## Is religion fundamentally problematic for logical decision making in society?

7

From my interpretation, religion is a school of thought that encourages or rather demands that we believe in something on faith. Faith is to believe in something because we have been told that it is true and we must believe it without any proof of its existence or proof that it's the right way to think. Our parents teach us this, our society confirms that we must follow this teaching.

I think that's all common knowledge, nothing to argue about there, but this next thought is an idea that I'd like to question. I'd like to know if my following idea makes sense logically or not, and why:

When you're raised from childhood to believe in faith, its unlikely that you will grow to think outside of that faith, especially if your religion implements a system of repetition where you verbally confirm that faith daily and weekly. You constantly repeat it, everyone around you confirms it, it makes you feel at peace, makes you feel safe, why would you want to think in any other way?

My thought about this is that there's a fundamental problem with this way of thinking. Because it seems as a society, by condoning this kind of thinking, we make our population as a whole highly susceptible to extremist and non-tolerant ideas derived from religion. An example: Islamist Extremism, where women and homosexuals can be put to death for pursuing their personal freedoms, and people believe certain cultures should be attacked, that certain people should be killed. If people were not raised with a religious background, I don't see this issue as being possible.

It seems to me that this is proof that religion or "believing without proof or logical reasoning" is problematic, that it damages logical decision making in society. Is this an accurate and logical assessment, or am I looking at this information the wrong way?

I fear you're right about this. Society suffers from the idea that religion requires and often teaches unthinking faith. It is a shame that religion has come to be so closely associated with unverifiable faith. Those who get out more know that this is only one corner of religion, and that knowledge is the real prize but in the West our society has been overwhelmed by faith-based monotheism and many now believe that this is what religion has to be. Some de-programming is required. – None – 2017-10-18T11:31:01.587

Sorry if this is off topic, Ill happily edit or remove it. I know sometimes its required here that I tie the question to specific philosophy, but this is a hard question to articulate in a politically correct way. It's a philosophical idea that I'm very curious about so Id be happy to know of a better way to phrase it. I just want to make sure that my thinking is logical and not overly biased lest I express it to someone else and the argument actually be an ignorant one. – J.Todd – 2016-04-17T21:23:20.247

2Stalin and Hitler demonstrated that extremist and non-tolerant ideas can derive from the opposite of religion, and religion can just as well be used to restrain them as to ingrain them. Humans are very good at compartmentalizing their thinking, many believers and non-believers agree that what they and others take on faith should be kept apart from public politics (separation of church and state), and only serve as motivation for choice of policies, not as their justification. As long as that is the case I see no fundamental problems. – Conifold – 2016-04-17T23:15:36.753

@Conifold Interesting. that might be good elaborated into an answer. – J.Todd – 2016-04-17T23:34:09.227

Can you make clearer what your question about philosophy is? Also, I'm pretty sure we've had some similar questions. Your question seems to split into several pieces: (1) are you correctly identifying the nature of religion (a big question)? (2) do we need cartesian certainty about the rightness of our views before it makes sense to act on them (you seem to think it's a problem that people learn morality at their mother's knee)? (3) further questions about the social nature of knowledge. – virmaior – 2016-04-18T02:56:20.077

@virmaior Sure I'll be happy to simplify it or condense it, or better focus it. I'd appreciate a suggestion on what might be a good way to do that. Sometimes asking a philosophical question in a concise, objective manner proves challenging on this site. – J.Todd – 2016-04-18T03:28:56.707

There's a lot of different questions here, so I'm not sure how to edit it (it's not my question after all so I don't know which you most want to ask here). Your answer so far is about the first question largely. – virmaior – 2016-04-18T04:16:30.677

@virmaior Conofold's comment above actually very much did answer my question, although a bit of elaboration would be nice. Does that help you to understand what my question is more specifically? – J.Todd – 2016-04-18T04:55:43.430

Not really. Try restating what question you believe Conifold answered. – virmaior – 2016-04-18T05:08:07.710

@virmaior: What is "cartesian certainty"? Do you have link that explains it? – naught101 – 2016-04-18T06:31:56.080

@naught101 googling cartesian certainty yielded 300,000 results. This pdf seems to know what it means https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/25111/pdf/1/ as does the SEP entry on Descartes and doubt.

– virmaior – 2016-04-18T06:33:23.967

@Conifold "agree that what they and others take on faith should be kept apart from public politics (separation of church and state), and only serve as motivation for choice of policies, not as their justification. As long as that is the case I see no fundamental problems." -- says the person who elsewhere in this SE thoroughly explained to me how the difference between discovery and justification was dissolved..... – Alexander S King – 2016-04-18T14:26:54.360

– Alexander S King – 2016-04-18T16:58:17.877

@Conifold I think that considering ideology 'the opposite of religion' strains any notion of either category to the breaking point. Nazism is a mythology system and the idea that the Soviet system was Socialist is a fairy tale. They both overflow with religious content: from purposeful fictionalization, to blind idealism, to selection of a cult population, to prescriptive morality. – None – 2016-04-18T19:03:13.473

1@Alexander I was describing Feyerabend's views, not my own, which by the way are an example of putting too much faith into abstract arguments and losing touch with practicalities of life. "Opposite of religion" refers to Stalin and Hitler professing atheism. Then again, the notion of religion got so vague these days that even diet and exercise enthusiasts qualify, it's hard to be in the opposite to everything. – Conifold – 2016-04-19T18:30:44.077

13

As a devout Catholic, I agree that basing decision making on credulity and group think is a bad idea.

I cannot speak for all religious people, but at least in my own religious tradition, the understanding of faith is quite different from how you've characterized it. Specifically, it is different as the Catechism says:

1. Faith seeks understanding - faith is not credulity or superstition or thinking something simply because one person told you something when you were young. Instead, faith by its nature implores believers to explore and understand "the totality of God's plan and the mysteries of faith," i.e., all that is.

2. Faith is compatible with other forms of knowledge: "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God."

So, no, what you propose "I think that's all common knowledge" is not, but instead represents a common mischaracterization of faith. To address what you proposed as your main question though:

• "When you're raised from childhood to believe in faith, its unlikely that you will grow to think outside of that faith." There are many good biographies out there by people exploring this topic, and it seems clear that people do in fact change from their child-hood beliefs systems (both towards and away from religion). Three that I recommend are those of Surprised by Joy, The Seven Story Mountain, and Not God's Type: they were each written by secularist academics who through a desire for truth came to belief as adults.

• if your religion implements a system of repetition where you verbally confirm that faith daily and weekly - Again, I can't speak for all religious people, but the prayers in our religion that are repeated daily and weekly have a long tradition of not just being blindly repeated, but being meditated on and considered in detail. For example, the Cathecism of the Catholic Church is a 900+ page elaboration on only a handful of prayers. At least the way many of us were taught, the point of the prayer isn't blind memorization, but as the focal point to think through and about every aspect of what we believe.

• everyone around you confirms it, it makes you feel at peace, makes you feel safe, why would you want to think in any other way? - This is not my daily experience as a religious person, in fact quite the opposite: most of the people around me challenge it, calling it silly or unnecessary. And to whatever degree that I am surrounded by other like-minded people, it is to hear a message that is quite challenging (both because it is intellectually challenging and hard to live up to). On the other hand, there are many that live an unexamined life from an atheistic bubble.

So, as I began saying, group-think, credulity and hearsay are bad ways to make decisions, but they are bad whether in a religious or non-religious setting. I of course put forward the above not asking anyone to agree with any aspect of it (I know many don't!), but only to offer a contrasting view point about religious people, and how much has been examined by one particular faith tradition.

I just noticed some activity on this old question, so I realize this is a very late response, but: On your points, I wouldn't argue that any of them are wrong, but I might question whether or not they accurately reflect the mindset of the average religious person.

You take a very deep look into the philosophies and ideas involved in the teachings of your religion, but having been raised Catholic myself, and having many many Catholic friends, I can at least attest that the majority of the ones I know do not consider things even at a fraction of the depth that you discuss in your answer. – J.Todd – 2017-10-18T23:49:24.747

For example, yes there have been many people who've been raised into Religion from birth and then changed their way of thinking, but I suppose it comes down to a discussion of the potential of a religion to promote logical thought and it's actual, statistical effect toward or against that result (logical thinking).

I don't have the statistics to back this up, but I would estimate based on my experience with the mindset of the "average" religious person that the effect is not one of logical and free thinking, but of the blind following of the religion's dogma. – J.Todd – 2017-10-18T23:53:46.507

1Given that the question is whether religion is fundamentally problematic and not statistically problematic, providing one good argument in the negative suffices to show it's not fundamental. As to the statistical question, I'm not sure, but I have plenty of examples of religious people in my life who are logicial, rational people. – James Kingsbery – 2017-10-28T03:55:07.897

I feel that both Viziionary and James are right. The simple truth is that a great many religious believers know very little about their religion.and often don't want to know more. As well as pseudo-science there is pseudo-religion and unless we're seriously interested in religion we may struggle to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. I've read whole books in which the author is unable to do this. Then long arguments ensue about issues that are not issues at all, as James' answer indicates. . – None – 2017-11-28T11:26:09.087

8

There is no escaping faith. There is some part of what you believe that you have accepted without proof. Ultimately, your underlying standard of proof is in that part. It cannot be based upon proof itself, or you would not know whether the supposed proof of it is to be accepted as proving things. So that proves this part of your thinking exists. I would contend it is actually a large part, but just knowing it is non-empty makes the point.

One has faith in science -- no one can prove that systematic analysis of anything ultimately nets you proof of anything. One has to accept that on the basis of something that ultimately cannot be proven. Whether this is religious faith, social convention, the belief that the resulting technology has value, or simply that it coincides with the natural inclinations of your mind.

So there is not the stark contrast you imagine between accepting things without proof, and using reason and logic. Science itself clearly does both, and you cannot lay one or the other of these at the foot of religion.

Many religions, in fact, demand a high degree of sophisticated logic and deep reasoning of themselves. Societies based on those religions do not encourage the anti-intellectualism that you ascribe to all religion. We are simply at yet another low-point in self-awareness among some of our current religionists, and you are attributing that to the whole history of all religions.

A. N. Whitehead, in fact, emphasizes the fact that Medieval Catholicism was more intellectual, and more searching in its demand for proof than modern science is. The deep mind wishes to look behind observations, and not to simply take them at face value -- but science takes a great deal more at face value than Scholastic Christianity, and various other basic religious positions. This means it has less use of reason and logic than they do because it has a broader policy on data.

Beyond that, your perception is skewed: The anti-intellectual Christianity dominant in the U.S. at the moment and the more extreme forms of Islam causing problems all over the place, for instance, are far shallower than their sources, and not typical of all religious thought. Nor are they even anywhere close to constituting majority positions within their respective faiths. They are simply large enough to be very loud. And the stupidity of a loud minority says nothing about the actual value of an entire tradition.

(Very late reply) Interesting answer - I'll have to take time to consider it, but one aspect of it, the first paragraph does interest me. "There is some part of what you believe that you have accepted without proof." What part are you referring to, exactly, that every person must inevitably accept without proof? I would suggest that it's possible for one to accept nothing without proof and instead, to simply accept the certainty that we do not yet, and may never, understand something. That would not be to have accepted something without proof but rather to have accepted a lack of knowledge. – J.Todd – 2017-10-19T00:01:58.623

@Viziionary You are putting words in my mouth. I have not claimed there is a single thing that every person must inevitably accept without proof. If that isn't obvious, learn to reason more closely. One cannot get from the idea that every individual has some unproven belief to the notion there is some shared unproven belief. There is no logic there. – None – 2017-10-20T21:51:58.490

If it is obvious, stop putting up straw men. What one accepts without proof is not the same for every person. It is not fixed, you can edit it or replace it. But you cannot have a criterion for what constitutes proof that is proven, nor can you have no criterion for proof at all. However lightly you hold what you believe, you have reasons to find things more or less believable, and those reasons themselves are beliefs that are not provable. – None – 2017-10-20T21:56:06.417

Sounds a lot to me like you're playing some serious mental 4D chess to avoid accepting that you're wrong about something. One can have chosen to accept or believe nothing without proof. That doesn't mean they go around upset because they think everything is a lie - only that if they haven't seen proof of something, they simply accept a lack of proof. No one is forced to believe or accept anything without proof and therefore it is entirely possible for someone to have done just that. – J.Todd – 2017-10-20T22:20:31.343

@Viziionary I don't talk to people who claim to know more about what I think than I do. Have a nice life. – None – 2017-10-20T22:21:38.607

But that's exactly what you're doing. You're telling me that: "some part of what [I] believe that [I] have accepted without proof". You "claim to know more about what I think than I do." – J.Todd – 2017-10-20T22:23:31.607

@Viziionary Nope. My assertion has noting to do with what kind of person you are or what your emotional motives are. It is a logical necessity from the definitions of the terms, and it is not about you personally. You want to use belittling rhetoric instead of arguing from the facts, and to do so you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives. Ad hominem arguments are not arguments they are attacks. Always. And they are not acceptable. Ever. – None – 2017-10-20T22:28:15.310

Ok I'd like to respond to this comment (civilly) but first I need to establish your stance on something: Let's go back to my original comment - Did you see that comment as an attack against you personally, or inappropriate / aggressive in any way? My first comment only, I'm asking about. – J.Todd – 2017-10-20T22:39:03.397

@Viziionary If you wanted to be civil, you would not reply to someone who has declared they do not want to talk to you. Your first comment deduces something incorrectly from what I said. I cannot tell whether that is an error or a straw man argument. (Hence the two part response.) Given your second response, I now would see it as the second. In that case, it was hostile. I don't care, actually, it does not matter to the argument. – None – 2017-10-20T22:44:53.060

Whether it was an error or not could of course be argued, but it was in no way intended (nor communicated, in my view) in a hostile or aggressive manner. It was purely and simply an argument. Which could be right or wrong, but that doesn't make it hostile. Your response to my first comment, however, was communicated in an aggressive and arguably hostile way. So I would argue that any hostility or aggression in this scenario was initiated from your end, however I do agree that my second comment, being led by an attack (but followed by an argument based in reason) in response was inappropriate. – J.Todd – 2017-10-20T22:56:26.743

@Viziionary I did not insist you were being dishonest. You have insisted that I am being dishonest. I have not insulted you, other than to state what you obviously did. Whatever you take as aggression is just impatience with people who will not think clearly. Your initial question implies an error I did not make. I am not obliged to handle that in any way other than straightforwardly. I pointed out that the error was not present in what I wrote. You did not respond, and told me I was being emotional rather than logical. I don't care who 'started it'. – None – 2017-10-20T23:04:22.863

@Viziionary. You are free to demonstrate that you either have a proven standard of proof, or that you never believe anything. Any other position means you have beliefs based on unproven standards. And those standards, are by definition, beliefs in and of themselves. Simply stating otherwise is not an argument. And that is all you have done -- to state objections without addressing the logic of the argument itself. – None – 2017-10-20T23:13:33.070

– None – 2017-10-20T23:20:34.947

3

Let's start by considering the criteria that you presented as a working definition of faith:

Faith is believing in something:

• Because we have been told that it is true.
• Without any proof of its existence.
• Because it's the right way to think.

Your last point simply doesn't hold up under scrutiny. True faith never comes about solely because somebody was told that it was the right thing to think. In order for it to qualify as true faith, it has to originate as a gift from God (see Ephesians 2:8). To be fair, I'll also assume that you didn't accept your worldview simply because somebody told you that it was the right way to think. However, I reserve the right to believe that there are at least some atheists or materialists who have been told that very thing. In fact, a strong argument could be made that you yourself are trying to do just that, i.e telling people what the right way to think is:

"My thought about this is that there's a fundamental problem with this way of thinking. {...} It seems to me that this is proof that religion or 'believing without proof or logical reasoning' is problematic, that it damages logical decision making in society."

Concerning your first two points, the fact is that most of us have never performed all the experiments that would be necessary to support what we believe is true in science. Most of our scientific knowledge comes second hand from textbooks or from what people have told us. As far as proofs are concerned, no one has ever provided any proof that either materialism or the Big Bang theory are true. Rather than working with proofs and absolute certainty, science works with probabilities and accepting the best theory that fits the evidence until new evidence comes along:

"At the best, all our endeavours look to the future and never attain certainty. The lesson of probability holds for all forms of activity as truly as for the experimental operations of science, and even more poignantly and tragically." (John Dewey, The Quest for Certainty)

In addition to that, it's necessary to distinguish materialism from science. Science is about what can be observed and tested, and materialism is a belief in that which can neither be observed nor tested. There have also been a number of excellent arguments to call into question the reasonableness of such a belief:

"If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts – i.e., Materialism and Astronomy – are mere accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset." (C.S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven, p. 97)

Therefore, according to your own criteria, there's no evident reason to assert that your worldview is anything but a doctrine of faith. Besides that, the type of faith that supports a materialistic belief is qualitatively different from the faith that comes as a gift from God. One of the most important things to be distinguished between the two is that materialistic faith provides no certainty, whereas Christian faith provides a certainty which surpasses any sort of empirical evidence:

"Believing and knowing are not distinct in the matter of certainty. The certainty of faith is as firm as that of knowledge. Indeed, the certainty of faith is the more intense of the two it is virtually unshakeable and ineradicable. For their faith people are prepared to sacrifice everything, including their life." (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, pg. 577)

Finally, it's a rather jaundiced view which fails to see the intolerance that has been perpetrated by the godless and the anti-religious. One of the boldest stands against religion was that made by Karl Marx. At first held to be the hope for the common man, Marxism soon proved to be the most opressive for the very people that it purported to help. Alexander Solzhenitsyn gives a bleak account of the atrocities that occurred in his own country under the domination of Marxism:

"And now these peasants, whose breadgrain had fed Russia in 1928, were hastily uprooted by local good-for-nothings and city people sent in from outside. Like raging beasts, abandoning every concept of 'humanity,' abandoning all humane principles which had evolved through the millennia, they began to round up the very best farmers and their families, and to drive them, stripped of their possessions, naked, into the northern wastes, into the tundra and the taiga." (The Gulag Archipelago, pg. 56)

It seems evident that a more judicious application of your own principles would necessitate a radically different conclusion from the one you came to.

+1:Good quote from the Gulag Archipelago, I've been meaning to read that for sometime. – Mozibur Ullah – 2017-10-26T05:12:00.790

1In order for it to qualify as true faith, it has to originate as a gift from God (see Ephesians 2:8) You just defined faith based on an excerpt from the Bible. That is simply 100% wrong. Faith is an English word not defined by any specific religion's own definition of it. Come on now.. – J.Todd – 2016-04-18T01:01:32.980

Can you prove that it's 100% wrong? – None – 2016-04-18T01:04:35.073

1Easily, it's a no-brainer. For example, here's the Miriam Webster definition of faith: 1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions 2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust 3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs – J.Todd – 2016-04-18T01:20:28.843

1The faith, in the most fundamental sense, is not based on a specific religion's readings or teaching, faith is a universal concept. – J.Todd – 2016-04-18T01:24:42.850

1You're just begging the question. – None – 2016-04-18T01:30:17.857

1I'm not begging anything, I'm stating a simple fundamental fact. Faith is a universal concept, not one that can only exist as part of your religion's definition of it. – J.Todd – 2016-04-18T01:33:46.370

@PédeLeão: So you're saying the uncertain (at least in my view) certainty of religious faith is more useful in the making of decisions than the certain (as agreed by everyone) uncertainty of the scientific method? I mean, people actually used to believe (presumably with "unshakeable and ineradicable" certainty) that heaven was a place in/above the sky. We now have ample reason to believe (with very high certainty) that that's not the case. The faith was certain, and now is not. What reason do we have to think than any other faith-based belief is not vulnerable to the same destruction? – naught101 – 2016-04-18T07:11:05.413

@naught101. By faith, we recognize the Scriptures as inspired by God, giving us certainty with respect to their authority. But such certainty doesn't exempt people from making errors of interpretation. – None – 2016-04-18T09:10:21.567

So you have faith in the scriptures because the scriptures tell you to have faith in the scriptures? – naught101 – 2016-04-18T12:46:38.143

@naught101. How did you come to that conclusion? It's certainly not what I said. – None – 2016-04-18T13:00:30.530

Faith tells you that the scriptures are authoritative (a message from God). The scriptures (or faith) are what tell you God exists. God (or the scriptures,) tell you that your faith is certain. It all just seems a bit circular to me. – naught101 – 2016-04-19T02:20:22.660

@naught101. The last two things you said are incorrect. We know of God's existence apart from the Scriptures, and faith doesn't come from the Scriptures. Faith is a gift from God as I said earlier. – None – 2016-04-19T02:28:46.493

@PédeLeão How could the first faithful man believed in the gift of faith in the first place if he had no faith to believe in god? – J.Todd – 2016-04-20T02:33:15.967

@Viziionary. Faith comes directly from God. It is an outward manifestation of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) – None – 2016-04-20T08:53:26.033

@PédeLeão you really dont understand this simple fact that "faith" is not a "Gift from God" only. That's *your* faith for the third time, faith is a word (I already gave you the full official definition) which can be used for people who believe in Zeus or even people who believe in Satan as their God, or one of their 50 gods. The word faith doesn't belong to your religion exclusively. – J.Todd – 2016-04-20T11:29:43.610

@Viziionary. Why do you think I don't understand that? What I really don't understand is why you keep going on about this. What's your point? – None – 2016-04-20T16:23:04.493

3

The problem with religion is not faith. Faith is belief in something unproven, and that is not essentially bad. All our childhood we grow believing -having faith- in what our parents say, and proof comes afterwards. As long as the object of belief is coherent, blind belief is not harmful. Even when adults, we act based on a lot of blind beliefs: if your child tells you he saw your keys on the couch, you act based on such belief and go looking for them in such place.

The problem of religion is incoherence. If a religion prays love, but rejects people who deny God, it is incoherent. Even if the main commandment is to love, you can find arguments -absolutely logical, but based on the incoherent statements- to hate, harm and kill others. That is, to act against love.

The reason of this mechanism is really simple: coherence just expresses mathematical logic over our behavior. If correctly applied, a big set of logical statements are always coherent. But if one wrong statement enters the accepted set, all the statements lose validity. In other words, incoherence justifies everything (EDIT 20171128: see Wikipedia, ex falso quod libet: religion books with small contradictions, a la "god is love, and non believers will be punished", can justify mass murder or whatever crime).

Religious books are the main source of incoherence. That is why religious people struggle to discuss and interpret scripts. But such task is useless. If a religion is properly discussed, and incoherences are correctly eliminated, the result should be equivalent to science! (religions wouldn't allow denying one of each two or three phrases of the book). That is the reason why religions don't accept science and ask for blind belief, a vicious circle.

Not only does Christianity accept science, it's also in perfect harmony with it. The atheist, on the other hand, in his denial of God, makes false assumptions that limit his resources to the extent that they are inadequate for explaining much of anything. This leads to many areas ignored or poorly explained, false conclusions and absurdities. As a result, many atheist to deny who they essentially are and adopt inconsistent philosophies like nihilism. Faith is simply the way God has chosen to be known, and the only inconsistency is your misunderstanding of the subject. – None – 2017-10-26T15:36:01.380

@PéDeLeão: I didn't used the word Christianity, nor "denial of God". "Faith is simply the way God has chosen to be known" is a very religious partialization of the term faith. I am not attacking Christians, the Christians God and your religion, you seem to imply that. Your second reaction is an argument ad hominem. Sorry, I should stop the discussion here. – RodolfoAP – 2017-10-27T03:33:52.710

You said, "...the reason why religions don't accept science..." Since Christianity is a religion, I am defending it against your false charges that it doesn't accept science. I am not, of course, defending any other religions. – None – 2017-10-27T12:07:17.113

1

Yes, exposure to religion can bread zealots, and an innumerable number of battles have been fought on the grounds of religion. But religion is not a modern concept and, historically, religion provides social order. The fact that religions largely co-exist in both historic and modern society, shows that it is not an attribute of a religion but rather something in its practitioners. Below I will cover some primary points about the role religion has played, that are both foundational and promotive of a healthy society.

Lets first discuss social order. Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson all discuss that the first founding principle of establishing any society is the collective acceptance of a Sovereign. Whether by force, faith, or solidarity, the people bind together and submit some degree of personal power to the authority, in exchange for safety and communal progress (i.e. we are more capable together than as individuals). Religion is the perfect force to draw in and unify people. It establishes an authority who is omnipotent, yet intangible.

Religion also provides security, strength, purpose and order to society. Marx calls religion the "opiate of the masses" because it can pacify them. If you are in a bad situation, religion tells you to put you're energy into faith, redirecting it from the other common targets like the authority or those who prosper while you suffer.

The concept of an afterlife is a great example of this. Death is a very difficult thing for people to do with. It can often lead to very serious anxiety and unrest in a individual and/or society. None of us know what happens to our souls after we die, this unknown can be a metaphysically devastating realization. Some would become Nihilistic, not concerned of their own actions because after death it doesn't matter. This would also be an issue for society. Placed in a historical context, being unable to comfort the masses causes unrest and leads to the collapse of order. Some religions offer solace and comfort through the concept of an afterlife or rebirth. Order is further maintained though the concept of heaven, which both provides people with the concept that this life is not the most important, and that a good member of society (each society being composed of the members of a specific religion) is promised a life of glory, all thanks to the devotion despite suffering in this life. This therefore promotes social order, helps to establish a reasoning behind religious laws, and comforts the struggling masses (early society was certainly a difficult life style and it was newly emerging, without the advantage of being historically informed).

Though this is more interpretive, I think that evidence of this function of religion is clearly provided from the existence of the Book of Leviticus. The second book of Judaism and Christianity (and following Genesis, because before you can guide people you need to provide them with some answers like, "Where did we come from>"), this contains 613 commandments that touch on all aspects of social life:

1) Public Health - Leviticus contains the laws for keeping Kosher, avoiding shellfish and swine (both can spoil and cause illness if not cleaned correctly). It also contains instructions on how to prepare, clean and preserve meat. The laws go on to even include how to treat illnesses and sets guidelines for quarantine and treat leapers and other diseases that were both common and devastating to a community if not handled correctly.

2) Civil Law - There are a number of very specific civil laws that establish a common set of guidelines that we all abide within a society. Both crime and punishment are laid out. Excessive punishment is also limited within these laws. There are laws about owning land, "no debt shall be held more than 10 years" (including slavery which was a commonly traded commodity in early society).

3) Social Law - In early society, work was a precious commodity, and the community often relied on all its members to provide different portions of what society required to maintain itself. Laws like those surrounding the process of mourning a death (sitting shiva) are set to provide both a structure to loss, but also a limit. In sitting Shiva, after 40 days it is required that mourning ends and that everyone returns to normal life. Another example are The 10 Commandments, such as honor your parents and do not covet your neighbors wife. These may have been the 9 biggest social issues of early society, and the first commandment which compels to you to obey God and his commandments.

Please note that this is primarily Judeo-Christian religious belief. Many "eastern" religions focus on establishing order in "Life" and nature itself, rather than our roles in a society. Other pagan and polytheistic religions focused more on recognizing the limits of humanity compared to the natural forces that immensly powerful (Zeus throws lightning bolts, and Rah is the personification of the Sun). But again, these all provide a rational to fill a void, much of which is still unknown despite human advancement (like the concept of the soul).

Unfortunately, with such a powerful historic influence, it will take a long time (if ever) for it to dissipate from mainstream society. The important thing to bare in mind is that religion or not, people will find justification for divisions and disagreements. Religion itself does not necessitate radicalism, and in most religions order within a society is foundational if not the entire underlying ends.

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Faith of some kind is necessary for society to function at all:

A social organism of any sort whatever, large or small, is what it is because each member proceeds to his own duty with a trust that the other members will simultaneously do theirs. Wherever a desired result is achieved by the co-operation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned. A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing achieved, but nothing is even attempted. A whole train of passengers (individually brave enough) will be looted by a few highwaymen, simply because the latter can count on one another, while each passenger fears that if he makes a movement of resistance, he will be shot before any one else backs him up. If we believed that the whole car-full would rise at once with us, we should each severally rise, and train-robbing would never even be attempted. There are, then, cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming. And where faith in a fact can help create the fact, that would be an insane logic which should say tbat faith running ahead of scientific evidence is the 'lowest kind of immorality ' into which a thinking being can fall. Yet such is the logic by which our scientific absolutists pretend to regulate our lives!

- William James, Will to Believe

That doesn't address the specific question of religious faith, but much of the rest of Will to Believe does.

What if the people on the train had no faith, but had organized themselves beforehand with a basic understanding of how they would handle a train robbery? – J.Todd – 2016-04-20T02:24:43.600

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For those of you small minded enough to be religious, pay attention. Faith, by definition, is complete or utter belief in someone or something, and or a strong belief in God or the doctrines of religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. Look it up. Spiritual apprehension is in other words, a theory. Spiritual apprehension is examplified in the religions of today and for my specific point, Greek mythology. We now know Greek mythology to be mythic, or theoretical, correct? People say mythology is obviously a lie because there is no proof, yet when their religion comes to question, suddenly, no proof is needed, and when any logical human being tries to bring that point to view, a religious person tends to act out and or threaten them with "God's judgement" or "hell." This may only be in my experience, though unlikely. My point is not whether or not religion is useful or helpful to a society, because that breaks my arguement down to nothing but opinion. My point is that religion is completely without proof, disproved by logic, and yet still idolized by millions, actually, billions of people, but why? Now for the opinion: religion messes up the way a person thinks, causing them to live by the rules of a book, the rules of a theory of someone else, while allowing them to think they are part of the best group of people in existence. I'm not saying god isn't real because I can't prove that, all I'm saying is his existence can't be proved with solid fact. To be completely honest, even if God is real, I'm not going to bow down and worship him if he's the way religion assumes. He sounds like the most unintelligent, manipulating, horrible thing or being to exist. Look at the sermon "In the Hands of an Angry God" and try to view it objectively, though religious people will undoubtedly have trouble doing so. Do you really think some being constantly wanting to punish and harm you for all you do would really spare you because you believe he exists? Do you honestly think you've done something so horrible you deserve to burn alive for eternity just because you didn't believe in some god? For the love of every brain cell you should be using, analyze religion as you would any random theory: able to be proven and disproven, not some holy thing that is automatically correct!

1This answer could be greatly improved by some basic formatting (paragraphs), and by removing extraneous insults. Your position should be able to stand on its own without calling people who disagree with it "small minded". – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2017-10-17T21:26:03.567