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Author Topic: Religion!  (Read 11220 times)
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #90 on: April 07, 2004, 07:40:14 AM »

Quote from: greyorm

lol...I should have predicted that one from you, Gareth.
I'd agree, if it made sense upon examination. That is, for this to be true, one would have to believe there was a generational conspiracy in the priesthoods of all world religions created specifically to support the priesthoods as the society's "fat cats." That would mean that everyone who ever became a priest did so for selfish, rather than spiritual, reasons -- which is so difficult to believe that it is preposterous.


Thats not precisely how I see it.  My view is that we start out with a bunch of Just So stories to explain how things work... but then, being the person, the dedicated specialist, who is the gatekeepre of this information (note: it doesn't actually matter whether the infomration is true or not) can be leveraged into substantial benefits.

This does not need a conspiracy; it only needs self-interest.  but when you combine it with the fact that there is no mechanism for challengeing or testing these claims, its not too hard to see the opportunity for power-brokering.

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Now, I do not doubt abuse of one's position undoubtedly occurred in individual cases, but perpetration of such a scheme for social dominance across the ages (to say nothing of cultures), requires one to believe the absolute worst of millions of individuals throughout time, that every priest everywhere ever was less interested in spiritual, ethical, and societal concerns than in their own personal welfare.


Furthermore, religions have a long history of rationalising/endorsing prevailing governmental systems, which means that the benfits they accrue may be much broader than just food and drink, as society becomes more complex.

It seems to me normal that people seek to maximise their opportunities.  I do not find this to be 'thinking the worst' of people.  Furthermore, I happily concede that the priests are consciously convinced of their faith as much as any lay worshipper, but mere conviction does not make their views true.

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This would be as ridicuous as claiming that your quests for social justice, and your desires to see communist economic structures put in place is an attempt by yourself to increase your own social standing and power, rather than via any real or primary concern for those issues.


Actually, its to protect my own life and Get More Stuff.  My view is that the prevailing socio-economic order constantly creates discord and violence, and that the balance of power has tipped to the lowest sectors of society (however un-apparent that may be).  I just want to stop creating reasons for other people to hate me and try to kill me.  Furthemore, I want to keep the value of the stuff I make and not have it stolen by capitalists; theres nothing much altruistic in this agenda.  As I see it, if the next Newton or Mozart dies in a slum at age 3, we all lose out.

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 Or as ridiculous as claiming as those who were doctors or healers in ancient (or modern) times became such and perform such solely for the prestige and money, rather than out of any real or primary concern for the welfare or health of others.


I think having a public identity as a caring person is a form of prestige.  But additionally there is a difference, in that medicine is procedural, and I would actually rather have a venal and mercenary, but skilled, surgeon, than one who means well but knows nothing.  Thenintebntnwith which the prascitioner enters the practice is irrleevant to me; but I also assert that it is dangerous to assume that everyone who professes to feel your pain actually does so.  I donlt need a universal conspiracy to explain my thesis, I need only a few bad apples in a context in which their claims cannot be challenged.

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(To say nothing of its hinging on the idea that, again, ancient man was so stupid that they couldn't see it occuring in front of their faces, every, anywhere.)


But as has already been pointed out, thats a straw man: becuase they had no tools with which to determine whether or not the sun morved around the erath or the earth around the sun.  I simply cannot agree that stupidity and ignorance are the same thing.


Fact is, the priests in most societies worked quite hard and gave back a great deal to their communities. They were the engineers, architects, judges, and counsellors (among other things) to their people. They certainly didn't sit around getting free housing and food for doing nothing, let alone for reasons of personal greed. Priests in many cultures also had to perform lengthy public rituals...strenuous and demanding, and if solely for the purpose of keeping, alot of work when other options would have been avialable to achieve the same.

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And of course, the idea of priest as social beneficiary isn't even true in all cultures. As an example: Norse gothi were priests in addition to whatever it was they did for a living. They only existed for social functions, not as spiritual authorities, because for the Norse, what is between a man and the gods is between a man and the gods.


And that ideology fell before the doctrine of the bloody dead god,

I could go into the practices and social realities of shamans and medicine men in various Native American tribes as well, but I should hope the one example is sufficient to expose the flaw.

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Your explanation also would not account for the variety of mystic religions that exist whose practitioners and priests are not on top of their social totem pole.


Thats not quite what I mean.  I mean, for someone to be supported they have to fulfill some broader need, deliver some good or service.  Religions are great for this; the product is trivially easy to produce, it never runs out, and the demand to be reassured that frex, there is life after to death, can never be fulfilled.

So whether we are talking about an itinerant preacher, barefoot and living on charity, or a bishop surrounded by gold, the mode of production these people employ is the selling of necessarily fictional accounts of reality.  Its a snake-oil scam.

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Also, why do I get the feeling you would call Zen Bhuddism "deliberate obscurantism"? (when, I'd hope you know, that isn't its function or point at all)


Yes and no; becuase I think that while religion is by and large the perpetration of fraud, I acknowledge that that some insights have been produced from this endeavour.  I'm not 100% sure Zen has anything to do with the supernatural, much, which is my bugbear.  I would rather use this as an example in which you can have a doctrine, a philosophy of lie and society, and professional practitioners, withouit having to make dramatic claims of virgin birth, all-seeing gods and life after death.
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Green
Member

Posts: 247


« Reply #91 on: April 07, 2004, 07:55:53 AM »

Quote from: greyorm
If we both make it to Indy this year, you're on.


Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to make it.  Strapped for cash and all.
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greyorm
Member

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #92 on: April 07, 2004, 10:04:43 AM »

Heya Chris,
Quote from: Christopher Weeks
I'm not familiar with the body of atheists that you're referring to.

Surprising. Maybe I just look in all the wrong, dark corners of the 'Net, and in the wrong newsgroups and chatrooms, but I've noticed a couple others here have noted the same sorts of people, or the same sorts of behaviors, so it isn't all that rare. Heck, I worked with a guy who was one of these types (I quote, "Religion is for weak-minded, stupid people...I'm a scientist.").

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But I'm not sure the comparison of evolving religion to medicine makes sense because medecine essentially didn't exist before say 200 years ago while religion of various flavors has a much longer history.

Actually, I disagree with that. Medicine and surgeons (and I'm not talking leeches) have been around much longer than you might think. Ancient Roman doctors invented many of the techniques and tools still used in surgery today -- and even formed the basis of what became today's understanding of the human body.

Chinese medicine, and the use of similar herb-based medicine in other cultures, has been practiced successfully for thousands of years. The local Ojibwe, as an example, have an herbal mixture their women used for self-sterilization.

I could go on, but its tangential.

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I just think it is provably better at getting to the truth, faster and more reliably.

I'd argue that the reason we can get to the truth much quicker today is two-fold: our technology allows us to gather data we never had any access to before, and our base of knowledge (and ability to disseminate it) is much broader and deeper.

I don't believe the increase has anything specifically to do with the scientific method (observe, explain, test, refine, rinse, repeat). That is, you could go back and give the scientific method to the Romans or Greeks or Aztecs, and I don't believe it would fundamentally change how quickly they were able to discover truth. The shoulders of giants, as you say.

Now, I could be wrong about that, but I'd still give more weight to other aspects of our modern age (as listed above) in terms of what is giving us the most benefit.

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I assume you know that the scientific method is more than "studying phenomena and noting correlations."

Your assumption is correct.

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I'm not sure what "scientific truth" is, but if you mean the hypotheses that were best supported by the available data analysis, then no.  It's not laughable.  Some of it was wrong, but more of it just needed little tweaks.  Forty years ago we had a strong foundation on which to build, just like today.

Well, in some areas...yes. In others, not so much.
But I digress. The point is that the same can be said of religious evolution.

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Specifically, the invention of the scientific method increased our ability to search for truth.

That's what I said, however: that I disagree with that particular statement.

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A contemporary example of the silly superstition thing is the "debate" between competing hypotheses of the origin of species.

Right. But again, that's presuming Judeo-Christian "realities of myth" behavior, rather than one of "mystical observance."

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I mean, I guess it's hard to imagine that people would have agreed with it so fully when there's not way to verify it, but whatever...there was no contradictory evidence. The people who made up that creation story, originally, were not drooling idiots because they were not rejecting reason.

Even without evidence, man could see how the world worked in his own day...those who thought about such things surely considered that it wasn't any different before. After all, gods weren't striding the landscape (as far as we know), creating mountains and making seas, and anyone with eyes and a brain could see that. Of course, much of this is now deep into the realm of the hypothetical.

On the other hand, I do agree that they were not rejecting reason, having no evidence to the contrary. However, I don't think that changes my point much regarding the development and utilization of mythologies by religions in non-Western cultures specifically as vehicles of mystic revelation rather than as "just so" stories.

This isn't to say that no one in, or even the majority of individuals in a culture, didn't assume some actual, physical truth to the stories...but, as I said, we're into the realm of the hypothetical at this point, since none of us actually live in ancient times. I can only go on what I know about the practices, statements, and beliefs of various religions, especially as contrasted with our culture's dominant Judeo-Christian beliefs.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #93 on: April 07, 2004, 10:30:16 AM »

Gareth,

Well-argued, I agree with a number of your points, but I think some of what you're saying now drifts away from your original statement, which (paraphrased) I read as "Religion was developed and maintained for social reasons dealing with the power of the priest caste." That's what I disagree with.

Quote from: contracycle
Furthermore, I happily concede that the priests are consciously convinced of their faith as much as any lay worshipper, but mere conviction does not make their views true.

Right, and I'm not arguing that it does. Just maintaining that I don't believe the agenda of the priests was primarily one of maintaining their social over society power. I'm sure, for the most part, their concerns really were spiritual, and the fact that they recieved social benefits because of it was nice, but secondary to the other concerns.

Given a choice between a loss of that power and maintenance of their spiritual duties, I'm betting most of them would have taken the loss of power, as would most priests today.

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Actually, its to protect my own life and Get More Stuff.

Capitalist pig! (Heh. Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Ok, interesting, but I argue that it isn't entirely without altruism as you state...after all, you're talking about not depriving society. Obviously your concern isn't just for yourself.

Altruism doesn't require the rejection of personal benefits in order to qualify as altrusim, much as some might argue the opposite for what I perceive to be suspect reasons.

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I think having a public identity as a caring person is a form of prestige.

Exactly...but is it perceived as the primary concern of the individual? Or merely as a benefit of the position?

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But as has already been pointed out, thats a straw man: becuase they had no tools with which to determine whether or not the sun morved around the erath or the earth around the sun.  I simply cannot agree that stupidity and ignorance are the same thing.

Sorry, I guess I should have been clearer. Here, I meant gross abuses of power by the priest caste. That is, as you stated, doing no work yet reaping the benefits of society -- I doubt that such a scenario would have lasted very long, as the people wouldn't have been blind to such selfish use of their labor.

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Religions are great for this; the product is trivially easy to produce, it never runs out, and the demand to be reassured that frex, there is life after to death, can never be fulfilled.

So whether we are talking about an itinerant preacher, barefoot and living on charity, or a bishop surrounded by gold, the mode of production these people employ is the selling of necessarily fictional accounts of reality.  Its a snake-oil scam.

Of course, as I pointed out, in ancient cultures, the priests were not simply snake-oil salesmen selling fiction. They were architects, engineers, mathematicians, inventors, judges, scribes, and accountants...they were today's men of science and learning.

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And that ideology fell before the doctrine of the bloody dead god,

Which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it existed and was followed for a thousand or more years by a thriving culture.

It definitely has nothing at all to do with my response to your initial statement about how priesthoods used their societies for power, which clearly proves that such was not always the case in all cultures...this utterance from you does not remotely disprove or even deal with such, and I fail to see what the cultural genocide inflicted upon the North has to do with the subject at hand.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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