Does religion make us better people?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Magical Realist, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    On the contrary, it becomes a matter of having a world outlook capable of supporting a good argument for particular behaviours

    and as I have pointed out several times already, the nature of it being relegated to a "sub-level" makes it necessarily irrelevant

    its a primary requirement of a good argument to have a practical level

    hence irrelevant, since consciousness is merely a fancy name for a particular composition of atoms

    If you are saying a reductionist view is primary you don't have a good argument for issues of justice etc

    the issue is that you have no good argument (or alternatively, a personal code of behaviour that runs contrary to your world view)

    Issues arise when even the protagonist displays behaviour contrary to what they are advocating as primary

    If you are subscribing to a reductionist paradigm, you.

    Because if you are defining a particular quality as the ultimate ground for reality, it necessarily follows that nothing else has the scope to contextualize it.

    IOW if everything is made of atoms, what things escape that definition?

    If you are viewing things at a reductionist level, the only alternative views are (ultimately) inconsequential

    If you are saying everything is ultimately made up of atoms, you have no further primary fields to work with

    If you are seeing something as primary (aka atoms), everything else (aka compassion, justice, etc) is secondary.

    Which then leads to the problem of you having a world view that runs contrary to even your behaviour

    as I said,

    If you don't believe me just try and explain how you can bring ethical/moral/judicial issues to bear on someone accepted as having no higher ontological status beyond being a collection of atoms

    IOW the only way you can introduce a good argument for it being wrong for one set of atoms to interact with another set of atoms (such as the atoms of a knife working its way through the atoms of a living entity's throat) is if there are very important, primary precepts about reality beyond the mere organization of atoms

    IOW its about the consequences that arise from what you hold as primary.
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I think it comes down to the idea of honor despite and in a meaningless universe. It seems like a fairly old humanist ideal of "marching on bravely against the inevitable darkness."

    Here's a succint formulation from modern popular culture:

    The purpose [of the Kobayashi Maru test simulation] is to experience fear, fear in the face of certain death, to accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain.
    (Quote from Star Trek 2009)

    The Kobayashi Maru is an example of a no-win scenario; in the fictional Star Trek universe, it is believed that maintaining control of oneself (and one's crew) even in the face of a no-win scenario is an admirable and needed quality.
    I suppose Spock might be able to pull this off - but then again, Spock never took the Kobayashi Maru test himself.

    For many people, human life is ultimately a no-win scenario - man is destined to lose eventually. The only question is whether he will do so on his knees or with his head held high. For a long time, apparently, many people have been trying to come to terms with that predicament, although I don't know of a single person who succeeded.
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Indeed, and holding that everything is a "composition of atoms" (using your phrase) is capable of supporting a good argument, as the argument starts at a higher level and is only applicable to that higher level, as I have pointed out.
    To issues that only have applicability at the levels above, yes. But not irrelevant objectively.
    But you wouldn't consider the practical to be the primary?
    With properties not found among the individual components. So no, it is not irrelevant.
    Possibly. But there are more world views than mere reductionism that hold we are "compositions of atoms". I am not a reductionist and I do not hold to that specific view. So care to make a relevant point?
    I have a fine argument, thanks, that does not run contrary to my world view. Perhaps you are mistaking me for a reductionist? :shrug:
    Such as?
    And if, as is the case, I am not subscribing to a reductionist paradigm? :shrug:
    Why does anything need to escape from that definition? Why does the primary need contextualisation? And since we operate at levels higher than that, at a practical level where things such as morality, justice and the ilk are applicable, there is no issue in my worldview in considering that level as the primary for those things.
    "If..." :shrug:
    Yet you have yet to adequately explain why one would be needed, other than a desire to be contextualised.
    Not when each subsequent level adds, through complexity. Therefore each level becomes primary for those things that only apply to that level and above, and is inapplicable to those levels below.
    Consciousness is one such level... But that does not mean that it is not wholly attributable to the lower level and is a "composition of atoms".
    There are, at the level at which consciousness is primary (e.g. Morality, justice). But consciousness is irrelevant and does not exist at lower levels, but we operate at the level where consciousness is primary.
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Sarkus -

    I'll put it this way:

    If you maintain that ultimately, it's all about atoms and molecules:
    Then why do or should humans bother about their lives, knowing-believing that ultimately, it's all about atoms and molecules?

    To note with Camus: There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.
    If ultimately, it's all about atoms and molecules, then why not kill oneself? Why press on, why strive, why set goals and work to attain them? Why still think that life is worth living?

    How do you reply to such questions?

    If a person contemplating suicide would come to you to ask you about the meaning of life, what would you tell them? Would you try to talk them out of suicide? If you would, why? If not, why not?

    Do you believe you can take credit for your optimistic, or at least affirmative (non-suicidal) outlook on life?

    Should thoughts of suicide ever come into your mind, what would you do, or have done if this has already happened?
  8. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Because you can always die but you can't always live.
  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Because it's a one shot deal at "experiencing". I enjoy it. It's not always good but on balance it is infinitely preferable to the state of non-experience that is the alternative.
    If it was not a single chance, if I could somehow flit between the two at will (although how one has a will when one does not exist?) then there would be less hindrance to cessation of life.

    As for suicide, I don't have a hang-up with it. When the time comes that, on balance, i no longer enjoy life (i.e. if it is currently intolerable and I can see no hope whatsoever of it getting any better) then I want the option.
    Because, under such a worldview, this is the only chance at experiencing. I admittedly don't go all out for the experience... I'm actually quite reserved... Finding happiness in the simplest of things - a good book, a good film, a bottle of wine etc.
    I could almost say I am addicted to living.
    Basically I can't imagine myself not living, and would do much to maintain the state... Although how far is a rather different question, and to one which I can only say that I don't know.
    I would tell them that the meaning of life is whatever they choose to make it.
    Of course I would try to talk them out of it, as it is such a finality. It would be like seeing a gifted pianist deciding to give up playing forever, knowing that the decision is final.... But ultimately it is their choice.
    I'm not sure talking about the meaning of life would necessarily help them though.
    In as much as I can take credit for anything I do. But it is most likely a mix of nature and nurture. And ultimately it is just who I am, with a modicum of fortune to have been able to sustain my life in a way that seems to minimise the chance of such thoughts taking root. I am not sure there is any credit to be given or had, though. And fortunately the idea of suicide has not been of evolutionary benefit so we are not, as a species, predisposed to the notion.
    Speak to someone who I trust, I think. It has never crossed my mind in the past, though, other than as a perverse thought-experiment of what it might be like. But it has for others I know, and speaking to someone they trust seemed to help them. I'm an analytical person, so I would try to understand from where these thoughts come, and from there how I can address them.
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    More accurately, an issue of processes that take place in a universe that might essentially be physics at its simplest 'machine-language' level.

    Secondary or irrelevant to what?

    I'd include the generation of the sense of self and that self's moral sense among the processes. Neurophysiological processes in this case. Our nervous systems are composed of atoms, just like the tables and the chairs.

    I'm one of them, pretty much.

    You seem to be conflating 'fundamental' or 'basic' in the ontological sense, with 'higher' in a moral or spiritual sense. Traditionally the theistic religions have done that, imagining God as simultaneously the ultimate ontological principle and the highest moral principle. So both being and goodness are imagined as flowing from God.

    I don't think that physicalists typically equate being and goodness in that way. They aren't imagining that goodness somehow flows from the simplest and most basic level of ontology, from atoms or whatever they think it is.

    I could probably explain the idea of compassion intellectually to somebody who has no conscience and feels no empathy. But I couldn't make them feel it themselves. Whether we adhere to a spiritualist or a physicalist philosophy wouldn't seem to make much difference there.
  11. Balerion Banned Banned

    Because I live my life that way. And so do you. Unless you're suggesting that the only reason you don't kill your neighbors for their expensive television is your conception of what you're ultimately made of?


    The question was how this has ever necessarily been the primary consideration for our ethical conduct. It seems to me that compassion itself is reason enough to stay your blade, and that our desire to live in a civilized society where people are allowed to go about their lives relatively unimpeded is argument enough to behave ourselves.

    I'm not exactly certain what makes you conclude that existing of atoms makes us worthless or expendable. In any event, it's irrelevant. We feel empathy for our fellow man, and desire to continue living ourselves, which seems to be all it takes to keep us from killing each other. It's no coincidence that mass murderers and torturers are almost exclusively human beings who lack empathy.

    It's odd that you cite this particular definition, yet fail to adhere to it in conversation:

    If you are classifying compassion as ***ultimately*** an issue of atoms then automatically any issue of how we experience those said atoms are secondary at best or irrelevant at worst ....

    According to you, our ultimate constitution takes precedence over everything we do and believe. So, again, "ultimate" does not mean "primary."

    No, I have more immediate issues, ones closer to the surface. Also, I'm a child of my culture, which isn't necessarily Irish. I'm not all that bothered by what I'm made of; I'm more concerned with what's happening in my life today and tomorrow, and in the coming days.

    Feel free to elaborate.


    I didn't post the goat picture.

    Your only attempt at defining what said behavior should look like was the zealot's old tripe about us all killing each other if that's what we really thought, which has no basis in reality. So until you can actually demonstrate that there actually is an anomaly, you're just talking shit.
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    1. What makes you so sure of that?

    2. What you said doesn't answer my question.

    You seem to be coming to the same conclusions as the absurdists and existentialists: In the face of living in an absurd universe in which our lives could be cut short anytime, we should keep on striving.
    But why? On the grounds of what? For what? Believing what? - and these are genuine questions, not rhetorical ones, mind you.
  13. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    To how we go about our daily lives and what we think life is for.

    We cannot consistently dismiss ourselves like that, though, and still keep our peace of mind.
    This is how those Buddhists who subscribe to the no-self doctrine (because not all Buddhists subscribe to the no-self doctrine) tend to be so angry and passive aggressive.

    Moreover, you seem to be arguing in favor of annihilationism, which, according to traditional Buddhist doctrine, is wrong view.

    No no no.
    As LG said - "its about the consequences that arise from what you hold as primary."
    It's practical, immediate: What one believes to be the highest in life will translate into one's actions.
    One can't say "Atoms are the ultimate reality" and then go about one's daily tasks as if life would be one big wonderful adventure.

    Bear in mind that ordinary people cannot feel compassion 24/7 either (and arguably, do not want to either; there's a social taboo on feeling compassion for criminals, for example). Your reasoning is problematic here, as it suggests that the ability to feel compassion and to empathize is something intrisic (ie. a person either has it or not) and can be acted on at will and at command.
    Just because someone doesn't feel compassion in circumstances you do or think a person should, doesn't mean that this person is intrinsically unable to do so, ever.

    In fact, given the teachings on the four sublime attitudes (compassion is the second one of them), it would not be skillful to practice just one of them.
    Look at this sutta, for example: for the same situation, five quite different responses are all deemed skillful.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
  14. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    1. That is a claim with profound metaphysical implications and practical consequences.
    How can you be so sure that it is a "one-shot deal"?

    2. It doesn't answer my question.

    One might as well say that rabies is a one-shot deal at experiencing it - but that doesn't make rabies something valuable.

    Obviously, not everyone enjoys it. Millions of oppressed, sick, poor and otherwise distressed people do not enjoy life.
    What has your outlook on life got to offer to those people?

    That alternative does not apply, because in non-experience, there is no experience, so no preference is possible to begin with, so your point is moot.

    More like addicted to living in a particular way.

    I think it might depend on what in particular you'd have to offer on the topic of the meaning of life.

    "The meaning of life is whatever you choose to make it" might sound liberal enough, but it is not realistic, it simply isn't true. In this universe, not everything is possible; many things are possible, but certainly not everything. All else staying the same, rocks don't fall up and a person with amputated legs cannot become a professional ballet dancer.

    So along with "The meaning of life is whatever you choose to make it", a bit more needs to be said, about the options available.

    How do you propose that the poor, sick, oppressed millions of the world could make the experience of life more enjoyable? By their own action? By the action of someone else? Other?
    I've asked about giving credit to see where you place responsiblity for a person living the life they do.

    Arguably, it is, given that the "unift" individuals who do engage in seriously contemplating suicide are removed from the population by their own action.

    So, basically, you've never actually looked into the abyss of absurdity ...
  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I don't know about Sarkus, but I remember that Balerion once specifically argued that thinking isn't acting. In Buddhism, they speak of three kinds of actions: mental, verbal and bodily. And Balerion said that the mental aren't actions.

    Such an outlook would explain why those who propose that atoms are primary see no problem with simultaneously holding that view and yet going about life as if enjoyment is primary. They don't acknowledge any substantial connection between what a person thinks and what a person does.
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Balerion is now banned? Why?
  17. Saturnine Pariah Hell is other people Valued Senior Member

    No idea, there might be something about in the Site Feed Back Forums. I am sad to see that he was banned.
  18. reinadeoz Registered Member

    My opinion is that religion is simply a tool. It evolved to help humans solve the “free rider” problem of communal social life. When a social group depends on the efforts of all its members for success, free riders – people who accept help and resources from the group, but don’t give much back in return – can pose a serious threat to the entire collective. This threat is especially dire for human beings, since we depend almost entirely on our social abilities to survive.
  19. arauca Banned Banned

    I think you have a wrong understanding. I depend on God , not any other being I help other beings if they need and from time to time we all need a helping hand . The secular pretend to be strong but he also joins some community or club. Even in college there are fraternity groups , ask yourself what is there objective
  20. Robittybob1 Banned Banned

    Only for 3 days. Its not the end of the world.
  21. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Not as many practical consequences that you might think: we don't act significantly different to those not holding the same view... such that you may be hard-pressed to spot one in a crowd.
    How can I be so sure? I can't. But I have not been otherwise convinced by any alternative.
    Which is why I added that I enjoy it - i.e. the rest of my response... but if you perhaps enjoy rabies...?
    My worldview is not out to offer anything to anyone. To me it just is the way of things. Why do you think it should offer something? If I was looking to offer something, even to myself, would I not seek a worldview that provides for an afterlife of some such?
    It's not moot - but you get the idea. I like experiencing. I want to carry on doing so. Simples.
    Sure - which is why I have no hang-up with suicide. Everyone ultimately has to make their own decision on such matters, including me. So far I have been fortuitous to not be in a situation that has caused me to consider it.
    Possibly. But only if the person is hung up on such issues rather than anything more immediate.
    Yes, yes. Fair enough.

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    All of the above. Often it just out of anybody's hands. Having hope (of improvement) might work for some - even if just in helping the person change mindset. And often just mere acceptance of one's situation is enough, that the universe dealt them a bum hand.
    But I would have thought that if the contemplation happens (as is often the case) after procreating, then the gene/mutation/whatever is still passed on. So the "unfit" are still part of the relevant population from an evolutionary standpoint. But it's an interesting question/debate.
    And by that you mean...?
    What exactly is this absurdity you speak of?
  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    And how would you measure such success? How would you recognise it if it was in front of you?
  23. elte Valued Senior Member

    That religion is a strong motivating factor like that, in a way which helps keep society together, makes sense.

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