Social advantages and disadvantages of religion

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by Norsefire, Jul 25, 2008.

  1. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    Now, nobody can deny that religion has advantages, and nobody can deny that it has, perhaps major, disadvantages.

    However, I was thinking about it more fully, and realized how important it truly is. Firstly, so many minor aspects of Western society, including in speech, culture, etc, have traces back to Faith

    But this is only minor and perhaps off topic.

    Socially,let us discuss the advantages of religion. Firstly, it is a convenient system for establishing morality, and thus, social order. It makes government easier.
    But it goes beyond that. By establishing the establishments, it creates common ground within a society, and conformity. To clarify, it gives the people a sense of unity, and therefore perhaps there is more friendliness among them. It also provides convenient answers to great questions, therefore quelling fears and providing reassurance for the living. To put it in a simple sentence, social benefits are that it brings hope, conformity, and establishes lines.

    Culturally, the literature, art, music, and tradition associated with religion are obvious, and should not need much explaining. Arguably, having religion within society enhances culture, in that the common people have shared practices.

    One of the greatest things that must be realized, is that religious text is quite meaningful and valuable, depending on how you look at it.
    Honestly, I think whether or not the stories, myths, etc, found within the religious books are real or not doesn't matter. It's what they represent, what they mean, and therefore religion has a great metaphorical meaning.

    The stories within the Bible, even if not real, still have a moral to the story. They have meaning, and they are, of course, beautiful pieces of literature and poetry. In this, if you take religion to be a massive metaphor, it has value. For instance, we can debate the existence of Moses, but what does that accomplish? By closely examining the tale of Moses and his saving the enslaved Hebrews, we can take many moral meanings, lessons, metaphors, etc

    God. The greatest problem atheists have is always being materialistic. God may not exist, but God represents something. It represents, perhaps, Nature and Mankind together. It represents that which cannot be controlled or comprehended, but which unites us all.

    In this, in the establishments, the literature, and the content, I think there is great value and only the most stubborn atheist would deny this.

    Now, disadvantages are also obvious. While I may argue that a society is better off WITH religion, for the reasons I explained, it is only so if the majority belong to that religion. The main disadvantage of religion is that, while establishing what must be established, it does not leave room for other ideas. This, of course, can have many effects from dialogue to war.

    I hope you enjoyed that mini article, and please discuss.

    Also, I am agnostic, so do not point fingers at me.
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  3. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    Social structures likely existed prior to any concise religion and would very likely exist and be more developed without them. Much if not most of what we would consider social progress seems to have come about independently of religion. More often than not, religion is dragged along kicking and screaming about immorality unless it has been in a position where it could merely squash social development.

    Actually, this tends to be a result of staggering disparities of wealth as much as religious inspiration. Granted, the Medicis probably wouldn't have spent so much on the Duomo if the church hadn't convinced them they could buy their way out of purgatory.

    I agree completely.

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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    But many of us assert that its disadvantages far outweigh its advantages. And ever more so as civilization advances.
    It's because Christianity was the dominant motif in Western culture for a thousand years, to the almost total exclusion of all others.
    But at the same time it exacerbates the differences between peoples. We have seen civilization advance from the precivilization of Neolithic farming villages to the first cities to states to nations and now to transnational communities like the EU or the Sunni/Arab hegemony in the Middle East. The harmony and cooperation that religion (arguably) facilitates within those boundaries is offset (and some would say outweighed) by the animosity that the religious rivalries create between--oh just to pick an example at random--the Christian states and the Muslim states. Given the current state of affairs it's hard to say that religion is a positive force in today's world. Humanity appears to have the capability to finally transcend all tribal differences and merge into a single global community--which would usher in an era of unprecedented harmony and cooperation--but religion stands militantly in the way.
    European culture stagnated during the millennium of ignorance and squalor when the Christian church had undisputed control over that culture, so I'm not going to agree with you on this point.
    Again, the experiment we call the Dark Ages contradicts your hypothesis. Western culture as we know it could only have arisen after the Enlightenment, when we began to throw off the chains of religion. The current state of affairs in the Muslim world corroborates this evidence, since Islam has the same stranglehold on the culture of many of its people's nations as Christianity did 700 years ago.
    Jung calls these archetypes. An archetype is an instinctive belief that's hard-wired into us, and recurs in almost every society and almost every era. Why they're there is open to question. They could be survival traits from an age whose dangers we can't imagine, and only the people who had them survived to breed. Or they could be the random results of a genetic bottleneck like Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam. But regardless of how religion got into our unconscious, its power lies in the fact that it feels true and that can outweigh any knowledge that we acquire by learning and reason.
    Speak for yourself. I'm a third-generation atheist and the last thing anyone would accuse me of is materialism. In fact my wife wishes I had a little more of it and wasn't always so concerned with the future of humanity.

    People within a religionist community tend to conformity and thus display a great similarity. Atheists can happily differ enormously from one another without it bothering us.
    Belief in an illogical, unobservable supernatural universe whose denizens exert capricious power over the natural universe and its hapless denizens--us--is an archetype, or a collection of archetypes. That pathetic weakness, that obstacle to understanding the natural universe and living in harmony with it, is indeed what strives to unite us all in weakness, ignorance and confusion. At least those of us who have the same religion, not all those nasty unbelievers. Fortunately many of us are willing, able and downright eager to transcend it.
    No one suggests that there is no value in the literature of a people with whom we disagree.

    No wait a minute. It's we atheists who say that, who agree that there's value in all the holy books and the other fairy tales. It's the religionists who believe that the literature and culture of the people they disagree with is evil and blasphemous. It was Abrahamists, not atheists, who obliterated Egypt, burned the Aztec libraries and melted down the art of the Incas. Please do not ever forget that.
    You're speaking from the narrow perspective of Christianity and Islam, the evangelical Abrahamic religions. They are paragons of intolerance, throwing around epithets like "infidel," "blasphemy" and "heathen." There's something about evangelical, patriarchal monotheism that brings out the darkest tendencies in humans, that causes them to erupt in paroxysms of genocide every few generations.

    Evangelical Abrahamists become bellicose over differences within their own sects. Catholic against Protestant against Mormon, Sunni against Shiite against Sufi. Even the Jews, who are non-evangelical Abrahamists, are not immune to this temptation.

    Monotheism appears to work as a straitjacket on the human spirit. I don't see that the polytheistic religious communities have such a history of faith-based intolerance.
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Theistic religion has no monopoly, even in the more religious monotheistic cultures, on stories, music, art, and the benefits of them - moral and otherwise.

    Dominant religions take credit for these things, absorbing the culture of the society in which they arise and often declaring themselves the source of it. We need not take such declarations at face value.
  8. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member


    Religion isn't one thing.

    There has never been, to my knowledge, a society (especially western) without some kind of religion. I doubt it will ever exist, without serious force.

    Anything can be a convenient system to establish whatever type of morals the government want to establish. Ultimately, religion, is a system by which one can become god-conscious. The rules and regulations (moral codes) are attributed to certain peoples according to time, place, and circumstance.
    I think what you are pertaining to is, institutionalised religion, which has become man/woman centered.

    I'm afraid you are confusing that with card carrying atheism, with regards to convenient answers to great questions.

    I agree with this point.

    Real religion can only an advantage, institutionalised religion can be an advantage if it leads to serious enquiry and understanding of God, and a disadvantage if it doesn't.

    My 2 cents.

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  9. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    Let’s unpack this little gem ...

    and where are we likely to find this indication

    Given that a chimpanzee can press a key on a typewriter you could say that it is also likely that they could type out the encyclopaedia Britannica (given enough time and paper and attempts). I mean when you start to talk about things that are likely in a very authoritative way totally isolated from any precedent, anything goes ...

    Even atheist culture is indebted to religion

    what is it about morals that make them so pesky?
  10. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    there is a paradigm that suggests that the contributions of religion to material life (meaning the betterment of existence in an one that begins with birth and concludes with death) are threefold

    1 - Dharma – recognizing moral obligations ... which leads to ...
    2 - Artha – the production of wealth (kind of difficult to grow a crop if raping and pillaging is the norm) ... which leads to
    3 - Kama – enjoying the senses - fine food, fine houses, etc etc(what else do you do with all those piles of gold)

    From here it might get a bit tricky since there is also the suggestion that kama alone cannot actually satisfy a person (even rich people are seen to kill themselves in spectacular ways)... so there is the suggestion that there another contribution, namely

    4 – moksa – liberation, or getting out of the whole nature of mundane morality, acquisition of wealth and pursuit of the objects of the senses in a vehicle (ie the material body) which has predictable course, since dharma, artha and kama cannot ultimately solve the problem of suffering (and in fact, commonly inflame it)

    But wait
    there’s more!
    There is also the suggestion that the soul does not ultimately have designated material qualities (although it can accept them temporarily, just like the air can take on the aroma of objects that it passes over) – so the issues of liberation (namely retreating from the previous three engagements) does not effectively explain what is “performed” in the state of liberation (or to put it perhaps somewhat simply, do people in heaven simple talk about how glad they are that they are not engaged in the first three activities?) .... so that brings us to the end of the road in religiosity

    5 – bhakti – the position of being totally socialized around the loving service of god, bereft of any self interest for the previous four engagements .... or the transcendental position of action (acting in a way which bears absolutely no motivational issues for the betterment of the corporeal body)

    applying contemporary understandings of narrative (in the sense that there is no “true” reading of a narrative since there are literally an infinite number of ways a narrative can be approached according to time, place and circumstance) tends to under ride theistic texts since it diminishes the prospect of religious experience.
    In other words, sure, you can remark that a scriptural reading is valuable according to how you look at it, but if the way that you look at it doesn’t fall in line with normative behaviour that is expected to accompany the reading, the possibility of having a conclusive religious experience (meaning making it through to either 4- Moksa or 5- Bhakti) is nil.

    to which an atheist can respond, you can get the same sort of thing from wind and willows ....

    To which an atheist can respond, why does nature need to be represented separate from mankind? Isn’t mankind a part of nature?

    to which the atheist can respond, perhaps scripture has something valuable alongside with other archaeological relics, but the establishments behind them are no more valuable (and probably less credible) than the wind and the willows fan club.

    In short, the problem is the moment you step outside the normative behaviour expected to accompany the reading, you give permission for everyone else to .... which makes the readings of an atheist just as valid as yours or anyone else’s.

    It’s the nature of ideology (any ideology) that there are some things that are given room and somethings that are not – for instance capitalism gives room to secularism but not communism etc etc –so generally you find that one ideology is claimed to be “better” than another one in terms of one’s values (or what one wants to accomplish)

    Interesting topic
    hope it stays on thread

    why not? Since when did agnosticism grant diplomatic immunity?

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  11. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    You mean other than the social structures that animals without religion demonstrate?

    Irrelevant. Because religion has been all encompassing, even to the point of persecuting those that were not religious, it is of course inevitable that the current social culture will have such influences.

    The main problem is that one can no longer separate out religious influences from culture - so the religious zealots claim all manner of things "sprung from religion" as if they are sure they would not have arisen without.

    Yet, just as they claim that those who say otherwise can offer no evidence, nor can they to support their claim - we can not undo history. And given that our religion is pervasive in our history, such arguments are moot.
  12. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    so not in human society
    thanks for the confirmation
    excuse me?
    no longer separate religious influences from culture?
    Its not clear which time frame you are referencing to suggest when we could?
    and another type of zealot claims that religion is not a necessary cause, despite not only a complete lack of evidence but a full book of evidence to the contrary
    if there's no evidence for it, its not clear why you are required to drive home the hypothesis - more details under type 1 error I guess ....
  13. KennyJC Registered Senior Member

    The dogmas of the Middle East, the islamification of Europe, the evangelical US...

    You can keep the 'benefits' of religion.
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    This is evidence of societal behaviour and structures in the absence of religion, is it not?
    We are animals, are we not?
    What else must one provide for you if you are not accepting of the evidence?

    Clearly not now, because we can't. Who are you or I to be so arrogant to lay claim to religion always being pervasive in society?
    Sorry - HUMAN society?

    1. there is evidence - as I indicated - but you are clearly not accepting of it... either deliberately so, or because you lack an understanding of rationality.

    2. there is NOT a full book of evidence to the contrary. There is zero evidence to say that religion HAD TO BE the cause. It merely seems to have been. If a man arrives at work having walked, was this the ONLY way he could have arrived at work? Could he not have taken the train? The bus? A taxi? Cycled, even?
    Unless you can go back and determine that it was the ONLY POSSIBLE CAUSE then you must accept that there are alternatives.

    I am not driving home the hypothesis - but preventing you from claiming yours as fact in the absence of evidence.

    You need to bear in mind that just because it has happened the way it has is NOT evidence that it was the ONLY way it COULD HAVE happened.
    Or are you arrogant enough to think you can provide evidence that suggests that it was indeed the only possible way?
  15. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    Prehistoric Anthropology and specifically Religious Anthropology.

    Are you kidding? History is rife with examples of social progress being actively and violently suppressed by religious authority. In fact, I would contend that it's a central theme of human history.

    Debatable, but I'm willing to concede that religion has offered some benefits. It's interesting to speculate however where we might be if events as the Crusades, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the constant fighting in the Middle East, etc., ad nauseam had not occurred.

    It's not morality that's the problem. It's the tendency to assert one's morality by force upon another.

  16. KennyJC Registered Senior Member

  17. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    Kenny, there was still religion before and after that.
  18. KennyJC Registered Senior Member

    There's still religion after it too.
  19. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    I know. There's still religion today, yet many discoveries are being made. What is your point?

    Undoubtedly, religion has played an important role in Human cultural and civil development. Without it, we would still be hunter-gatherer cave men.
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    While I would say that religion has certainly helped in the shaping of Human cultural and civil development, I see no evidence either way as to what we might have been like without religion - and certainly no evidence that we would still be cave-men.
    Technological advance needs no religious input to occur - or maybe you have evidence to the contrary?
  21. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    It's tragicomical that this sentence comes from you ...

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  22. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    Not evidence, but inference. Religion is responsible for alot of cultural development, so while it's certainly possible we could be at an equal or even greater technological stage without it, where would we be culturally? We'd be like animals, robots, no sense of morality, no sense of tradition, no sense of heritage.
  23. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member


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    The difference is that in this case I have presented the evidence and it has been rejected (for no given reason as yet).
    In the case(s) I think you are referring to, either the only thing provided is an irrational means to perceive the evidence - not the evidence per se - or I provide explanations as to why the evidence does not support what they think it does.

    Or am I missing something?

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