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Roy Bourque

Aerospace Education Officer for Cadets, Civil Air Patrol

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What is the true purpose of religion?

For many people, religion is a system of beliefs that are taught from childhood and expected to follow unto death. Many choose to follow whereas many choose to fall away from what they were taught.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I was disillusioned by the age of nine, but not in the basic concepts, rather in how the concepts were being presented. In searching for answers, I went way beyond what the church was teaching. A spiritual experience led me to an awareness of God that was totally foreign to what the church was teaching. From that point on, I followed my own path, guided by an inner awareness.

In time I came to study Eastern philosophy. I found myself reading my own thoughts. The convert is not expected to merely believe what is taught. The convert is expected to act on what is taught to come to one's own understanding. The premise is; until you understand, you haven't been taught anything. It is in coming to an understanding that religion begins to reveal its secrets. Most never get that far.

When the Catholic Church attacked Galileo, it divorced itself from science. Since then, science has revealed many secrets which are objected to by religious fundamentalists. But religious fundamentalists are word junkies. They can quote the scriptures, but when you ask them the meaning, they just quote other scriptures that pertain to the same thing.

The word "theology" used to contain a reference to "that which is revealed by nature and reason"; taken from a 1904 dictionary. The modern definition contains no such reference.

My point is that modern religion is a mockery of what religion is supposed to be. Less than 100 people wrote the bible out of thousands who lived. Very few people understood it then, and not many more understand it now; which is just what Jesus said "The way is narrow, and few there be that shall find it". In my opinion, religion needs a complete overhaul.

Let me hear your thoughts.

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Closing Statement from Roy Bourque

This debate has two sides; what is there in religion that has value and is worth pursuing, and what is the perceived current purpose of religion.

Some notable comments;
Don: a fight between good and evil thinking.
Natasha: religions are based on collective experience of being one with nature and the whole. Religion is a kind of residue of the real experience.
John: Religion offered a framework for explanation and served as a forum for debate on those issues that plague the human mind.
Debra: A quote from Micah 6:8, and another from Mahatma Gandhi “as long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it”
Charles: to keep people in touch with the notion that there is “something more”, transcendent, mysterious, beautiful…
Mitch: To experience truth; look up MAYA (illusion).
Rhona: To control other people by people who probably declined to control themselves.
Franz: see quote from St. Catherine of Siena.
Mark: Pure science, material power, and formulas are incapable of knowing love and mercy.

I believe the true purpose is to lead the initiate back to the source of creation so as to allow the initiate to effectively participate in creation (gleaned from Eastern philosophy).
It has seven stages;
SELF – recognizing who you are.
SEX – procreation of the species.
POWER – learning to exercise control over human affairs.
HEART (the center of being) – recognizing yourself as a part of the creator.
PURGATION – learning to tame the animal passions within.
TRANSCENDENCE – expanding your awareness beyond perceived limitations.
CHRIST – becoming one with the creator.

Modern religious institutions have become domineering, hence Rhona’s and others comments to that purpose.

Religion united people. In times of stress, it became the cohesive force in war and conflict. Religion has both the power to enlighten and the power to lead astray. It’s greatest warning was the power of deception.

My advice; Let go of blind faith. Question everything. Seek to understand. Hold on to what enriches life.

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  • Aug 26 2012: Historically, all religions have served four main functions:

    1. Present a model of how the world works, including a creation story
    2. Help individuals confront universal human challenges (why am i here? what will happen when I die?)
    3. Help people live together in communities
    4. Keep people in touch with the notion that there is "something more", transcendant, mysterious, beautiful...

    The first of these has been utterly taken over by modern Cosmology, Physics, Biology, Medicine, etc. These have proven to be better sources, so we don't need to consult the clergy about this anymore.

    The second is being taken over by modern Psychology, Psychiatry, therapy, anti-depressants, and self-help books, though the battle is still being waged.

    The third is now the domain of Sociology, Political Science, Law, governments, law enforcement, and so on. The clergy weighs in to try to keep the faithful from running afoul. But the law is the final arbiter (at least in this life).

    The last is, in my opinion, in a state of crisis, although Ted.com offers a glimmer of hope.
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      Aug 26 2012: I like your thinking. The last is the one that I have gained much from, but not from a church. I had to find it on my own. I hope that others will come to see the light.
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    Aug 25 2012: I try to avoid most discussions concerning religion because I believe where someone decides to place their faith should be an individual choice. But I am agnostic for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is I don't know how to prove nor disprove the existance of any Deity.

    Secondary reasons are numerous for me, but the one that influences me most is that most religions seem to revolve around teaching a "One True Answer", and attempt to discredit any other answer/possibility. Heck...I haven't figured out what the "One True Question" is yet...how can I have an answer for it?

    If the only answer a religion can give me to a question I have about something not making sense is, "(The Deity) works in mysterious ways", then I can't accept that answer. If I do, then there is nothing worth searching for anymore, and I might as well just be in a coma for the rest of my life waiting to die. I will search for other answers that make more sense to me.

    Plus, I strongly resent any religion implying that I am incapable of having morals as an agnostic or even an atheist. A person can be morally competant without the need of placing their faith in a particlar religion.
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      Aug 25 2012: What religion refers to as a deity is what rules the cosmos. What that is has never been understood, until now. Quantum fields are what rule the cosmos. All other ideas are personifications, which have been misinterpreted and misrepresented for centuries. The mystics knew that God wasn't a male deity. But their followers had to have something tangible to work with, so they invented an image to worship in opposition to what the Old Testament tried to tell them. And they used "top-male" psychology to determine what gender to assign.

      There is no one true answer. There are only questions in need of answers. A good religion helps you to ask the right questions. A bad religion tells you that they know more than you do.

      "The deity works in mysterious ways" is a polite (and sometimes devious) way of saying "we don't know". Anyone who accepts that answer is a fool. Kudos for not accepting it. Only when someone gives you examples of how the deity works in mysterious ways do you have any information to ponder on.

      You are right that religion isn't the source of morals. That should be obvious by the activities of some religious minded people. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God. If you don't know what God is, then the second greatest is to love one another. No where did he say what religion you needed to belong to. It all revolves around love. And you don't need to belong to a religion to express love. Not belonging to a religion will not incur God's wrath. Learning to hate one another will.
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      Aug 26 2012: Thoughtful comment. I tend to agree Rick, other than I do get involved in the discussions.

      I support freedom of religion (within limits to prevent harm to others), but not freedom from debate and discussion on beliefs and consequences.
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      Aug 26 2012: Rick :

      Why the fact you don't know to prove nor disprove the existence of any deity is a reason for being agnostic ? I mean , do you need proofs to accept a deity exists or not?
      Usually people need proofs to distinguish the false of the truth , isn't it obvious that to try to distinguish the false of the truth in the case of something that's by definition beyond our false and truth is something absurd ? then why to make from this try a criteria to guide our beliefs ?
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        Aug 26 2012: E G, I understand your questions because they are valid ones. I choose to be agnostic instead of atheist BECAUSE I don't know the "truth" to the answer. That allows me to still be objective about the subject instead of claiming (with any certainty) that a Deity doesn't exist.

        Am I "hedging my bet" by doing this? I can be accused of that by someone who chooses not to be objective, or has an unquestionable faith (belief) in the existance of a Deity. If they do have that unquestionable faith, I am fine with that. I will not try to "convert" them as long as they don't allow their belief to try and convert me, because NEITHER one of us CAN prove the existance or non-existance. As long as we can live each of our lives without attempting to "rule" the other, would you agree we should both be able to get along?

        Sadly, there are too many instances in mankind's history where NEITHER party could allow that to happen. It's not the fault of the religion as a whole, nor the agnostic or atheist community as a whole. It's the inability of (generally) a small subset of the "group" that cannot tolerate anyone else with differing views. It happens on BOTH sides, and I am just as disappointed (and disgusted) when I see a non-theist attack a theist in harmful and inhumane ways.

        I look for my answers in disciplines that can use observable and measurable quantities. Even then, I realize that what is "proved" today may be "proved" wrong tomorrow by new discoveries. That is the nature of the scientific method.

        To me, there is no sense in trying to prove nor disprove the existance of a Deity. You can neither prove nor disprove a pure faith or belief. I'm not saying it is wrong for anyone to place their faith or belief in something that is neither provable or unprovable. That is their choice, and if it brings them comfort, I am happy for them. Just don't insist that anyone else has to agree with it.
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          Aug 27 2012: Rick :

          I'm afraid you didn't answer to my questions . Basically what you said was : I don't know if a deity exist or not and I want to be objective .

          But my questions was (differently said now) : why do you let yourself driven by this lack of knowledge ? why do you make from this lack of knowledge and from the absurd try which cause it a criteria for your position ?
          Now I know you want to be objective but any belief you'd held does not take this from you ( if you held them right ) .

          Now I just rephrase myself :
          You said you choose to be agnostic and not atheist because your lack of knowledge , do you think is it right to say ' I don't know' and to ignore everything ? isn't it a kind of ignoring the existing possibilities ? is it right to do that ?
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        Aug 27 2012: E G,

        Our misunderstanding sounds like a case of semantics (word usage). Let me try again.

        An atheist believes there is no Deity. None. Can't happen. In this regard they are the same as a theist who insists their is a Deity. Positively. Has to be one. But neither one can "prove" their belief.

        An agnostic is simply saying, "I don't know because I can't prove it, so I will remain open and objective about possibilities...MAYBE there is a Deity and MAYBE there isn't. That is not "ignoring existing possibilities".

        If my original reply left you thinking I chose agnostic over atheist due to a lack of knowledge, that is OK. But the lack of knowledge I was referring to was the inability to "prove" the Deity's existance or non-existance. A faith or belief is not "proof". So I can't with any personal integrity say, "I'm an atheist because Deities absolutely, positively, without question, don't exist". I can't prove that. And I also can't prove they DO exist, either.

        Faced with those two problems, all I can do is say, "Maybe the exist, and maybe they don't. I don't know."

        In either case, I have faith in my own ability to remain "moral" towards other people during my lifetime.
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          Aug 27 2012: I understand you acknowledge as agnostic that a deity may exist and that a deity may not exist . I also understand you don't have proofs and that you try to be objective . I understood this (at a certain level of awareness ) from the first time .

          However , compared with a believer you ignore the possibilities . Is it right to just acknowledge the situation when we don't know ? In fact the question is :
          Is it right in the case of deities ? ( you remember what I told you about the absurd try for proofs in this case ) . I mean , we have an idea , are we damned to just acknowledge we have it because of our impotence ? This idea could worth everything , shouldn't we go beyond our impotence ?

          PS : Sorry for not being as clear as I'm now from the first time .
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        Aug 27 2012: @E G,

        But I'm not ignoring the possibilities by saying "I don't know". Can you guarantee me the Sun is going to rise tomorrow? I can't guarantee you that it will. I might be able to predict it based on previous evidence ("proof" that it happened numerous times in the past) but it would be absurd for me to ignore the possibility it might NOT rise tomorrow just because I had a fervent BELIEF that it wouldn't. That's like saying I don't believe a rogue asteroid will ever hit the Earth again, so let's not waste money trying to find any that might. There's plenty of previous "proof" that it happened before, so I CAN believe that it is probable it will happen again.

        A faith belief is not based on measurable and quantifiable evidence...what is called "proof" using the scientific method or mathematical equations.

        You say above (or at least imply it) that I am different than a believer because they don't ignore possibilities. I beg to disagree. They ignore the possibility that the Deity they believe in DOESN'T exist. They have accepted a "fact" that the Deity exists...but where is the "proof" of it? If it is rooted in their unswerving faith or belief only, they can be no more right nor wrong about our individual choices to be Believers, Agnostics, or Atheists.
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          Aug 28 2012: Rick :

          I'm afraid you misunderstood me entirely .

          When I said that you are different than a believer because they don't ignore the possibilities , I meant to say that you agree mentally with the possibilities that a deity might exist or might not but that you don't go further --- in this sense you ignore the possibilities . It seems that everything for you on this matter is something mental , agnosticism for you seems to be about what you know or you lack knowing .

          Is it right to just acknowledge mentally the situation and stop here in the case of deities? don't you think that this idea worth more ? ( here I regress to the questions I put you in the last comment to you )
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          Aug 28 2012: Eduard, (E G)
          As an observer of this part of the conversation, it appears that Rick understands your questions/comments very well, and he does not agree with you. Based on what he has expressed, he seems to be aware and open to possibilities.

          There is a difference between understanding and disagreeing...a person can understand, and not agree. I know you know this because we've had this discussion before. Telling a person that s/he does not understand, is not going to convince him/her that you are "right".
          What happens, as you know, is that those kinds of conversations simply go around in circles.

          The topic question is: "What is the true purpose of religion?"
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          Aug 28 2012: Colleen :

          Sorry but I'm not trying to convince anybody , I just want to make sure he understands my point and my objection to his points , ok ?

          Doing I'm not simply going around in circles , obviously .
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        Aug 28 2012: Everybody relax. Nothing going on here is worth stressing out over.

        One of the problems with poster-originated discussions that pose a question is that not everybody will interpret/understand the QUESTION in the same way to begin with, even if the question posted has a sub-description posted by the author who is trying to get feedback.

        I've only been here 5 days now on TED, and I've already seen several discussions where replies to the original topic were based on a misunderstanding of what the topic's author was really asking or wanting to discuss/get other opinions about. I've made replies myself in a couple discussions that weren't applicable to the topic author's question because I mis-interpreted the question.

        The relevancy/accuracy of any "answer" is dependant upon the understanding of the original question.
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    Aug 24 2012: Religion, along with other dictatorial types of mind control have held sway over mankind throughout it's history on this planet. In many villages and primitive societies throughout the planet, people have thrived and manifested fairness and empathy without the affect of religious order and demands.

    Communication on our planet have increased and become sophisticated to the extent, that the simplest living soul on this earth is exposed to the constant analysis of old and new ideas. They (we) are the jury, that will determine the outcome that will become the future way of life on this planet.

    Old dogmas propagated by religious organizations are being challenged by everyone who lives on this earth. Not only are they being challenged, but challenged with evidence that has been researched, cataloged and organized in relevance to the ideas they challenge.

    Other idea, such as kingdom rule, Autocratic, and parliamentary rule are also being challenged. Many of these ruling philosophies are grounded in the religious orders that gave them power over the uneducated and seemingly unsophisticated minded people. When those same people are given the tools to enlighten their minds and bring them on par with the ruling classes, we would expect to see turmoil as the new ideas take shape and become organized within those groups of common peoples.

    And, what do we see today in the world? An avalanche of turmoil and contradiction taking place in the communication networks and streets, that dominate the ebb and flow of information within societies. To the very point of death, the old ideas are being challenged and overthrown as people take charge of their own destiny and seek other avenues of social and political reconciliation amongst themselves.

    Those ruling organizations who cannot change and evolve into an asset to the changing mindset will be deleted from the knowledge data base or relegated to the history books along with other Myths
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      Aug 25 2012: I have to give you a thumbs up for this comment. It is well presented and a good take on where we are heading. People are challenging suppressive doctrines and rightly so.

      The book of Revelation predicts that Satan would be cast down. I see Satan as the personification of all deceptions that have propagated throughout human evolution, and as you point out, they are all being brought down. I say this from a right brain perspective. It is how the right brain sees things; in symbols and associations. It is what religion is built upon. The character was never real to begin with. But what the character represents has plagued humanity for centuries. Lies and deceptions in the mental field are the most destructive spiritual force there is.
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    Aug 23 2012: The purpose of religion - to maintain the status quo.

    Religion is fundamentally a political construct. Strip away the political aspect and you simply have each individual’s personal belief system.

    Religion is a set of traditions (practices and beliefs) shared by a cultural group. It defines an “us” and a “them”. Again, this describes the political motive. To unite the community to defend itself against others and to define the others as less than human so that they can be eliminated if desired.

    Of course, individuals participate in religious organizations for their own personal benefits - to be part of a community, to comfort them in times of trouble, etc. But what is it that defines religion as distinct from other social organizations? It is the esoteric set of traditions which separates one religion from another. Again - the political motive. The means of maintaining the status quo.
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      Aug 24 2012: You are only seeing one side of it, although I can't disagree with your logic. The fact that it seems to be that way is the problem I am trying to understand. Since I was a child, I have seen a side to religion that does not conform to what mainstream religion teaches, but one that is truly worth pursuing. It is the mystical path that leads to awakening of the mind to higher spiritual dimensions.

      Religion united people. In times of conflict, it became the motive to drive the will to survive against competing groups. In that way, it was very political. But that is not the only side to religion. The "born again" experience is about spiritual ascension. There are too many quote "born again" Christians who are only toying with the term, but don't really know what it means. To have an experience that takes you beyond current knowledge is a truly enlightening experience. I was aware of the principles of quantum mechanics eleven years before I would receive any instruction on the subject. The experience has never left me, and it continues to inspire me to this day. That is what I am trying to convey.
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        Aug 24 2012: Roy - I commend you on your life journey of enlightenment. It sounds like a real trip.

        But as I like to say - it’s not God I have a problem with, but religion.

        Yes, religion has many aspects, but it is the political aspect which makes it religion.

        Your answer is like the soldier who is asked “what is the purpose of the military?” responding “it provides me employment”. Yes, religion utilizes many tools in its purpose of control. It taps into many aspects of the human psyche to empower it. It uses music, architecture, spectacle, need for community, desire for enlightenment, etc. to implement its core purpose of control.

        Look, we can glory in the magnificent structure of a medieval church without accepting religion.

        Religion played a role in humankind’s social evolution. But now that we are a global society it is time to leave it behind. Our spiritual quests don’t require its restrictive basis in constraining traditions. What do you think?
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          Aug 24 2012: Tim, good insights, very thought provoking.

          If it were not for spiritual experience, I would be a hard-core atheist today. I don't believe I would've had the experience I had as a child if it hadn't started out as religion.

          I too don't have a problem with God, but a big problem with religion. I don't believe that current religion can survive if it doesn't change its ways. The constraining traditions all need to be exposed as just that. But how do we bridge the gap from current traditions to spiritual enlightenment? Science deals with the patterns in nature, and with spiritual experience, there are no set patterns, they differ from individual to individual. I don't think that science alone can fulfill that role.

          I agree that getting rid of current traditions may be in order. But there must be something to replace them with, and it can't be just science. I believe that there has to be a new movement that deals with spiritual experience. I'm not sure what that would look like, but Eastern philosophy seems to be a good place to start. I know that there are a lot of books that deal with the subject. I wrote one of them.

          Adriaan Braam speaks of Swedneborg. Other people have commented on the Jewish Kabbala. These, along with Eastern philosophy, are advanced learning centers that take you beyond fundamentalism. None of my Sunday school teachers and ministers made any mention of such teachings when I started asking deep questions. Nor have I heard of them recently in any of the mainstream churches. Current traditions don't offer a means to advance one self on the spiritual path. And yet I believe that that was the original purpose of religion before it was corrupted with political motives. How do we get back to the original purpose? I believe that we are currently moving in that direction.
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    Aug 21 2012: I WISH more people paid attention to their own writings particularly this:

    "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

    It is the very definition of TRUE RELIGION in the text people claim.
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      Aug 21 2012: A very good answer, but your reference is only written in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

      Eastern philosophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Muslim are all religions. Add to that religious cults, and you have a wide mix of what people believe or claim to be their religion. Incidentally, I changed the opening statement after reading Obey's response.

      I believe that your reference is where they are all trying to lead us. Your comment about wishing more people paid attention to their own writings is well said. Many people follow religion only for what they can get out of it; internal life in paradise for "I". They are perfectly willing to step on each other the rest of the week.
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      Aug 21 2012: Micah 6:8

      One of my favorite passages! Thanks, Debra!

      It might also be worth noting for the purposes of this discussion that in the couple of verses before this, the writer criticizes all the ceremony and sacrifices as pointless if you're not focused on what is important. He then goes on to write this sentence.

      "He has told you, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

      In the end, religion fails its mission if it is reduced to nothing more than rules and ceremony.
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      Aug 26 2012: I agree with the sentiment, but would suggest the Holy books also contain other nasty stuff, like endorsing slavery, sexism, infanticide, anti-gay and genocide etc. I guess you could find a verse to support nearly any position you wanted.

      "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent."
      "Wives, submit to you husbands as to the Lord";

      "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel."

      "Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us / He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."

      “In the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

      "This is what the Lord Almighty says ... 'Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.' "

      Perhaps we just want people to pick out the bits that fit our ethical framework.
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        Aug 26 2012: Consistent with my training, I suggest that almost everything is like a mirror. I noticed your answer on the role model question is the answer that I normally give but assume it is your very own.
        We do not see things as they are normally - but as we are.
        There is nothing wrong with encouraging people to see the good, especially when millions with the power over humanity believe in the good principles within and rely on this book to see those things of beauty, justice and fairness within.
        I think that is the very definition of constructive.
        I taught my kids that Smith may be a common name but it has an uncommon mission in life - to build and create.
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          Aug 26 2012: I is in the name of that that book that many innocent people were horribly destroyed. Even today, innocent people are killed because they are doctors who perform abortions or perceived to be witches in their villages. Children too are burned to eradicate evil in the Name of Jesus.

          It is because of the duality of the message in such books that people are confused about what they think a "God" expects of them. Add to this the different leaders who support such horrendous activities and you have a chaos of understanding about what a "God" truly is.

          Somewhere in time, we will have to change the books of the religious orders or delete them from the minds of mankind. Any message that calls for violence against your neighbor will only propagate the social chaos we experience today.
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    Aug 28 2012: I have reset the time on this conversation. I have received so many good replies thus far.
    • Aug 29 2012: Hi Roy,
      Please use all the time available to get the most witnesses possible; The good, the bad and the indifferent.
      Hopefully all will declare that they can see evil for the harm it causes in the world.
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        Aug 29 2012: I will reset it again if it comes to pass. However, the conversation will always be able to be viewed after it is closed. And I always have the option to start a new topic on a similar note. I take it that you have found it to be enlightening?
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    Gail . 50+

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    Aug 28 2012: I find it very sad that religion has lost its way. However, given the recent discoveries in quantum physics, and the even more recent discoveries coming out of the studies of mind/consciousness - that came into being as a result of quantum physics - I am very hopeful for mankind as a species. There is a new worldview on its way. It is not cruel nor closed minded.
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      Aug 28 2012: Hopefully this new world view can help religion find its way. At least it will help to undermine the false doctrines of religion.
  • Aug 28 2012: I think all religions were based on the direct personal or collective experience of being one with nature with the Whole ; at the beginning there was experience and there was no need for religion . Maybe this experience was common. In the land of innocent there were no gods. Religious beliefs were shaped in a long period of human history about which we know so little.

    Maybe with the development of language, humans became less intuitive and more mental and those few who still had experience ( now we call it altered state of consciousness ) tried to to tell unlanguagable and put it into the stories parables, songs to help to rekindle the connection with the Whole. But everything that comes through language is less true, ambiguous; it's a kind of virtual reality and can be easily manipulated. So, religion is a kind of a residue of the real experience that set the agenda.
    The notion of God and religion is not totally unconnected but they are not identical either. Most literally religion 're- ligare' means to bind together , to re-unite ; what goes as One comes as Many and purpose of the religion is to keep this feeling of oneness alive, but it is not what is happening.
    I don't think that religion is to be blamed, religion is just a reflection of who we are. It will change if we do.
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      Aug 28 2012: I agree Natasha, that the foundations of all or most religions had a focus on the whole...nature....unity...do unto others...love thy neighbor...etc. Throughout history, whether intentionally or unintenionally, the leaders of religions, manipulated the original information on which some religions were organized.

      I agree that anything and everything is a reflection of who we are as humans, and anything can change depending on what we contribute to the experience both as individuals and groups. Some people use religions as valuable life guides, while others use it as a method by which to control and dominate.
      • Sep 1 2012: Hi, Colleen !
        Re : Throughout history, whether intentionally or unintenionally, the leaders of religions, manipulated the original information on which some religions were organized.

        I don't think that anybody is/was in control, i am immune to conspiracy theories :)
        But whatever it is, now it's clear , that we've thrown a baby with bath waters and we have to do something about it .
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      Aug 28 2012: Natasha,
      I agree that religion originated with experience and that religion was an attempt to rekindle the experience. I don't believe that many people today are experiencing, they are only following rituals that are leading them away from experience.

      I believe that we are changing, and that old dogmas are being questioned and uprooted. I hope the process continues.
      • Sep 1 2012: Roy,
        I don't believe in religious institutions either.
        And i don't think that old dogmas should be uprooted , they will die peacefully when awareness arises.
        At least, i hope so :)
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    Aug 27 2012: All in all, Roy's question energizes the debate about religion's place in the mind of mankind.

    I cannot imagine a world without religion . While many clamor for change in religious activity and a reduction in it's powerful influence over the minds of others, not all, can imagine a life without it.

    Science, in and of itself does not succeed in this task, nor is it a function towards that end.

    If I lie beaten and left for dead somewhere on a path in life, that man who picks me up, takes me in and cares for me is the man I call brother. That women who binds my wounds and gives me food for strength I call sister. Many times in this life I have found myself being that traveler on the road who was in need of human compassion and empathy.

    Regardless of Religion's failures, it has offered a framework for explanation and served as a forum for debate on those issues that plague the human mind. Religion attempts to give us balance in the quest to define Good and Evil.

    We all come to the end of life. It is at this point that science release it's grasp and religion takes our hand and leads us through the doorway or up the staircase. It gives us strength to let go of life with dignity, hope and without fear.

    I too believe we are spiritual creatures of a sort that neither science nor religion can define. However, Science can only carry us so far. Religion seeks to carry us all the way. Why should I believe that life ends when there is the option that it does not? Why should I fear death when there is the option I don't have to?

    Life without religion is like a childhood without magic and fairy tales. How dull is that? Many people visit our country, not to see our outstanding technological advancements but to visit Disney land.
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      Aug 27 2012: No atheism really is the rejection of a god, there is no logic which says an atheist can't think there's life after death, just that it's not god given.
      Also why not live forever? Eternity will get boring quickly
      And also atheism isn't dull, without god or a god given afterlife you're still left with; sex, science, love, nature, the universe, comedy.
      Also life without god is not like a kid without magic, I just find magic in reality, every time curiosity takes a photo I could cry with the splendour that I see in those photos. To know that the human race achieved this and will continue to do so, fills me with more awe and inspiration than any religion or fantisful thought ever has.
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        Aug 28 2012: I have two questions before I answer your comment:

        1. Do you believe there is life after death?

        2. Do you believe that eternity is real?

        IN my profile, I give a possible argument for the existence of eternity. Check it out.

        Okay so what do you attribute your Atheism to and can it be related to the topic of "What is the true purpose of religion"? If not, What answer would you give to the topic question?
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          Aug 28 2012: 1. No, I have no reason to think there is life after death and even if there was I would refuse the offer as living forever doesn't appeal to me.

          2. Eternity- only in the sense that even after the heat death of the universe another quantum flux could take place a restate the universe

          And a note worth making again, neither of these are due to my atheism
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      Aug 28 2012: I agree John...as you say..."Roy's question energizes the debate about religion's place in the mind of mankind".

      You then state..."Regardless of Religion's failures, it has offered a framework for explanation and served as a forum for debate on those issues that plague the human mind".

      In my experience with a religious indoctrination, and with the exploration of several religions after rejecting the one I was born into, they do not serve "as a forum for debate", and in fact, debate, discussion questioning, or exploring of any kind is discouraged.

      You do not have to fear death....that is a choice each of us makes as individuals. I believe that fear of death is INTENSIFIED by most religions dogma.

      I agree with Stewart, that atheism really is the rejection of a god. I know lots of folks who call themselves atheists, who reject a god, and believe that there is some kind of life after death. I personally do not believe in a god, and believe that the energy that powers the body lives on, after the body is dead. However, I do not like labels.

      I also find magic in the HERE and NOW and believe this earth experience is part of the cycle of eternity.
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        Aug 28 2012: Colleen, I'm afraid most of those who assisted in creating the protestant religion would disagree with you. I'm sure Luther would disagree. It was the only framework they had to argue within.

        As to Stewart's objection, I have removed the statements referencing Atheism and will allow Atheists to argue among themselves if such an inference is rational, within --what stands for-- their Atheistic Dogma. I don't believe the message has been changed by this edit.

        Colleen said; "...I believe that fear of death is INTENSIFIED by most religions dogma..."

        Perhaps. I've watched many religious folk pass away peacefully some even reaching out to embrace something I couldn't see. Some gave it a name: "Jesus". Steve Jobs replied, ".“OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.” I wonder what all the positive exclamation was for?

        I've never met an atheist who believed in life after death. Certainly never met one who could explain it. "logically".
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          Aug 28 2012: Hey John,
          I don't mind if people disagree with me.....it's ok:>)

          As a volunteer at a terminal care facility, I've sat with many, many people as they were actively dying....some religious....some not...some peacefully.....some not. I've been with family members and friends as they were dying, and had my own near death experience. In my humble perception, there is something more, and it is nothing like what we are taught with religious dogma.

          I would think that the true purpose of religions, regarding the death experience, might be to help the transition be more comfortable and peaceful. Instead, some religions teach people that they will be judged and maybe sent to hell. Some religions teach people that if you blow yourself up, in the name of your god you will have a better place in heaven. It is teachings such as these that are not helpful to humankind.

          In my perception, the positive exclamations may be caused by a sense of freedom. You may not get a "logical" explanation that will satisfy you on a human level, because there are no words in human form to describe the experience.
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        Aug 28 2012: Colleen, in your humble perception :) what does religious dogma teach about the actual death experience?

        What religion teaches that if you blow yourself up in the name of your God you will find better place in heaven?

        I have no problem using human words to describe my experience (NDE), but, like describing the flight of a butterfly, it may not do justice to the the actual experience nor recreate that experience inn another person's mind.

        So, if the human words we read in the books of religion don't actually do justice to the actual events experience by those who were there, how can we say those events never happened or had no meaning to those people? And, if it had meaning to our ancestors, should it have meaning or relevance to us today?

        If we (as I believe Roy is implying) interpret those words literally, is it we who are missing the real point of the message? I can say that killing other humans ,intentionally, is wrong but is Euthanasia wrong? Is self-defense wrong?

        Each mind will see what it wants. It's hard or uncommon to collectively see something as it really occurred, even though Juries are called upon to do exactly that. Rob Legato in his TED video, titled: "The art of creating awe" gives us some insight into how the mind creates things that are not present in the real event and how a movie produce can capitalize on it.

        I'm counting on the fact you don't mind if people disagree with you :)
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          Aug 28 2012: John,
          I'd like to stay on topic..."What is the true purpose of religion"....without disecting details of the teachings and dogma.

          I totally agree with you...we can describe any experience, and like describing the flight of a butterfly, it may not do justice to the actual experience, nor will it serve to recreate that experience in another person's mind........well said!

          I have not said that any events did not happen, nor have I said that any events DID have, or DID NOT have meaning to our ancestors. I believe anything that happened historically, has whatever meaning we as individuals, or as a group give it. What meaning "should" we give to things that were written in ancient times, then submitted and/or translated many years later? It's difficult to tell what the "real point of the message" may be at this time in history, don't you think?

          I wholeheartedly agree...each mind will see what it wants. If people choose to use the ancient words as a valuable life guide, that is great. If some folks choose to interpret the ancient words in a way that causes harm to others, then I believe, as a global community, we have a right to address abuse and violation of human rights under the guise of religion.
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        Aug 28 2012: If you don't want to answer the two question I asked that's okay. Sometimes we say things we're not really qualified to say. I've been guilty of that mistakee.

        You stated: "...Some religions teach people that if you blow yourself up, in the name of your god you will have a better place in heaven. It is teachings such as these that are not helpful to humankind..."

        I ask again, which religion has the true purpose of teaching people to blow themselves up to have a better place in Heaven?
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          Aug 28 2012: Thanks for the good luck wish John. It simply takes focus to stay on topic.

          I'm trying to follow the wishes of the facilitator to the best of my ability. In a recent comment, Roy stated...

          "Roy Bourque
          Robert, I want to discuss what religion should be doing as opposed to what religion is doing".

          I'd like to participate in that quest as well:>) I don't feel I made any statement that I am not qualified to say, and I agree that religion cannot be described as heat, gravity, etc., because it is, indeed, something very different from those examples.

          I also agree that it has an effect on the minds of people who choose to perceive religion in many different ways.
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      Aug 28 2012: Hi JM, I also agree we are meaning seeking creatures even if we have no supernatural spirit or dimension.

      I agree with much you said. Would take issue with : Implying religion is required to give us strength to let go of life with dignity, hope and without fear. It may help some, but you don't need faith in an afterlife or gods to live and die well, to accept the cycle of life. In fact if you expect oblivion you are not worried about eternal torment in hell.

      Perhaps there is value in growing up and facing up to what is most reasonable and leaving the faerie tales behind.
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        Aug 28 2012: Thank you and I agree we should grow up.

        The problem is: just as we start to reach that point, we die.

        When we are young and bullet proof, we can easily find fault with those who call our risk taking too dangerous but how else are you going to experience the freedom of free fall in bungee jumping without taking some risk?

        Religion is not the only way to let go of life, but is one that has been around for some time now. I've seen many of my life long friends who never attended church now active in church (not me).

        Old age has a way of constantly putting your mortality in your face. I would think that if a person continues to accept the fact of oblivion after life, that approaching death would be a horribly depressing experience. I can't think of any one of my friends or family, who was anti-religious during life who did not seriously contemplate the possibility of God, afterlife and hell and punishment.

        So, I would say that growing old has the affect of making one more open to the idea of God, afterlife, etc. Not all of us get the opportunity to walk into the face of death Sometimes it happens suddenly when we are unaware.

        I say I don't believe in God. I say I believe in Super Alien Scientists. When I was hit by a mortar round in Vietnam, I had the sensation I died instantly, rose through a narrow tunnel of light and was suddenly in a state of total separation from the physical world I experienced. I was aware of myself on an intellectual level. I felt no pain, heat, hunger or sensation. II was not alone at that place. I was aware of something else. That something else spoke to me asking just one question. "John....... do you want to live or die?' It knew my name.

        My choice is obvious.

        That experience was just as real to me as waking up in the morning and having coffee. I've rationalized it in many ways but the experience cannot be rationalized away in my mind. it remains.

        It may be a lot of things Obey No1kinobe but it was no fairy-tale.
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          Aug 28 2012: JM, I don't discount NDE as being a real experience.
          Just like I don't discount people may feel something profound via religious experience.
          I just suggest we really don't know what is causing the experience.
          Is it just going on in our heads, like a dream or something more.

          Also, NDE is not quite the same as being completely and irretrievably dead. What happens when the brain and body completely stops and breaks down, when there is nothing physical to carry our thoughts.

          My aunt had a NDE, and it was a reassuring experience. I actually don't want to convince anyone that positive NDE is anything other than what they think. But I personally don't think we really know what happens once we pass from near death to permanently dead and no physical body, and would argue against seeing it as a certainty of live after death. It certainly helps that position, but is still a question in my mind.

          I think all the conflicting religious and supernatural type afterlife stories, Hades, hell, Valhalla, book of the dead etc are likely speculative and close to faerie tales.
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        Aug 28 2012: Science speculates we have at least 11 dimensions in reality so there's room to play.

        With no personal experience with NDE activity, I understand why you would not want to quantify the notion. To personally know what happens once we pass from near death to permanently dead would require first hand experience or, at least be demonstrated in the laboratory. Something like freezing mice to death then reviving them or frogs perhaps. What we call death could simply be a transition to another dimension of reality (of course via some type of gateway and a two way gateway at that).

        It's understood by some experts that some fairy tales and legends are grounded in fact and the truth gets distorted with each telling of the event. I believe this myself. But not for all fairy tales or legends.

        But, as Colleen implies, perhaps we are moving way off topic with this discussion.

        So, what do you think the true purpose of religion is?
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    Gail . 50+

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    Aug 21 2012: How right you are. Though I LOVE the teachings of Jesus and I am "awakened" because of them, I am severely criticized if I dare call myself a Christian. I have been accused of worshiping the devil, being posessed by the devil, and when quoting Jesus without revealing the source of the words, I have been called a heretic. Today, I call myself an ex-christian.

    But I do not fear because science is already showing the errors of the christian way to those who do not choose willful ignorance in place of spendid knowing. Perhaps that is why Christianity is declining by about 10% a year and why of those aged 18-24, less than one percent have a biblical worldview, though most see themselves as spiritual. (No wonder christianity is saying that new age spirituality is the devil's work, so FEAR, FEAR, FEAR spirituality!)
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      Aug 21 2012: You're in good company. Jesus himself was crucified as a heretic and accused of conspiring with the devil. Although I don't know how many people realize this.

      The Dalai Lama once said "I like your Christ but I don't like your Christians"

      You are recognizing the problem. However, I wouldn't call yourself an ex-Christian. Rather a true Christian (a seeker of truth) as opposed to a false Christian (fundamentalist bigot).
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      Aug 28 2012: Hmm. It occurs to me that there is a difference between evil and wrong.
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      Aug 28 2012: Christianity came out with the character Satan as the master of deception. The character itself isn't what is real, what the character represents however is very real. Deception is the most powerful foe there is to rightful thinking. What this character personifies will destroy us if we don't come to terms with it.

      The problem that I see is that organized religions want us to believe that they are the saving grace to overcome this character, even when history reveals how much they themselves have been deceived from time to time (the witch hunts for example). They put themselves on a pedestal and claim that their rituals will protect us. Only the truth can protect us from this character, and the truth has often been suppressed by the very establishment that created the character as a warning to us.

      I wholeheartedly agree that our fight is with good and evil thinking. The Muslim terrorists are taught to be that way from childhood. How could they be to blame for what they were conditioned to represent? They have never learned any other way.

      Jesus embodies the very things you describe; love and forgiveness, looking at our own faults before judging others, teaching each other the right way. Read Matthew 5:22; the one who demeans will become the accused in God's kingdom. Evil begets evil, and acts of kindness are contagious. We must decide which side we are on. And belonging to a religion isn't the deciding factor. Our actions say it all.
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        Aug 28 2012: Well it just depends on whether your experience leads you to believe that evil and good are external or internal forces. The Devil and Jesus are external manifestations of evil and good. "The devil made me do it" Exorcisms. Worship. Prayer. etc.

        Personally, I think good and evil are internal human phenomena. And I really really like both of them:)

        You see good and evil have to do with intent and result. One persons good intent can have evil results.
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          Aug 28 2012: To Don,

          What good could there be without evil?
          They depend on each other and even more they generate each other.
          If one exceeds the other will too, so Chinese wisdom learns to keep close to the middle, to act from the heart.

          Evil is the result of hurted love.
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        Aug 28 2012: (Quote): "I wholeheartedly agree that our fight is with good and evil thinking."

        I'd like to propose a slighty different view to that. It's not the thinking that causes the problem. It's the ACTION taken by the individual BASED on the thought that causes the problem.

        Example: It is not illegal to be Prejudice. Prejuduce is a thought process internal to the individual's mind. You can't legislate against thought processes.

        On the other hand, Discrimination...the "acting out" of the Prejudice...is what ends up causing the "evil" to happen. That can be legislated against.

        And that principle is what makes this discussion group on TED so much more different, and satisfying to me, than chaotic discussions on other "debate" forums. It doesn't matter here if we have different "thoughts", even if some of them may be "evil".

        But if we act them out, that is a totally different story then.

        I believe the "fight" has to be primarily conducted against those who choose to ACT on their evil thoughts. They are the ones causing the pain, suffering, etc. I still agree it is a noble attempt to try to get people to reconsider any evil thoughts they may have, because if that happens, you also eliminate the chance they will ACT evilly then.

        But historically, it appears that "evil thoughts" will not be discovered until the person actually commits the "evil act". But even if you do know that somebody is "thinking evilly" before they act, you can't legally lock them up. You have to wait until they commit an "evil act".
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          Aug 28 2012: Don,
          You might want to check out the meaning of "passive aggression".
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive%E2%80%93aggressive_behavior

          "Passive aggression" usually involves elements of aggression and/or negative attitudes, and should not be confused with "passive resistance".

          I offer you this lesson with kindness in my thoughts.
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          Aug 28 2012: Ryan,
          "how a man thinks, so is he" I don't remember where the quote comes from, but it seems to apply here.

          Based on your comment, we don't know how a person thinks until they act. I believe that religion attempts to influence how a person thinks. How they do that is where the waters get muddy.

          In Eastern philosophy, the initiate is led on a journey that leads to higher realms of understanding. This is what leads to enlightenment. In modern religious institutions, the congregation is being coerced to a way of thinking by eternal rewards and punishments. The difference between these two methods is the reason that I started this debate. I had spiritual experiences as a child that brought me to a higher realm of understanding. Throughout my life, I have found science to be in complete harmony with what I experienced. But the experience itself was not of a scientific nature.

          At the age of 20, I was prepared to become an atheist. That is until I had three more spiritual experiences. It was at that time that I came to conclude that there are two types of thinking, and science only addresses one of them. My research is what brought me to Eastern philosophy, and Eastern philosophy is causing me to question how modern religious institutions are managing their affairs. Their teachings are stongly biased by the dogmas that developed in the Catholic church, and some of them are seriously misleading;
          The idea that a soul could burn in hell for all eternity is one.
          The idea that life did not evolve is another.
          The idea that God is a male deity existing apart from reality is a third.

          They are all wrong, and yet, the religious fundamentalist stands on them with such tenacity that you can't budge them from it. How we deal with this problem is what I am trying to figure out.
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        Aug 28 2012: Suggest Buddha did at least as good a job understanding the human condition and advising 500 years before Jesus.

        There are some good messages attributed to Jesus, but I note even if you take it all as gospel he focused on Jews. Only Jewish disciples. I suggest it was Paul who took it outside Judaism. I guess Jesus was a charismatic Jewish man, with Jewish followers. I don't know if the Sermon on the Mount happened. It isn't in all the gospels, not even in the oldest one. All this seems to have been written down decades after the fact.
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          Aug 28 2012: You are right, it was written down after the fact, and Jesus did only focus on Jews. It was Paul who took the message to the gentiles.

          All of this was prophesied before hand, and it is all part of a collective whole.

          Did Jesus actually say those things? I don't think that that is what is important. What is important, is what are the words really trying to tell us? If we can't glean meaning from the words, it makes no difference if you know them or not.
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        Aug 28 2012: Hi Roy,

        Satan has become something of a pop star. Much like "god".
        But the ancients named him very deliberately - Lucifer, the bringer of light.
        Satan is communication.
        To begin, communication is a great power and benefit, but it is fallen in that it is used to decieve.
        Language is the prince of lies.
        No truth is in words. Only stories lie there.
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        Aug 28 2012: Roy, good point. It is the idea, more than who said them that is important.
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    Aug 27 2012: Robert,
    I want to discuss what religion should be doing as opposed to what religion is doing. I have followed a path that has been a guiding light, but it has not been the mainstream church that provided me with what I needed. They couldn't tell me where I could go for more information. I had to find that on my own, guided by my own inner light. The only thing I got from religion was a glimpse into another world and questions that would motivate me to look into it deeper. I was never satisfied with the answers I got from my Sunday school teachers, and my own research has confirmed that they didn't have much to offer. I don't think I am alone in this feeling, and the comments I am receiving are showing me that I was right.
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    Aug 26 2012: If the bashing of Christianity is not challenged - it will continue unjustly to everyone's detriment. What I am about to say is no echo of someone else's thinking or book. It is my own.


    As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it.
    Mahatma Gandhi



    The Gods of every faith or the belief in them has created heinous consequences for outgroups which I NEVER defend but because the USA is an open society and most soceties which are Christian are open- and polite- no one ever speaks up to say WHAT BIASED ****!.

    No one is self imolating in North American societies - those are casualties too.
    Of all the HONOUR Killings in Canada, the women are dying at the hands of their Muslim Fathers and Brothers. In Buffalo not too long ago a Muslim immigrant lopped the head off his MUSLIM wife. That must have been after he signed off his cable TV show advocating tolerance.
    Nobody that I know is killing off their wives to get a better one because their Hindu mother told them they could. The Iroquois nation, of which my grandmother was a part was NOT exactly the turn the other cheek sort of people.

    NOW! Who do you want to elevate? The writings of the Jewish nation talks of slaughter of EVERY man, woman, child, goat, sheep and cow.

    HOWEVER, some of the greatest thinkers, scholars,poets and humanitarians were all people of faith

    MOST OF OUR GREAT SCIENTISTS were too- Einstien, Galleleo, Newton and almost all of the great artists. It has done some good for humanity even if it is in the gentle and individual interpretation..
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      Aug 26 2012: You recognize that religion has good and evil attributes. Faith alone is not the answer. It is in where your faith leads you.

      Christianity is the faith I was raised up in, and it remains the faith of my choice. Though I have deviated from some of the teachings that I was indoctrinated into because of my own walk with God. I have read up on other religions and I find Eastern philosophy to be a good philosophy to follow. I have found many parallels between Eastern philosophy and the Judeo-Christian tradition.

      I take Jesus' words to heart; by their fruits you will know them. It isn't what you believe but how you treat others that matters the most. His message was focused on love and forgiveness, and I have found it to be the best medicine for a world in turmoil.
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        Aug 26 2012: I have a theory that humanity does not really drop its prejudices but it moves them along to the next most socially acceptable prejudice. Now it is fine to be abomidably rude to people who smoke, are over weight or who are Christian. I think it should be taken as EVIDENCE of an undeveloped and uncharitable personality. They are going to go after somebody if they are this type.
        They just better not do it with me around unless they want a battle.

        Roy at my age, 56 after someone else's mistake put me in a coma which forced me to learn how to walk and talk again after I puked up to 13 times a day for 3 months, I feel like I know a few new things.

        One of them is that life is a gift. If you want to hold onto ANY gift in this world you may have to fight for it.

        I have lived a turn the other cheek sort of life only to watch those who decided that they would count for something to themselves and to others prosper.

        I figure that I have to spend my life doing something and it might as well be protecting others. If that makes me a soldier instead of the passive peacenik I once was - hey this is a new life - I could already be DEAD and by some accounts should be.
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          Aug 27 2012: Debra,
          I can appreciate and respect your position.

          I believe in standing up for what I believe. I have done that quite successfully without having to fight. True knowledge cannot be suppressed. And a lie cannot stand once it is exposed.
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        Aug 27 2012: Roy, if I gave you any impression that I expect you to do as I do, I did not intend to. I have no doubt that you do stand up and that your belief system works for you.

        HOWEVER, do not tell me that lies cannot stand. Women are still considered inferior in many systems thousands of years later - and that is just one example.

        I again, publically reject a one size fits all solution that those one might call peaceniks or of certain passivist faiths expect everyone else to tow their line and speak their speak. NO CAN DO, sir.
        It has been hands off until now but logic is still applicable and how dare anyone stand at the denoument of the peace process and claim it was or is NONVIOLENT? It may be now, or getting there but it cost a big price for a lot of people and it was not done so that people with extremely different ideologies could crow and belttle those who paid for it.
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          Aug 28 2012: Debra,
          Thanks for your comments. I will put it among those things that I need to think about.

          I agree that women have and continue to be mistreated.

          I totally reject a one-size-fits-all faith. I believe that it was originally meant to enlighten, not control. It isn't what the mystics intended. That is what I hope to bring out in this debate.
  • Aug 26 2012: This is a perfect example of why I believe questions are a useless/dishonest/misleading form of communication. You ask a question. You limit the answer you seek. That does not feel authentic to me. It seems bogus. Perhaps it would be more honest to simply state your own belief on this topic and allow others to respond as they respond. I appreciate your expression of your own true thoughts and feelings. No need to manipulate others, If others have courage, wisdom, integrity.....they will express their own true feelings and thoughts.
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      Aug 26 2012: In what way is this discussion misleading?
      Should it have been expressed more openly : "Is modern esoterism better suitted for spiritual guidance/self help than Catholicism?"
      • Aug 26 2012: The questioner had an answer in mind when asking the question.
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          Aug 26 2012: Yes.
          I see a war on fundamentalism that attempts to make New Age Mayan Quantumadabra look rational.
  • Aug 26 2012: Religion is only useful for providing moral teachings for those who prefer to follow instead of think for themselves. The problem is that there are horrible untruths poured into most of them - mainly suggestions of gods and devils and afterlives and things.

    Even Buddhism, which is supposedly quite a good one to 'choose' because it's all just philosophy, is now, I've noticed, rather ruined by the people who choose to worship 'Lord Buddha'. I don't think that was his intention at all - to be called a Lord and have people worship him. It totally goes against the idea of the religion itself. Such is a the simplicity of people who need a leader to provide mental security.

    'Oh I'm from Thailand and therefore I'm probably Buddhist so I'll worship this guy"
    "Oh I'm from american so I choose God and the bible"
    "Oh I'm Indian so I choose Lord Brahman and his other godly extras"

    It's quite a labelling thing, hence it's use in wars across the world.

    Religion creates community and moral goodness, but it also exacerbates blind idiocy on the international level.

    I hate religion. And what I mean by that is that I think it's possible to do all the moral things that all the holy books suggest without even classing yourself as being connected to any religion at all. It's just about knowing right from wrong. So... how does religion help in that case? It doesn't really. We could learn to be good people without the extra supernatural baggage.

    I conclude... there is no use to religion at all.
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      Aug 26 2012: You base your conclusion on what religion has become, and yet you make a distinction between a spiritual way of seeing the world and those who put great spiritual minds on a pedestal and worship them as a deity.

      You are right that most people are born into a religion. They are not at liberty to choose for themselves unless they choose to follow their own path.

      Would wars not occur if there were no religious labels? I doubt that you could make a hard case to support that claim. The pressures of survival incite war regardless of whether religion exists or not. People would simply find another label.

      No one is blind unless they choose to be blind.

      It is possible to do all the moral things that the holy books suggest. What I find, is that people CHOOSE NOT to do all the moral things that the holy books suggest, all the while they criticize religion because it challenges their freedom to do as they please.

      There are teachings in religion that need to be challenged because they lead to misconceptions. Anything that is false leads to corruption of the mind. This was the meaning of the master of deception. The character itself isn't real. But what the character represents is very real. Learning to discern the truth comes from learning to think on your own. I do criticize modern religion for suppressing freedom of thought. that is one thing that I would like to see changed.
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    Aug 26 2012: Hi Ray, you are not alone.
    I take great insight from discovering the dynamic of Maya.
    At first I had no name for it. I call it perception.
    It is the necessary gap between all we experience and the absolute state of reality from moment to moment.
    It is a topology that seeks to flow along with reality - always an instant behind.
    And it is in that gap that all hell and heaven is generated - heaven reduces the gap, hell increases it.
    It is becasue of the gap that we must anticipate where reality will be in the next instant - and if we fail, we cease.
    Reality flows as it does - it has no absolute rule that can be discerned from outside the instant - the very place that Maya cannot be.
    Truth is a measure - it is a measure of the gap.
    We may contrive false anticipations to rip the truth from others and widen their gap, bcause all power arises from the closeness to reality.
    The practice of widening the gap is called "evil" the practice of narrowing the gap is called "good".
    When religion fails to conduct itself according to this insight, it fails utility to all.
    There is only one global utility in religion - to help all become closer to reality.
    IN this, religion becomes evil when it promotes dogma. Dogma is frozen, reality moves on.
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      Aug 26 2012: I had a little trouble following your dialogue, but I think I get the gist. It appears that the deviation between what is true, and what we perceive is true, is the gap you speak of.

      Truth is that which is so. I don't know what you mean by truth being a measure of the gap. A measure of the gap is the distinction (or degree of separation) between what is true and what we think is true. I don't know if there is a way of measuring that. I would call that gap deception.

      I agree that dogma interferes with our ability to discern the truth because it suppresses our ability to think for ourselves. We become trapped in a set of beliefs that we have no way of proving whether they were true or not. Truth can only come by questioning. And questions often lead to more questions. Anything that suppresses questioning blocks our ability to discern the truth.
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        Aug 26 2012: Our idea of truth is flawed.
        What we take as an absolute is no more than a measure.
        And you are correct - the gap between what is perceived and what is - cannot be measured with any accuracy.
        Deception widens the gap, but the gap is not deception.
        Questions and their answers have very little to do with reality. They are useful only in the world of Maya - the world of stories people tell each other and themselves. They are good for reducing deceptions and for learning methods. But they are useless for gaining closenes to what is.
        DIscerning the truth is a political act, discerning reality is the act of life.
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          Aug 27 2012: "Questions and their answers have very little to do with reality". I find this to be true with religious questions. Science is about recognition of patterns. If science can reproduce patterns flawlessly, can we not accept that the patterns themselves are true? And are these patterns not a foundation of reality?

          Just trying to understand your answer.
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        Aug 27 2012: Any decent scientist will tell you that Their theories are no more than descriptions - and that their descriptions are never 100% accurate.
        There is no 'flawlessly".
        After a few million dollar and 20 years, scientists have found what looks like a higgs-boson particle. It is not exactly what they expected. And all involved in that effort have said "this is only just the start".
        No one has found a principle of physics that is without exception.
        In mathematics, any chaotic system cannot be predicted without measuring the exact starting conditions - in reality, chaos systems are common, and none of them can be measured exactly. In quantum mechanics, the act of measuring influences what is measured.
        Science gives us some relatively reliable methods, but it does not, and cannot bridge the gap between Maya and reality.
        And yes - we accept that the patterns we find are true. But accepting them does not make them true.
        Convenience is a thing of humans - reality has no use for it.
        Edit: Patterns are found in retrospect. We do use them to cast anticipations, but reality never repeats - each instant is unique.
        It is not only science that seeks patterns - our very brains are pattern processing machines - adapting to patterns is the thing that life does, life follows the instant - it cannot actually be in the instant except as a physical part of it.
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    Aug 26 2012: Hi Roy,

    Purpose?

    The word invokes some utility.

    Utility to whom or what?

    The utility of religion to an individual is manifold depending on what part of the religion you participate in = priest/prophet/adherent.
    The utility of religion to humanity is a bit harder to define. The propagation of success behaviours might be one utility, but that might be overballanced by destructive behaviours that are also propagated.
    The utility might also be to the ecosystem - to provide a means of culling without destroying the capacity to find ecological balance.

    We are such a young species. The word "religion" is undergoing some evolution. It may have had some utility in an old definition, but perhaps a different order of utility is yet to reveal itself.
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      Aug 26 2012: Mitch,
      I believe that a different order of utility is about to reveal itself. There are too many people questioning its current relevance in today's world. I've known a few ministers with an inspiring message, but very few.

      I would like to see religion teach philosophy instead of perpetuating rituals and beliefs that are not explained. There are parts of religion that I like, such as some of the music and the humanitarian aid that comes from various churches. Although, some of it may be a smokescreen. When a church passes out expired food to those in need, it makes one wonder how sincere they really are.

      The parts of religion that I don't like are beliefs about the devil and hell and the wrath of God against all unrighteousness. That made up a high percentage of what I was taught. It led me on a personal quest to find what religion should be teaching but wasn't. My own personal experiences have exposed many misconceptions in what I was originally taught. I can't say that I am religious, but I can say that I am more spiritual and much happier for it.
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    Aug 24 2012: I think religion had it's beginnings around the campfire of primitive people. They needed some story to tell the children why they should not venture too far from the village during the day time and never at night. So, they invented demons, much like we tell ghost stories today to entertain ourselves and terrorize the kids.

    Kids are forever asking questions that challenge adults. So, if you don't know why the sun disappears after some time, make up a story to satisfy the kids. Of course, kids get smarter and the stories have to become more elaborate.

    This ability to tell stories made some people very popular in the Village and those people noticed this fact and capitalized on it. As these people gain in popularity among the villagers, the title of Shaman was born.

    The Shaman loved the easy lifestyle afforded by his new prestige among the villagers so he studied on ways to enhance his power over them. He started to actually time the rising of the sun and moon and discovered a connection between the harmony of these objects and the changing of the seasons. He discovered the eclipse and it was this phenomenon that gave him a real boost in prestige. Of course he had to keep the knowledge a secrete for the effect to have full impact on the villagers.

    As happens with humans, the shaman came to his end, but, before he left this earth, he passed on this information to his three sons, who now shared the secret that gave power to their father. In order to keep the secrete a secret, a society was formed by the sons and the first religious order was invented.

    The rest is history.

    So, what is the purpose? To enhance the lifestyle of some people and/or have power to control the activities of other people. Joseph Campbell explains the power of Myth.

    "No tribal rite has yet been recorded which attempts to keep winter from descending; on the contrary: the rites all prepare the community to endure, together with the rest of nature," ~Joseph Campbel
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      Aug 24 2012: Demons were the invention of Sumerians and Babylonians to personify the dark side of human nature. That they have become what they are today is part of the fall of man (a departure from spiritual understanding). Although I can't disagree with you that many have conjured up these kinds of stories for what they would regard as entertainment. They are not part of the original purpose.

      Myths were a way of keeping historical facts in some sort of order in a time where no books were available. There is meaning to the myths as is evident in Joseph Campbell's work. Your last quote is a very important one. It does not support your claim in the statement preceding it. Most officers of the military do no work. Their job is to direct the activities of those who are under their watch. You won't convince me that they are just a bunch of lazy people.

      You may be right about the Shaman's role. That is why the Hebrews condemned the use of sorcery. They knew it was breeding misconceptions in the congregation. As far as this being how religion got started, there is a wide swath between your take on it and the teachings of Eastern philosophy. You have made no mention of Eastern philosophy, and yet it had much greater influence on the Judeo-Christian religion than what you propose.

      Eastern philosophy deals with spiritual development. It deals with morals, ethics, integrity, perfecting the use of the mind to discern the workings of nature. It seeks to take the mind to higher levels of consciousness. But it does it all with associations. I suggest you look into it and compare it to what you have presented.
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        Aug 24 2012: Military officers do work and join in as warriors. They help push jeeps out of the mud, fire the tanks weapon, etc. Some spend all their waking hours pushing pencils and typing on a keyboard to keep other soldiers alive and the enemy dead. They work hard.

        I think my little story bears more truth than fiction. Long before, and I mean very very long before the Sumerians and Babylonians took part in organizing the pre-existent knowledge of their world the cave dwellers were drawing demons and other such pictorials on cave walls.

        Joseph Campbell's work offers more information as to the power of myth to control the minds of people. It is this fact that my story focuses on. The fact that myths such as the legend of Jesus have developed into a method of mind control and behavior modification fostered by lazy people who could or would not participate in proper village or cave maintenance.

        Who are the Hebrews to condemn anything? In what ways are they different from those they murdered? The Canaanites were a prosperous people before being murdered and having their land stole by the Hebrews.

        I have studied all the religion of the world and read most or their writings. You need to go back further in your studies of mankind to find the true meaning to the question you ask. Thanks to the efforts of Archeologist and other scientists, such research is possible now, allowing even the common mind to discover the truth outside of the words of their rabbi, priest, preacher, or Imam.

        Eastern philosophy, like the Judeao-Christian (a misnomer according to real Jews), has it's beginnings in such caves and villages.

        I'm not saying that such dogma is evil, stupid or invalid. I fully support the perpetuation of the words of wisdom distributed by religion. I only find fault when forces are associated with the very words of those books. To me it rings of Magic, not good sense.

        I respect those churches and temples where kindness, charity and sisterly love are the main focus of teaching.
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          Aug 25 2012: You are making bold assumptions about shamans and temple priests being lazy. If I read you right on your take of military officers, then the Israelites are to be commended.

          I have read several of Campbell's books. I don't see mind control as the main theme. He does bring up the subject, but only briefly.

          Where do you think that the cave man demons came from? I see it as part of human spirituality.

          "Who are the Hebrews to condemn anything?" Who are the Americans to condemn anything? Tens of thousands lost their lives during the American civil war. We fought against an injustice that the majority could no longer tolerate. The Hebrews fought against Idol worship to the God Baal. You should research what it means to pass your children through the fire to Molech before you condemn the hebrews for fighting against it.

          Religion evolved. Not necessarily in a good direction. There is much value in some of it, and not much value in a lot of it. I want to extract the value from the lot of it.

          Kudos to your respect for what benefits mankind.
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        Aug 26 2012: Roy said "The Hebrews fought against Idol worship to the God Baal."

        And who gave them the right to murder those people? Who made the Hebrews the spiritual police?

        Burying a woman i n the ground and stoning her to death --a Hebrew practice long before the Muslims took it up-- seems kinda harsh to me. Stoning your son to death for being a bit of a rebel will get you some serious time in prison today.

        What do you really think Roy? Should the the words of Jesus Christ and the prophets be taken literally or do you say they should be reexamined and perhaps the books rewritten to conform to modern day thinking and social reckoning?
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          Aug 26 2012: What the Hebrews did in their time was meant for their time. Their rules were harsh, but so was survival. They did what they needed to do.
          There are only ten commandments written in stone. The rest are subject to change. Modern religions need to understand that.

          I wouldn't say rewritten, but certainly not taken literal. Jesus always taught in parables. That fact is made clear in all the gospels. Parables were meant to convey a lesson, but were obviously not literal.
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        Aug 27 2012: Do you think Jesus had supernatural powers? Do you believe he is the son of God?
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          Aug 27 2012: To anyone who has knowledge beyond the masses, they would've been regarded as having supernatural powers. People thought the sorcerers had supernatural powers, but their powers were well within the limits of universal laws. I believe that Jesus knew a great deal more than the masses, which falls under the definition of supernatural.
          Supernatural does not necessarily mean beyond the laws of nature. It means beyond the knowledge of humanity at the time, beyond the KNOWN forces of nature. If anyone of us could return to Jesus day with the knowledge we possess, we would all be regarded as possessing supernatural power because the uses of electricity and magnetism that we take for granted WERE NOT KNOWN IN THAT TIME. So we must be cautious in how we interpret this.

          I believe he is the son of God. But I take it on faith and not by proof. My reasons are based on personal convictions gleaned from spiritual experience. But I cannot, and will not say I know it is true. I have no proof.

          Jesus said that all who would believe in him, he would give them power to become sons of God. By what means? Jesus said that I and the father are one. According to Eastern philosophy, to rise to the "Christ" consciousness is to become one with the father. The "Christ" consciousness is the seventh energy chakra, or highest level that the mind can achieve. By that interpretation, any one of us could become a son of God. I refer back to what Jesus knew and not how he came to be. It may be that there was nothing special about Jesus other than that he was way before his time.

          Imagine an extraterrestrial coming to this planet. Would he not be regarded and treated in the same manner as was Jesus by those in authority? Particularly if the extraterrestrial would to question their authority as did Jesus? It would be the same story all over again. Although it might not play out the same depending on how the extraterrestrial responded!
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          Aug 27 2012: Do you think he walked on water, and turned water into wine without the help of grapes?
          Born of a virgin i.e. impregnated by Yahweh?
          Was clinically dead and decomposing for 3 days and then miraculously revived bodily?

          My recall is that Jesus said the whole law applied - which I guess includes all 613 rules.

          Where does it say only the 10 in stone were for all time and the others are situational.

          Seems like selective or subjective interpretation even assuming the bible is more of an authority on what is good and bad than anyone else's opinion (which I doubt it is).

          Basically you are saying the New Testament reset morality or was morality 2.0.

          Roy, I admire your well considered views rather than being trapped by dogma. However, I suggest the fact that we really need to interpret the bible through our modern social and cultural paradigms in regards to what to pick and choose for today, seems to make the whole exercise somewhat ludicrous.

          Why not start without the assumption that old religious teachings are anything more than the products of the humans of their time, and treat this as just one input into developing an ethical framework. Dump the slavery, genocide and idea of divine command etc.

          What is the attraction for attributing something magical or divine to these old books when we need to filter out so much rubbish to find the gems that still make sense today?
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        Aug 27 2012: Roy >>I do not believe that Jesus is the son of God. I do not believe he is the Messiah.

        According to all you have read and all you know, if I don't ever change my beliefs, will I burn in Hell? Will I not be allowed into the same Heaven as you?

        Obey No1kinobe >> is your comment directed at me or Roy, or someone else? I get an email your comment is to me, but it sounds like it is directed at Mr. Bourque.
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          Aug 27 2012: Jon,
          Jesus said it is not they who say "Lord, Lord", but they who do the will of the father in heaven. The will of the father in heaven is that we love one another. Nowhere does Jesus say what church we should belong to.

          When Jesus gave the parable of the separation of the sheep from the goats, he said "when I was hungry, you gave (did not give) me to eat, when I was thirsty...they said, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty...Jesus said, just as you have (have not) done it to the least of these, you have (have not) done it to me.

          It all goes back to how you treat others. What you believe matters little. If you care about your fellow man and show it in the things that you do, you will not lose your reward regardless of what you believe.
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    Aug 23 2012: First, I just want to suggest, that I ran out of thumbs up for you on this conversation, it was very well written and debated, so thank you for that.

    I find myself curious if you have read any of the philosophers who insist that Jesus, actually spent time in the East? I've always found that concept interesting, because I have always seen dramatic conflict, between the old an new testaments, and I see the roots in Eastern philosophy. Parts of the new testament sound almost like translations of the Buddhist path for example.

    The concept of seeking knowledge to overcome ignorance and create happiness, through acts of enligtened kindness. In many ways, at times, I would even suggest that both faiths sound almost like the scientific method... but then, in most Christian faiths ego's, preachers, and the old testament get involved. It really makes the two texts much more confusing than the truth they contain needs to be.

    Catholicism really did Christ a PR nightmare, in my humble opinion. He seems like a much nicer guy, than they give him credit for...

    Now, I'll add a dimension to the conversation however, I don't think anyone is expecting... Sex. What seperates concepts found in the faith, from the practice of actual religions, is the way they treat sex. Every religion, at their core, operate as a constantly recruiting, sex cult. "You don't get access to our community of attractive and kind people, unless you believe in our god... Now go forth, and out multiply the rest of these heathens".

    In that practice, religion, took well meaning concepts, and made them racist. It made them an institutionallization of us and them. The chastity of women, is used by many faiths, to try to convert non believers, without evidence. This is what all of the modern faiths tend to get wrong... Love people, who are different than you.
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      Aug 23 2012: Although distant from your question this is the nearest REPLY button I could find for you David.
      I believe/know God is. God has communicated a certain few of his attributes to mankind. All conscious, cognitively functioning humans know physically about god, the Maker, by experiencing what he has made, which is everything in the Universe. In addition some of these humans are given,as a gift from God, spiritual, eternal knowledge of God. These born again people can converse with God in prayer. God is Spirit.
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        Aug 26 2012: We are many millennium from experiencing everything in the universe my friend.

        If God were a super scientist who actually helped create life on earth --mankind in particular, Perhaps she did pass along some of her attributes.

        To "converse with God in prayer", I assume utilizes a two way exchange of words or thoughts. What has God spoken to you? What were her actual words? I'm just curious.
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      Aug 24 2012: david,
      Thank you for your encouragement and support.

      The gospels said that the wise men who came to worship Jesus' birth came from the East. Although the text never says that Jesus went to receive instruction from the east, I believe that the writer was eluding to that fact in a round about way. I have read a book on mystic Christianity which directly ties Jesus words with Eastern philosophy. I also found many parallels to Eastern philosophy in the old testament, but there is no explanation of it anywhere in the bible itself. At any rate, Jesus' words certainly reflect the teachings of Eastern philosophy. I would agree with the philosophers who tie the two together.

      As far as sex goes, this is a two edged sword. First, if you over-breed, the pressures of survival are going to lead to conflict regardless of how well you believe or pray. In this scenario, you are stuck with survival of the fittest whether you believe in it or not.
      Second, sex is the second energy chakra, but still in the lower subconscious, so it it part of the carnal instincts, yet necessary to procreate. It requires responsibility to keep in in check. Different cultures treat it differently depending on where they are on the spiritual path. Just enough of us, way too much of you is a carnal rule, not a spiritual one.

      As far as the scientific method goes, It was the Catholic church that divorced itself from science. Had they not done that, I believe that religion would have developed much differently than it has since Galileo. Unfortunately, we don't have that model to follow, so we are dealing with a religion that has a lot of catching up to do.
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        Aug 24 2012: I should not have focused only on sex actually... because, what I am really talking about, is the act of marriage, through ceremony, at the church. In practicing this custom, there is an unseen enforcement of the inherent flaw in most institutional religion "Others, are not fit for breeding, they must convert, or your marriage is void". This invisible hand if you will, creates much of the resentment, and war religious institutions have faced.

        And, it is seperate from the true nature of religion, in my eyes, as I alluded to at the end "Love people who are different."
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          Aug 24 2012: That does seem to be a common trait in many religions. The Muslims are even known to kill their own who marry into another religion. They call it honor killing, but I don't see anything honorable about it.

          The old testament has similar teachings; breed within your own kind. The irony of it all is that mix-breeds are better equipped to fight disease, so the source of such a teaching is a mystery that seems to be founded on conceit and pride. Pride was one of the things hated by God. Is it any wonder that most of the prophets were all slain!
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      Aug 24 2012: David, I've added a thumbs up for you.
      I also find the dissonance between old and new disturbing.
      In effect it is a completely different message religious philosophy in many places.
      I have heard that a little before Jesus was born Rabbi Hillel is said to have summed up the Torah as love thy neighbour etc. So by that time perhaps there had been progress in society from the dark old days the OT spoke about.

      I wonder if there were influences from India etc 2000 years ago influencing beliefs in the middle east.

      Also I wonder how much of the stuff attributed to Jesus was actually said by him, and how much was developed over the decades the gospels were written. Correct me if I'm wrong but not all the gospels mention the sermon on the mount. And Jesus seems to have focused on reforming Jewish society not much for gentiles. All disciples Jewish etc. Gentiles really only got a look in after Jesus died. I wonder how much was Jesus and how much we extrapolated and invented by his followers after his death.
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      Aug 22 2012: I like your use of the term "attained ones". What I saw in religion was a means to attain to a higher purpose. You hit the nail on the head when you brought egos into the mix turning words of wisdom into self preservation forms. We need to get back to the original purpose. I know of some who have, but I know of many more who are still lost in the words.

      I watched a report on Marshall Applewhite and Heavens Gate cult. It was something to watch people sucked into a claim that appealed to those who were disillusioned with life in general. He used words in the bible to weave a web of deceit. I believe that he himself was just as deceived in believing his own lie.

      Thanks for your input.
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    Aug 21 2012: The purpose of religion is to create a framework on which to conform individual behavior in order to create a sustainable society.

    The Pharaohs knew this, the Maya knew this and the Catholic church knows this. And they all profited.
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      Aug 21 2012: Would you say that modern religion has kept up with the times, and is it at all any resemblance to what it started out to be?

      I found many comparisons between the Judeo-Christian tradition and Eastern philosophy. But Eastern philosophy is not part of modern traditions.
      "Christ" is the seventh energy chakra of Eastern philosophy. Where it leads is mind boggling to the one who follows the path. I have not met one religious preacher who ever made any reference to this connection. What I see in modern traditions is a practice that just keeps saying the same things over and over. They don't bring in any new information, nor do they provide followers with alternate views to reflect upon and expand their horizons. They keep their followers in a tight niche that has no growth. In fact, the churches are seeing less and less attendees because more and more people are becoming disillusioned with it. yet I see a path that only religion can fill, and it is not out of tune with modern science. Does anyone else see it?
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        Aug 21 2012: I think so because I think science is as much of a religion as it can be without a diety.
  • Aug 21 2012: Roy,
    You received good responses here. It seems to me true religion is founded on mercy, as it mitigates one's behavior to be sensitive and loving. Pure science, material power, and formulas are incapable of knowing love and mercy. But, persons can know these things and therefore adopt them as part of religion. A true religion is couched in a person's relationship with the Original Lover and Original Merciful One. True religion relates to a person outside of one's self, one perceived as the giver of life and involves, variously, appreciation, awe, wonder, and thankfulness.

    Food for thought.
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      Aug 21 2012: The original definition of "Theology" includes a reference to "knowledge of God through nature and reason"; taken from a 1904 dictionary. The modern definition excludes any reference to nature and reason. This appears to have occurred in response to the Catholic church divorcing itself from science after its attack on Galileo.

      Science is about the nature and structure of physical matter. It holds no emotion, it is relegated to facts. Yet it holds vast stores of knowledge about how life grows, adapts, and meets challenges. The idea that life could have evolved is supported by the fact that life is still evolving.

      I agree with your comment about mercy, love, and sensitivity. I have a hard time finding those qualities in a religious fundamentalist. And yet it appears to be that the fundamentalists are running the church. Not to say that they don't have mercy, love, and sensitivity, but it seems to be compromised in many who are at odds with what others have come to believe based on modern science. When a Christian, who claims to follow the teachings of one who preached love for one another, can be so hostile to anyone who disagrees with their fundamental beliefs, they have put their personal convictions in front of their faith. What Jesus do they believe in keeps coming up in my mind.

      Thank you for your thoughts.
  • Aug 21 2012: From the Bible; James 1:27

    "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

    As Debra Smith puts it, 'To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God'
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    Aug 21 2012: Hi Roy

    My first response reading just the heading is True Religion is an oxymoron.

    Second a true religion is one that fits the definition of religion best. Even the harmful ones can fit.

    Third, is perhaps the truest religion is the one that most correctly explains reality.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughtful statement.

    After reading it I thought who gets to decide what religion is supposed to be?

    Just like a language can change over distance and time, so can religions. They are organic and diverge and evolve.

    I suggest you can point out specific issues in some religious beliefs systems, but it is a big call to suggest you know what true religion is.
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      Aug 21 2012: Hi Obey,

      Sometimes I don't always say what I feel. The opening statement may have made more sense if I said what is the true purpose of religion. I will change it, thank you.

      No one gets to say what true religion is supposed to be. People should be presenting their spiritual experiences for others to reflect upon. Everyone should have the right to question another's interpretation.

      The specific issues that I have is that organized religions don't allow you to question things, don't offer other sources of information in order to glean a deeper meaning, they don't seen to be addressing current problems, and they don't admit when they have been wrong.

      My mother told me of a priest that replaced the former priest in her town. The priest spoke mainly of his mother in his sermons, rarely used the word God, did not visit the people, even went so far as to say that he didn't like people. The congregation should have driven him out of town. Instead, they watched the church fall apart until it finally had to be torn down. They now hold mass in a VFW hall.

      My father was deeply affected by the belief in purgatory. He later was informed by a priest that they no longer believe or teach this doctrine. Yet I know many people who still believe it and are sending money to organizations to pray for the lost souls in purgatory.

      Something has to change.
      • Aug 21 2012: Roy,

        How can you really be sure that there is no purgatory...?
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          Aug 21 2012: Daniel,
          The idea of purgatory comes from an interpretation of an event recorded in the book of Macabees. This book is not part of the King James bible, it is only part of the Catholic bible. It was rejected by other traditions because it is very graphic in the horrors of what went on during the reign of the Macabees. If you ever want to go on a crusade, this would be a good book to read because it really sets you on fire for war. But it is not at all in harmony with the teachings of Jesus, so it seems out of place in a Christian theology.

          The specific event was a band of soldiers that came upon a battlefield, in which many of their own comrades were killed. In going over the bodies, the soldiers found idols among their belongings. They surmised that God had let them perish because of the idols, so they prayed that God would not condemn them in the afterlife in everlasting torment.
          The logic that the church would develop is why would the soldiers pray if their wasn't a reason. The idea of purgatory emerged from that debate. Yet, nowhere does the book say what God's position on the matter is, if any. It is simply a band of soldiers esteeming how they think that God would react. It's a long stretch from that claim to an idea that would effect millions for years to come.
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        Aug 21 2012: Thanks Roy.

        Hell and Purgatory are hateful concepts. I guess some Christians reject one or both.

        It does seem ridiculous that a loving god would judge his creations to eternal torment. But many people believe this.

        As you probably know, I don't rank the bible very highly in explaining reality, if your are correct about the origins of the concept of purgatory, it seems to speculative in terms of scripture even considering the book of Macabee.

        I note Macabee is in the Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic bibles, but not the Jewish. Which seems odd.

        I guess men compiled the bible old and new, and they did it differently for Jews, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant etc. Many gospels were left out etc.

        The bible is a big book. You can find or speculate nearly anything you want. Even today most Christian ignore some parts of the old testament like killing people for working on the Sabbath, but accept other bits like the 10 commandments. Most Christians probably abhor slavery. You don't get that from the bible , even the new testament tells "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ."

        I guess it is also normal for human religious organisations to create some rules or dogma. I have little time for religious authority such as the pope or pastor having the truth etc. There are experts and more learned but much of the bible is open to interpretation. But it seems reasonable to have some basic tennants to a religion. Up to individual what they believe though.

        The creation stories in Genesis seem to conflict with science (some disagree) yet you have some who believe them and some who don't. I actually suggest there is something to taking the whole thing as the literal truth. To anyone picking and choosing, it just reinforces how flexible religious truth seems to be.

        But I'm glad the churches are being pulled slowly into the 21st century and separated from state power etc. That is society not god making faith btr
        • Aug 26 2012: "The bible is a big book. You can find or speculate nearly anything you want. Even today most Christian ignore some parts..."

          It is true one can speculate quite liberally in such a big book, but if that speculation is out of context, it is unlikely to be true.

          What is more relevant is what is written, not what is read/interpreted. The claim is that God wrote it for man, who in turn reads it to find what God wanted to tell him. If the individual is focused on anything else, he risks taking it out of context.

          You listed a number of items, i.e. working on the Sabbath, the 10 commandments, slavery, etc. as a generic list, but without any context of the resurrection (which is the central redemptive point of the Bible)

          I'll go thru it quickly (without trying to sermonize!),

          Working on the Sabbath was to show Israel of the need to devote time to God unhindered. The NT did away with the actual legalistic word and expanded it to its full definition, which was to devote all things to God via Jesus who IS the Sabbath.

          The 10 Commandments were explicitly worded, but the full definition was provided by Jesus and the Holy Spirit - i.e. adultery is more than just sex outside marriage.

          And thirdly, slavery is not endorsed as a social structure. Your selective quote misinterprets the point being made - slaves, don't break the law.

          My first post at TED.com!

          I gather you are more of a science kind of guy, and while I respect the mind that observes/ analyses/ assesses/ interprets, I do wonder why I don't see a lot of the same objective process on "non-science" topics.
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        Aug 21 2012: I don't know that it is true that all organized religions don't allow you to question things. Do you have evidence for this claim?
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          Aug 22 2012: I may have overstated this. A good lecture has a question and answer period following. That doesn't happen in a church. A friend once asked a priest "If the story of Adam and Eve is literally true, then aren't we all the product of incest?" The priest looked at his watch and said I'm late for a meeting, and that was the end of the conversation.

          Churches won't deny you the right to question, but they generally discourage it and try to whitewash your questions so the answer isn't very useful. After a while, you get the gist and give up. I chose to take my questions elsewhere and had to find some answers on my own. I was surprised but not disappointed by what many of the answers turned out to be.

          Years ago, people were warned that they would incur the wrath of hell if they questioned the church. That was a powerful means to deter the practice. Galileo was forced to recant his theory under penalty of death and held under house arrest for the rest of his life because he challenged the church belief that the earth was the center of the universe. We have come a long way since, but questioning the church is still looked down upon by its followers.
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        Aug 22 2012: I think you mentioned being raised in Catholicism. I know extremely little about Christianity, but I had thought Unitarians are welcome to challenge ideas and Quakers maybe as well? Reform Judaism also...
        In any case, whatever the tradition, being welcome to question and reconcile a system of beliefs and ones own observations can only be for good.
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          Aug 22 2012: To me, religion is about discovery in the intuitive realm of consciousness, and about learning to work together in a social cohesion that benefits all. Being able to question is definitely for the good when you are trying to advance on the spiritual path. Questioning for the sole reason of rebellion is what the church was afraid of, and therefore highly discouraged in Catholicism. They saw themselves as the authority of God through God's chosen ministers.

          The Catholic church is ritual and regimented. The Pope is considered the voice of God and infallible by most old fashioned Catholics. In growing up, I was warned not to question, as this would have been regarded as heresy and possibly subject to ex-communication. The history of the church is laden with examples where people charged with heresy were shunned through ex-communication, tortured, and even executed if the church saw them as a danger to the flock. It is a form of persecution that has persisted since the inception of the early Christians. Such is the alarm and disgust that most atheists feel towards the church's animosity toward scientific discoveries. They know that Galileo was right, and yet he was forced to recant his theory under penalty of death. They also know the history of the witch hunts, which is a black mark against any Christian who engaged in such activity. Although the witch hunts are over, there is still a lingering smoke in the psychological makeup of people who were raised in the Christian church and warned of the fires of hell. The abuse that many children suffered from it still affects people to this day. I am one of those people, but was able to rise above it because I had spiritual experiences that led me on a different path.
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        Aug 22 2012: I understood what you wrote about Catholicism. What I wasn't sure of was the extension of what you said about Catholicism to all religions but more than that, even to all of Christianity. For example, are Unitarians not encouraged to question and wrestle with deciding what they believe?

        Again, I do not know, but I don't think one can extrapolate always from Catholicism to other Christian faiths.
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          Aug 22 2012: The Catholics were very influential in earlier times. They have their teeth in most Christian faiths. Since the time of European migration to the new land, Christian faiths have branched out in an effort to depart from persecution and strict control. There is a whole lot more freedom to question now than ever before. But I find most ministers to be fundamentalists, so they try to drown you in scripture verses to persuade you to their way of thinking.

          The Unitarians are very open minded, maybe even too much so. They allow questioning, to the point where one does not know where they stand on any issue because each is allowed their own viewpoint. I asked a Unitarian minister what the word God meant to him. He said absolutely nothing. Yet he is one among many sharing different opinions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, science, atheism are all part of the Unitarian assembly. They have no solid creed, and one church may be very different than another based on who attends.
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    Aug 21 2012: How do you know you understand deeply and others not? Is it because of your revelation? Among those who have experienced revelations, do these revelations always reveal the same understandings to those who have them? If not, how do you know you understand accurately and others not? Or is there an understanding of the bible that is right or true for you (based on your revelation and study) and another different one that is right for other people (based on their revelations or paths to understanding)?.
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      Aug 21 2012: My revelation of God is in harmony with what science teaches, only it would be eleven years before I would come to that knowledge. It was only after that connection that I began to think that maybe I had a revelation that was based on something real, not on something supposed. I have questioned many things in search for what would hold true and what wouldn't. I have never held to belief just because it was the status quo. I am well aware that Aristotle's crystal spheres were accepted doctrine for nearly two millennium. Just because a majority believe something, and it appears to hold up to logic, and came from what appears as a reliable source, doesn't make it true. But when you start to find confirmation to what you believe, that's a horse of a different color.

      Beliefs should be questioned, and some confirmation given as to why you believe something. And because it is written in a book that is held sacred is no answer at all. We know that there are many sects of Christianity all in disagreement of the same sacred writings. That in itself should tell you something. But how many are listening, and how many are just accepting or denying without searching for meaning? Just because you believe something doesn't matter at all until you can say what you understand about what you believe, and how it has affected your life. Only then can you wage an argument that is worth listening to.

      Do all people who have revelations understand the same thing? Absolutely not. It is up to the believer to search it out and find out what is true about it and what isn't. I can't say that what I believe is more true than others accept in what I can reveal about what it means to me. And by the same token, I must accept that my belief is only a belief until I can give it value through comparisons to other knowledge. The bible says prove all things. I must follow that advice.
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      Aug 21 2012: I underestand that in Missouri where Rep. Akin is running for office, 20% of christians believe that "Legitimate rape" prevents pregnancies coming to term. This type of thirteenth century worldview is the same philosophy as the Christians used a few hundred years ago when they said, you must be a witch because you lived when we tied you to a chair attached to a boom and lowered you under water and held you there. Therefore, you must be tied to a stake and burned alive to be sent to your master the Devil.

      Am I to assume that these christians have received a revelation that contradicts all of the statistical KNOWLEDGE that is known about rape? One in 4 women are raped in their lifetimes. 5% of those rapes result in viable pregnancies. (30,000 per year). Should I ignore the evidence and simply believe that those christians revelations are more valid than my own? Should I remain silent as I see my own safety in jeopardy because of the revelations of the christians?
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        Aug 21 2012: "Should I ignore?" "Should I remain silent?"

        Anyone who would, does not understand religion at all. Religion was a means of connecting to the source. Many have confused it with accepting what the majority believe. Any time you have accepted a belief without questioning its relevance, you have departed from what religion was meant to convey. Religion was not meant to answer questions, it was meant to be thought provoking to force you to seek the answers. That is why religious writings are so obscure and often contradictory. They are meant to make you think. The fact that many people don't want to think on their own, and are willing to accept simple answers, is why religion is failing today and why it failed during the dark ages.

        Question everything. Assume nothing. Be observant. Speak out against ignorance. Speak out against injustice. Prove all things. Be diligent in all things. I feel like a broken record because Saint Paul already said most of this in his epistles.
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          Aug 21 2012: I agree. My comment was to Fritz
  • Sep 3 2012: ...

    I would say 3 things:

    1. A source of personal comfort.
    Everyone should bring their children up with some sort of religion, telling them that G-d loves them and will protect them. When people are in distress, they very quickly fall back on their root belief systems.

    2. A set of narratives around the mysteries of life.
    (And yes, there will always be fundamental mysteries around things like conscious experience; not that religion offers up any real explanation there).

    3. Most importantly, it's a source of stability and CONSENSUS in a society.

    By establishing a set of bedrock values as permanent underpinnings of society, religion stabilizes and maintains the peace. For that reason, we ABSOLUTELY need religion. Although I'm not a Christian myself, Christianity is a darned good one! ...
    Just look at atheists -- they reject G-d and what's the FIRST thing they come up with: fascism and sodomy. Yes, we absolutely need religion as a society.

    Note that even if you don't have a sincere BELIEF in a religion, you can still take a strong STANCE for that religion. That's probably what many educated religionists are actually doing.
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      Sep 2 2012: Whoa, pretty convincing stuff.
      Now this serves as a perfect example of what pseudo-science is.

      1- THE AUTHORITY
      In science it doesn't really matter who's explaining a theory. Student, amateur, who cares. In pseudo-science, it matters. So here we have yet another Ph.D, and a quantum physicist, what's more.

      2-EXPLANATIONS ARE WEAKER THAN FACTS
      In science, the speaker often begins with addressing the problem, the puzzle. Then, he or she will give details about how the puzzle needed to be approached. Finally, the explanation.
      In pseudo-science, the speaker begins with "I am going to show you very quickly some of the early research". There is no scientific problem. It's not about narratives or showmanship, a good introduction is part of doing science.
      Then the PhD goes on with figures, charts, you name it. Facts and measurements, and no explanation of the experimental protocol.
      Finally, a beautiful conclusion that uses non-explained figures as explanations. "Because a number is a fact". I especially love the use of 0.00000001 likelyhood of the measurements being a result of chance : that's not even pseudo-scientific, it's a conjuring trick!!!
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        Sep 2 2012: It is no less convincing than the FACT that we are all a cosmic accident, when the facts supporting such a claim can only prove that evolutionary changes occur, and that the time line for such changes is not in accord with religious fundamentalist views.

        I presented the link as something to think about. It contains statistics that are worth consideration. If you think it is wrong, then present evidence to the contrary.
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          Sep 2 2012: I don't have evidence to the contrary. I can't prove meditation doesn't interfere with geopolitics. But I also choose not to bother, because I'm too busy disproving the connection between the way people shave in Bengladesh and a particular slot machine in Vegas.
          I have nothing to say about this theory because it's a pseudo-theory. A pseudo-theory looks like a theory, but doesn't try to explain anything for real.
          I wouldn't know what to discuss. The man has facts, and is claiming that it's most unlikely that he's wrong (he's mimicking scientific precaution by saying there's a 0.000001 chance that he might be wrong... ).

          If I told you that an eclypse affects the taste of water, you'd have an hard time proving me wrong. If I tell you that an eclypse affects the taste of water BECAUSE the alignment of the sun and the moon create a gravitationnal force that pulls my taste buds upwards, you could easily disprove this idea.
          It's Ok to be wrong. But you have to be scientific about it. A theory shows its cards. Pseudo science is bluff.
          And I call.
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      Sep 2 2012: 3- CONSPIRACY THEORY
      A pseudo-theory is always a victim. So instead of allowing time for details and explanations, some considerable time is allowed to talk about how the narrow-minded system is not pseudo-science-friendly.
      If you're shrew, you can even use the fact that no scientific journal would want anything to do with your nonsense as an argument : "People are bothered by the truth".
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      Aug 29 2012: Hi Don,
      I was raised in the Catholic church. My first impression was a glimpse into a new world. I saw the value in faith. But the church's teachings were focused on the negative, so I had to find my own way. What the Holy Spirit taught me would undermine some of the dogmas of the church.

      I grew up in the controversy between evolution and creationism. These two ideas drove a wedge between science and religion. We were constantly being told that we needed to take sides. Many of those in the science community threw faith out the window. But with it came a sense of freedom that has fueled the drug and sex culture, and the disparity between rich and poor has only gotten worse. Those who are caught up in it will defend their position with a passion. And when you try to tell them the problems that it causes, they will throw "survival of the fittest" right in your face. So it is left to the individual. We have to choose who our master is. We are either going to work together for the good of all, or we are going to let greed and lust be our guide. And it doesn't matter which side of the fence you are on. It only matters how much you care about your fellow man.

      There are still issues to be sorted out. Does only today matter, or should we be concerned only for tomorrow? I'll tell you this; if we don't concern ourselves about tomorrow, there might not be one. But we still can only live one day at a time. Jesus said God is God of the living and not of the dead. What does it truly mean to live? I see value in the humanist's perspective. It's not black and white. We still have a lot of learning to do. Maybe someday we will take the best of what religion has to offer, discard the rest of the nonsense, and combine it with the best that science has to offer. I see us moving in that direction.
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    Aug 27 2012: Roy, The title attracted me your comments confused me. Do you want to discuss what is religion or my opinions on how religion should be overhauled.