My views on Religion

Cpt_pineapple
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My views on Religion

Whenever I question other atheist's views on religion, I get the same response. It seems that there is confusion as to my views on religion, cognition and society.

Ergo, this entry is not necessarly a response to any one argument, rather my views on the subject. I will focus specifically on religion and society, not on the relationship between personality and enviroment which came under discussion recently.

 

 

My View

 

I take the stance of Scott Atran

Quote:
  • I think that religion is basically a neutral vessel. It has done everything you can imagine, and its contrary. And there is nothing intrinsic about religion, for the good or the bad.


  • This seems to make intuitive sense. Ask 100 different Christians about God and their religion and get 100 different answers. Religion seems to be subjective. Compare Ken Miller to Ray Comfort, compare Obama to Bush, compare Martin Luther King to Adolf Hitler. All are Christian.

    Some are extremely intelligent, some complete morons. Some good moral role models, others despicable human beings.



    Now why is this? Doesn't religion promote intolerance and terrorism?

     

    The Data

     

    I believe that any hypothesis should be put up to empirical study. Whether it's the Earth is 6000 years old or that religion will destroy us all.


    Greg Paul cites that religiousity in nations is a positive predictor of social dysfunction, where as non-religious countries showed the lowest dysfunction [1]

    Quote:


     Among the prosperous democracies all but the U.S. have adopted most or all of a set of pragmatic progressive governmental policies that have elevated these nation’s societal efficiency, success and security while reducing personal levels of stress and anxiety. These include reduced socioeconomic disparity and competition via targeted tax and welfare strategies, handgun control, anti-corporal punishment and anti-bullying policies, protection for women in abusive relationships, intensive sex education that emphasizes condom use, rehabilitative incarceration, increased leisure time that can be dedicated to family needs, and perhaps most importantly job security and universal health care that make it difficult for ordinary citizens to suffer catastrophic financial failure. Social ills are correspondingly suppressed. As a member of the 1st world the U.S. is an anomalous outlier not only in its religiosity, but in social, economic and political policies as well. Provided with comparatively low levels of government support and protection in favor of less restrained capitalism, members of the middle class are at serious risk of financial and personal ruin if they lose their job or private health insurance; around a million go bankrupt in a year, about half due in part to often overwhelming medical bills. The need to acquire wealth as a protective buffer encourages an intense competitive race to the top, which contributes to income inequality. The latter leaves a large cohort mired in poverty. Levels of societal pathology are correspondingly high. The evidence indicates that the modulation of capitalism via progressive policies is producing superior overall national circumstances compared to the more laissez-faire capitalism favored in the U.S.




    Here we have a correlation. What does it mean for A and B to be correlated? What does this say about cause?

    Well, three options present themselves:

    A] A causes B or vice versa. A direct relationship [If it's a positive correlation, increase in one causes an increase in the other and same with decrease. If it's negative, an increase in one causes a decrease in the other]. For example, cold weather most likely causes people to bundle up with a cup of hot chocolate.


    B] An underlaying factor causes BOTH A and B. Buying doggy treats is correlated with happiness. Both are caused by owning a dog. [Though sometimes the dog can sometimes decrease the latter rather than increasing it] To say this example is the first option, is to say eating doggy treats increases happiness!


    C] Neither are related: global warming and number of pirates.


    So as you can see, more detailed research is required than a simple correlation.


    And has been done:

    For example, University of British Colombia Social Psychologist Ara Norenzayan conducted a study of religion and prejudice taking 10,000 subjects across cultures measuring devotion of religion through prayer[2] [This has been misquoted by me on the RRS boards. I thought Scott Atran did this study, however he merely cited it. I have the memory of the goldfish[**]]

    Quote:

    Since what best predicts belief in God also best predicts tolerance, these results are especially challenging to any secularization-promotes-tolerance hypothesis.


    Rather, he finds that group dynamics cause the intolerence. Coalition was a positive predictor of intolerance and prayer [which is highly correlated to devotion and religiousity] was a negative predictor of prejudice [2]

    Even in terrorism where religion is portrayed as an integral and, as argued by Harris and Hitchens, inseperable part or it. However, once again empirical research casts doubt.

    New School psychologist Jeremey Ginges finds that devotion to religion is a poor predictor or support for suicide terrorism, where as [once again] group dynamics was the best predictor of support for suicide terrorism. [3]


    We can't take this lightly! Religion was a negative predictor of what others claims it causes! Who says you need religion for coalition? Of course, this doesn't say that God belief is required for morality [Greg Paul's study shows this].

    Another thing you may notice, in no way am I saying that we shouldn't critisize religion. That we should just zip our lips when Ray Comfort claims the world is 6,000 years old or scares us with the banana.

    Quite the contrary, we should counter bad science with good science. Which is the crux of the argument.


    We have science and reason on our side, so let's keep it that way.



    [*] During his presentation at the 2006 beyond belief conference.

    [1] Paul, G [2009] The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions Evolutionary Psychology Journal

    http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf

    [2] Hansen, I. G., & Norenzayan, A. [2006]. Between yang and yin and heaven and hell: Untangling the complex relationship between religion and intolerance. In: [P. McNamara, Ed.], Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion. Vol. 3, pp. 187-211. Wesport, CT: Greenwood Press--Praeger Publishers.

    http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/Hansen%20&%20Norenzayan_religion_chapter.pdf


    [**] Goldfish actually have good memory http://mythbustersresults.com/episode11


    [3]  Ginges, J., Hansen, I. G., & Norenzayan, A. [2009]. Religion and support for suicide attacks. Psychological Science, 20, 224-230

    http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/GingesHansenNorenzayan2009.pdf


    Wonderist
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    I don't think there's enough

    I don't think there's enough science to draw conclusions at this point. We need more studies, and better studies. The ones we have currently are too vague and do not sufficiently identify the role of specific beliefs and ways of thinking. They talk about 'religion' and 'non-belief' in general terms, but there are so many gradations there.

    In the mean time, as we ramp up on the scientific study of religion, I feel that there is too much urgency to just wait-and-see. We need to act, to try to diminish the influence of religion with the hopes that it *does* have a positive effect on society to do so. At this point, throwing doubt on the situation leads to excessive delay. It's the same with global warming. Even before the conclusive science started rolling in, we should have been taking much stronger measures to prevent likely causes. Our delay has made the problem worse.

    It's not a matter of, "Should we take action with insufficient data to make strong predictions as to their effects?" It's a matter of, "Should we let the current shitty situation go on, or should we take a good educated guess as to the cause and proceed to take action to prevent the situation from getting even shittier?"

    Of course we need science, and I'm not proposing any radical action, but we do need to act.

    I think you're too caught up in finding hard cause-effect relationships. Do a bit of study into Bayesian reasoning. If you have, do a bit more, try to dig deeper than just the surface statistical equations. See An Intuitive Explanation of Bayesian Reasoning.

    Spam filters work not by determining precise cause-effect models, but by noticing signals of likelihood. They act on those signals, and if the filter accidentally marks something as spam, you can correct it, steer it. The filter then learns over time, without an explicit model of spaminess, which words and combinations are likely spam.

    We need this kind of action. Try X, see if it helps. If it doesn't, stop doing X. In any case, also try Y, and see if it helps. Etc.

    So, even if there's no clear causal relationship between say lack of education causing increased religiosity, we see that they are correlated and make a Bayesian judgment that if we try to improve education, there's a good chance it will help, if the correlation is more than just accidental or an inverse causation. In the mean time, trying to improve education is a worthy goal anyway. Other examples: Publicly confronting religion, developing alternative non-religious charities further, sharpening our defense of evolution, etc.

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    Hambydammit
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     I'm pretty sure I already

     I'm pretty sure I already understood all this about your belief.  Your insistence on point for point causation is... naive.

     

    Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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    Cpt_pineapple
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    natural wrote:I don't think

    natural wrote:

    I don't think there's enough science to draw conclusions at this point. We need more studies, and better studies. The ones we have currently are too vague and do not sufficiently identify the role of specific beliefs and ways of thinking. They talk about 'religion' and 'non-belief' in general terms, but there are so many gradations there.

    In the mean time, as we ramp up on the scientific study of religion, I feel that there is too much urgency to just wait-and-see. We need to act, to try to diminish the influence of religion with the hopes that it *does* have a positive effect on society to do so. At this point, throwing doubt on the situation leads to excessive delay. It's the same with global warming. Even before the conclusive science started rolling in, we should have been taking much stronger measures to prevent likely causes. Our delay has made the problem worse.

    It's not a matter of, "Should we take action with insufficient data to make strong predictions as to their effects?" It's a matter of, "Should we let the current shitty situation go on, or should we take a good educated guess as to the cause and proceed to take action to prevent the situation from getting even shittier?"

    Of course we need science, and I'm not proposing any radical action, but we do need to act.

    I think you're too caught up in finding hard cause-effect relationships. Do a bit of study into Bayesian reasoning. If you have, do a bit more, try to dig deeper than just the surface statistical equations. See An Intuitive Explanation of Bayesian Reasoning.

    Spam filters work not by determining precise cause-effect models, but by noticing signals of likelihood. They act on those signals, and if the filter accidentally marks something as spam, you can correct it, steer it. The filter then learns over time, without an explicit model of spaminess, which words and combinations are likely spam.

    We need this kind of action. Try X, see if it helps. If it doesn't, stop doing X. In any case, also try Y, and see if it helps. Etc.

    So, even if there's no clear causal relationship between say lack of education causing increased religiosity, we see that they are correlated and make a Bayesian judgment that if we try to improve education, there's a good chance it will help, if the correlation is more than just accidental or an inverse causation. In the mean time, trying to improve education is a worthy goal anyway. Other examples: Publicly confronting religion, developing alternative non-religious charities further, sharpening our defense of evolution, etc.

     

    I have no problem with addressing religion on it's own merits.

     

    To take your example, of science education, we should be spreading that on it's own merits, and we should use said science education in order to determine how to get out the the "shitty situation". Simply spreading it and hoping it as a band-aid is ummm..... naive.

     

    On an anecdotal level, I find it rather hard to convince some atheists that X isn't caused by religion even when it actually isn't, and proposing other causes of it seems to have me brushed off as an apologist. Also, if they make fallacious arguments it is rather hard to correct them and you get hostile reactions when you attempt to do so.

     

     

     

    Hambydammit wrote:

      Your insistence on point for point causation is... naive.

     

     

    I'm sorry, I'll never ask for evidence again.

     

     

     


    Hambydammit
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     Your response doesn't have

     Your response doesn't have anything to do with my point.  It's snarky, and might convince someone who doesn't know anything about sociology, but it's not doing much for me.

    This has been explained to you many times before.  Faith based belief is not the only causal factor that leads to societal dysfunction.  There's no such thing as a society in which faith based belief is the only factor correlated with societal dysfunction.  We would expect to find significant variability in the degree of correlation between faith and various dysfunctions because every society has mitigating circumstances.  For instance, a highly religious country which also had strict gun control laws wouldn't have as much murder as a highly religious country which had essentially free access to firearms.

    The primary point that everyone is trying to make to you is that across the board, there is a general correlation between high religiosity and societal dysfunction, and across the board, there is a general correlation between secular egalitarian democracy and low societal dysfunction.  Psychology parsimoniously explains the way faith based thinking allows people (and encourages in some cases) to disregard egalitarianism and "live and let live" ethics.  So, we have a correlation, and we have a mechanism.  That, Pineapple, is a good hypothesis.

    Your hypothesis, so far as I can tell, is that religion isn't causal because there isn't a one-to-one correlation.  That hypothesis defies both psychology and the demonstrated correlations.

     

    Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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    Wonderist
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    Cpt_pineapple wrote:Simply

    Cpt_pineapple wrote:
    Simply spreading it and hoping it as a band-aid is ummm..... naive.

    No. It's based on good Bayesian evidence. It's a good strategy given incomplete information. Delaying with inaction to wait for better information is a bad strategy. Action itself can lead us to better information. It's an example of the multi-armed bandit problem.

    Quote:
    On an anecdotal level, I find it rather hard to convince some atheists that X isn't caused by religion even when it actually isn't, and proposing other causes of it seems to have me brushed off as an apologist.

    You over-estimate the strength of your arguments, and under-estimate the reasons for suspecting religion.

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    Cpt_pineapple
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    Hambydammit wrote: Your

    Hambydammit wrote:

     Your response doesn't have anything to do with my point.  It's snarky, and might convince someone who doesn't know anything about sociology, but it's not doing much for me.

    This has been explained to you many times before.  Faith based belief is not the only causal factor that leads to societal dysfunction.  There's no such thing as a society in which faith based belief is the only factor correlated with societal dysfunction.  We would expect to find significant variability in the degree of correlation between faith and various dysfunctions because every society has mitigating circumstances.  For instance, a highly religious country which also had strict gun control laws wouldn't have as much murder as a highly religious country which had essentially free access to firearms.

     

     

    And how many of these factors did Greg Paul take into account?

     

    Did you even take a stats course? That isn't a flippant question. Reference the one I cited, they wanted to evaluate the effect of two factors[religiousity and coalition] and how they relate to intolerance.  So you know what they did? Yeah, they used actual science.

     

    They found people with roughly the same coalition value so they can measure the value of religiousity.

    Then they found people with roughly the same religiousity then analyized the change in coalition.

     

     

    Where exactly did Greg Paul do anything remotly resembling this? Does Sweden have more or less the same gun laws as the US? Same population density? Same level of available social programs? etc......

     

    It's like a Feminist saying that the states with the highest rape levels have the highest porn consumption rates, therefore porn consumption causual factor in commiting rape.

     

     

     

    Quote:

    The primary point that everyone is trying to make to you is that across the board, there is a general correlation between high religiosity and societal dysfunction, and across the board, there is a general correlation between secular egalitarian democracy and low societal dysfunction.  Psychology parsimoniously explains the way faith based thinking allows people (and encourages in some cases) to disregard egalitarianism and "live and let live" ethics.  So, we have a correlation, and we have a mechanism.  That, Pineapple, is a good hypothesis.

     

     

     

    Did you read the study I ctited? Religion was a negative predictor of intolerance. That kinda goes against  your mechanism. I'm not saying religion promotes tolerance, however it kinda goes against your mechanism.

     

     

    Quote:

    Your hypothesis, so far as I can tell, is that religion isn't causal because there isn't a one-to-one correlation.  That hypothesis defies both psychology and the demonstrated correlations.

     

     

    No, my point is to actually use science and empirical data.

     

     

     

     

     

     


    Hambydammit
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     Quote:And how many of

     

    Quote:
    And how many of these factors did Greg Paul take into account?

    For fucks, sake, Alison.  Paul demonstrated a general correlation.  He admits the statistical limits of his data.  

    Quote:
    Did you even take a stats course? That isn't a flippant question. Reference the one I cited, they wanted to evaluate the effect of two factors[religiousity and coalition] and how they relate to intolerance.  So you know what they did? Yeah, they used actual science.

    Yes. And I've explained to you at least ten times why the study you're referencing doesn't address the argument I make.

     

     

    Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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    Cpt_pineapple
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    Hambydammit

    Hambydammit wrote:

     

    Quote:
    Did you even take a stats course? That isn't a flippant question. Reference the one I cited, they wanted to evaluate the effect of two factors[religiousity and coalition] and how they relate to intolerance.  So you know what they did? Yeah, they used actual science.

    Yes. And I've explained to you at least ten times why the study you're referencing doesn't address the argument I make.

     

     

     

    Did you even read the post? Considering in the quote from me above, I used the study as an example of how to take multiple variables into account, not an appliciation of the study to your argument, I take it no.

     

    If however, you quoted the one below it from me, then THAT was an applicition of the study to your argument.

     

     

    As for the study doesn't address the arguments you make:

     

    Here, I'll even quote you.

     

    You wrote:

    faith based thinking allows people (and encourages in some cases) to disregard egalitarianism and "live and let live" ethics.

     

    Let's look up the meaning of egalitarianism

     

     

    Since this is merely a definition, wikipedia FTW

    Wikipedia wrote:

    Egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning "equal&quotEye-wink, has two distinct definitions in modern English.[1] It is defined either as a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights[2] or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people.  
      

     

    I assume it's the first one seeing how that makes the most sense from your post [Faith let's people justify intolerance!!]. The first one sounds awfully like tolerance.

     

     

    Let's use logic here

     

    P1 faith based thinking allows people (and encourages in some cases) to disregard egalitarianism and "live and let live" ethics.

     

    ^^^ Direct quote I might add, that sounds suspicially like that religion should be a positive predictor of intolerance.

     

    P2 Religion is a faith based belief

     

    C1 Religion  allows or even encourages people to be intolerant.

     

    C2 In a study evaluating religion and intolerance, we would expect religion to be a positive predictor.[Honestly, how can you NOT see this????]

     

    P3 In said study, religion was not a positive predictor.

     

    C3 Study is irrelevant.

     

     

    Well, I'm convinced.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    Cpt_pineapple
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    natural wrote:Quote:On an

    natural wrote:

    Quote:
    On an anecdotal level, I find it rather hard to convince some atheists that X isn't caused by religion even when it actually isn't, and proposing other causes of it seems to have me brushed off as an apologist.

    You over-estimate the strength of your arguments, and under-estimate the reasons for suspecting religion.

     

    Tell you what natural, think of a short and fallacious but seemingly convincing argument that religion causes bad thing X. I will then take it and re-post it word for word on another board a frequent and then link to it here and see how many atheists [which are quite frequent as I understand] call  point out the fallacies, and how the others react to it.

     

     

     

     

     

     


    ClockCat
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    Cpt. Please consider this.

    Drinking strychnine and handling poisonous snakes.

     

    Are you saying these practices in the states which were taken from a biblical passage and are practiced in churches, were uninfluenced by religion?

     

    Are you saying that people that are overpoisoned or bitten that refuse to go to the hospital because they feel "God will protect them", developed that way on their own?

     

    How about the people that refuse to call for help for others bitten or overpoisoned? When the person dies they say it is a tragedy, but it is alright because it was just "God calling them back". 

     

     

     

    Explain this to me. Please. 

     

    Theism is why we can't have nice things.