love and heretics

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness

“What has any religion ever revealed that was true? ”

“What has any religion ever revealed that was true? ” A question asked by fellow Blogger, John Zande, (infamous for saying a lot with a little) as he does cleverly HERE: http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/sorry-theists-but-its-an-inalienable-unarguable-truth/
stating that no identical religion has emerged twice anywhere on the planet….

Religion has been with us for a very long time. Many times it seems we have been about to throw off its clutches, to have some sort of catastrophe or hard time hit and suck us back in.

Karen Armstrong states that “As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures. While dogs, as far as we know, do not worry about the canine condition or agonize about their mortality, humans fall very easily into despair if we don’t find some significance in our lives. Theological ideas come and go, but the quest for meaning continues. ”

The quest for meaning…

It is indeed a common denominator in religion. But it exists with or without religion.
Perhaps instead it is a common denominator in humanity…

Do any fellow bloggers have thoughts on truth, that has been revealed exclusively by religion? or…universally by religion?

Could bode for an interesting discussion….

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33 Comments

  1. Religion being an anthropological imperative makes for a great argument for theism, at least in general. Achim’s Razor would tell us that if every culture in the world worships some kind of creator, than wouldn’t the simplest explanation be that we have a Creator, an Itelligent Designer so to speak?
    As far as religion revealing something true, doesn’t religion highlight the pursuit of the ultimate truths? Like what is really true about the human condition or our fallen and broken world?

    • Hi Brad
      Anthropomorphic Creator spirits are quite new. Animism and ancestor cults pre-date theism by tens of thousands of years and don’t have a “creator” as the central point of worship.
      To your second point, NO religion (i’m not including the vedic religions here) encourages the search for truth. Dogma IS the truth. That, in a nutshell, is religions problem.

      • I would challenge the assertion that no religion encourages the search for truth.

        • Name one

          • If a religious person believes his religious convictions require a sincere search for truth, even to the point of questioning the religion itself, does that count?

            • Ah, but that’s a personal approach, and as you imply, it’ll inevitably lead him away from that religion. It’s precisely for this reason that NO religion encourages personal (or institutional) searches for external, natural truth.

              • But if all interpretations of religious dogma are equally bogus, then who are you to say that a search-for-truth interpretation is less legitimate than a just-believe-our-dogma interpretation?

                • You’re drifting away from the original question. Name a religion that engages in (and sponsors) the search for truth… a religion that updates its scriptures as new information comes to light. A religion that rewards the new.

                  • Is updating or altering scriptures in response to new discoveries the only way a system of religious practice can encourage and accept an ongoing search for truth?

                    • Yes, or any search would be inherently disingenuous… Lipservice at best, outright folly at worse.You are, however, unnecessarily complicating the original statement, Whisky. Name a religion that sponsors the search for external truth. There is, of course, none because that would be counter to dogma which states “This is the truth, your search is over!”

                    • Actually, the complication comes from a mischaracterization of religion itself. Despite the number of fundamentalists who prooftext dogma constantly, no religion claims to possess all answers or all knowledge within their dogma. Religions are paths to truth, just like logic is a path to truth and the scientific method is a path to truth. We can debate the advantages and disadvantages of the different paths, but that’s another question.

                    • Perhaps we should get Galileo in on this thread now…. 😉

                    • Grossly insulting the head of state has never been a successful path to progress. =P

                    • Especially when you’re actually wrong….

      • “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” Buddha

        And one more quote to stir the pot 😉

        “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” ~Albert Einstein

        • Ah, but the same letter (1954)goes on to read: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

          • Sure….and yet ..why the first line? What is the point?
            Is science alone …enough for man? Does it answer all our questions? What of things that seem to be brought to light and inspired by religion? Love, forgiveness, purpose, things like an eightfold path to the end of suffering, charity, …..is mankind better with only science?

            • You playing devils advocate here? 😉

              Love and forgiveness are observable in the animal kingdom. It’s an extension of empathy.

              What use is a “purpose” if its false, an illusion, fiction? And anyway, what purpose does religion profess to offer? Subjugation to a god?

              Mankind does not only have science. We have the arts, the finest of all our qualities. Science seeks only the truth and a humanistic honesty about mysteries: “we don’t know, but we’re looking.”

              • Yes, a bit. 😉
                I love looking at both sides of every question and asking more questions….
                I understand the fear, on the other side, that “if there is no higher anything” what reason have we to…be…good…? do good? share, care….
                What possible motive could we have to give a piece of bread to a starving person we are completely unrelated to a million miles away…?
                I have not yet become…(well i nearly did) anti theist…
                I have many theist friends, who walk in love and kindness towards others, devote a large portion of their time and money on those less fortunate…
                it is something i find beautiful….regardless of their beliefs…ya know?

                • Ahhhh, but herein i question their motivations. Are they doing good simply because they want to be rewarded? That’s inherently selfish. The measure of ultimate goodness must be action performed without care or concern for repayment.

        • I like your Buddha quote, but because I’ve met many buddhists, I feel a need to add that most of them don’t seem very concerned with finding truth. Especially not with finding truth from a scientific perspective. I find your question very intriguing. I think many religions show a definite tendency do discourage looking for truth, especially when you’re looking outside the religion. I don’t think that is a coincidence either.

          • I appreciate your sharing that livelysceptic. I have not met many buddhists. Only read some works by some. I think its sad if anyone discourages looking for the truth in any way.

  2. IMO, the profound revelations of the modern era, from astronomy, reaching deep into the void to record the first stretched out radio waves from the birth of the first stars in the universe over 13 billion years ago, to particle physics, with the recent discovery of the last piece of the Standard Model, the elusive Higgs Boson, such things imbue life with such a rich texture, such a breathtaking depth and scope, that any religious perspective, for me nothing more than a byproduct of evolutionary biology, becomes a quaint historical oddity to record for the history books, to remind us of our tiny, human-centric view of the universe that we made do with for so long, so provincial and platitudinal before the advent of science.
    Our biological tendency to conjure up more powerful but entirely mythical entities seems to me a natural coping mechanism to deal with the bewilderment of the unmeasurable reality of the universe, to comfort ourselves with stories of great giants watching over us. Suddenly we find ourselves in a time where so much can be measured, but our genes cannot adapt so quickly to this change, and so we stroll on, on the one hand appreciating a stunning understanding of our surroundings, and on the other, like the frightened apes we are, looking up into the heavens, wishing for some Devine force to guide our embue our tiny lives with a simple meaning, a sense we can grasp intuitively, some beautiful bedtime story to lull us into restful sleep.

  3. I think the question depends on your definition of religion.

    Has the anthropological imperative of religion produced or revealed anything good? Arguably yes….it served as a source of social restraint and a framework for civil government in virtually all premodern cultures. It produced the rigorous study of philosophy and mathematics and ultimately science itself.

    Of course, it also has been a stumbling block to progress on many occasions, so the net result may or may not be positive. But it’s something, at least.

    As to whether any individual religion has revealed any overarching truth….well, that would beg the question of whether any individual religion is true.

    • rautakyy

      It would seem to me, you physicsandwhiskey are attributing to religion a lot of stuff, that did not need religion to emerge.

      Social restraint is observable among many social species. We do not know wether Gorillas have a religion, but for sure they do practice social restraint.

      Civil government? Well, there are a lot of governing models out there and many of the authorities in the historical societies based their own status on a higher power, like the authority of a god. Now, we know that more secular rule has proven to be a better form of government, in comparrison to theocracies. Simply because the ultimate authority of the divinity contradicts any and all opposition, or skepticism of the authoritarian and arbitrary commands of the demagogues.

      Study of philosophy is a complex thing and one can not totally divorce it from the divinities men have invented, but yet, there is not so much to tie these two together, as to claim no philosophy would have appeared, if no gods had ever been invented. After all philosophy rests on logic, not on dogma. If religion was to rule over philosophy, philosophy would be just repeating and inventing apologetics for the religion.

      The rise of mathematics was propably more related to the processes of economy, than it ever was to any religion. Was mathematics advanced because some dude wanted an equasion of how many angels fit on a tip of a pin, or for making double accounts to match?

      Religious institutions were instrumental on many stages for providing people who had no other actual occupation in the society, exept ponder upon the more abstarct stuff, and in that sense religions surely were there to provide for actual science to emerge, but again our history, as far back as we can see, knows a lot of scientists who had nothing to do with any religious movements as such. The actual difference between science and religion is like the relationship between astronomy and astrology. Astrology may have given rise to astronomy, but the latter divorced itself from the former at the moment it became science and at the very same moment it abandoned all the elements of supernatural from use.

      • See, here’s where we run into trouble. How do we assess whether religion REALLY caused a particular thing? Would religion have necessarily caused it to exist? Could it have come into existence apart from religion? These questions apply not only to good things, but to bad things. Does religion cause religious wars, or does it merely provide an excuse for the political scheming and cultural prejudice that would have led to war anyway?

        The metric is challenging at best. Moreover, what’s the purpose of the question anyway? It’s unimportant in comparison to the question of whether any religion is actually true.

        • rautakyy

          Indeed. Personally, I think religious wars have almost allways been origianlly motivated by politics, but religion has played a great role (often even in wars not officially proclaimed to be holy wars) in giving the motive to the grand populations, to whom those politics would have been not motivating enough. That is the danger hidden in religion. It lends the authority of imagined higher powers to the political leaders who evoke such powers, regardless if they themselves believe in them, or not. And they do it simply in order to gain political support to their causes.

          But if we are to abandon the “if” on this occasion, then for sure, our history has many examples of philosophy & science created without any religion, nor religious boost. However, there are a lot of examples of philosophy & science being snuffed out only for religious reasons. You see, even when the religious reason to smite scientific research is politically motivated, it is no less religious. Religions are a form of politics. Just as surely, as they are a base for a set of values.

          • The question we must ask is whether religious sympathies among the masses are any more powerful a motivator than economic incentives or personality cults.

            People will commit to ideas or beliefs whether they are religious or not. Unless we do away with all thought and ideology, we’ll be no better off.

            • rautakyy

              Yes, perhaps. It seems, that the personality cults differ from religions very little. Both expect worship, as if the leading character be it a dictator, or a god had a very low self esteem, or as if they both needed constant cult action to bolster the authority. Both have a supreme and infallible authority at core. Both are based on nonsense doctrines and false information. In personality cults the supernatural element is not allways evoked, but the supreme and unchallenged authority is allways there to deny any skepticism. To me, this reveals something essential about religions. Does it not work the same way to you?

              Economic incentives are often complex, at least when we are talking about a society bigger than a few dozen people. We humans tend to be lazy and self sentered, in terms of finding out what would be the best solution to most and not just ourselves, or the immidiate neighbour. We tend to come up with ideologies that give excuses to our intellectual lazines and self sentered values.

              However, I think that we have good evidence about how people are willing to learn more and to take action, that benefits the needy even on the other side of the globe. We even have evidence, that when people are educated, they understand our actual and real place in the ecosystem and that we humans are able to extend our compassion outside our own species. This to me proves, that all talk about a fallen state of humanity is pessimistic and down right damaging and degrading ideologically.

              • I agree, personality cults and religions work in very similar ways. Perhaps this could provide a useful metric: the more similar a particular religion is to the known elements of personality cults, the more likely it is to be an extension of human invention. Would you agree?

                • rautakyy

                  Yes, we could apply that. Of course, to be fair, it is not the only denominator. There are a lot of indicators, that reveal religions to be human inventions. Correct?

                  • Certainly. There are quite a few factors that characterize human religion. If any religion is true, then, it is the one with the fewest of the factors which would motivate humans to invent it. One could even generate a distribution of the various factors; if a particular religion was an outlier in almost all cases, its inspiration could be considered more probable.

                    • rautakyy

                      Hey, why don’t you write a separate post about this subject in your own blog and I will come to comment it, if it is OK with you. I mean, since we are not establishing anything that any religion has ever revealed to be true, we are quite of topic here.

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