“I have to say that by definition all churches (maybe all religions) are cults. The question is what degree of harm do they do to humanity and individuals. I would argue that, again, all religions and churches harm humanity in some way or another, to varying degrees, as may all philosophies when “mis-applied”. Do they ever do any good? Good and evil are subjective ideas. They may help an individual here and there, or even more widely, but it could never make up for the amount of damage they cause society as a whole. Historically speaking, they may have been more useful to society at a certain point in any individual culture’s develpoment. This seems to no longer be the case.
. . . Humans build and destroy society. Humans are society. By what methods do they build society? information, education, charity, justice, order, etc. All “things” that can be gotten through secular means. By what methods do they destroy society? Lies, misinformation, selfishness, greed, combativeness, intolerance: these are the domain of religion, especially the latter.”
First, let me agree with Sage in saying that living w/in an ancient moral framework is not all bad. Nor is it all good, as it turns out. There is lots of secular and religious evil and intolerance (subjective perhaps but influential) in the world and teasing one from the other would take some kind of social gaia-esk math equation I am not capable of performing.
Now, that’s just a dogmatic cop out, however, on a blog that wants to discuss secular and faith-based issues. And so, let me take just one or two things on, at a bird’s eye level. As far as diving deeper, I will be announcing details, next week, of my faith/secular online book club. Stay tuned and please join! Especially you, Jamie. I need you.
Let’s start with intolerance. History is religious. Secularism’s day has not dawned. Therefore, looking back and declaring intolerance as a product of religion is simply too easy. It would be like me accusing secularists of being selfish because they do not have all that many well-established, influential charities when 100 years ago being a secularist was taboo and got you blacklisted from people in power.
In other words, we don’t know a world without religion. It is still embedded in our politics and education and social clubs and so parsing out the intolerance that stems from religiosity vs. what stems from general in-group thinking is very difficult.
For example, one could say France’s new law against wearing Burqas in public is a secular and political intolerance. One might also argue that Jan Brewer’s new Arizona law carding Hispanics is political intolerance of a race, at worst, or immigrants at best. Yet, as secular as they may be, religious tie-ins abound in both cases.
In regard to politics and intolerance, I believe America is one of the most tolerant places to live, and we can thank founding deist fathers for building a tolerance for change into our government, but even they had no tolerance for granting rights to Native Americans, African Americans and women.
So, let’s say we get rid of religion once and for all (Stalin tried, incidentally [okay that was a rude dig]). Secularism reigns. Finally. I’d bet my last dollar that all any secular in-group would need is a threat (in groups being countries, towns, political platforms, social clubs) and *poof* intolerance and potential subjective evil-doing. But why? Because there are inherent problems with being tolerant and taking a stand to protect your resources or your world view, yes?
I am reminded of a recent article from New Scientist about the hazards of feeding a growing population without plowing down protected environment for agriculture space. Who is intolerant in that example? What secular humanist value reigns more true — environmental protection or relieving world hunger? I think a lot of life decisions boil down to platform support like that, regardless of one’s take on deity existence.
Okay, here’s one more that ties back in with politics, faith and tolerance.
Some argue faith is anti-science (philosophically and politically) and therefore doing harm. I think philosophically this is not necessarily true. We tend, in media, to get the polarized argument from two extremes (Dawkins and Fundamentalists). Science and belief can co-exist and there are scientists with faith (out there writing books and whatnot) just as there are religious leaders embracing and supporting science. Really, you ask, like who is writing these books? Stay tuned for book club. 🙂
Politically, yes, faith-based groups may be hindering Science with political influence. But see above argument on tolerance. As an Atheist arguing that the world would be better, more tolerant, more progressive, without religion, well, you know, that’s kind of an intolerant, (arguably non-progressive) view. The most tolerant of groups is probably the Universalists and I doubt they hate science and I bet some of them believe in creator god.
So, who’s ready to take out the Unitarians?! Get your pitch fork! They’ve been rendered defenseless by their tolerance!! 😉 JK.
For me, it really does come back to what Sage said. These issues are fascinating, worth exploring, worth debating (see book club next week). But when it comes to living your life, day to day, my Romanian Orthodox sister-in-law is the real deal. There’s no point in fighting to crush her world view. I sincerely believe no good can come of that. Just as I believe no good can come of eliminating the faith of people like Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu, or the Dali Llama.