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The Western Liberal Reconceptualization Of Religion

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The Western Liberal Reconceptualization Of Religion
Why would a devoutly anti-Abrahamic atheist such as myself be writing this article? This article is going to argue for the importance of a particular idea in Christian theology as a contributor to Liberalism. As an Objectivist, this is a somewhat begrudging admission for me to make, but as Ayn Rand pointed out, one's primary allegiance must be to reality. 

In brief, I argue that the West has a unique understanding of what "religion" is. This unique understanding of religion is an "unnatural" one which diverges from what the latest research in social psychology and evolutionary biology suggests the purpose of religion is. This divergence can fundamentally be understood as a product of Christianity becoming a principally orthodoxic religion (reaching its zenith in the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide). This unintentionally resulted in a kind of individualism that flourished into freedom of religion and, by extension, freedom of conscience and speech, thus laying the groundwork for the rise of Liberalism. 

1. The Purpose Of Religion
Why did religion arise in the first place? Even those who believe at least one religion was legitimately divinely inspired need to explain why religion is a trans-historical, trans-cultural phenomenon. All civilizations have temples to something held as sacred. Why?

Scholars like Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind), Joshua Greene (Moral Tribes) and influential figures in sociology such as Emile Durkheim have argued that religion comes about to facilitate social cohesion and behavioral regulation within communities. From an evolutionary perspective, the argument is that binding a tribal group together confers a survival advantage, and religion is a way to do this; the religious impulse was thus an evolutionarily beneficial trait. Religion creates a sense of identity, a sense of "us" versus "them," and ultimately emerges as a way to sacralize the group/collective "self." As Nietzsche put it, people make their gods in their own images; a people will enshrine an embodiment of their values and collective identity. Religion can thus be cynically thought of as a collective narcissism.

In other words, religion emerged as a tribal, collective phenomenon to regulate how people act. We can still see this in religions like Judaism (explicitly linked to a tribal identity with millenia of history), Shinto (again an ethnic religion), and even to a substantial extent Islam (which historically emerged to unite warring Arab tribes into one single tribe, and which to this day forms a basis for a pan-Arab identity; as many reformist Muslims have pointed out, a great number of the Hadith sacralize the tribal norms of sixth century Arabia). In technical terms, religion generally exhibits strong orthopraxic and collectivist characteristics. 

2. Christianity: The Oddball
I am neither a Christian nor a Theologian, so I make no comment on whatever kind of Christianity is the "correct" or "real" message of Yeshua of Nazareth (that is a matter for Christians to sort out among themselves). However, Western Christianity at the very least evolved into an unprecedented kind of religion. 

Religion began as a tribal phenomenon intended to hold groups together and enforce norms of behavior through making the collective identity/values into a sacred thing (i.e. something to be unquestioned, something one may not subject to rational critique). Yet in the West, theological disputes eventually gave rise to an understanding of religion as a set of beliefs held as sacred by the individual. 

The clearest example, and perhaps pinnacle, of this shift can be found in the theology of Martin Luther, who argued for the doctrine of Sola Fide, or that an individual is saved through having faith in the right beliefs (interestingly, Luther was also at least arguably an early proponent of religious freedom). Whilst Luther almost certainly did not intend for the consequences of this doctrine to occur, the result of this idea was to reconceptualize "religion" as such.

As the Christian faith became more centered around the beliefs of the individual, Westerners began to see religion as such as a matter of individual faith. The core focus of faith moved away from what the group held sacred and towards what the individual self held sacred. A phenomenon which arose from collectivist orthopraxy began to be reconceptualized as an issue of individualist orthodoxy.

3. Political Implications
Of course this doesn't mean that Martin Luther was a classical liberal. Nor does it mean that Christianity is devoid of tribalism, nor concern with making groups cohere and comply with social norms (Calvinism being the obvious case of a tribal Christianity that defines the world into an elect ingroup and a damned outgroup). Nor does it mean Christians themselves are happy with classical liberalism (most of them are not). But Luther's idea had political impacts that cannot be understated.

If the core site of religious adherence and devotion is the individual mind, the idea that every person should be left free to worship as they see fit becomes an obvious implication. Thus, we see majority-Christian societies being the first to embrace religious freedom, and even arguing that religious freedom is mandated by Christianity. To quote Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

"Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do..."

If matters of religion are ones that individuals are authorized to hold their own beliefs on, then why wouldn't matters on science or anything else be subject to individual choice? After all, religious opinions were considered the most important opinions for a human being to hold, for those opinions were what determined whether or not a person was to escape eternal torture! Ergo, freedom of conscience became a natural extension of religious freedom as understood through this belief-centric post-Sola Fide idea of what "religion" is, just as freedom of religion could be equally understood (from a present-day perspective) as the outgrowth of freedom of conscience applied to religious matters. Again to quote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

"That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."

Freedom of speech, too, can be seen as an outgrowth of this shift in understanding of religion within the context of the historically-Christian West. Christianity is an evangelical faith that imposes upon its believers a duty to spread the Christian religion. As such, the act of speaking (and communicating information generally) about one's faith is a necessary component of one's faith. Should individuals be free to believe, they must also be free to speak about their beliefs. As the Virginia Statute says:

"That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty..."

Again, if this is true of religious ideas, why not ideas on less important subjects such as physics or politics? If speech is to be free, why not all non-verbal forms of speech (such as disseminating ideas through pamphlets and other publications)? Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press naturally flow from this reconceptualization of religion that came from Luther's idea that salvation comes through individual belief alone. 

4. A Note Of Caution
The Western reconceptualization of religion may have contributed to Liberalism, yet this reconceptualization has downsides. Most importantly, it has obscured the West's sociological understanding of religion. Many Liberal thinkers, inclined towards Deism and Natural Law ideas, believed that their convictions were in tune with a "natural religion;" the research however would suggest that the "natural religion" of humanity is tribalistic, non-rational and centered around encouraging conformity to social norms rather than anything to do with an individual's sincerely-held convictions. 

Projecting this uniquely Western understanding of religion (i.e. a matter of personal faith) onto other societies runs a great risk of mischaracterizing not only specific religions, but religion as such. Nor does it only run the risk of altering the perception of non-Western faiths; many contemporary Christian sects practice a Christianity which is de facto about tribal identity and norm enforcement, even if the sect's nominal theology accepts Sola Fide.

Additionally, it can be argued that this Western understanding of religion actually contributes to the decline of religiosity in the West. As an atheist I applaud this, but the point is that if this Western understanding of religion is contributing to the decline of religiosity then this serves as evidence for how this understanding is flawed from a conceptual point of view. If religion is merely a matter of personal belief, religious organizations easily splinter and fracture. Commonly-held faiths become individualized beliefs of sole practitioners. If human beings have tribalistic needs that religion satisfies, these more individualized faiths necessarily lose their ability to satisfy those needs. Unless some kind of tribalism is incorporated into the religion, the religiosity of the individual may decay and leave the individual essentially faithless (presuming the individual's tribalistic needs are low), or the individual may remain "searching" and perhaps engaging in a wide variety of eclectic religious practices. People whom are "spiritual but not religious" or people who practice a kind of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" could be examples of those who's religious needs are not being met, if they are not examples of those with naturally low levels of religious needs to begin with.

Conclusion
The role of religion, and particularly Christianity, in the development of Liberalism, is a contentious issue. Some argue that Liberalism is an inherently Christian idea. Others argue that Liberalism has nothing to do with Christianity and that Christianity cannot be reconciled with it. My antipathy towards Christianity inclines me to be more sympathetic to the latter position, but the reality is that Liberalism developed in the context of a civilization with an intellectual history that cannot be understood without looking at the Christian contribution to it. It developed in the context of a civilization where Christian ideas had political implications, for both good and ill. As an historical matter, the influence of Christianity on Liberalism cannot be discarded.

A critical area in which Christian ideas influenced Liberalism is in Luther's elevation of the individual mind as the locus of Christian Salvation. Religion emerged to reinforce and sacralize collective identity and encourage pro-social action; the idea of religion as primarily a matter of individual belief represents an extreme deviation, and even an outright inversion. Religion, once external to the self and about the supremacy of the group over the individual, became understood as internal to the self and an essentially sacred right of the self. Freedom of religion, understood as an individual's right to determine their own beliefs and live by them so long as the individual respects the right of others to do the same, carried within it the freedoms of conscience, speech and the press; within the context of an evangelical faith that sees religious beliefs as the most significant beliefs a person may hold, each of these four freedoms require the other three. The immortal words of Thomas Jefferson's Virgina Statute illustrate how the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech and press are intertwined. 

But we should keep in mind how recent and specifically Western this understanding of religion is. The seed of it, the doctrine of Sola Fide, emerged only 500 years ago, within the context of Western Christianity, and is still not accepted by the largest of Western Christian organizations. This doctrinal dispute caused over a century of political struggle, however it reshaped our understanding of the nature of religion; in accordance with Luther's emphasis on the individual's faith as salvific, the West began to see religion primarily in terms of personal belief. It is nearly a certainty that the pre-Luther greats of Christian thought would not have seen Christianity (or religion in general) in these terms, and the vast majority of world religions are not centered purely on individual belief either.

As Nietzsche put it, God Is Dead. It may be the case that Luther unintentionally contributed. Luther's sacralization of individual faith was critical to the development of the idea that individuals have rights to religion, conscience, speech and the press. The philosophers of the Enlightenment, champions of these liberties, were often willing to invoke God to defend these freedoms, yet also were inclined to questioning many of those who claimed to speak for God. They fostered freethought, skepticism of organized religion, and Deism. They pioneered methods and philosophies that led many to embrace agnosticism, even atheism, and championed rights that protected those who embraced such positions. Luther's idea had consequences Luther most certainly would've found repugnant. Yet those who value liberty owe him gratitude. 

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Interesting.

I think the notion of equality before God led to moral equality within society led to legal equality led to individualism.

More or less.

--Brant

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23 minutes ago, Brant Gaede said:

Interesting.

I think the notion of equality before God led to moral equality within society led to legal equality led to individualism.

More or less.

--Brant

Can you perhaps point to a specific moment when this idea of "equality before God" became important in Christian thought? 

Because for most of Christianity's history, the religion was considered to be perfectly consistent with absolute monarchy. Christian theology was used to justify the Divine Right Of Kings. Where would you suggest the "turning point" is? 

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4 hours ago, studiodekadent said:

Can you perhaps point to a specific moment when this idea of "equality before God" became important in Christian thought? 

Because for most of Christianity's history, the religion was considered to be perfectly consistent with absolute monarchy. Christian theology was used to justify the Divine Right Of Kings. Where would you suggest the "turning point" is? 

Hi Andrew, Brant's take is pretty much like mine, but I'm a novice at these things. Didn't Luther have a lot to do with removing the authority of the Divine Right of Kings, transferring personal responsibility and accountabilty, aka, raw individualism, onto the faithful? As he certainly did, challenging the ultimate authority, the Vatican? I'd guess the erosion, overthrow and taming of monarchies since then, did much of the rest for achieving "equality before God"..

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Again under-informed, my understanding is the early liberals, like the first Capitalists, were nearly all religious Christians (it can be argued that some were deists). In reading some scholars that period of change from Pre-modernism into Modernism/Naturalism often seems delineated much too sharply for my sense of historical reality. I.e. at that time - that epoch ended, another began. It simply could not be, without long overlap. I inquire whether any liberalism would have taken off without great numbers of the earlier Christians, thinkers and statesmen in agreeable support of the philosophers like Locke. I'm up for correction. But I admit to being less critical of the contemporary, especially, evangelical Christians, even sympathetic on occasions. 

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I think it is a legitimate argument to say “Deists” were not religionists. They used the designation Deist to avoid conflict with unreasoning religionists who demanded all individuals have belief in one or many gods. The proof is in their “works.” None of the deists worth a grain of salt promoted religion. Amen. Violence, disgust, or avoidance was their fate if they angered the religionists, and so it is until today. Praise Zeus.

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Conversation with our forefathers.

Hey Ben, how’s it going?

Okay, Thomas. I finally got that clause about the local priests having the final say over zoning in Philadelphia stricken from the city charter.

Well done Ben. When I head back down to Charlottesville, I am taking ten copies of “Tristram Shandy” to donate to the college’s library and the rest go to whoever wants them. As the author himself says, "I would go fifty miles on foot, for I have not a horse worth riding on, to kiss the hand of that man whose generous heart will give up the reins of his imagination into his author's hands, — be pleased he knows not why, and cares not wherefore."

Excellent Mr. Jefferson! Let me get you several copies of “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Robinson Crusoe,” and “Moll Flanders.”

“Moll Flanders?” Ha! Are you trying to get me in trouble, Ben? What would occur if I showed up with Moll or “Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure?” The Church of England pervert priests would condemn me from the pulpit. I don’t need that.

Aye, Tom. The Episcopalians are as mad as dogs in the noon day sun. At least the Pope’s poops are in the decline. They should be gone by the 1900’s, don’t you think? 

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14 hours ago, studiodekadent said:

Can you perhaps point to a specific moment when this idea of "equality before God" became important in Christian thought? 

Because for most of Christianity's history, the religion was considered to be perfectly consistent with absolute monarchy. Christian theology was used to justify the Divine Right Of Kings. Where would you suggest the "turning point" is? 

I don't know.

--Brant

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11 hours ago, anthony said:

Again under-informed, my understanding is the early liberals, like the first Capitalists, were nearly all religious Christians (it can be argued that some were deists). In reading some scholars that period of change from Pre-modernism into Modernism/Naturalism often seems delineated much too sharply for my sense of historical reality. I.e. at that time - that epoch ended, another began. It simply could not be, without long overlap. I inquire whether any liberalism would have taken off without great numbers of the earlier Christians, thinkers and statesmen in agreeable support of the philosophers like Locke. I'm up for correction. But I admit to being less critical of the contemporary, especially, evangelical Christians, even sympathetic on occasions. 

It isn't wrong to say that most of the early liberals were Christians of some sort. That was true. But their arguments, overall, were not strictly religious. They believed they could justify their case entirely on the basis of reason and evidence. No faith required.

They tended to appeal to the idea of natural law; there's a moral order within nature itself that we can ascertain through the use of our reason. Whilst this idea DOES exist within Catholicism, this idea actually isn't universally endorsed by all Christians (many, such as Calvinists, are very critical of that idea). Not to mention, the idea itself doesn't actually require Christianity; the entire concept of natural law comes from the fact that Catholic theologians had to account for the existence of 'virtuous pagans.' How can people be good without God? Say that moral truths can be learned through reason. Problem solved. 

In short, whilst many (and probably most) Enlightenment philosophers were Christians of some type, they were making secular arguments that didn't depend on the truth of Christianity. They did sometimes invoke religious rhetoric, but then again so does the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

Not to mention, many Enlightenment philosophers who were Christian were anything but conventional Christians. Even among the Founding Fathers you had people who would have been gladly burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church (take John Adams for example: he was a Unitarian and thus denied the holy trinity and even perhaps the divinity of Christ). Christianity at that time had many offshoots that were heavily influenced by deism, "natural theology" and "natural law" ideas. George H Smith's "Atheism, Ayn Rand and Other Heresies" has some great essays on this.

Regarding the Evangelicals, I'd advise you to drop any sympathy for them. Their entire tradition rejects natural law/natural theology/the role of reason. They're all about faith, passion, and collective validation of collectively-held delusions (aka church services designed to bring the faithful together, in a scene reminiscent of Nuremberg). 

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13 hours ago, studiodekadent said:

 

Regarding the Evangelicals, I'd advise you to drop any sympathy for them. Their entire tradition rejects natural law/natural theology/the role of reason. They're all about faith, passion, and collective validation of collectively-held delusions (aka church services designed to bring the faithful together, in a scene reminiscent of Nuremberg). 

For context, I look at the opposition to the evangelicals, and see the overwhelming anti-individualism and anti-reason from the secular humanists, by contrast the greater tribalists and sacrificers. 

Talk about bringing "the faithful together"! no one can beat the secularist Left for their quasi-religious congregations and dogmatic "faith", taking place in the modern version of a village square. Nor, for their emotional aggression, next to the (over all) Christians' self-restraint and tolerance. Comparably, from many sources one hears newer Christian thinkers constantly adapting and lately showing more regard for liberties, individual self-responsibilty, natural facts, values and - reason. I ask, do the secularists have the superior moral right that they assume? Atheism, alone, represents zero - devoid of philosophical content (while of course one's essential starting point to an independent mind) and I think that's the position many secularists have been stuck - with few ideas except their enmity and mockery of religionists (excluding Islam) and a Utopian, social dream. 

I think it is clear the classical liberalism of especially Europe, has been running on fumes, nearing empty. I doubt this has been the doing of their Christians.   

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13 hours ago, studiodekadent said:

It isn't wrong to say that most of the early liberals were Christians of some sort. That was true. But their arguments, overall, were not strictly religious. They believed they could justify their case entirely on the basis of reason and evidence. No faith required.

They tended to appeal to the idea of natural law; there's a moral order within nature itself that we can ascertain through the use of our reason. Whilst this idea DOES exist within Catholicism, this idea actually isn't universally endorsed by all Christians (many, such as Calvinists, are very critical of that idea). Not to mention, the idea itself doesn't actually require Christianity; the entire concept of natural law comes from the fact that Catholic theologians had to account for the existence of 'virtuous pagans.' How can people be good without God? Say that moral truths can be learned through reason. Problem solved. 

In short, whilst many (and probably most) Enlightenment philosophers were Christians of some type, they were making secular arguments that didn't depend on the truth of Christianity. They did sometimes invoke religious rhetoric, but then again so does the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

Not to mention, many Enlightenment philosophers who were Christian were anything but conventional Christians. Even among the Founding Fathers you had people who would have been gladly burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church (take John Adams for example: he was a Unitarian and thus denied the holy trinity and even perhaps the divinity of Christ). Christianity at that time had many offshoots that were heavily influenced by deism, "natural theology" and "natural law" ideas. George H Smith's "Atheism, Ayn Rand and Other Heresies" has some great essays on this.

Thanks for the useful background.

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Australia, South Africa, Canada, Britain, America. “It’s a wonderful world.”

Manfred Mann is another illustrious South African, born in Johannesburg.  I think the Manfred Mann version of “Blinded By the Light” is the best. The writer, Bruce Springsteen’s, lyrics are a bit weird.

 "Blinded by the Light" is a song written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen, which first appeared on his 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. A cover by British rock band Manfred Mann's Earth Band reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in February 1977 and was also a top ten hit in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada.

Edited for brevity. Blinded by the Light by Bruce Springsteen

And she was blinded by the light
Oh cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
And she was blinded by the light
. . . . Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin' kinda older, I tripped the merry-go-round
With this very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing, the calliope crashed to the ground
Some all-hot half-shot was headin' for the hot spot, snappin' his fingers, clappin' his hands
And some fleshpot mascot was tied into a lover's knot with a whatnot in her hand
And now young Scott with a slingshot finally found a tender spot and throws his lover in the sand
And some bloodshot forget-me-not whispers, daddy's within earshot, save the buckshot, turn up the band

. . . . Some brimstone baritone anti-cyclone rolling stone preacher from the East
He says, dethrone the dictaphone, hit it in its funny bone, that's where they expect it least
And some new-mown chaperone was standin' in the corner all alone, watchin' the young girls dance
And some fresh-sown moonstone was messin' with his frozen zone to remind him of the feeling of romance

Yeah, he was blinded by the light
Oh, cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
He got down but he never got tight, but he's gonna make it tonight

Some silicone sister with her manager's mister told me I got what it takes
She said, I'll turn you on, sonny, to something strong if you play that song with the funky break
And Go-Cart Mozart was checkin' out the weather chart to see if it was safe to go outside
And little Early-Pearly came by in her curly-wurly and asked me if I needed a ride
Oh, some hazard from Harvard was skunked on beer, playin' backyard bombardier
Yes, and Scotland Yard was trying hard, they sent some dude with a calling card, he said, do what you like, but don't do it here
Well, I jumped up, turned around, spit in the air, fell on the ground and asked him which was the way back home
He said, take a right at the light, keep goin' straight until night, and then, boy, you're on your own
And now in Zanzibar, a shootin' star was ridin' in a side car, hummin' a lunar tune
Yes, and the avatar said, blow the bar but first remove the cookie jar, we're gonna teach those boys to laugh too soon
And some kidnapped handicap was complainin' that he caught the clap from some mousetrap he bought last night
Well, I unsnapped his skull cap and between his ears I saw a gap but figured he'd be all right

He was just blinded by the light
Cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
Oh, but Mama, that's where the fun is
Ooh yeah
I was blinded
I was blinded . . . .
Songwriters: BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

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Andrew,

I have a few comments, but not now. I need a block of time to rev up my windbag and I'm under the gun at this moment.

:) 

But here's a video by Adam Skelter I think you will find extremely interesting. 

I think he's on to something important about the nature and purpose of religion throughout humanity. For me, even when I don't agree with something he says, the problem is scope (like I often find with Rand), not him saying something that is false on all levels.

A good example is his reliance on a neuroscientist, Lisa Feldman Barrett, for his main view of emotions and concept formation. (See the video for what I am talking about.)

I've read Barrett's book, How Emotions Are Made, and her thinking results in cases that are true as examples or true only within certain contexts, but not true as the whole shebang. (She spends a lot of time and repeated mantras to claiming that free will doesn't exist, which mars an otherwise excellent book.) In other words, you have to leave out chunks of reality in order for her thinking, and by extension, some of what Skelter is says in the video, to work for everything.

Also, go to his channel (The Art of Story) and see his two videos (so far) on tribalism. They are top notch thinking.

In the tribalism thing, Adam Skelter lays out that human groups organize as follows:

A group formed by common interests is a Community.
A group formed by a common cause is a Movement.
A group formed by a common enemy is a Tribe.

I see this outline as one form among several of looking at and categorizing the nature of human groups, but man, is it powerful in teasing out shared values.

Also, the slide of a community to a movement, then to a tribe is an excellent throughline in writing a novel. It's a perfect way to shift the background to challenge and display the different characters.

Now that I have seen this breakdown, it is part of the context in my head whenever I look at any group. I've only had this in my head for a short time and it has already altered my thinking.

To apply this to your essay, and using the meanings above, so long as a religion is the basis of a community or movement, it is generally harmless to the individual and can organize people into productive groups. When a religion becomes the backbone of a tribe, a great deal of care needs to be employed in keeping the focus on the value of the individual or bad things will happen. This also applies to liberalism (in the libertarian meaning). Ditto for Objectivism.

As an aside, when Paul allowed for non-circumcised men to become Christians, he made the first step toward reconceptualizing religion in a liberal direction. Suddenly, the organizing principle was open to all of humanity for recruitment, not just the insiders of a separate group like Hebrews. This implied the value of each person as an individual instead of a person being a member of a group as his or her core identity.

(See, will you look at me? I have no time, but once my windbag gets a little gas, it runs by itself... :) Gotta run...)

Michael

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21 hours ago, anthony said:

For context, I look at the opposition to the evangelicals, and see the overwhelming anti-individualism and anti-reason from the secular humanists, by contrast the greater tribalists and sacrificers. 

Talk about bringing "the faithful together"! no one can beat the secularist Left for their quasi-religious congregations and dogmatic "faith", taking place in the modern version of a village square. Nor, for their emotional aggression, next to the (over all) Christians' self-restraint and tolerance. Comparably, from many sources one hears newer Christian thinkers constantly adapting and lately showing more regard for liberties, individual self-responsibilty, natural facts, values and - reason. I ask, do the secularists have the superior moral right that they assume? Atheism, alone, represents zero - devoid of philosophical content (while of course one's essential starting point to an independent mind) and I think that's the position many secularists have been stuck - with few ideas except their enmity and mockery of religionists (excluding Islam) and a Utopian, social dream. 

I think it is clear the classical liberalism of especially Europe, has been running on fumes, nearing empty. I doubt this has been the doing of their Christians.   

You don't see overwhelming anti-individualism and anti-reason from the Evangelicals? Are you even looking? 

Of course atheism, in and of itself, is merely a lack of a single belief. And many atheists have terrible philosophies. 

But you're wrong to think secularists and atheists haven't mocked Islam. Remember Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christopher Hitchens. And then there's Richard Dawkins. All of them criticize/d Islamic theocracy. 

Europe's Christians aren't classical liberals either. I invite you to look at the Roman Catholic Church and tell me they're a classically liberal organization. 

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4 hours ago, studiodekadent said:

You don't see overwhelming anti-individualism and anti-reason from the Evangelicals? Are you even looking? 

 

But you're wrong to think secularists and atheists haven't mocked Islam. Remember Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christopher Hitchens. And then there's Richard Dawkins. All of them criticize/d Islamic theocracy. 

 

I see them (and others, like Sam Harris) more as stand-alones, 'preaching' to their choirs, and while they have numbers of followers, are not really representative of the modern secular humanists, as a whole. I have definite disagreements with some - e.g. Harris, on free will - but fully appreciate their output.  Over all, there's a deafening silence from the Left about Islam. Ali, Hitchens etc. are some of the few who have the intellectualism/independence to speak up forthrightly. Otherwise, from the very mainstream of people who should  - at least, equally - be most critical of Shariahism (etc.) as they blatantly demonstrate against Christians, only comes political-correctness, hypocrisy and apologism.

 I am looking. ;) Just, not only at the main figures. I am not content only to hear what ideas the leading-lights state, to my mind It's what effects and response they have on large numbers that helps to signify the thinking of masses of people and the political future.  I usually search for comments accompanying articles and Youtubes etc. from Christian/conservatives and I conclude there's much more simple good sense and decent character shown, and liberty and individualism espoused, than from the secularists. Keep in mind what I'm claiming is all comparative, not absolute.

Plainly, leftists around the world understand the need of total dominance in order to meet their goals, and one can't say the same for most Christians, as annoyingly interfering as they can be in some issues. The progressive-left, by contrast, ultimately want *everything* controlled. As long as we're agreed that rationality is not necessarily the preserve of all atheists, sometimes anyone but.

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I was watching a good rerun of “Young Sheldon’ last night. It’s depiction of religion, ministers, and priests is “spot on” and derisively true. Religion is depicted as Moronic, Illogical, and bad for humans. And most importantly, religion is no longer considered relevant in modern society. Though the show takes place in the 1960’s an American can easily discern the difference in thinking and the lessening of acceptance of worship and obedience from 1965 to 2020.

I or others may still politely call a priest minister, Sir, Father, or Pope (perhaps at someone else’s funeral or wedding). Yet, just as I might call any professional name with some respect, I might look with disdain at a Chiropractor’s Science, other than as massage therapy. Likewise in private, I think of a minister as a Scam Artist.

Hitchens and Dawkins are very clear thinking individuals.      

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2 hours ago, Peter said:

I was watching a good rerun of “Young Sheldon’ last night. It’s depiction of religion, ministers, and priests is “spot on” and derisively true. Religion is depicted as Moronic, Illogical, and bad for humans. And most importantly, religion is no longer considered relevant in modern society. Though the show takes place in the 1960’s an American can easily discern the difference in thinking and the lessening of acceptance of worship and obedience from 1965 to 2020.

   

 

I've watched a few episodes, not bad. But it is the old false alternative at work - the authoritarianism/illogic of the Church -- or of the Left? take your pick. With too many of these shows, I find I'm always remarking on the anti-conservative, pro-Left bias. ("The Good Fight" - ?) Often subtlely done, too often to be imagining it. 

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1 hour ago, Peter said:

I was watching a good rerun of “Young Sheldon’ last night. It’s depiction of religion, ministers, and priests is “spot on” and derisively true. Religion is depicted as Moronic, Illogical, and bad for humans. And most importantly, religion is no longer considered relevant in modern society. Though the show takes place in the 1960’s an American can easily discern the difference in thinking and the lessening of acceptance of worship and obedience from 1965 to 2020.

 

I or others may still politely call a priest minister, Sir, Father, or Pope (perhaps at someone else’s funeral or wedding). Yet, just as I might call any professional name with some respect, I might look with disdain at a Chiropractor’s Science, other than as massage therapy. Likewise in private, I think of a minister as a Scam Artist.

Hitchens and Dawkins are very clear thinking individuals.      

 

Note: The show takes place in the late 80's- early 90's. (Young Sheldon just dresses as if he were from the 50's-60's!).

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21 hours ago, ThatGuy said:

Note: The show takes place in the late 80's- early 90's. (Young Sheldon just dresses as if he were from the 50's-60's!).

Now that is a lapse on my part. What was I thinking? The clothes are certainly part of why I meandered into the 60's but it may also be the life in small town Texas, with football, and ministers abounding. I think the show was first on around 2010 and Shelden was in his late 20's perhaps so when he was 10 or 12 it may have been in the 90's? I seem to remember the show may have had 14 seasons so hopefully all the actors made out like bandits and saved their money.    

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3 hours ago, Peter said:

Now that is a lapse on my part. What was I thinking? The clothes are certainly part of why I meandered into the 60's but it may also be the life in small town Texas, with football, and ministers abounding. I think the show was first on around 2010 and Shelden was in his late 20's perhaps so when he was 10 or 12 it may have been in the 90's? I seem to remember the show may have had 14 seasons so hopefully all the actors made out like bandits and saved their money.    

Ah. I can see that.
There are two shows, yes...THE BIG BANG THEORY and YOUNG SHELDON, which is the spinoff. BBT is (was, just ended) set circa 2007 to present.

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On 8/15/2019 at 5:13 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

But here's a video by Adam Skelter...

Just in case people get turned off at the beginning of the video by a kind of stupid "big idea" claim Skelter made, here's how I understand it.

Adam Skelter is a storyteller, one who works in Hollywood. Part of his training is to appeal to the lizard brain (fight-flight, sex, curiosity, and so on). This video is nonfiction, so I believe he is using the same approach as a storyteller. You have to get people's attention before they will allow themselves to get into the story. In the case of nonfiction, you have to get people's attention before they will even listen to what comes next.

One of the ways to do this (and this is a taught technique in copywriting) is to present a controversial challenge. So when Skelter dramatically says "Everyone is religious, including you," he is trying to prompt curiosity through a controversial challenge, at least I believe that is what he is trying to do. But he flops. 

The problem is that boilerplate Christian sermons talk about how people think they don't believe in God, but really do, etc., etc., etc. This is so old, nobody cares. It's like a used car salesman routine, a template around an artificial claim with presuppositions about the customer to attract the suckers and weed out everyone else. It does not stir the juices except those of the converted or the suckers.

Substance-wise, once you see the video, you realize converting unbelievers in the name of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, is not what Skelter is about. He is about redefining religion as a thinking pattern in general that evolved (i.e., an epistemological issue). But by then, he has turned off a good portion of his audience. I attribute this error more to blindly following a copywriting template rather than anything else. 

The next bad thing he does is tell you how you are going to think by the end of the video. I can almost see him trying to include NLP embedded commands in his copy, but once again, he misses something critical. When you tell someone openly that they are wrong, this hits a fundamental cognitive bias squarely in the sore spot and turns on a listener's defense mechanisms like an on-off switch. 

After that lousy opening, the video starts becoming very, very interesting. If you can ignore the parts about religion per se and focus on the epistemological patterns he covers, especially about the nature of beliefs, etc., you will find an outside-the-box approach that you might not be familiar with, one with great value in identifying why many intelligent people believe in things that are nonsensical to other intelligent people.

Michael

 

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On 8/15/2019 at 5:31 AM, studiodekadent said:

.' How can people be good without God? Say that moral truths can be learned through reason. Problem solved. 

 

That old question - replied to by your objective solution - has always looked to be question begging - i.e. What is "good"? For whom?

 I think it must be rephrased and fleshed out in terms most secular humanists tacitly mean it, but seldom say outright: 

"How can people be made to hold other people as their moral standard--without God and the immortal soul?" 

The secularists have not succeeded and will not, as long as "the good" equates with "the other".  Seeing that even the brightest skeptical intellectuals accept without question the altruist ethics, and worse (as with Sam Harris), have argued to dispose of free will and the "self" (with the 'Soul') -- "moral truths" will NOT "be learned through reason" by them. We have to query what "reason" is for them.

What next was left for the secularists is find the substitute for "God" . Political power, force, and social 'judgment', their solution.

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