating thing that a Christian can do is not martyrdom but intellectual ridicule in the Public Scare. In my dream was a militant atheist supporter telling me that the war of erradicating religions will not be started by the Rational but unfortunately the Fundamentalists that will attack first. It will be the Godless West that prevents this through Legislation. Let it Be.

THE WAR ON GOD

January 7, 2007

International News Analysis Today
www.inatoday.com
or
www.internationalnewsanalysis.com

By Toby Westerman

During this Christmas Season forces advocating the elimination of God and religion are massing for a new push of America towards Atheism in 2007.

The New Atheism is militant, strong, and confident. Moving beyond the removal of nativity scenes and Christmas trees in public places, the New Atheists are arming themselves with evangelical zeal to convert American society from being publicly apathetic to actively hostile to toward God and religion.

Leading the charge in this new thrust to dethrone God is Richard Dawkins, Chair for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Dawkins has sought to use reason and science as arguments against the existence of God. He is the author of the popular works Blind Watchmaker and A Devil's Chaplain. His newest work, The God Delusion was near the top of The New York Times Best Seller List for 8 weeks.

In January 2006, Dawkins presented a documentary called The Root of All Evil? in which he argued that organized religion is the cause of most of the world's troubles. Now, in The God Delusion, Dawkins asserts that religion in general is harmful to society and the individual. Religion, he claims, is "truly evil." He has called religious instruction of children "brainwashing" and "child abuse."

Joining Dawkins in his Atheistic apostolate is Sam Harris, author of The New York Times Best Seller, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason. Harris gives an historical outline of death and destruction committed in the name of Islam, and he then asserts that all religions have a similar pattern of violence.

Harris claims that the God of the Holy Bible is a violent power that is dangerous to worship lest His behavior be emulated. Harris declares that religion ought to be given "conversational intolerance," and be treated as something patently false and inherently dangerous.

Harris also maintains that today non-Islamic religions are the cause of much of the world's suffering. He claims that the Catholic Church, for its prohibition of condoms, is responsible for the AIDS plague in Africa. Christians in the U.S. are responsible for hamstringing science in general for their opposition to embryonic stem-cell research.

Early in November 2006, Dawkins and Harris attended the Salk Institute's Conference in La Jolla, California. This gathering was called "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival." The conference was a watershed event. Nobel laureates and world famous physicists, astronomers, biologists and other scientists gathered at what some would call a militant rally of intellectuals bent on transforming America into an atheistic state.

Carolyn Porco, an influential research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, intoned "We should let the success of the religious formula guide us…let's teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe…. it is already so much more glorious and awesome than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know." Professor Richard P. Sloan of the Columbia University Medical Center, author of the book Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine, spoke on what he claimed was the falsehood of prayer as a source of physical healing.

Nobel laureate and physicist Steven Weinberg, author of The First Three Minutes, stated to conference attendees that, "Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and, in the end, may be our greatest contribution to civilization." Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City proclaimed at the conference that, "Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance."

When one scientist drew a parallel between religion and an eccentric old aunt and stated, "When she's gone, we may miss her" Dawkins responded, "I won't miss her at all…not a scrap. Not a smidgen."

The success of angry, polemical, atheistic authors such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris should raise concern among religious believers. Atheism has frequently found a receptive audience among intellectuals. Now militant atheism is packaging its anti-God propaganda for a more general audience, and seeks to build popular sentiment against the Divinity and those who worship Him.

Some Supreme Court Justices have stated their support of using foreign law sources in their judicial opinions and rulings. Resorting to international precedents could provide the New Atheists with the legal support they need to call for the elimination or regulation of religious education for children.

Scientists and writers who think that science and God are not antagonists should produce works accessible to the general public. Richard Dawkins generally refuses to debate those who oppose his views, claiming that he cannot tolerate an opposition he describes as "ignorant." When differing views are compared, truth will prevail. Dawkins should not be allowed to hide from his opponents. Let the debate with the New Atheists begin.

Copyright 2007
International News Analysis
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