Is religion a force for good?

Dean_Fox

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Is religion a force for good?

The knee jerk reaction from most people who hold to a religious belief is "yes, of course it is." Then when you point out that religion is used to motivate people to commit suicide bombings they will likely concede that this isn't always the case.

In one instance though someone said religion is always a force for good because the intentions are always good, even those of a suicide bomber. My reply was that "the path to hell is paved with good intentions".

However the question got me thinking, is religion actually a force for anything?

There are many definitions for religion around, one is:

"A collection of practices, based on beliefs and teachings that are highly valued or sacred"

My own take is that religion is the beliefs and teachings that are highly valued or sacred. The practices are seperate.

There are many religions and many churches.

I believe that while humans always have free will that it is the church and the way they encourage members to act that determines whether or not the church becomes a force for good or bad and this is regardless of the intentions of the church leaders of the individuals within the church.

Take Islam. The teachings of Islam include concepts of peace, love and many other upstanding moral values and yet certain extremist sects, churches if you will, manage to use it to "radicalise" people and turn them in to suicide bombers.

Islam as a religion is neither a force for good nor evil rather it is how the leaders of the churches teach it that determines the acts of the attendees.

I posit that religion is not a force at all, rather that it is a catalyst around which are built churches, that it is the church leaders and the individuals within them that determine if the church is a force for good or not.

I further posit that good intentions do not automatically result in good acts, that often the most heinous acts can be performed with good intention.

I posit that people and churches, indeed any organisation, should be judged not on their beliefs or intentions but on the results of their actions.

Thoughts?
 

Dream

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Religion is what we observe of a force that cannot be measured directly. Force is an abstract concept both in Philosophy and in Physics. It cannot be directly measured but is interpolated from measuring movements over time.

Wil said:
Namaste and welcome Dean,

It was this exact thinking that brought me the other day to say, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people"
Interesting. So does that mean you are accepting the presence of guns or that you rhetorically are trying to say that there should not be religion? I think you are saying neither, but I would like a little clarification. Obviously you believe religion is a good thing. Interesting way of putting it though. Stick'm up! (your hands)
 

wil

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I'm saying don't blame the book when people make wild interpretations or incite riots with it.

eg it is math and science that created the atomic bomb and automatic weapons, and land mines... should we abandon math and science??
 

Dream

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I'm saying don't blame the book when people make wild interpretations or incite riots with it.
Interesting that riots come up, because those are a particularly religious phenomenon. A riot is definitely a religious item, no matter what it is about. It is a large movement showing strong emotion about something that people believe in strongly, but it is usually a destructive thing. A lot of policies go into channeling riot tendencies into constructive behaviors. Those policies are attempting to manipulate the hidden force (religion) of the rioters. Religion may not be measurable but it is tangible.
 

wil

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What religion did the veterans have when they marched and riot in DC for their pension money?

What religon was involved in burning Detroit in the 60's?

What religion caused the riots in LA?

Now it may be categorized as 'religious fervor' but there was no 'religion' behind these, was there?
 
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Is religion a force for good?

I think that religion has provided a vehicle for a lot of cultural stuff. Ritual is a way for people to bestow status on each other. That's been pretty important to us throughout our cultural evolution. I dunno, it's like asking if architecture is a force for good. Maybe.

Chris
 

Ahanu

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I dunno, it's like asking if architecture is a force for good. Maybe.

Hmm . . . like the Freedom Tower in Tehran? People can make it symbolize what they want. For example, on wiki . . . it says during the Iranian Presidential Elections, protestors "spray-painted slogans of support for candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi." The same goes for religion, translating from the latin to mean "to join again" or "to reconnect" with the sacred. The religious spray-paint their religion with interpretations that show how they "reconnect" to the deepest level of reality.

Our friend Dean says that the act of spray-painting, or practice, is separate from religion. In order to reconnect, the religious must practice. The Buddha says we practice sitting (which is the teaching). The Buddhist knowing that he or she is sitting would be a religious practice. I think religion is a force for good or evil, just like atheism is a force for good or evil, or hip-hop is a force for good or evil. It is comparable to the outer expression of the divine reality, ideas, or art made tangible. This tangibleness or whatever does have a force or influence! The tagger gets this impression to spray-paint whatever the heck they want from the image of religion they are perceiving. Seems to be a force to me, though I think your saying this is the individual is the doer of the force, not religion. Overall I think it is interconnected. Well, that is the conclusion I came to after reading your excellent post. :cool:
 

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Take Islam. The teachings of Islam include concepts of peace, love and many other upstanding moral values and yet certain extremist sects, churches if you will, manage to use it to "radicalise" people and turn them in to suicide bombers.

Hi Dean, welcome, I hope you enjoy the forum.

Can you please clarify your comment above ? Are you blaming the churches for creating the suicide bombers ? Or would you say they are very disturbed people who become suicide bombers ?

And by the way, woof, woof, grrrah, snap !! :eek:
 

Dream

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What religion did the veterans have when they marched and riot in DC for their pension money?

What religon was involved in burning Detroit in the 60's?

What religion caused the riots in LA?

Now it may be categorized as 'religious fervor' but there was no 'religion' behind these, was there?
If it was religious fervor than there was religion behind it although there may not have been leadership. Politics and religion are both about belief and spiritual matters. The political unrest in those places is religious in character, because it comes from people's beliefs.

Say that: Riots are surging waves in the ocean of belief. We need water and land as well. We want to live on the land, near to some water but not in water. Politics is related to religion, but it is on the coastline. It is where church and state meet. Further inland is neither politics nor religion, and eventually desserts and grasslands. Everything is related; but I'd say riots are in the surf.
 

shawn

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If it was religious fervor than there was religion behind it although there may not have been leadership. Politics and religion are both about belief and spiritual matters. The political unrest in those places is religious in character, because it comes from people's beliefs.

Say that: Riots are surging waves in the ocean of belief. We need water and land as well. We want to live on the land, near to some water but not in water. Politics is related to religion, but it is on the coastline. It is where church and state meet. Further inland is neither politics nor religion, and eventually desserts and grasslands. Everything is related; but I'd say riots are in the surf.
It seems that you are completely discounting or forgetting the psychology of the mob.
When people get together to protest things that has to do with beliefs, but when they riot, it is like a gestalt phenomenon where the rational minds of the individuals are suppressed and a new group mind begins which is fueled by emotionalism.
 

Dream

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People in mobs are still people and they still have to answer for their actions. Are you really saying their rational minds are suppressed? I just think its more like they opt for their feelings and for action based upon whatever they want to believe at the moment. Like when Obama ran for office, everyone said 'Change'. It didn't matter about the details. Believing was what mattered. Now the details are being worked out.

Would you agree that political movements seem similar to both religious movements and to mobs?
 

shawn

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I agree that people are still responsible for their actions, mob or no mob, but this thing has happened so many times for such a long time that it is odd you are not familiar with it.
When people get in a mob and the fur starts flying, it can (and has) occur that people act impulsively, doing things they normally wouldn't do.
Sure, not all will opt to participate, but enough do to still be called a mob.
Look at swarming which has happened for years.
And look at the football riots.
Look at concerts.
political rallies are much the same. people getting caught up in a fervor of the moment at times.
That part of our political reality really creeps me out.
 

wil

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Yes people are responsible hence the reason reiligion is not.

Fire can cook dinner, warm your home, burn down a forest, or light your crack pipe. You can decide wether it is a force for good or evil.
 

Joedjr

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Yes people are responsible hence the reason reiligion is not.

Hi, Can you distill the actual thing "religion" from it's followers? Although fire and religion are both things, fire is plainly seen and felt, religion is somewhat harder to perceive. A thing like fire can exist outside of human interaction. Without people religion does not exist. People are part of their religion and how they are open to it, is how it effects them. Religions are groups of people, groups of people can be motivated to do good or evil depending on what they are believing and how they are informed.
 

Dream

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@Joe <--- Distilling religion from the followers, probably not. From other's posts it sounds like we're mostly agreed about that. I think that 'religion' is too inaccessible to be distilled or concentrated. (On a tangent, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they look, by the lines on their hands, or by the pattern of their eyes etc. Similarly religion is part of the whole person & deeply rooted in all parts of their experience.)

@Wil <--- So I decide whether to make religion in my life a force for good or for evil? Like electricity I may learn most of its rules and direct it, yet I cannot really know what it is. To understand it is not truly possible, except to observe how it behaves. At the quark and electron level, maybe it is little blue smurfs after-all, that are electricity?
 

Dean_Fox

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Hi Dean, welcome, I hope you enjoy the forum.

Can you please clarify your comment above ? Are you blaming the churches for creating the suicide bombers ? Or would you say they are very disturbed people who become suicide bombers ?

And by the way, woof, woof, grrrah, snap !! :eek:

In short I blame A church or certain churches but before anyone gets defensive here is some clarification.

I am using the narrower definition of church here, the one where the church is typically a building (Mosque, Temple, community hall, back room in a house etc) so it is a single group of people with a common religious leader or leaders. Or even a splinter group within that. Basically a group of close knit like minded people focused around an interpretation of religious teachings. To clarify further I am not using the wider definition as in The Catholic Church or The Church of England.

People who become suicide bombers are typically not disturbed rather they have been converted in to zealots; truly disturbed people in the psychiatric illness sense of the phrase tend not to make very good converts.

Zealots do not make themselves they have to be instilled with the zeal and that is done by the leaders of the church (remember small church not intercontinental organisation).

Suicide bombers genuinely believe they are on a mission upon which their salvation will be determined; the popular view is they are told they will get 72 virgins if they die in battle for the cause. They believe this as profoundly as an evangelical born again christian believes they have been born again right after they have gone through the process; especially the group one which has people weeping and speaking in tongues, barking like dogs etc. (Alpha course springs to mind).

Suicide bombers tend to be intelligent "good" but perhaps disaffected individuals. People often say of them they cannot believe they did it.

You tend to find the leaders of such churches do not themselves become suicide bombers, they usually genuinely believe their mission is to encourage others to fight for the cause.

I blame the leaders for their interpretation of the religious texts. I blame them for the act of evangelising individuals in a way which leads to them becoming suicide bombers. That said there is also a certain amount of blame to be placed on the "other side" as it were.

Prior to 9/11 recruiting suicide bombers was pretty hard by all accounts. There were fewer disaffected people and few of those could see the logic that the world was engaged in a holy war because there wasn't much evidence. It's a lot easier now that the news is full of the "war on terror"; bear in mind one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

Getting back to my original point that religion isn't a force for anything. This arose because someone with an agenda decided to try to convince people religion was a force for good.

His logic was that religion is a force for good because the intent is good but as we tried to point out intent does not equal result. "The path to hell is paved with good intentions" and all that. Force is something that acts on something else to create a result. A force for good must therefore create good otherwise it is not a force for good.

Obviously most people came back and told him he was wrong, religion can be a force for good or evil. It occurred to me though through this argument that maybe religion isn't a force for anything. I may be wrong about this and it may just be semantics but it was an idea which I have tried to explain above.

I do believe though their is some truck to the idea that religion in as of itself doesn't create good or bad rather the people practising it do; hence why one church based on a religion can be abhorred by the acts of another based on the same religion. Islam, Evangelical Christianity none of these are of themselves a problem where problems exist rather it is the people, the individual churches and their leaders.
 

wil

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Namaste Dean,

On the topic of suicide bombers we have the kamikaze's from Japan. We've got the infantry or marines that we send in to storm the shores that we know aren't coming out the other side. How many battles have we sent thousands marching to their death, to prepare the way for others? These zealots have been indoctrinated by the fervor of patriotism, for the greater good they do this. I don't see the religious zealots as all that different.
Hi, Can you distill the actual thing "religion" from it's followers? Although fire and religion are both things, fire is plainly seen and felt, religion is somewhat harder to perceive. A thing like fire can exist outside of human interaction. Without people religion does not exist. People are part of their religion and how they are open to it, is how it effects them. Religions are groups of people, groups of people can be motivated to do good or evil depending on what they are believing and how they are informed.
Now I can't seperate them, but they often seperate themselves when that religion or sect or denomination no longer suits them. But lets leave fire and guns alone for a moment then as they are physical things. Let's talk math or science... can you separate that from the individual? Can you see the one that has more skills from the one that doesn't...yet these also can be used to build or tear down....
Dream;215418@Wil <--- So I decide whether to make religion in my life a force for good or for evil? Like electricity I may learn most of its rules and direct it said:
I don't follow the electrical example but agree completely on the first question. Yes it is our choice.

And back to the suicide bombers, it is choice there as well. Personal responsibility for ones actions is king in my mind. As I've said before, of all the things I had to give up to become a unitic, I miss blame the most.
 

Dean_Fox

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Namaste Dean,

On the topic of suicide bombers we have the kamikaze's from Japan. We've got the infantry or marines that we send in to storm the shores that we know aren't coming out the other side. How many battles have we sent thousands marching to their death, to prepare the way for others? These zealots have been indoctrinated by the fervor of patriotism, for the greater good they do this. I don't see the religious zealots as all that different.Now I can't seperate them, but they often seperate themselves when that religion or sect or denomination no longer suits them. But lets leave fire and guns alone for a moment then as they are physical things. Let's talk math or science... can you separate that from the individual? Can you see the one that has more skills from the one that doesn't...yet these also can be used to build or tear down....I don't follow the electrical example but agree completely on the first question. Yes it is our choice.

And back to the suicide bombers, it is choice there as well. Personal responsibility for ones actions is king in my mind. As I've said before, of all the things I had to give up to become a unitic, I miss blame the most.
Totally agree those with patriotic fervour are very much like suicide bombers. Religion is by no means the only tool that can create zealots.

We all have choices and I agree one has to be responsible for one's choices; I would not excuse a (presumably failed) suicide bomber punishment on the grounds that he believed he was doing right although I would agree that he did indeed believe he was doing right.

As I said this all stemmed from someone with an agenda claiming religion was a force for good and when presented with the suicide bomber argument came up with the retort that even suicide bombers thought they were doing good.

He refused to accept that a force creates an effect that defines what the force is, rather he posited that a force is defined by intent; a force for good is a force for good if it intends to be one, regardless of what it actually does.

That's when it occurred to me religion may not be a force in as of it self, rather it is a focus, catalyst or tool.

Religion certainly forms a focus for people to gather, they form a group of like minded people. It this way it may be a catalyst that can unite people and mobilise them in a given direction or it may be a tool used by others to unite people and mobilise them in a given direction.

I'm leaning to the idea that religion is a tool used by others, religious leaders, to unite and mobilise people and yes, guns don't kill people, people kill people.

Then again I can see the point that perhaps we can't distil religion from people. Although given a set of religious texts, as perhaps we have been since perhaps those texts were given to us by God, humans seem remarkably good at coming up with their own interpretations.

In other words if their is a Deity or even Deities then what ever he/she/ they teach is religion. As we know there is a Koran, Torah and Bible among other religious texts. Even if these were divinely inspired documents, rather than the whispered in the ear word of God, they are still the embodiment of the religion even if no one reads them. It is humans that create churches and it is humans who interpret the documents to determine how the religion is practised.
 
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