ForumTouchy Subjects ► Religion
Religion seems to be the root of a lot of controversial problems nowadays, and I don't see the purpose in it, other than a coping method I guess? But other than that, why do we waste countless days of our life looking up to something that we aren't even sure exists? Stemming off of that, how hard would it be for humanity to drop religion entirely? Religion over the years has been nothing other than a means to gain power over other people, and people who didn't agree to it, they were killed.
  
Aspen said:
Religion over the years has been nothing other than a means to gain power over other people, and people who didn't agree to it, they were killed.
I don't think its accurate to say that its "nothing more" than that.

If religion didn't offer anything to anybody, it couldn't be used to convert or control anyone when its used badly unless they offered something in exchange.

I think to better understand religion you could try seeing it through the eyes of someone who believes in the religion and listen to them to get a better understanding of what they get out of it and how it impacts their life.

You might be surprised to hear their own take on it, some religious people are self aware and aren't the hive mind many of us suspect they are looking from the outside in.
  
How is religion in particular a coping mechanism whereas other beliefs are not?
  
Aspen said:
But other than that, why do we waste countless days of our life looking up to something that we aren't even sure exists?

Let's see..... Pascal's Wager, Russell's Teapot, and I'll throw in social indoctrination. Also, the fact that most humans are moral, and so creating a moral universe for them to empathize with feels better than a cold and unfeeling one. It's called faith for a reason. As in, there's not going to be definitive proof, you have to have faith that it exists. Religious worshippers could just as easily ask you to disprove the existence of god(s).


Aspen said:
Religion over the years has been nothing other than a means to gain power over other people, and people who didn't agree to it, they were killed.

Sources? Because I can say:
  • That a majority of mathematics and engineering came from Islamic nations during the middle ages, because Islam itself (as in, written into the Quran) values education and knowledge[1]. Ever heard of Algebra? Negative numbers? Arabic Numerals?
  • Early Muslim countries (Muhammad himself) allowed religious freedom for Jews and pagans despite disagreeing on beliefs[2]
  • Muslims in general get a bad rep from their extremely vocal minority. A good portion of them are fairly progressive in terms of inter-faith interactions and being pro-science/pro-knowledge.
  • Most art (especially theatre) was used to promote the gods. If you like entertainment like films or music, chances are it can trace its roots to worship. [3][4]
< I might add more examples/sources if I feel like it later >
Religion is a social norm and a way of life. It's got way more depth to it than most atheists/agnostics realize, and discounting it as "just a church and a holy book" is a strawman argument.

So I want sources that it was used solely for power (I'll grant you that, yes, a some major religions were corrupt at one point or another, but not all the time). Religious persecution I'll give you, but I'll also point out that many groups didn't do religious persecution.
  
KyIIjoy said:
Muslims in general get a bad rep from their extremely vocal minority.
We can't just pretend there's the entire nation of Saudi Arabia where is dangerous not to be a Sunni Muslim. Even the Shiite Muslims aren't safe from discrimination.

That's not a vocal minority, that's like one of the heights of Islamic economic and cultural powers right now.

And forget about womens' rights, and I'm tired of acting like its not downright deadly dangerous to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia.

Source for all this was anecdotal from a Shiite Muslim flat mate who was a student from Saudi Arabia.

Historically, Islam has been a lot better than this, though. Even in Afghanistan before the US backed Taliban took over they were pretty chillaxed there.
  
We can't just pretend there's the entire nation of Saudi Arabia where is dangerous not to be a Sunni Muslim. Even the Shiite Muslims aren't safe from discrimination.

Oh, yeah, I didn't really mean the Middle East. The Muslim powers are pretty terrible from a human rights perspective. I more meant "practicing Muslim-Americans", which, tbh, is probably the minority. But we can't pretend like they aren't doing what Christian England and Catholic Rome (and secular modern China!) hadn't already been doing for centuries.
  
I dunno, you can't tar all Muslims with the same brush, and it certainly doesn't excuse the west from its history, but Islam was a religion of conquest. Mohammed was a warlord, his descendants were warlords, the distribution of Islam is the consequence of as much war, slavery and bloodshed as Europeans.

Islamic mathematics and engineering are something to be grateful for, but we need to remember that after the 13th century that all came to a rather violent close in the Middle East. Mathematics flourishes in societies that are curious, it's not specific to any religion. The Catholic church (yes seriously) drove as much innovation as the House of Wisdom in its day. Most religions and societies have taken both stances, these days religion does not drive innovation, these days it's driven by post-enlightenment secular universities.

My point is: religion has both helped and hindered innovation to varying degrees at various times, it's probably a neutral player: the culture and people in it are as likely to use it to excuse anti-intellectualism as they are to use it to raise education up. For every Boko Haram or Ken Ham there are serious scientists looking for serious answers in real universities alongside their atheist colleagues.
  
I think it's become a distracting trope that whenever we discuss religious intolerance, we inevitably get reminded that Islam was super-tolerant a thousand years ago. Even if that's true, it's obviously changed since then, so how does that help us now.

@KyIIjoy
By my reckoning Muslim-Americans constitute 0.01% of Muslims. About as minor a minority as you can get.
  
Religion can provide existential comfort, a sense of meaning, social structure, and a social safety net. It makes sense that it would be appealing to many.

Naturally, when it becomes a political power, it can be turned to greed evil just like any other political organization. I think it can be a bit more dangerous due to the belief/faith aspect, however, as well as when religious groups develop cult-like aspects to bring in people who are alone or unhappy.
  
Concise and accurate.
  
All the smart people on the site having a discussion
  
praise god, i am one of many of the religious people.
  


This song started playing in my head after reading cheese man's reply, haha.
  
Imma just respond to the first person cuz I can't be bothered reading the rest. Because yes ur absolutely correct. I make sure to not do work one night and day each week and not certain delicious foods so I don't go to somewhere I'll burn forever as a coping mechanism 🙏🏽

U actually feel much better mentally not knowing whether ur gonna go hell or not, it's just a great way to get a grasp of if there's anything after death 🙂
  
Besides the psychological comforts, I think there are still reasons religion will grow and help people. I also reject the idea that religion is central to wars or conflict.

People belonging to religions tend to have more children, so in the sense of Darwinian Evolution, they are more fit. Proselytizing religions, such as Islam, the world's fastest-growing religion also usually place a duty on its members to spread the religion.

There are also people I've known in church groups who've been drug addicts or worse. Religion and churches became the support structures they needed to kick their addictions and change their lives for the better.

A lot of wars attributed to religion didn't really begin because of religion. Even the crusades did not begin because of religion. The Byzantines called for aid from the Catholic church of the west, and they answered the call to fight the Seljuk Turks who were overrunning the Byzantines at the time. The wars were over the territory once belonging to the Roman Empire. The motivation for the common man was religion. The crusades were seen as an opportunity to expand one's territory into the east and gain favor with the people. The later crusades were often just to appear pious and were part of strengthing one's image. Wars are usually over territory and resources.
  
I mean the first crusade seemed quite religious to me with the troops getting morale when the “real” spearhead of the Holy Lance was “found” in Antioch. And they couldn’t get past the crusade without the morale boosting fast and bare march around Jerusalem in the middle of the siege(which confused the Muslim garrison)

It seems to be the leaders who did more of it for greed. They made their own domains, t breaking the oath to Alexios, and some of the commanders quit halfway through.

After that it was more glory and greed than religion.
  
In medieval Europe, religion was a much stronger force on both an individual and a communal level. So it's very easy to categorise every war as religious when you find people praying or otherwise invoking religion during their wars. But people invoked religion in almost all areas of life, for example farming.

Certainly the Crusades had more to do with religion than, say, the Hundred Years War. But they were ultimately another territorial conflict with religion as a marker. Muslims didn't want Christians to become Muslim, they just wanted to rule over them, because they got more money from jizya (non-Muslim tax) than they did from zakat (Muslim tax). Similarly Christians weren't trying to make Muslims Christian, they just wanted to push the Turks back out of Asia Minor and secure access to the Holy Land, which had been recently disrupted by the Turks (Seljuks) seizing control from the Arabs (Fatimids).

The different Crusades had different contexts and goals, but the First Crusade in a nutshell was that the Turks were invading Byzantine, the Byzantines were losing ground, so they asked the Latin Christians for backup, and the Latins provided it. We call their backup "the Crusades" like it's a separate conflict, but it only seems separate from the point-of-view of the Latins because that's when they got involved. It's a bit like how recently I had an American insist that World War Two started in 1941, because that's when America got involved.

Northern Ireland is sometimes used as an example of a religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. But religion is just a short-hand for Nationalist (wants Northern Ireland to be abolished and incorporated into the Republic of Ireland) vs Loyalist (wants Northern Ireland to continue to exist and remain in the UK, or more rarely to be independent). Actual religion wasn't really the point for most involved. The IRA had mainly Catholic members, but it was officially Marxist.
  
Alexios never even asked for such a reaction; just some mercenaries to help. In the long term, it made more things possible for the Byzantine Romans to finally lose their empire for the first time in 1204.

Yeah religion was a large part of the medieval life.
  
Religion did not cause the wars of the 20th century - the Boer Wars, Russo-Japanese War, WW1, Russian Civil War, Irish Independence and Civil Wars, Chinese Civil War, Spanish Civil War*, Sino-Japanese Wars, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Falklands, the Gulf Wars*, Yugoslavia* - whose casualties far outstrip any earlier wars religion did cause.

*In the Spanish Civil War the church generally spoke against the Leftists, so the Leftists killed thousands of priests, which whipped up the devoutly Catholic against them. But Catholicism didn't really cause the Spanish Civil War, it just got caught up in it. I guess the First Gulf War was partly to do with Islam because the tension between Hussein and Khomeini was the tension between Sunni and Shia. In Yugoslavia, Christian ethnic groups were killing each other all over but maybe Bosnia wound up worse because of the Muslim/Christian split.
  
Millpond said:
Religion did not cause the wars of the 20th century - [...] WW2 [...]

Maybe "cause" isn't exactly the right word but I feel like there's a certain ethno-religious group, the genocide of which was a very big part of WW2, and to suggest that the previous 2000 years of religious history and tension didn't play into that in a very large way sounds almost willfully ignorant.
  
WW2 didn't start because of the Holocaust, arguably the other way around. WW2 started in 1939, the Holocaust started in 1941-2. Originally the Nazis planned to relocate Jews to Madagascar, but that was scrapped after Germany lost the Battle of Britain and couldn't get down there. The Holocaust happened during WW2, but it wasn't what WW2 was about, like the Armenian Genocide happened during WW1, but it wasn't what WW1 was about.

Even if we attribute the Jewish deaths to Christianity and the Armenian deaths to Islam, it still pales in comparison to the overall deaths in the wars they occurred in, which were secular. People have been killed due to religious prejudice, but there's a trope that goes around saying it's the number one cause of war or even killing, and it's not. I also don't think it's fair to just say "religion" without asking whether it's all religions or some more than others.

Is Religion the Cause of Most Wars?
In his hilarious analysis of The 10 Commandments, George Carlin said to loud applause, "More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason," and many take this idea as an historical fact . . . In their recently published book, "Encyclopedia of Wars," authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod document the history of recorded warfare, and from their list of 1763 wars only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 percent of all wars and less than 2 percent of all people killed in warfare.
  
Millpond said:
WW2 started in 1939, the Holocaust started in 1941-2. Originally the Nazis planned to relocate Jews to Madagascar, but that was scrapped after Germany lost the Battle of Britain and couldn't get down there.

Ah, yes, therefore religion was totally and completely uninvolved (that was sarcasm). Also, are you really blaming the Holocaust on the United Kingdom's defense of itself? Because we all know the appeasement policy worked out so well for everyone (that was more sarcasm).
I have a lot more to say but before I waste my time I have to ask if you believe that the American Civil War was only about "state's rights"?
  
I didn't blame the UK for the Holocaust, the point is that WW2 was well underway by the time the Holocaust started, so we can't attribute WW2 to the Holocaust and therefore to religion. Chamberlain declared war on Germany on 03/09/39 because Hitler ignored his ultimatum to withdraw troops from Poland.

The American Civil War was about states seceding from the US, and the main reason they wanted to secede from the US is because they wanted to continue slavery.
  
Millpond said:
so we can't attribute WW2 to the Holocaust and therefore to religion.
Well, it's good then that nobody claimed that the Holocaust itself predated WW2. The claim was that religious history & tensions played an important part in WW2, as evidenced by the Holocaust.

Official persecution of Jews by the German state started at least as far back as 1933, when they were banned from holding university posts and government jobs. In 1935, Jews were officially no longer German citizens. Months before the war began, Hitler stated "if war erupts it will mean the Vernichtung (extermination) of European Jews." (source)
  
We were discussing religion as a cause of war. My claim was that religion didn't cause the wars of the 20th century. The counter-claim was the Holocaust was a big part of WW2, and that was religious. I don't think the Holocaust was a big part of WW2 in terms of the war at the time. When the UK, Australia, New Zealand and France declared war on Germany on 03/09/39, they didn't cite the Holocaust as their casus belli; they couldn't because it hadn't happened yet. Nor did they mention any lesser persecution of Jews that was occurring by '39.

That quote of Hitler's from 30/01/39, "If war erupts it will mean the extermination of European Jews." (my emphasis) supports the interpretation that a future extermination of Jews was contingent on a context of war. In 1939-1940, the Nazis were discussing the Madagascar Plan (creating a Jewish colony in Madagascar) which was abandoned after the Battle of Britain. Arguably the Madagascar Plan was still a form of genocide, albeit less dramatic, but it wasn't the cause of the war. Even when the US eventually declared war on Germany on 11/12/41, it didn't cite mistreatment of Jews. AFAIK, no country who declared war on Germany did.

If we're shifting focus from religion-as-cause-of-war to religion-as-cause-of-genocide, then was the Holocaust primarily religious antisemitism, economic antisemitism or racial antisemitism? The Nazis invoked religious antisemitism when it suited them, but their policies were rooted more in modern pseudoscience than medieval religion. You couldn't convert your way out like you can with religious antisemitism. Luther talked about killing Jews who didn't convert, but that wasn't enough for Hitler, for whom Jewishness was racial. But there was a religious factor informing the Holocaust and other genocides (Bengali), whereas some had no religious factor (Holodomor) or were anti-religion (Cambodian).
  
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