TED Conversations

Farokh Shahabi Nezhad

CEO & Co-Founder at Idearun, TEDxTehran


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Is there any way to prevent religious debates from turning into a big fight?

People discuss lots of things, politics, sports, anything
But when they discuss religious opinions, most of the time, they get all angry and try to win even with fight.
why is that? why that can't be a normal subject?
and more important, How can we prevent this?


Closing Statement from Farokh Shahabi Nezhad

Tnx everyone for their replies. I enjoyed learning from different aspect for this problem.

I can only conclude this : Don't argue with someone unless they are open minded and ready to be changed and challenged.

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    Feb 20 2013: Beliefs are closely related to our identity. When our beliefs are challenged, we take it as a personal challenge - an assault on "who we are". Challenging or ridiculing other people's beliefs has the same effect as ridiculing physical appearance, race, sexual orientation, or tastes. I think, the same mental process is causing derogatory exchanges between iPhone and Android users, as well as soccer fan violence.

    I think, people need to spend more time thinking of "who they are" as humans and be careful associating their identity with things, people, soccer teams, bands, brand names, gods, etc. This is how I interpret the religious commandment forbidding to worship idols instead of "I AM WHO I AM".

    I like the quote from the film "Lorax":

    The Lorax: Which way does a tree fall?
    The Once-ler: Uh, down?
    The Lorax: A tree falls the way it leans. Be careful which way you lean.
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      Feb 20 2013: Claims in science can be challenged and are all the time without it being perceived as a personal attack. If a paper or hypothesis is presented and claims are made it is expected that the claimant demonstrate the truth of the claims, to provide evidence and a logical framework, and be prepared to respond to questions and dissenting opinions.

      So why should it be an insult to ask anyone making any kind of claim, especially within the supernatural realm to step up and demonstrate, rather than simply assert, that what they claim has merit, something more than just a meme embedded in the minds of a billion people by tradition.
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        Feb 20 2013: When people study external things, they often do not associate themselves with what they study. This is why people are more comfortable facing challenges of their scientific ideas than facing challenges about their beliefs about themselves or moral issues.

        Atheists have their own beliefs which are not to be touched. E.g. there is a widespread belief among atheists that all assertions need to have evidence. This is not true in general. E.g. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," does not need evidence and has none. I tried to question this belief in an atheist forum. I got insults and ridicule in reply and was banned as a "troublemaker". Core beliefs of atheists are not open to questioning.

        All people get touchy when their core beliefs are questioned. Scientists and atheists are no exception.
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          Feb 20 2013: never mind ...you missed the point
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          Feb 21 2013: "I tried to question this belief in an atheist forum. I got insults and ridicule in reply and was banned as a 'troublemaker'."

          We both have this dubious honor in common, having been "banned" from an atheist forum. In my case, twice.

          For all their supposed reverence of rationality, they behave irrationally, elevating their atheistic beliefs to the stature of a religion--the very institution they claim to repudiate and scorn.

          You could tell, after reading a few of the posts, that most were reticent--and fearful--to deviate from the teachings of their respective guru or mentor, or to question the canons of their faith, lest they invite the ire of the group.

          I haven't felt as much pathos for religionist as I felt for these seemingly lost souls, afraid of their own thoughts, and the unreliability of their own minds, as they struggle to place a certain prescribed atheistic overlay the full length of their day-to-day existence.

          In short, they were as bound to their beliefs as any religionist.
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          Feb 21 2013: Wilbert,
          You write about a certin group of people....

          "they behave irrationally"... "most were reticent and fearful"...you felt "pathos" for "these seemingly lost souls afraid of their own thoughts, and the unreliability of their own minds, as they struggle."

          Do you honestly think/feel this kind of labeling contributes to furthering a conversation? It appears that you effectively demonstrate why religious debates often turn into a fight.
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        Feb 21 2013: Peter, I understand your point. I agree that we should not be insulted when our beliefs are questioned. But reality is different. People ARE insulted or, rather, feel threatened when their beliefs are questioned. The question is what do WE do about it? I think, it's possible to have a rational response to irrational behavior.

        Consider a few analogies. Snakes can bite people for reasons that may not be obvious to us. What do we do about it? Get frustrated that snakes don't behave like people or the way we think they should behave? Declare snakes "evil" and kill them? Or, perhaps, study their behavior, find out under what circumstances snakes bite people and behave in a way that they don't bite us?

        All living creatures fear unfamiliar things which they cannot predict and often react with aggression. Same happens when people encounter behavior or beliefs that they cannot understand, explain, or predict. Why would we expect people to behave differently from any other living creature?

        Why shouldn't religion follow rules of science? Why shouldn't cats observe table manners? The obvious answer is "cats are not people, human rules do not apply to cats".
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        Feb 21 2013: "If a paper or hypothesis is presented and claims are made it is expected that the claimant demonstrate the truth of the claims."

        Take the God Particle (the Higgs Boson), for example, claims were made as to the Standard Model, but the "demonstrated" truth of such claims are still being examined, and which required the construction of the Large Hadron Collider for the claims to be examined and substantiated.

        "So why should it be an insult to ask anyone making any kind of claim, especially within the supernatural realm to step up and demonstrate, rather than simply assert, that what they claim has merit."

        I've seen ghosts. How do I "demonstrate" that without the assistance of the ghost? I travel outside my body. How do I demonstrate that, unless I take you with me? And there are other claims too numerous to recount, and just as hard to replicate in ways that natural science is required to demonstrate its claims.

        Should my claims be dismissed simply because "proof" exists differently in the supernatural realm than the natural, and harder to observe.

        Granted, you should exhibit skepticism when claims extend beyond your normal range, but we're faced with such claims daily, sometimes from those who subscribe to one conspiracy theory or the other, and we accept them, if we're predisposed, or we reject them, if we're not.

        You suggested it yourself when you use the term, "supernatural." These so-called "supernatural" things usually exist outside the "natural world," and can't always be neatly replicated as with natural events.

        All I ask is this: When I and others make supernatural claims, that you reserve judgment as to our sanity, and our veracity.

        Even some "natural events" puzzle science. Is light a wave or a particle, or both, for example? Does the observer change the behavior of that which is observed? And, then, there's quantum theory: "A theory in physics based on the principle that matter and energy have the properties of both particles and waves."
        • Feb 21 2013: Have you ever considered the possibility that while people share the same space they might not share the same reality or the same "rules?" That is, that consistency from person to person is not a requirement in this place. Is it possible that there is no exclusion? Is it possible that all answers are simultaneously right in the correct context?

          So is it possible that ghosts exist in your world, but that they don't in mine?
        • Feb 21 2013: You made a comment about atheism behaving much as a religion. You are correct about this. It is a belief system with the same kind of canon and experts and dogma as any established religion. Atheism even has its own saints....although unlike Catholicism or Judaism, they don't yet have funny hats.

          No matter what side of the issue you are on, there is no way to produce absolute proof for either position.

          So on one hand the religious zealots bang on the scripture that is on the table and the atheists just bang on the table.

          Those of us that have had direct experience just hear the noise of their banging.
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          Feb 21 2013: Wilbert, regarding our remarks about atheists, let's not generalize. I agree with Coleen's comment.

          To clarify the point, lack of religious prejudice does not guarantee the lack of prejudice. All atheists are different, just as are all religious people (that's, perhaps, the only generalization I can make). It is a mistake to label other people as "fundamentalists" or "creationists" or "lacking a moral compass" or "bigots" just by their faith or lack thereof.

          What fascinates me in these debates is how we start with views opposing hypocrisy, bigotry, dogma and end up doing exact same thing that we are opposed to. Didn't this happen to Christianity? When people go too far avoiding these vices, they approach them from the other side.

          It's like moderation - "excessive moderation" is self-refuting.
    • Feb 20 2013: This is a very incisive comment. It seems to me that so much of organized religion is about creating an identity. This is as much about who is "in" and who is "out." That is, there cannot be an "in-crowd" unless there are "dorks." You cannot have a "chosen people" unless you have someone that God does not like.

      You provoke a very interesting question: What is a person if you strip away all of their identities, or as you put it, their "brands?"
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        Feb 20 2013: Here is talk about it.

        This question intrigued humanity for ages. The concept of "self" is extremely fascinating. It always leads to circular reasoning and defies logic. It cannot be answered by science. I think, this "self-awareness" question is why religions exist with all the references to "I AM WHO I AM" and a host of other circular concepts.
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          Feb 21 2013: "I AM WHO I AM"

          Unconditional being or unconditional existence.

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