Sunday, November 21, 2010

Guardian Focus Podcast: Is Religion a Force for Good?

AC Grayling, Evan Harris, Jon Cruddas, Cristina Odone and Samia Rahman debate the virtues of religion

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From The Guardian:
In anticipation of the coming debate between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair on the value of religion, we gathered a selection of thinkers on the subject to discuss the topic.
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  1. Thanks for posting. Grayling and Harris kick ass.

  2. Wuh-oh, was that Godwin being broken about 6:30.

  3. in keeping with the apparent recent trend in bbc programing, the secularists are once again outnumbered by the religionists on the panel. Is anyone else noticing this trend, or is it just me?

  4. The religionists sound ridiculous at 52:00, right before it ends, they all give a "harr har we got him!" yell when Grayling tries to distinguish between characterizing Dawkins as 'militant/fundamentalist/hateful' and assertive/frank.

  5. Some things I didn't see touched on are things like, it is better for people to recognize what is true first and then find the hope in that truth. Rather than making up a false truth to hide from the world. I think it is mostly blind faith that comes with the beliefs in gods or religions that I object to the most, rather than people looking for the truth themselves.

    It is kind of like an ostrich bird sticking their heads in the sand when a predator comes around. I know it is a myth that ostriches stick their heads in the sand, and it is a good thing that it is a myth because if they did, they would probably be extinct by now. If they just stick their heads in the sand to pretend the predators are not there, they are sitting ducks for the predators to just come up and snatch them.

    I see much similarity in someone just pretending they have an invisible magical friend that will take away the problems in the world.

    Things get even more problematic when someone says this invisible magical being is the moral authority of everything and he wrote his laws down in this really old book. That this being is beyond our understanding so who are we to question the laws? If you don't believe you go to a land of eternal torture, but if you do you go to a land of eternal happiness. Then they say this god wants you to just believe in it without any evidence, in other words, to just have faith. It opens up the possibility for people to blindly follow any irrational interpretation someone can get out of that book. Thus people making unjust laws, or decisions that can get them or others into trouble, and innocent people being persecuted. People don't think of the reasons of the laws, just that its commands of God, thus not being prepared on what to do in random situations.

    Blind faith in a book that says it contains all morals open a way for someones morals to be warped even if they were being good beforehand. Thats something anyone can use to manipulate the public in doing what ever they want. All it takes is to interpret the book in a bad way and it has been done before.

    It is not good when we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition, then putting a label of moral authority on it.

    The people who flew the plane into the twin towers had a lot of faith. They had more faith than I have ever seen any Christian have because they were willing to give their lives for it and many others along with them. So do we really want more of that? Since there is nothing to verifiably show something is true like evidence does, it leads people blindly down a road of either good or evil. With no way to verifiably know which way you are going to end up. It is much better to go down a road with sight with the intention to do good.

    Also I think many of the religions are made in a way that motivates people to want to push their beliefs on others. For example, having an all powerful God whose morality is beyond human understanding and who is above all laws, including earthly laws. Also having the belief that non-believers will suffer for eternity and believers will be in happy land for eternity.

    The major religions are not this innocent belief that stays out of people's way and says "If you don't believe that is okay." It threatens unsuspecting and uninformed people with eternal torment if they do not believe.

    <span>Another problem is the average feel good Johnny in the pew person who is decent, kind and loving and a good person to their family and generally a good person to everyone. They put so much into helping people and yet their mind has been polluted. They are unable to take credit for all their hard work and accomplishments, they are unable to interact on an interpersonal level with the people [...]

  6. If anyone wants to share this amazing quote by A. C. Grayling here it is:

     "If you think about the dominance of Christianity in Europe which really took hold right about the 4th-5th century C.E. That was a thousand years nearly after Socretes, Plato, and Aristotle began to think about the nature of the good, and the good society, and in fact if you are very careful about this have a look just at the New Testament documents, those that where selected by the church as canonical.

     They say, "Give away all your money.", "Turn your back on your family, they don't agree with you.", "If people do bad things help them to do them more." Like turn your other cheek. "Take no thought for tommorrow." Make no plans. This is an un-livable morality premised on the idea that the world was very shortly going to end. It was going to end the next week, or next month.

     Then after several centuries have pasted by, and the parusia hadn't happened they began to import wholesale, the wonderful, and rich heritage of ethics that had been discussed by the Stoics, the Epicureans, and the Aristotelians for centuries before their time. What we think of is distinctive in western morality has it's roots deeply in the non-religious secular tradition of eithics that come from classical antiquity. This idea of the golden rule, there are two different versions of it. "Don't do to others as you wouldn't have them do to you" or "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." George Bernard Shaw was definitive on this, he said, "Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same." and infact it's a very important insight that one. Other people are different from you, respect the difference. Allow them their lattitude to tolerate the fact that they may not share your values, but try to formulate a way of living together with them. That means not trying to impose beliefs, value, on them that may not come naturally to them."

    ~ A.C. Grayling

  7. Always considered Grayling right up there with the best of the horsemen.