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 Religions - The Benefits

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 00:22

What have been the benefits of the world's many religions? Some posts condemn the very notion of any form of religion yet our lives have been and continue to be moulded by religious circumstance, Would  the several enrichments that we enjoy have evolved without?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 12:24



Some of the nicest things owe nothing to theology and everything to George Michael, Jackie Wilson and good old empathy ...
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 13:39

Ah yes, good ol' Georgie and Jackie. Refresh my memory, sir they - er - built which cathedrals and wrote which masses? Or was it their paintings? I agree that many nice things are ever so emphatically pleasing without a touch of theology.... church fete teas and bazaars come to mind. Do agnostics and atheists have fun raising days to preserve - whatever they want preserve? I am uncertain what cements the fabric of their communities - not flower arranging festivals, that's for cetain. But my view is jaded by rather English experience. But I do have another one too in which the cement of faith can also moderate  head-strong societies. This is a big topic.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 14:31

I agree. It is hard to imagine beautiful Gothic architecture without religion behind it.

Or is it?



Masses also would have to be a non-starter without the same motivation. Wouldn't they?

But then that argument tends to suppose that human imagination and expression is somehow limited in religion's absence and that secular motivations preclude the sublime, a characteristic only conferred through religious sponsorship. Yet one only has to look at Roman and Greek architecture in pre-Christian times to see how architectural emulation of sublime ideals could lend itself to both secular and religious use. Or for that matter the Tochmarc Étaíne as simply one example of beautiful language beautifully employed to elicit profound and emotional appreciation of mortality, morality and salvation through good deeds. When sung in sean-nós today one does not need to understand the words to know what is being said and still be moved by them.

We simply do not know what kind of artistic fabric and texture our society in Europe would have embraced over the last two thousand years without religious influence. And if modern examples of liturgy and church architecture are anything to go by then maybe it is indeed time to call a halt to the pretense that only religion inspires sublime beauty in either. Personally I immensely enjoy the experience of both when well done, regardless of the motives of their creators. But in no way do I feel indebted to religion for being their incidental paymasters - humanity will out, I say, despite as much as because of organised faiths.

PS: You mock poor Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou? A man who died for your sins - repeatedly??? Infidel!
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 15:39

@Priscilla wrote:
What have been the benefits of the world's many religions? Some posts condemn the very notion of any form of religion yet our lives have been and continue to be moulded by religious circumstance, Would  the several enrichments that we enjoy have evolved without?


What an interesting - and difficult - question, Priscilla.

Thinking of all that has been inspired by religion (not just Christianity) - the music, the painting, the sculpture, the architecture, the literature - one realises what a gap there would be in our world had humans never looked up at the sky in fear, in despair - or in hope. But your question is, I think -  would such art ("enrichment") have come about without what some view as a primitive need for the "Divine", a need that we should by now have grown out - or evolved out - of?

I really don't know.

We talk about a work of art being "inspired". I looked up the etymology:
 


v. mid-14c., enspiren, "to fill (the mind, heart, etc., with grace, etc.);" also "to prompt or induce (someone to do something)," from Old French enspirer (13c.), from Latin inspirare "inflame; blow into" (see inspiration ), a loan-translation of Greek pnein in the Bible.  

I've tried to find the use of "pnein" , but I cannot, not even in Strong's Lexicon. I wondered if the word suggested/meant the same as "muse". It's not Holy Spirit, I think - that's parakletos. But muse is quite different: Greek mousa is a common noun as well as a type of goddess: it literally means "art" or "poetry".

Rambling dreadfully here, but hope you get my train of thought.

D.M. Thomas, the author of The White Hotel, wrote this about Mozart's Requiem:

The Friday of Whitsun, 1998, was the first time I truly heard Mozart's requiem - though I had listened to it often; and the first time I saw our garden, though I have lived here for ten years. I had driven my wife to hospital to undergo radiotherapy. We knew it could not cure her, only mitigate the pain. As, nauseous, she rested in bed after, I walked round our large, slanting Cornish garden, grieving for her, our son, and myself...I felt an anguished wonder suddenly, at the garden she had created out of a wilderness...Now at last , on a radiant afternoon, I could see the whole vibrant, fully realised garden; the wilderness given form...I went to my study overlooking the garden and put on the Requiem. Every section, every phrase, now fully lived: Et Lux Perpetua (Everlasting light), Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy) - for the ground of our relationship has been as bumpy, sometimes, as our garden and I was in need of mercy. The Rex Tremendae Majestatis brought me unbearably up against the mystery of this beautiful, heartbreaking universe..."

I don't know why I'm quoting this here, but you, Priscilla, will perhaps understand my reasons. Perhaps without an awareness of the beauty and the heartbreak, no art is possible. Scientists and the rationalists can - with logic and great erudition - give us the facts we need, but they do not satisfy our human yearning for some kind of meaning. In coping with the heartbreak of it all, it seems we need God or Mozart or Caravaggio or the Hebrew psalmist or Homer or whoever. That need, that terrible, primitive yearning, doesn't seem to go away, whatever "giant leaps"  we humans make.



I typed this a couple of hours ago, then got interrupted - posts have appeared since. Will still send - haven't read P. and N.'s yet.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 15:42

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 17:00

PS And reading my post through, I realise it really is a terrible muddle. Sorry - I was/am trying to do five things at once and not be rude to an unexpected visitor.

I think what I was trying to say was that enrichment (your word, P.) - art -  often comes from pain, yearning and aspiration - and that pain and searching for the Divine often seem very closely linked in all societies. Life is suffering, said the Buddha, although the word "dukkha" means many things: dissatisfaction is perhaps the best - and most interesting - translation.

Majesty, mystery and sublimity - in life and art? Religion does often help a bit, I think. The Greeks, bless 'em, knew that (as did dear old Saint Paul).

I ramble on as ever - really is time to shut up.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 23:23

Perhaps we should clarify what is meant in the OP by "religion", or, rather "religious circumstance".

Are we talking here about religion in the narrow, restricted sense of organised religion (the use of the plural "religions" suggests that) or are we thinking ("religious circumstance") of individual spirituality: as Marcus Aurelius puts it, "the deity within you"? I suppose the humanists would call this source of inspiration intelligence or reason or awareness: others (like Marcus Aurelius again) consider it to be the "divine spark". But are they the same thing? I rather think they are, although I'm sure others will disagree. Just different labels preferred by different temperaments?


PS Not really relevant, but doesn't the Greek concept of "daimon" include the creativity of the artist? Didn't Plato talk about a "divine madness" that seizes the creative person? And didn't Socrates have such  a guiding "spirit"?
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Thu 09 Jul 2015, 23:43

The Greeks used their belief in gods for immense creativity and their reason for impressive structures. Getting back to year dot, the ancients made, scratched out and painted votive objects  in spiritual mode as extension to  abstract concepts - or some such wordy reason that ferv and mm could express with more knowledge and expertise. And that spirituality would have been communal  and not individual, I think - a religion, then. Humans took quite a while to consider humanism as an alternative - using religion as a stepping stone; a further benefit of religion?
Now I await the flak with a courage born of early faith in mysterious strengths and a sly viist to the bar.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 08:09

It is the great obfuscation that plagues all discussion about religion, namely what the word actually means. Etymological study of the Latin terms which have contributed to the construct used in English (amongst other languages) delivers one to various contradictory possible roots which, even in pre-Christian times, were the subject of debate amongst scholars whose mother tongue was itself Latin. People who assume the term must have a cognitive association with "faith" or "belief" may be surprised when they learn that early church theologians assumed it had arisen from "religare" (to bind fast in sense of obligation), a word with as valid a military application as spiritual one. This contradicted Cicero's earlier belief that it had arisen from "re legere" (to read through something again), a reference to a respect for the study of scripture and lore which also could as equally apply to the study of natural philosophy in its day as to any spiritual pursuit.

This is why I took the original question here at face value and assumed that the terms "enrichments" and "benefits" which might be attributed by some to "religions" extended in meaning beyond simply aesthetically pleasant structures, literature, art or the like, and into the realm of human behaviour, especially when it veers into altruism, self sacrifice, kindness and even notions of exalted consciousness interpreted as spirituality (or even spiritualism). My little linked video above from yesterday's Guardian newspaper was simply a coincidentally available example of such enrichment in operation, this time as little acts of random kindness humorously acknowledged and reinforced through the telling. Exactly the kind of behaviour some religions will claim they encourage but which - crucially - thrives within the day to day expressions of humanity to be found in any case in all societies, regardless of religious presence or influence. If kindness (and all else that is generally considered of high worth in terms of behaviour) can be seen as a constant that exists with or without a requirement for particular religious endorsement, encouragement or stricture to allow it to blossom then why not also aesthetics perceived as sublime expressions of that philosophical branch? Why not even the experience of elevated consciousness that transcends our normal material-grounded perceptions? In fact why not every single thing that can be seen as an "enrichment" in terms of human experience, a "benefit" of being a human in a society of humans, even those enrichments and benefits with a provenance declared and believed by many to be rooted in organised religion's ambit of sponsorship and claims of origin?

What is inescapable when analysing religious behaviour and belief globally is that it is fundamentally contradictory in terms of tenet, expression and assumed meaning. However what is also inescapable is the evidence that humanity - whether subsumed within religious and other superstitious beliefs or not - is capable of producing great "enrichment" and "benefits" at every turn. The credit for many of these is claimed by various religions (though not as vociferously when those benefits and enrichments emanate from scientific research and endeavour). But that is by the bye anyway. The important thing is that they keep coming thick and fast as long as people continue to interact, religion or no religion.


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 08:33

Posts like that are why you are referred to as El Supremo.

I know that around here people think you and I disagree on just about everything, nordmann, but we do not. I find myself more and more considering the truth of what you say.

@nordmann wrote:
The important thing is that they keep coming thick and fast as long as people continue to interact, religion or no religion.


Yes - especially the kindness bit.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 09:52

Posts like that are why you are referred to as El Supremo..

Indeed, but isn't it a bit dispiriting when ideas with which one had been struggling in an attempt to distil them into something comprehensible, but which remained woolly and disjointed, then appear perfectly crafted, elegantly expressed and rendered so succinctly in a few paragraphs.
I may have to go off and have another adolescent sulk.

This is so difficult to address because of the almost impossibility of teasing out the religious element from any other impulse or inspiration in the 'beneficial' products of any society since it seems to run through them all like a golden thread or the mycelium of a nasty fungus, according to one's viewpoint.

Regarding the arts, here's a Dawinian take on the evolution of aesthetcs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_aesthetics

While quite logical it's a bit simplistic to my mind as it does not seem to tackle adequately the origin of the creative impulse or the way that an artist will strive for the perfect expression of that impulse even if no-one else will ever see his work or if, in seeing it, rejects it.

We need a neurobiologist to explain the feedback mechanisms whereby the satisfaction we feel when viewing art or encountering altruism or even having a religious experience rewards us.
Is it all just down to serotonin? Is 'God' a neurotransmitter?
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 10:41

There are times when such discussion as ours begs for a table, chairs and jug of wine (large) to really enjoy it fully. Being adept with committed written word use does not come easy. I fling off posts - and topics subjects - as if in conversation and without prepared thought. So words like  'benefit' and 'enrichment' are spontanious and reek of my over simplification of the sort of notions that course through most heads at some time.
When I clicked send to this topic, I knew it would get soon get enmeshed with spirituality and definitions. However, every circle supports an infinite number of tangents (discuss that elsewhere, for God's sake) and back to myintent it was for - just as Gil deduced - a reflection on the several rewards to mankind that religions(assorted) have yes, enriched us.
Kindness surely came before awe of the inexplicable in human development and is an issue apart. Kindness - the truly best part of us - is probably not engrained in all religions, either. I suggest that sharmanism of central asia may have lacked that yet from it developed the most beautiful animal work in gold by Sythian craftsmen. Why we inner gasp at such beauty, is as ferv suggests, a further matter to ponder.
Ah, tying myself into yet a further knot to scratch out, perhaps I ought to restrain this topic raising itch.


Last edited by Priscilla on Fri 10 Jul 2015, 10:42; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Sloppy typing)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 10:55

@ferval wrote:
We need a neurobiologist to explain the feedback mechanisms whereby the satisfaction we feel when viewing art or encountering altruism or even having a religious experience rewards us.
Is it all just down to serotonin? Is 'God' a neurotransmitter?


Or is he a serotonin precursor, like 5-Hydroxytryptophan?

I've just come back from BCP Holy Communion - only three of us there, including the vicar. But the beauty of the little place and the beauty of those old words does restore the soul, just like the drugs. Perhaps some of us need both.

Oh dear, I too am about to tie myself in knots again.

Crossed posts, Priscilla - please do not restrain your "topic raising itch".
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 12:48

@Priscilla wrote:
Kindness surely came before awe of the inexplicable in human development and is an issue apart.

One would like to think so. It means that at least in some dim and distant stage of human development more thought went into practical sociability than into up-own-arsistic contemplation of navels (if such a mixed metaphor does not cause too gross an image to manifest itself in the imagination).

But unfortunately it is most definitely not an issue apart. It should be, of course, but alas many of those who think they are best placed to pontificate (sometimes quite literally) regarding such awe as you describe, as well as such inexplicably elusive invisible authorities inspiring this awe, also attempt to justify the self-serving logic which they hope explains their own assumed authority with a claim that they are simply trying to render their audience of adherents more inclined to be kind (amongst other stated aims), as if said audience could never achieve such a lofty goal without their assistance. This is typical of the circular, self-serving and fatuous reasoning of the religious mind, or at least those religious minds which confuse theology with actual knowledge because it has an ology at the end. (Do not trust ologies. Think "science" and "scientology")

Awe is a natural reaction to an impressive proposition which at first glance can only be perceived though an acceptance of supernatural means. Finding an alternative, natural and reasonable explanation is in fact a valid and very human response to such awe, and so far has proven in fact to be the response best suited to actually devising and providing fundamental improvements which can benefit all of humanity. Shortcut explanations for that awe based on guesswork, invention and egregious theory (also a human response apparently) have ultimately proved rather lacking in that regard, and though it helps keep the awe going is very difficult to justify against other people's equally egregious efforts to do exactly the same thing, just with different guesses, inventions and theories.

Anyway, you want awe? Imagine the universe.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 13:52

@nordmann wrote:
This is typical of the circular, self-serving and fatuous reasoning of the religious mind, or at least those religious minds which confuse theology with actual knowledge because it has an ology at the end.


@nordmann wrote:
It means that at least in some dim and distant stage of human development more thought went into practical sociability than into up-own-arsistic contemplation of navels (if such a mixed metaphor does not cause too gross an image to manifest itself in the imagination).


Ouch - as MM exclaimed yesterday.

I honestly do not know what to say to that post, so perhaps best not to say anything at all. Good advice I was given ages ago about discussing such stuff here and which - fool that I am - I ignored.

And there was me in pious and uplifted mode this morning - serves me right.

What is knowledge, please?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 14:24

Episteme.

To stray into Rumsfeld territory "that which is known to be known (and up as many levels within that logic as you wish)" as opposed to "that which is presumed to be known". In epistemics (as opposed to epistomology) there is a differentiation between presumption and knowledge cognitively because we know there is a difference, and we know we know it, and so on. However we cannot prosecute with equal certainty that we presume to know this, or presume we presume to know it, and so on. There is a difference, and our language and behaviour advertises that we know this too (and know we know it, and so on). Religious belief is hugely based on a blurring between the two in terms of relative importance and in terms of relative validity despite their cognitive disparities. All is presumption, as of course it must be, to a religious mind, and the same mind says we can presume that this presumption is as good as knowing gets. This circular logic works however only up to a very limited point cognitively itself, so in an effort to pretend that it is still a viable way of thinking beyond that point the justifications for ignoring the disparity become more convoluted, more fantastic, more circular, and more weak. Those who persistently and with determination doggedly trod that treadmill, having persuaded themselves that it is a bad option to jump off and re-enter a world of intellectual freedom, are in psychoanalytical terms condemned to retreat up their own nether orifice.

And by the way, you keep taking my "up-own-arsistic" references personally. Stop doing that! For one thing your enquiries and thoughts betray your distrust of the treadmill. There are so many far worthier and far more obvious candidates as you well know and I would prefer to discuss them with you than constantly risk you voluntarily fleeing to their ranks (presumably under some misguided sense of duty) and losing your contributions here.

Delighted to hear you were in uplifted mood earlier. But I have to admit that I am relieved the piousness has worn off.

Here, have a symbol of peace between us (I cooked it earlier)


Roast dove with mushrooms
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Fri 10 Jul 2015, 19:17

What an unkind thing to do to such a harmless creature.


The phoenix is a more interesting motif than the dove I think. I've been looking at traditional pictures of the phoenix with the dragon: I was going to post this on the dragon thread, but I'll put it here - a more suitable and dignified image for Priscilla's topic, I think, than the above burnt offering. The phoenix rising from the ashes has been a beautiful religious symbol in many cultures and faiths: mankind's agonising need for a triumph over death (literal or metaphorical) - the hope of a rebirth, a resurrection - is not, of course, something confined to the Christian religion.


The Japanese name for a phoenix is a hoho bird which, I must admit, is rather unfortunate - but she still stands for something very brave and noble and hopeful. Makes the Christian dove look a bit insipid. And trying to give a phoenix a roasting gets you nowhere.






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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sat 11 Jul 2015, 09:53

So getting back to benefits, education comes to mind. religious houses and persons endowed many of the fine institutions that continue to enrich progress. Yep, I'll stick with enrich and benefit whether or not they pass the site acid tests. Madrassas - not of current repute - in the past were also religious based places of great learning. Of other religions, I''m no sure, nor of Continental endowments - though I assume there were many. Latin and Greek would have dropped away long ago too, I imagine had it not been for branches of the Christian religion - as would pure Persian and Arabic, neither endowed with  huge classic non religious libraries. There - another meaty pie to trash. Spare the doves and awful remark regarding-awe, please.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sat 11 Jul 2015, 16:20

I suppose this is another benefit of "religion" or a byproduct of of "relegion" - monasticism. Also a better candidate for the spit than a dove (but don't tell Her Maj)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEnWhDPpvr0
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sat 11 Jul 2015, 21:37

@nordmann wrote:
I agree. It is hard to imagine beautiful Gothic architecture without religion behind it.

Or is it?




Nordmann,

as I know you, you meant that the belfry was indeed a Gothic architecture without religion behind it?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belfries_of_Belgium_and_France

Even a belfry at Saint Riquier
http://www.northernfrance-tourism.com/tourisme/the-belfry-of-saint-riquier.html
And the original belfry of Bruges had a spire...as the cathedrals...

But can't you say that this laymans Gothic was inspired by the Gothic cathedrals...? Wink

Kind regards and with esteem for your other messages in this thread, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 08:18

@Priscilla wrote:
There - another meaty pie to trash.



I'd put my trashing money on the murder of Hypatia and the burning of the library of Alexandria being offered as an example of how religion - notably the Christian sort - destroys rather than enriches. The film Agora certainly suggests that. But is this fair? This article by David Bentley Hart suggests not. I know nothing about the events of  A.D. 391 and A.D.415 - who does? - but I thought the film was rather disappointing - and not just because of its obvious atheist agenda. This from the article:

The story he* repeats is one that has been bruited about for a few centuries now, often by seemingly respectable historians. Its premise is that the Christians of late antiquity were a brutish horde of superstitious louts, who despised science and philosophy, and frequently acted to suppress both, and who also had a particularly low opinion of women.

Thus, supposedly, one tragic day in  a.d.  391, the Christians of Alexandria destroyed the city’s Great Library, burning its scrolls, annihilating the accumulated learning of centuries, and effectively inaugurating the “Dark Ages.” Thus also, in  a.d.  415, a group of Christians murdered Hypatia (young and beautiful, of course, as well as brilliant), not only because of her wicked dedication to profane intellectual culture, but also because of the frowardness with which she had forgotten her proper place as a woman.

This is almost all utter nonsense, but I have to suppose that Amenábar* believes it to be true.






http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2010/06/the-perniciously-persistent-myths-of-hypatia-and-the-great-library



The Hellenistic philosopher, Hypatia - young, beautiful and jolly brainy. Not a Christian - too clever.


Bishop (later Saint) Cyril of Alexandrai. He certainly looks like a right villain. A Christian.



*Alejandro Fernando Amenábar Cantos, commonly known as Alejandro Amenábar, director of Agora.



EDIT: here is a link to the Larry Rohter review in the NYTimes, mentioned by David Bentley Hart.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/movies/23agora.html?_r=0


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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 12:12

Finding examples of the  negative effects of a  religion spring faster to mind than perhaps the positive which promote the 'yeah, but what about...' response.So stepping deeper into this mire, I put missionary activity as having a  beneficial side.

Of my very close experience with missionionaries 'on the task force front' I have given much thought this week. In my 40 years of that abroad, I don't think theology, conversion or corruption of any kind ever arose in discussion with them nor was apparent in practice. Selfless service, generosity of time and labour, genuine caring and personal hardship however were their daily fare.An the peple benefiing from all this good work were of many faiths
 There were cruelties - head office insisting that missionary children wre boarded away from home in  the Salvation Army for one, by insisting  that for 5 years plus children to be sent hundreds of miles away finally ended in the 80's. I helped fight a test case on that.
Our history education used to dwell on the lives of famous missionaries - Father Damien, Livingstone - it is more to denegrate him no, I think - Gladys Alewood (sp?) spring to mind and I was inspired by suc tales as a child. Even then I could not see the point of the converstion thing and the relevance of bible stories, odd that because they are all set in  lands alien to me also, yet the fearless effort to  make lives better in remote places had great appeal. This missionaries did and still do. I have met many remarkable people doing great things in dangerous remote places because they feel a call through their faith and not in an effort to convert. I call that a benefit in this coconut shy of let's knock it all down,  response to this thread - more through default than attack, I admit. I asked for a meaty trash and got one so no offence intended, Temps, I understand what you say. I only hope you will stay on track and suggest some good things too because devil's advocates muddy my intent here. Organised religion is not my bag yet I acknowledge we do owe  a great debt to it. Now the world is in humanist hands - aside from the Islamic fronts, Charities abroad do what missionaries used to in great hardship and have taken over what ought be the major concern of the places in which they do it and who, hopefully, will one day.


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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 13:01

People motivated by their religious beliefs have achieved remarkably good works in humanitarian terms, there is no denying that. The real question of course (and one which our communal history has rendered forever hypothetical) is if similar vocational application would have occurred without the requirement of that particular motivation? My own experience of encounters with people of great courage, altruism, self-sacrifice and dedication to the betterment of life for others is that it is not contingent on faith in a supernatural deity at all, though of course such faith might provide a language and context by which the doer of good deeds can explain his or her actions. It certainly provides for many a context in which the trigger that sets them in motion vocationally can best be expressed publicly (especially to others who also share such supernatural faith). But altruism, as far as I can see, is not faith-related causally. There are far too many examples of it outside of that limited context for such to be the case.

Paul, yes. A secular tower can have been inspired by a previously constructed religious equivalent. My point is that a tower in itself has no faith, and nor was appreciation of the Gothic aesthetic on the part of the craftsmen who devised, developed and produced it, inspired by a deity, though the commitment to its construction might well have been believed to have been, even by the craftsman. But this is to limit one's analysis of the craftsman's behaviour strictly to the narrow historical context in which he operated and therefore does not in fact address the actual motivations that may have applied, at least when viewing his actions as executed in the service of his skills and the expression of an aesthetic as much as a God. Take away the religious paymasters and the society permeated with religious faith, obligation and duty, all of which combined to facilitate the conception and building of the first great Gothic structures, and then substitute it with a hypothetical alternative (imagine for example a Europe where absolute faith in the power of democracy had flourished with as equal a vigour as that which concerned the Christian theistic model), and the question arises immediately of whether an equally powerful facilitator for the expression of that aesthetic might also have occurred. I like to think it would have, and in fact the early Christian basilicas would tend to support that view, what with their being quite literally an aesthetic developed from one which served the basilicas' original secular purpose, one in fact which was quite democratic indeed and completely non-religious. The architectural progress in arch design which saw Romanesque replaced by Gothic as a prevalent aesthetic in large building design may still have happened. In fact it is difficult to imagine it not happening.

Temp, I agree. The film was crap. Bad acting, bad script and really bad history.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 18:58

The real question of course (and one which our communal history has rendered forever hypothetical) is if similar vocational application would have occurred without the requirement of that particular motivation? - quote from above post.

The real answer is, of course is, that it didn't occur that way, did it? So I bore you with a thread based on the way it has been and some reflections on it. Inmy experience deep faith was the motivation behind all the people I knew  engaged in such works - that includes several Americans who had done world-wide Peace Corps work. But all is not lost from your refections. With Christianity on the wane many without religious faiths are moving in to fill the void of good works in distant places. What we have yet to see is if the trend continues when trace of religious spur is distanced... and the salary and conditions suppport it beyond short bursts of hands on goodery to life long committment. My intent in this thread is to suggest that  the religious - or some of them bettered civilisation.
Pythagoras and his School got into a muddle of religion and maths but benefitted society -  and  was hounded and vilified for it. And of course, in supposing the humanist way, whatever people of his ilk developed we know would have eventually happened . Prof Hawkin raised a few eyebrows sometime back about creation but I've not had time to look into that.

I think there ought to be  thread about why the humanist democratic development is a bit slow in coming to fruition - with all those billions of fore-folk scattered over a moderate sized planet assorted religions seem to have come first everywhere. I am not suggesting that a shed load of monkeys would ever have come up with a Gothic arch eventually, only reflecting on what actually happened.


Last edited by Priscilla on Sun 12 Jul 2015, 19:03; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : several)
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 19:09

 ... there ought to be a thread about why the humanist democratic development is a bit slow in coming to fruition ... - quote from the above post

But one can see that it has been in a state of blissful fruition all along, can't one? Simply badly accredited, that's all. Or are you saying that being humanist and democratic somehow excludes religious belief and vice versa? I would rather see it as many religious people (having been brought up to be this) having nevertheless behaved with admirably humanist altruism towards their fellow human beings. I even know some religious people who are probably even prepared to give this democracy thing a go! But what is certainly true is that by no means all religious people are inclined to display such altruistic tendencies. There has to be another factor in play that produces such exceptionally selfless and good behaviour, and whatever that factor might be is apparently the possession of no one expression of faith or faithlessness in theistic beliefs.

So you see, don't worry. We are still talking about what "has been" and I'm not bored at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 20:58

"Paul, yes. A secular tower can have been inspired by a previously constructed religious equivalent. My point is that a tower in itself has no faith, and nor was appreciation of the Gothic aesthetic on the part of the craftsmen who devised, developed and produced it, inspired by a deity, though the commitment to its construction might well have been believed to have been, even by the craftsman. But this is to limit one's analysis of the craftsman's behaviour strictly to the narrow historical context in which he operated and therefore does not in fact address the actual motivations that may have applied, at least when viewing his actions as executed in the service of his skills and the expression of an aesthetic as much as a God. Take away the religious paymasters and the society permeated with religious faith, obligation and duty, all of which combined to facilitate the conception and building of the first great Gothic structures, and then substitute it with a hypothetical alternative (imagine for example a Europe where absolute faith in the power of democracy had flourished with as equal a vigour as that which concerned the Christian theistic model), and the question arises immediately of whether an equally powerful facilitator for the expression of that aesthetic might also have occurred. I like to think it would have, and in fact the early Christian basilicas would tend to support that view, what with their being quite literally an aesthetic developed from one which served the basilicas' original secular purpose, one in fact which was quite democratic indeed and completely non-religious. The architectural progress in arch design which saw Romanesque replaced by Gothic as a prevalent aesthetic in large building design may still have happened. In fact it is difficult to imagine it not happening."

Nordmann I hadn't expected another answer from you...and that means that I have always a great esteem for your logical and to the point replies...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 22:03

@Temperance wrote:
@Priscilla wrote:
What have been the benefits of the world's many religions? Some posts condemn the very notion of any form of religion yet our lives have been and continue to be moulded by religious circumstance, Would  the several enrichments that we enjoy have evolved without?


What an interesting - and difficult - question, Priscilla.

Thinking of all that has been inspired by religion (not just Christianity) - the music, the painting, the sculpture, the architecture, the literature - one realises what a gap there would be in our world had humans never looked up at the sky in fear, in despair - or in hope. But your question is, I think -  would such art ("enrichment") have come about without what some view as a primitive need for the "Divine", a need that we should by now have grown out - or evolved out - of?

I really don't know.

We talk about a work of art being "inspired". I looked up the etymology:
 


v. mid-14c., enspiren, "to fill (the mind, heart, etc., with grace, etc.);" also "to prompt or induce (someone to do something)," from Old French enspirer (13c.), from Latin inspirare "inflame; blow into" (see inspiration ), a loan-translation of Greek pnein in the Bible.  

I've tried to find the use of "pnein" , but I cannot, not even in Strong's Lexicon. I wondered if the word suggested/meant the same as "muse". It's not Holy Spirit, I think - that's parakletos. But muse is quite different: Greek mousa is a common noun as well as a type of goddess: it literally means "art" or "poetry".

Rambling dreadfully here, but hope you get my train of thought.

D.M. Thomas, the author of The White Hotel, wrote this about Mozart's Requiem:

The Friday of Whitsun, 1998, was the first time I truly heard Mozart's requiem - though I had listened to it often; and the first time I saw our garden, though I have lived here for ten years. I had driven my wife to hospital to undergo radiotherapy. We knew it could not cure her, only mitigate the pain. As, nauseous, she rested in bed after, I walked round our large, slanting Cornish garden, grieving for her, our son, and myself...I felt an anguished wonder suddenly, at the garden she had created out of a wilderness...Now at last , on a radiant afternoon, I could see the whole vibrant, fully realised garden; the wilderness given form...I went to my study overlooking the garden and put on the Requiem. Every section, every phrase, now fully lived: Et Lux Perpetua (Everlasting light), Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy) - for the ground of our relationship has been as bumpy, sometimes, as our garden and I was in need of mercy. The Rex Tremendae Majestatis brought me unbearably up against the mystery of this beautiful, heartbreaking universe..."

I don't know why I'm quoting this here, but you, Priscilla, will perhaps understand my reasons. Perhaps without an awareness of the beauty and the heartbreak, no art is possible. Scientists and the rationalists can - with logic and great erudition - give us the facts we need, but they do not satisfy our human yearning for some kind of meaning. In coping with the heartbreak of it all, it seems we need God or Mozart or Caravaggio or the Hebrew psalmist or Homer or whoever. That need, that terrible, primitive yearning, doesn't seem to go away, whatever "giant leaps"  we humans make.



I typed this a couple of hours ago, then got interrupted - posts have appeared since. Will still send - haven't read P. and N.'s yet.


Dear Temperance,

I wanted this to post the day before yesterday and see that especially by Nordmann and Priscilla my post is already outdated...what I wanted to say that emotion and indeed art isn't always related to religion...
I would give the example of Shostakovich with his Leningrad...




http://www.npr.org/2014/11/02/358124326/amid-hunger-and-cold-an-unforgettable-symphony-premiere


Yes and his


https://soundcloud.com/giorquestra/shostakovich-waltz-2-jazz-suite-no-2

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 22:19

"There has to be another factor in play that produces such exceptionally selfless and good behaviour, and whatever that factor might be is apparently the possession of no one expression of faith or faithlessness in theistic beliefs."

Nordmann,

I was thinking along this lines as I have a vague rememberance that I had mentioned this already in a similar thread overhere...about guilt and the perspection of good and bad and sins?...

about the human being evoluated in a groups social environment...with feelings of empathy and friction within this group...feelings of empathy and sacrifice for the better behaviour of the group...feelings of fairness even already present by the ape forbears...
and as such the originators of big emotions that can lead to art or to the greater good of the group, but at the same time also to bitter quarrels...?

Too late this evening to further elaborate or research these thoughts...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 22:35

This is the big problem, Paul, with this type of question. While "religion" can of course be credited with acting as the spur for some laudable behaviour and stunningly sublime works of beauty, there is always the dilemma of how then equally laudable behaviour and creativity without religion as a motive comes about. What would appear to be the root motive is indeed a primeval one planted long ago in our most fundamental core of consciousness in which basic morality as well as a drive to create have been indelibly forged to a standard that seems incredibly uniform throughout the entire race. The propensity to accredit proofs of these by now instinctive attributes to a religious cause may also be something that is pretty common too (though not universal). But it fails ultimately as a logical reason when examined closely.

A great Gothic cathedral, or indeed any beautiful religious artefact or good deed done with a declared religious reason as its motive, can of course be ascribed to religion and therefore listed as a benefit bestowed on humanity by religious faith. But does that simply ignore the actual root cause of the deed? Just as when wicked things are done in religion's name - can't we all readily see how all too glib and pat a deduction that is? Why not also then for the good stuff?
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 23:20

Nevertheless the ostensible reason for the wars and the art and architecture is still given as a religious one (not always of course).

The same arguments of whether it would have happened anyway apply to the following, but I feel that religion often (always?) gives a framework for people to live by.  Judaism seems to be full of rules that are based on what their god wanted; Christianity picked up on that to make the changes they felt were needed, but still keeping a religious backing to their ideas.  Ditto with changes over the years to Christian ideals and behaviour.  And that seems to be the case with any religious belief whether modern or ancient, part of large civilisations or tiny island communities.

It's hard to know how to compare religious communities with non-religious ones for this purpose, since there seem to be very few cultures that don't attribute the reasons for their actions to their gods and what they wish.  And those that have deliberately got rid of religious belief (I am thinking of communism here) seem to put the wishes of their rulers in its place with very strong sanctions against those who disagree. 

Before scientific knowledge brought new information to people, the thought of a god or gods leading the world and needing to be appeased influenced the behaviour of people in all sorts of ways - their relationships, their food gathering and preparation, their community living, their sacrificial and other offerings, scapegoating of people, their organisation of housing, etc.  Other elements of health and hygiene, safety, hunger, need for new horizons and the like affected their living too, but appeasing gods was a strong focus. 

And even today, while there are horrific exceptions especially regarding people in power, religion seems to ensure people behave well.  I live in a very religious Christian wee community and the kids from those religious families are the leaders at the school, the kids who do best academically and at sports (in the main), and really do make the teachers' work easier than in other communities where religious belief is less.  I think a sense of shame comes with religion too, which may not always be a good thing at all, but a lack of it isn't either, as you see in some young people who couldn't care less about what anyone thinks of their actions and indeed revel in notoriety and criminal behaviour.  (A lesening of a sense of community may be as much an effect here as religious restrictions, of course, though often they go together.)
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Sun 12 Jul 2015, 23:50

@Caro wrote:

It's hard to know how to compare religious communities with non-religious ones for this purpose, since there seem to be very few cultures that don't attribute the reasons for their actions to their gods and what they wish.  And those that have deliberately got rid of religious belief (I am thinking of communism here) seem to put the wishes of their rulers in its place with very strong sanctions against those who disagree. 


I'm not sure those religions that don't have a personal god at their centre (Buddhism, and perhaps Animism) don't offer a non-Communist alternative, Caro.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 08:44

Caro, you raise the other great complication when discussing attribution of personal and social traits and behaviours to religious systems or allegiance. To what extent do the community's morality, ethos and standards of behaviour conform to those of their nominal faith or conversely to what extent does the opposite actually apply? In small communities the join can be almost invisible and the answer to the question almost negligible, as for the participants no significant social upheaval or readjustment will result from ascertaining either direction as the primary one in that relationship - the rules as well as the religion's role in defining their community and the effect of both all work just as well when described either way. The communal agreement regarding behavioural standards, the role of faith, expectation of change, requirement for change etc, holds regardless.

One could be almost forgiven for using this fact as a basis for inferring that the question of religious attribution is therefore irrelevant, or at least those communities who employ religion as one tool for forging self-identity should be allowed do so without question. That is, until one sees close-up what happens when two such communities with no feasible prospect of physical separation begin to interact aggressively. Adherence to a religion - especially one extolling the virtues of peace one would think - should at that point automatically promote a calming role amongst the adherents, one facilitating resolution rather than escalation of the aggression. In Northern Ireland, where this infamously occurred, there were even officials within both religious camps who from the very start attempted to act on that perceived role, a brave and incredibly altruistic action on their individual part in the circumstances that quickly prevailed. The communities however did not necessarily respond to this altruistic gesture from their religious leaders (who were after all simply iterating core tenets of both sides' religious codes and not requesting either side do anything beyond its self-adopted religious mores) and instead, as the aggression escalated, the religious dimension to their competing identities was often employed and exaggerated by these two competing and self-distinct communities as a tool to heighten that aggression and even lend it spurious justification on religious grounds. General morality, mores and concepts of justifiable action bore increasingly little resemblance to those which the communities' faiths "ostensibly" (as that word has been used before) dictated, even as statements of religious allegiance grew more vehement. What was essentially a political problem, resolvable only through political means, had analysis of its nature corrupted and its path to resolution radically hindered rather than helped by its religious dimension in terms of community identity.

While isolated, self-contained and moderately sized communities might avoid such a problem due to the homogeneous nature of their communal standards remaining largely unchallenged from within, the issue however becomes even more fraught with difficulty in establishing the true source of communal ethos and morality when judged in the context of large, multicultural and multi-ethnic conurbations. Again it is easy to see how religion becomes even more a badge of identity in such populations, but also due as much to the sheer number of people involved, often competitively, within the community as a whole, religion exacerbates rather than resolves many of the internal conflicts that arise. Again, like in Northern Ireland, the religion's spokespeople might actively try to deter people from using their so-called spiritual code primarily as a badge of allegiance in what is essentially political conflict, but again the reticence on the part of the same actors to admit that political conflicts ultimately result in secular solutions hinders their own efforts and allows the use of their avowed faith to actually work towards destroying the larger community that these faiths should "ostensibly" (as this word has been used before) be actively nurturing.

If however one looks past the "ostensible" and attempts to analyse the interaction between individuals and communal faith systems as simply one more aspect to the general social dynamic that applies anytime, anywhere and regardless of which individual organised faith system might predominate in any given area, then one is obliged to find some rather more fundamentally logical reasons why people behave the way they do - when and why they conform to existing rule structures, when and why they elect to evolve these structures further, when and why they react against them, and when and why they might ultimately abandon them, as individuals, as groups, and as communities on the whole. Religion does not even begin to address these questions in any helpful manner, it being a symptom of the human interaction under analysis, not an ultimately formative cause.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 16:43

How embarrassing that you have reproduced my stupid and muddled post in its entirety, Paul.

Of course I understand that emotion and art are not "always related to religion". That isn't at all what I was trying to say. But it is no wonder that I confused you: I confuse myself.

I wandered into Exeter library today, feeling totally lost and unable to cope with either the people in Church or with the posters here. All seem so confident, so secure in their belief or their lack of belief, whereas I am all at sea.

In my misery (and believe me, it was misery), I came across, quite unexpectedly, a book I had never heard of: The Rage Against God, written by Peter Hitchens, brother of the infamous Chris. Peter Hitchens, like A.N. Wilson, lost his faith, but has now returned to the Anglican fold. He writes this in his foreword:

The difficulties of the anti-theists begin when they try to engage with anyone who does not agree with them, when their reaction is often a frustrated rage that the rest of us are so stupid. But what if this is not the problem? Their refusal to accept that others might be as intelligent as they, yet disagree, leads them into many snares..."

Hitchens' first chapter is: "The generation who were too clever to believe."

@nordmann wrote:
But what is certainly true is that by no means all religious people are inclined to display such altruistic tendencies. There has to be another factor in play that produces such exceptionally selfless and good behaviour, and whatever that factor might be is apparently the possession of no one expression of faith or faithlessness in theistic beliefs.


Yet - I must admit - I actually agree totally with that; and so, ironically, would Saint Paul (well, maybe - I think so). Isn't that what he meant in his sublime first letter to the Corinthians:

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

Isn't the other factor simply love? Not soppy, weak, enabling, hippy-dippy, happy-clappy love, but real good will - the impulse to understand and empathise with others, rather than knock them down, belittle or despise them?

I'm sorry, Priscilla, such ramblings are not what you want here - I was going to mention how interesting I found Caro's comments and talk about Edmund Burke and religion and the French Revolution and getting rid of God and anarchy and social cohesion and all that, but I'm honestly too depressed at the moment. Who cares, anyway? Back later I expect.

Edit: but I will add, Caro, that some of the most disturbed children come from respectable, church-going, middle-class families. The defiant, swearing, hoodie-wearing adolescent who honestly shouts: "Don't give me that happy-clappy bullshit!" is often, psychologically speaking, healthier than the apparently "normal", but obedient, submissive and terrified child who is not allowed/encouraged to think - or feel - or reason - for him or herself.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 18:30

Why so depressed, Temp? Wouldn't it be better and more truly uplifting to think that the love, kindness and care that most of us do, and always did, show to each other arises, not from following the rules of some religion or an impulse embedded in us by some beneficent deity , but from the common humanity  that we have acquired during our long evolution and from all that we have learned as we have striven to live successfully together in communities.  

I believe that the precepts of religion that are laudable and the judicial laws that are just are fundamentally the codification of what we know innately to be right and not something handed down from on high, spiritually or temporally. We don't always get it right but neither do the religions.

The difficulties of the anti-theists begin when they try to engage with anyone who does not agree with them, when their reaction is often a frustrated rage that the rest of us are so stupid. But what if this is not the problem? Their refusal to accept that others might be as intelligent as they, yet disagree, leads them into many snares..."

One could easily replace 'anti-theists' with 'theists' and the quote would be equally true.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 18:47

ferval quoting Me quoting Peter Hitchens wrote:
The difficulties of the anti-theists begin when they try to engage with anyone who does not agree with them, when their reaction is often a frustrated rage that the rest of us are so stupid. But what if this is not the problem? Their refusal to accept that others might be as intelligent as they, yet disagree, leads them into many snares..."

One could easily replace 'anti-theists' with 'theists' and the quote would be equally true.


Absolutely - which is what my Buddhist friend meant when she said to me (when I was ranting and raving against the Christian fundamentalists) - "And you, my dear, are just like them - you always have to be right."

Why so depressed? What a stupid question.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 21:08

@Priscilla wrote:
The real question of course (and one which our communal history has rendered forever hypothetical) is if similar vocational application would have occurred without the requirement of that particular motivation? - quote from above post.

The real answer is, of course is, that it didn't occur that way, did it? So I bore you with a thread based on the way it has been and some reflections on it. Inmy experience deep faith was the motivation behind all the people I knew  engaged in such works - that includes several Americans who had done world-wide Peace Corps work. But all is not lost from your refections. With Christianity on the wane many without religious faiths are moving in to fill the void of good works in distant places. What we have yet to see is if the trend continues when trace of religious spur is distanced... and the salary and conditions suppport it beyond short bursts of hands on goodery to life long committment. My intent in this thread is to suggest that  the religious - or some of them bettered civilisation.
Pythagoras and his School got into a muddle of religion and maths but benefitted society -  and  was hounded and vilified for it. And of course, in supposing the humanist way, whatever people of his ilk developed we know would have eventually happened . Prof Hawkin raised a few eyebrows sometime back about creation but I've not had time to look into that.

I think there ought to be  thread about why the humanist democratic development is a bit slow in coming to fruition - with all those billions of fore-folk scattered over a moderate sized planet assorted religions seem to have come first everywhere. I am not suggesting that a shed load of monkeys would ever have come up with a Gothic arch eventually, only reflecting on what actually happened.



Priscilla,

I wanted first to reply to your "missionary" message with our Belgian Congo missionaries, who did a lot of good work and still do and of course for most the religion was their motivation and also because they were from their youth on embedded in the faith. But as I know some there were also ones with not only this motivation, but ones who made for themselves a "task" in their lives to fullfil...but yes whatever the motivation I had always great respect for them...
But I saw also a new breed in a documentary of young dedicated and motivated people who do now the same work in the ex-Belgian Congo as before the missionaries...I agree that as you suggested they can have had in their education still the influence of our Catholic religion from the past...

No, your question in the opening message is difficult to answer, what would have happened if we hadn't had religion and perhaps I will have to copy it to a reply to Ferval.
I still presume from all what I read that mankind had to pass the intermediate of "religion" with all the inherent complications characteristic to it...with all its good sides and all its bad ones...

And yes perhaps is our modern greedy egocentric Western community not the ideal breeding ground for the great altruistic solidarity...but as a modern society it can change...perhaps quickly...I hope in the altruistic sense...but there we come again to the fundamental question of inborn fairness...

Read this evening on my French "Forum géopolitique" some tirade from a leftist Frenchman about Greece and Germany...really insulting for the Germans with references to their former behaviour in both WW... I am not sure if I will interfere and say that the whole Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) has exactly the same point of view as Germany and if I am not wrong Denmark and  Finland too...in my opinion it is a clash between the state orientated Socialists of the South with the more Liberal Democrat orientated North...a kind of Belgium with a Socialist Wallonia and a Liberal Flanders, but on European level...but even in Belgium the Liberals are gaining in Wallonia and the Socialist oriented (even from the unions fraction of the Christian Democratic party) parties are gaining in Flanders again...

Kind regards, your dedicated Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 21:14

@nordmann wrote:
This is the big problem, Paul, with this type of question. While "religion" can of course be credited with acting as the spur for some laudable behaviour and stunningly sublime works of beauty, there is always the dilemma of how then equally laudable behaviour and creativity without religion as a motive comes about. What would appear to be the root motive is indeed a primeval one planted long ago in our most fundamental core of consciousness in which basic morality as well as a drive to create have been indelibly forged to a standard that seems incredibly uniform throughout the entire race. The propensity to accredit proofs of these by now instinctive attributes to a religious cause may also be something that is pretty common too (though not universal). But it fails ultimately as a logical reason when examined closely.

A great Gothic cathedral, or indeed any beautiful religious artefact or good deed done with a declared religious reason as its motive, can of course be ascribed to religion and therefore listed as a benefit bestowed on humanity by religious faith. But does that simply ignore the actual root cause of the deed? Just as when wicked things are done in religion's name - can't we all readily see how all too glib and pat a deduction that is? Why not also then for the good stuff?


Nordmann, yes that's it what I wanted to say and as usual you worded that so eloquent.

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 21:52

@Caro wrote:
Nevertheless the ostensible reason for the wars and the art and architecture is still given as a religious one (not always of course).

The same arguments of whether it would have happened anyway apply to the following, but I feel that religion often (always?) gives a framework for people to live by.  Judaism seems to be full of rules that are based on what their god wanted; Christianity picked up on that to make the changes they felt were needed, but still keeping a religious backing to their ideas.  Ditto with changes over the years to Christian ideals and behaviour.  And that seems to be the case with any religious belief whether modern or ancient, part of large civilisations or tiny island communities.

It's hard to know how to compare religious communities with non-religious ones for this purpose, since there seem to be very few cultures that don't attribute the reasons for their actions to their gods and what they wish.  And those that have deliberately got rid of religious belief (I am thinking of communism here) seem to put the wishes of their rulers in its place with very strong sanctions against those who disagree. 

Before scientific knowledge brought new information to people, the thought of a god or gods leading the world and needing to be appeased influenced the behaviour of people in all sorts of ways - their relationships, their food gathering and preparation, their community living, their sacrificial and other offerings, scapegoating of people, their organisation of housing, etc.  Other elements of health and hygiene, safety, hunger, need for new horizons and the like affected their living too, but appeasing gods was a strong focus. 

And even today, while there are horrific exceptions especially regarding people in power, religion seems to ensure people behave well.  I live in a very religious Christian wee community and the kids from those religious families are the leaders at the school, the kids who do best academically and at sports (in the main), and really do make the teachers' work easier than in other communities where religious belief is less.  I think a sense of shame comes with religion too, which may not always be a good thing at all, but a lack of it isn't either, as you see in some young people who couldn't care less about what anyone thinks of their actions and indeed revel in notoriety and criminal behaviour.  (A lesening of a sense of community may be as much an effect here as religious restrictions, of course, though often they go together.)


Caro,

that is a great post of yours...underestimated your in depth approaches...perhaps because you up to now didn't take part in such subjects... Wink ...and I couldn't evaluate... Wink ...

"Before scientific knowledge brought new information to people, the thought of a god or gods leading the world and needing to be appeased influenced the behaviour of people in all sorts of ways - their relationships, their food gathering and preparation, their community living, their sacrificial and other offerings, scapegoating of people, their organisation of housing, etc.  Other elements of health and hygiene, safety, hunger, need for new horizons and the like affected their living too, but appeasing gods was a strong focus. "

That was what I wanted to say to Priscilla..."before scientific knowledge brought new information to people..."...Religion is perhaps an unavoidable part of our quick human ascendance (one million years on the how many...of the origin of life on earth...(I nearly wrote "creation" Wink ...how are we conditioned... Wink ...)

"And even today, while there are horrific exceptions especially regarding people in power, religion seems to ensure people behave well.  I live in a very religious Christian wee community and the kids from those religious families are the leaders at the school, the kids who do best academically and at sports (in the main), and really do make the teachers' work easier than in other communities where religious belief is less.  I think a sense of shame comes with religion too, which may not always be a good thing at all, but a lack of it isn't either, as you see in some young people who couldn't care less about what anyone thinks of their actions and indeed revel in notoriety and criminal behaviour.  (A lesening of a sense of community may be as much an effect here as religious restrictions, of course, though often they go together.)"

I suppose (and it is not à la Nordmann I am speaking now) that as the great religions originated from "thinkers", who in some way copied what was living in their society...societies with a kind of "natural laws" which favour social cohesion of the group and as such altruistic behaviour within the group...it is a guideline that all these religions have a bit the same humanist background...? But when encountering another group they can be perhaps a bit severe against those "infidels"...?

And yes about students, the supposition of being better than the "rest" mostly accompanied with more discipline can be a strong impetus to a better academic formation...?

Kind regards from the European peninsula, Paul.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 21:56

Nordmann,

I read now your reply to Caro...

Kind regards and thanks for that elaborated reply.

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Mon 13 Jul 2015, 22:13

Temperance,

"I wandered into Exeter library today, feeling totally lost and unable to cope with either the people in Church or with the posters here. All seem so confident, so secure in their belief or their lack of belief, whereas I am all at sea."

"all seem so confident"

me, staying alone, with all my new acquired knowledge, only an infinitesimal part of the ungoing earthly evolution in that cosmos of millions (perhaps billions) earths as ours...no comfort of a guiding God, who cares for us...only the satisfaction that we did right in our short life what we did...and the hope that our deeds would be remembered for some time by our extended family and outer circle...

Or could it be that perhaps there is something in that cosmos that... Wink ???

Kind regards from your friend, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 09:16

Paul, you brought in Shostakovitch earlier as an example of the plethora of fine non religious composers; the existence of those is obviously unquestioned. Interestingly, He and Benjamin Brittan shared high mutual regard. Brittan of course was a devout Christian and jittery Shostakovitch - who suffered a lifetime of off/on Communist recognition was not. He said "No, I do not believe in God - I regret to say." That addendum raises reflective curiosity that I'll leave hanging.
Much music written with  religious  intent is sublime - benefit is too shallow a word to define it. Having sung  much of it in choral concerts for 25 years - a hard intense effort for people like me, forever learning - there are moments when  you sense an awe beyond words. Brittan has done this for me - a depth of profound melancholic awe in his case where  Shostakovitch  has not. And I was raised  on his stuff by an odd - and unlikely - grandmother  enthralled by his music. The point being that I and many friends acknowledge getting huge enriching benefits from sacred music and no denying. Denial; now there's my thought for the day.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 11:25

@Priscilla wrote:
The point being that I and many friends acknowledge getting huge enriching benefits from sacred music and no denying.

Me too. A sense of profound regret that it took delusion to inspire it is often immediately swamped by the sheer sublimity of the experience, when it's done well of course.

Here's an interesting one. Brahms' "A German Requiem" is a work that consumes the listener in complete absorption of the senses, keeps them prisoner for the duration, and then gently places them back in the mundane when it's over. A beautiful experience, the words lifted verbatim from the Lutheran Bible and the music from somewhere other-worldly, and yet Brahms himself (of whom the devout Catholic Dvorak once despairingly remarked ""Such a man, such a fine soul - and he believes in nothing! He believes in nothing!" ) explained that he intentionally only selected those tracts of Luther's bible that could not be construed as Christian dogma, omitted even references to "God" or "Jesus" (not easy in a requiem, though he allowed "Herr" to stand), and explained to his friends that the highest compliment for the work he received was when it was roundly criticised by the German bishops for its non-religious themes. And yet you will constantly find "A German Requiem" held aloft as a supreme piece of religious music and its atheist/agnostic composer as a champion of the genre.



Another atheist, George Bernard Shaw, did not share my esteem for the composition, it must be said. It lacked too many Wagnerian blonde fat women and swooping Valkyries for his liking, I imagine, and he dismissed it as "obviously from the establishment of a first class undertaker".
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 15:03

Your Handy Ref Book of Humanists in Denial seems to have overlooked Bach's several cantatas that mention  Names...... I recall a great one I sang about the heavens raising praises to God.... and singing it in German so no shifty translations there - as in say Jesu Joy ......But then the poor guy was under church pressure and in need of a steady buck or two. That does not say much for his integrity, does it? So Bach was a bit of a pragmatic wimp then.  Shostakovitch. on the other hand - with a trip to Siberia often on the cards managed to write  a piece that countered anti semitism ... and even used old Jewish folk tunes for something. Bach's bishops seemed to have gone along with it all - as did Stalin when it suited.
If I seem amused its because I have lived very closely among people of several differing faiths - about 6 -  or  with none at all, who were all so very sure of themselves it was comic. Then there were the many denominations within those faiths - about 20 plus of those. Who can wonder why God made black holes?
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 15:55

Ah, I see what you did there. In your haste you have seemingly confused Brahms (of whom I spoke) with Bach (who you apparently have sung), an understandable mistake since both composers, despite living a century and a half apart, despite writing in very different musical genres, despite having radically different views regarding Christianity and despite their obvious dissimilarity in almost every other respect (one obvious one being their view on procreation), both had a surname beginning with B. I sometimes get Beethoven and Bowie confused for the same reason.

If I seem amused it's because, despite the obvious risk of accusation of being too sure of myself, I am still pretty confident that the two lads were not one and the same. In fact the only G-string upon which Brahms might have composed an air would most likely have been Clara Schumann's.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 16:35

Well. so I did! I was taken aback by your assertion - should have not gone to spec savers. I have sung some Brahms biblical verses but can't recall the detail. Phew, poor old Bach when he did so well at religious stuff - benefitting me no end. Sorry you have confusion with your Bowie - hope you get it sorted soon. Spiritualists recommend a hands on approach but that might be benefit too far.

Of course you are sure of yourself; no one else can do it for you. Keep the handbook handy. I shall now muddle on further through my tax return - fewer laughs that's for sure but probably worse errors. I might have benefitted more if I had made religious donations - ah opportunities lost yet again.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 18:54

So far we have had architecture, references to visual arts, and music. How about literature? Any glowing examples spring to mind?
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 22:20

Apart from the obvious Judaist ones like the Bible and the Koran and writings in other literacies, in England at least, and probably all over western Europe, it seems to have been the clerics in religious houses who were mostly responsible for the written language being permeated through society.  And presumably for the style and subject matter it tended to take.

I am reading Juliet Barker's England, Arise: The People, the King & the Great Revolt of 1381 and she talks of how pervasive religious people were in the community - 1 in thirty were members of religious orders or fully ordained, and far more were members of minor orders who were tonsured, or just itinerant preachers.  These people would have been literate (in the main at least), - she said literacy was regarded as proof of a clerical vocation, and if people could recite the neck- verse (the first verse of the 51st psalm) that showed they were literate and therefore clerics.  (I haven't gone to check that verse, but in a pre-literate society, couldn't anyone learn this by heart and get the benefits of being a clergyman?)

Barker does go on to say that "though clerics liked to consider that they had the monopoly on learning they, and consequently later generations, greatly underestimated the levels of literacy among the laity of the period."  She said that included often women and girls. However that is in one specific period, in earlier times it was the monks who kept the written word coming.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Tue 14 Jul 2015, 23:26

I offer Hafiz of Shiraz's sufic poetry - and Rumi's too but duck  from attempting remark beoynd their extraordinary and many layered experience.
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PostSubject: Re: Religions - The Benefits   Wed 15 Jul 2015, 07:55

I would agree with that one.

One could also add versions of the bible - the contribution that the KJV has made to English for example counts as one of the two single greatest literary sources for enrichment of that tongue (and this time the term is completely apt). Shakespeare counts as the other of course.

Religious faiths, by their very definition, are bound to encourage some brilliant fictions, especially fictions containing philosophical and metaphysical content that other genres might tend to avoid or do badly (even if both are rather eclectically represented within the religious ouvre and the fiction is often egregiously presented as fact). The enduring appeal of some of these is evident from their provenance, sometimes from long before written records and previously through countless generations of oral transmission. The unbroken literary line between any children's version of Noah's Ark in book form, for example, right back to pre-Akkadian Sumerian legend is testament to how religious faith can inspire literature (and literacy) with impressively consistent thematic application from almost quite literally the "dawn of civilisation" up to now. And though the flood story is also a good illustration of how some fiction transcends all religious faiths in that it is to be found as a core belief within religious codes which do not even recognise each other as "true faith" I'm still not sure if the same claim for consistent longevity could be made for any other single motivation to write stuff.

Religion as a source for good literature seems to work best when it isn't done self-consciously or with an attempt to advertise or proselytise. However it also has to be said that in terms of words written this represents alas only a very tiny proportion of the output. Still, when it works - as in when it successfully marries style, intellect, morality and philosophy - it can indeed be sublime.
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