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Comments made by Doorknob

Does It Pay To Believe?

Can this society actually accept the truth, that religion can and does cause harm? Hey, I stand for freedom, anybody can believe what they wish, and do what they wish, as long as they don't harm others. But organized religion causes harm; can we please just admit, and accept that fact and fix it? It causes harm not only to others, but also to those who claim membership in a religion. As jaki points out, our country is at great risk if the dogmatic faithful gain more power. The faithful put religion ahead of freedom, that is a huge mistake, and hardly understandable.

All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.
- Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
- Seneca

So rewrite the Bible, create a new one that removes the harmful requirements. Include new ways of behavior as needed, let priests get married (for gods sake). The importance that people assign to the Bible absolutely screams for a rewrite. Nobody has ever formed a convincing argument about what is so sacred about the Bible. It declares a way of life, nothing more. If it doesn't work anymore, or scholars like D'Souza and Barker can't agree on what is truth or what is a fable, rewrite the darn thing. People are dying and religions won't admit their role, and for some reason these faithful cling to things that no longer make sense. Perhaps these people are fearful of change, I don't know... Religion is a nice hobby, let's keep it on the sidelines.

March 10, 2011 at 10:17 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Does It Pay To Believe?

I'll try to reiterate the point about "is religion the problem". Again the discussion has digressed into the existence of god. These are separate issues.

1. Existence of god.
2. Organized religion.

Organized religion depends on some definition of a god, and is associated with worship of its chosen god. But one can believe in some god without being part of a religion. Many people have some kind of spiritual belief, or some vague idea of god without being part of an organized religion (Deists for example). I don't think that these people are a problem.

But when organized religion surfaces there tends to be great problems. Religions tend to push policies or advocate positions "because it is the way of god" without evidence of course. Once a religious person feels like they have god on their side they tend to become more authoritarian than is warranted. Once again, look at the news today in Egypt, people are dying because of conflict between Christians and Muslims. Doesn't this suggest there are problems with religion? This past year the Pope encouraged Africans to stop using condoms and endure the risk of becoming HIV positive -- huh? I couldn't believe my ears. Again, religion is the problem.

On the existence of god, everybody gets to choose his own way, at least that is what our society has decided for the current times. However if people are interested in this subject I suggest reading Victor Stenger “God: The Failed Hypothesis” where he argues that "beyond a reasonable doubt" the eternal absence of any evidence of a god should cause us to lead our lives as if there is no god. Humans use the "reasonable doubt" method of making decisions in the judicial system, it is a reasonable and accepted way to make decisions in the absence of sufficient facts or a proof. Again it is all about the basis someone uses to live their lives. Some people prefer a more rational approach, some people prefer a more magical supernatural approach -- who cares, it is organized religion that is the problem.

March 10, 2011 at 2:39 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Does It Pay To Believe?

I was sad that they debaters didn't stick with the topic asking if religion is a problem. Also the intended topic was "religion" not "Christianity"; sad that these prominent leaders cannot include the lessons from other religions around the world to debate these important questions. At times it digressed into questioning the existence of god, which was quite useless since neither debater had anything new to say on the matter.

Besides it isn't very critical for anyone to "finally" show evidence of god's existence, the answer is not imminent. The real issue is how one lives his life on a daily basis in the absence of an answer. A faithful friend admitted to me that his only goal in life is salvation; that’s it, that is the most important consideration for him. He behaves morally according to Christianity simply for this one goal. I feel really sad for him, what an awful way to live. Atheists follow a moral life simply because it is the right thing to do, not for some self serving goal.

Unfortunately D'Souza did not follow his commitment to reasonable arguments but resorted to much fallacious discussion which was quite obvious. For example neighboring sentences he claimed that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not about religion yet immediately claimed that Hitler's and Stalin's actions were based on religion; yes the argument always uses "atheism" as the basis, which means absence of religion and is thus still a religious basis. D'Souza discredited himself quite quickly, which was difficult for much of the audience to recognize given his flamboyant and skilled speaking style. Barker stuck to the facts with accurate arguments showing high credibility. D;Souza was often on the defensive, avoiding the debate of facts and wandering into time-worn arguments about the advantages of religion.

I also wish the moderator Mark Larsen could have fulfilled his obligation to be neutral; he admitted being a person of faith, that was not necessary unless he intended this disclaimer to provide him allowance to participate. At one point he showed real disdain to Barker which was inexcusable. Apparently Mr. Larson felt part of the show, a mistake which detracted significantly from the event.

I'll make the same comment to the writer here Tom Fudge. As a reviewer we don't care what your beliefs are, and making a claim of who won is useless and undermines much of what you wrote. We went to the debate to learn, not to dogmatically declare a winner. It isn't important; what hubris would allow any of us to think that these 2 men, or this forum would finally settle the theological issues. Somebody should have held the debate to the topic: is religion the problem, and it would have been revealed that religion creates many very serious problems both for individuals and societies.

March 10, 2011 at 11:43 a.m. ( | suggest removal )