Without answers, why religion?

I’m not sure what you mean by “useless”. If the number of people who are seriously involved with religious organizations is declining, it seems pretty tautological to say that organized religion is on the decline. Measuring people’s actual behavior is one thing, and measuring their beliefs is another.

The OP seems to feel that only “organized” religion is inherently evil, and people engaging in woo as individuals isn’t as bad. From that POV, it would seem that the metric this survey used is a good one. You seem to feel that only True Atheists are saved, and the important point should be to count them, but that doesn’t seem to be the OP’s stance.

(that was supposed to be a reply to Voyager)

Useless in the sense of measuring the number of people who lack God belief, which is where we had migrated to. The Pew study didn’t measure some things people think it did.
The decline in church going might be measuring a decrease in interest in religion, or it might be a reflection of an unchanging interest, if people who never really wanted to go to church now don’t because of the reduction in social pressure to go.
It’s an interesting question - I hope someone does a study on it one day.

This is true. I was quite upset, and it took me quite a while to come to the acceptance that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

There are worse things than death, and those are imposed by other people. If someone converts based on bribery or extortion, then their social group will think poorly of them. It’s not God they are trying to please, but their peers.

Counter cite would be that the vast majority of people will abandon their beliefs if there is enough social pressure to do so. It is only in times and places where good standing in social groups is necessary for the survival of oneself and one’s family that such refusals to convert were common.

Gun to the head, or hung over a lion pit, 99+% will renounce their beliefs. This is exactly why stories of martyrs are so powerful, they are rare, and serve as an example that almost no one else will live up to.

That’s just it. People should put serious thought into their beliefs, religious, political, or otherwise. That is why the church often frowns on putting exactly that level of thought into your beliefs. I was raised in a pretty religious household, and it would have been easier to just go along with it. But I thought about it, and thought some more, and found that I just couldn’t continue to profess belief in something that simply wasn’t true.

Same with politics, really, I was raised in a Republican household, and putting thought into it made me realize that the Republican party was bad for the future of our country.

All you have said here is that religious people are intellectually lazy, and don’t bother to examine their beliefs, and so should be given a pass.

Compare this to something like skin color. A Black person, no matter how much thought they put into it, cannot change their skin color.

But the ones doing that unjust harm are, with few exceptions, doing so out of their religious beliefs.

That’s exactly it. They cannot keep people believing, so they have to make threats to them to keep them in the fold.

They are not doing so to please God, they are doing so to avoid punishment from other human beings.

If these religions had their way, and they have in places in the contemporary world as well as the past, then they would force everyone to follow their beliefs.

That’s an argument to keep them from having power, not an argument for allowing them to use their beliefs to influence public policy.

First let me apologize for the unnecessarily snarky tone of my last post.

There is a third possibility you are neglecting, which is that people are still interested in concerns that could broadly be described as religious or spiritual, but are less likely to find membership in an organized congregation necessary or useful for addressing those concerns.

Here’s a link to the full Pew Religious Landscape Study from 2014 (looks like they do this every seven years, so the new one should be out soon). It’s got all sorts of interesting statistics to pore over.

One of those, by the way, is that almost half of American adults who report being raised in completely secular households now identify as a member of some religion. This would seem to undermine your theory that religion continues to exist only because Sunday schools are “brainwashing” children before they are capable of rational thought.

The societal point is that having a religious belief should not be any more controlling over others than having a favorite sports team or YouTube channel. Anyone who announced loudly that Yankees fans get to write laws favoring Yankees fans and not only discommoding fans of all other teams but actively hostile to non-baseball fans would be laughed out of the room and denounced as an enemy of democracy. The same status should be placed on anyone who intends to write their religion’s beliefs into law.

Yes, completely agreed. Massive iron wall between church and state good.

But you seem to overlook the fact that most American religious people are NOT trying to enforce their beliefs on others. Really it’s just the evangelical Protestants, and most people who aren’t evangelical Protestants do, in fact, denounce them as enemies of democracy. The Catholic Church hierarchy tries its best to drag us back to the fourteenth century, but most American Catholics are tuning them out when it comes to politics. If liberal Protestants and Jews get involved with politics, it’s usually because their faith makes them feel obligated to do things like welcome refugees and fight climate change.

It’s great that you’re fighting against religious intolerance and fundamentalism, but if you consider the enemy to be “religion” rather than “intolerance and fundamentalism”, you’re alienating a lot of potential allies.

I feel bad about your unfortunate experiences. My experiences have been very different. I have been very fortunate that in all the synagogues and Jewish schools that I’ve attended, examination of beliefs is encouraged, and very few people are intellectually lazy. (I won’t deny that I’ve heard reports of some Jewish schools that do discourage this questioning, but I’m fortunate to have never been in such places.)

How much good information did they give you? My Hebrew School was fine - I chose to go all five years even though I didn’t have to. And they never pretended the creation story was true. They did pretend that Moses wrote the Torah and everything from Abram on down was history.
I became an atheist the second I discovered that this wasn’t true - though I no doubt was leaning that way anyhow.
This is probably not nearly as brain-washy as you get in a Fundamentalist Sunday School (though I’ve not had the pleasure) but a 12 year-old is used to accepting what their teachers tell them, and so are vulnerable. Especially back in those pre-Internet days.

That sounds very plausible

Sunday school is hardly the only place you get swamped with religion. Our culture is full of it, from the Pledge, from politicians, from the negative view of atheists even from the moderately religious. The NY Times has yet to assign a reviewer to an atheist book who had the slightest clue as to what the real issues are. That’s hardly a fundamentalist paper.
I live in just about the most secular place in the country. I came out to members of my critique, who are the furthest thing from religious fanatics. ( I had to since the universe being godless was a small theme in my sf book.) They were shocked.
I think it is very easy for a kid to go with the flow, especially if the parents are secular from apathy as opposed to being secular out of logic.

My teachers didn’t pretend. They believed it, deeply, sincerely, and intellectually. So much so that they were able to answer many questions about apparent conflicts and inconsistencies, and the relationship between science and religion. The result is that I too believed it, deeply, sincerely, and intellectually.

I hope that will suffice for the purposes of this thread (“Without answers, why religion?”). More detail might be better suited for another thread, if anyone wants to start one.

I hope you won’t be offended if I suggest that this might be a poor choice of words. “Discovered” seems quite absolutist. Perhaps “decided” or “became convinced” would be better?

And yet laws based on those beliefs keep getting passed. And yet they call themselves the “silent majority” instead of the “noisy minority.” And yet we still have In God We Trust on our money.

Discovered fits the situation. I was in the English book room in high school, and there was a stack of Bibles for the Bible as Literature section of AP English. (Which was taught well.) I opened one, read the preface with the currently accepted view of the Bible as written by four authors and then edited together. Who wrote and edited it wasn’t important, what was important was that it wasn’t Moses. I think that counts as a discovery.

It was definitely more than four authors too, way more than four. Even the comparatively thin New Testament was written by tons of authors. There’s four gospels, a bunch of letters and a whack of other documents, and that’s not even counting all the books of the Old Testament or all the books that were filtered out by the Council of Nicene and other organizations, not to mention the many translations and other alterations over time. That doesn’t make it “false” per se, if it still has truths about human nature, but there is certainly no way it can be literally true. How much is true is up for debate.

I suspect that @Voyager meant the Pentateuch, not the whole Bible.

The same is true for the Catholic schools I attended for most of my education. Especially the Jesuit-run schools.

Judaism, from what I understand, is far different from christianity, in that the former is much more accepting of questions than the latter.

In any case, I was responding to your statement

And my point is exactly that. People should put serious thought into their beliefs, political or religious. I thought that the point that you were making was that we should not expect people to put that sort of thought into their beliefs, and so give them a pass to continue to believe in things that, if given serious thought, they may well come to change their minds on.

If not, I’m not sure why you would point out that it takes serious thought to change one’s religion.

You said that it is easy for some people to change their religion. I disagree that this is true. It was hard for me. I grew up believing in god, in heaven and hell, and was pretty worried about what would happen to my immortal soul if I did not continue to believe. I had social pressures, most of my friends were religious, my parents more or less disowned me, and in fact, left me hanging in refusing to help pay for college, because I admitted that I had serious questions as to what I was told I was supposed to believe.

My disbelief actually came from trying to understand my beliefs better. I attended quite a number of religious classes at my church, had quite a number of one on one conversations with my pastor, as well as with other pastors in the area. I actually thought that I may go in the direction of becoming a religious leader myself for a while.

I still remember the moment, when I had a personal revelation, and said, “So, Jesus is the whipping boy, he wasn’t punished for our sins, he is still being punished every time we sin.”, and my pastor frowned at me, and said, “No, that’s not what we believe.” that I started to wonder who exactly made this stuff up, who decided what it was that we are supposed to believe, and why I should believe it too.

So yes, I do think that many who are religious are so specifically because they haven’t examined their beliefs. And to be fair, it’s not just out of intellectual laziness. It is also out of fear. There is fear that if you question god, then god may not like you anymore, and harm you both in this world and the next. There is the fear that if you question your faith, then those who share your faith may shun you. Most atheists I know are far more versed in the bible and theological subjects than believers.

I once had a cook who was very religious. I asked him if he had swept out the walk-in, and he said yes. I knew very well that he had not, and asked him, “Doesn’t the bible had something to say about lying?” his reply, “I don’t think so.” I once told the joke about the scientist who challenged god, and said that they could do anything that god could do. God told them to make man as he did, and so the scientists started to gather dirt together, and god said, “No, no, you get your own dirt.” To which he replied, “That’s not funny, I take my religion seriously. Besides, god made Adam out of a rib.” Demonstrating both that he was unable to see that my joke actually was pro-religion, and also his ignorance of the first chapter of the bible.

A poster on here claimed that, even though he hadn’t ever read the bible, he knew it well, because it was read in church every sunday, and he was sure that he’d heard the whole thing by now. He apparently did not know that the entire bible is not actually read, and that there is a significant part of it that is never read from in church.

I could really go on at great length of examples of people expressing faith and belief without actually having the slightest clue as to what it is that they are expressing faith and belief on, but I have other things I need to get to today.

The point being that the fact that someone hasn’t put serious thought into their beliefs shouldn’t give them a free pass to impose those beliefs on others.

Margaret Atwood, in the best science fiction tradition, extrapolated that idea to its extreme in Oryx and Crake. A mad scientist genetically engineers human race 2.0 and changes all kinds of things about human nature. He engineers them to reproduce strictly by instinct like animals with no passionate love. He also engineers them to have no religion—whatever the religion gene is, he deleted it.

Then he exterminates the entire human race 1.0, except one guy survives. This guy leads the new people out of their lab habitat to the wide world so they can repopulate it. He goes away to forage for supplies for some weeks. When he returns, he finds that the new people have built an effigy of him and are worshiping it.

Margaret Atwood is saying it’s impossible to have people without any religion. Perhaps she’s suggesting it’s an emergent phenomenon in any being with such a highly developed nervous system.

Coming at it from the other end, the novel Daughter of Kura by Debra Austin is about a community of Homo erectus in East Africa 500,000 yBP who get along fine without religion. Until a guy from another village shows up trying to introduce religion. Most of the people are all, What is this jive-ass bullshit, get out of here. But he makes a few converts…

True. Being Jewish I didn’t give a crap about the goyisher Bible.
My view is that it is easier becoming an atheist if you are Jewish because your respected teachers of religion teach you that the majority religion is, um, not quite accurate. So believing in one fewer god is easier.

I argued neither, at least in this topic. I was then arguing against Exapno_Mapcase’s claim that “it is an obvious, absolute fact that it is easy to” change one’s choice about religion.

There was another topic, which I believe you participated in, where I argued that people should be allowed to use their religious beliefs to influence public policy. The title was, “Does religion have a place in policy debate?”, circa. spring of '19.


Eh, never mind, not worth resurrecting the thread for. Carry on.