Farokh Shahabi Nezhad

CEO & Co-Founder at Idearun, TEDxTehran


This conversation is closed.

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: Probably difficult to have a meaningful conversation when one party believes they have the absolute truth about everything from gods and goddesses down to what to eat and how to manage slaves.
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      Feb 20 2013: No more difficult than having a conversation--meaningful or otherwise--with those who're equally convinced that "gods and goddesses" don't exist.

      I have seen the Niagara Falls of what some would call the supernatural, and the supernatural equivalent of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Colossus of Rhodes--all the Seven Ancient Wonders of our Supernatural existence and more.

      One thing I've learned from my many excursions into the Astral World (so named by occultists and mystics), the only Absolute is the Abode of God--all other loci, and truth, are open to the individual and collective creative power, and energy, of consciousness, including the realm in which we're currently residing.
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        Feb 20 2013: True - confidence you have the absolute truth on any side of an argument is difficult to deal with.

        Although most non theists I know, don't claim to know gods or goddesses don't exist. But suggest they have a reasonable case that there is no compelling evidence for the existence of Zeus, Maduk, Yahweh, Allah, Isis or any other theistic or more generic deistic interpretation. Seems reasonable they don't have a belief in these gods, but good to be open to new evidence.

        Others are more certain.

        I do find it funny that with 6 billion living slightly to completely different religious supernatural belief systems today and many others held by those who have fallen, the odds are your particular religious or spiritual view is wrong completely or in part.

        Your experience sound wonderful and powerful. I might have a different working hypothesis as an explanation but its a wonderful part of the human experience. Perhaps for some, these or possibly related experiences may be out of control and they find it difficult to function in society.

        But even dreams are pretty cool. Just familiar and frequent so we tend to take them for granted.

        If an experience is enriching and hurts no one, perhaps the interpretation is not such a big deal.

        I guess I haven't had all the experiences such as yours, but do meditate and enjoy the different consciousness states I experience. I have also had amazing visions and hallucinations and one OOBE but discount some due to my state of mind at the time.

        Whether it is just going on in our brains, or we actually travel or contact other realms outside our mind, its pretty cool.
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          Feb 20 2013: "I guess I haven't had all the experiences such as yours, but do meditate and enjoy the different consciousness states I experience."

          With rumination, one quickly realizes that "consciousness" is the Alpha and Omega of existence. Without it, nothing exists. With it, all possibilities present themselves.

          Meditation, the act of going within, opens us to those possibilities, as it concentrates consciousness, and the vast energy stored within it.

          "I have also had amazing visions and hallucinations and one OOBE but discount some due to my state of mind at the time."

          As humans, we have all the potential of the divine, and, as such, are unlimited in all our ways, and capable of knowing all there is to know, and being all we choose to be.

          "Whether it is just going on in our brains, or we actually travel or contact other realms outside our mind, its pretty cool."

          Oh, the stories I could tell, and the wonders I have experienced, but, alas, few will believe or accept my tale, either because they're predisposed to disbelieving, or because it's too amazing to ponder.

          You're right: "it's pretty cool," by any standard of coolness.
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      Feb 20 2013: Yeah the details are very frustration specially when they can't accept to change their beliefs.
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        Feb 20 2013: Obey and Farokh,
        You have hit on an important factor regarding religious debates turning into a big fight.

        Obey, you write..."Probably difficult to have a meaningful conversation when one party believes they have the absolute truth about everything..."

        Farokh, you write..."details are very frustration specially when they can't accept to change their beliefs".

        I observe that the biggest struggles are when one person not only thinks s/he has all the answers, but ALSO tries get the other person to accept it as THEIR belief as well.

        Obey, as you say...no meaningfull conversation can evolve when one person thinks they have all the answers. They communicate as if THEIR truth has to be everybodys truth....and they are on a mission to convince us that they are "right". Nothing can come from that behavior except struggle. Trying to change the other person's belief because they think/feel they are "right" contributes to struggle. When one person in a conversation begins to struggle (fight) , it is common for the other person to struggle and fight to maintain their own perspective, and that is when the conversation beaks down.

        We CAN accept a belief as another person's belief without embracing it as our own belief. We CAN be open to thoughts, feelings, perceptions, ideas and opinions of others, without trying to pressure another person to believe as we do. To do that, one has to let go of the idea that our truth, or answer, is the one and only "right" information.

        Everything is information....sometimes learned....sometimes proven....sometimes speculation....sometimes beliefs for which there is no proof. Each and every one of us will take the information from our experiences, including what we have been taught by parents, society,etc., and use that information as we choose. We KNOW individuals have different experiences. We KNOW there is information passed down through families, societies, religion, cultures, etc. I experience the differences as interesting:>)
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          Feb 21 2013: "It seems like this conversation got hyjacked to NDE/OBEs rather than the topic question....
          "Is there any way to prevent religious debates from turning into a big fight?""

          Of course, you'll see it the way that you see it, and that's your perogative, but these discussions are playing out the question, can we have religious discussions, some of which include a notion of an afterlife, NDEs and OOBEs (which suggest such), the existence of a God, or what have you, and do so respectfully?

          If you take the time to re-read some of the comments, you'll find that yes we can sometimes, but not all the time.

          No thread was "hijacked," as you've accused, and I say that respectfully.
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          Feb 21 2013: "To do that, one has to let go of the idea that our truth, or answer, is the one and only 'right' information."

          I agree: There are as many "truths" as there are people on the planet. I think that it's the proselytizing, the almost relentless attempt to make others believe as you believe that creates the tension, especially when it's coupled with derision, or a denouncing of one's stated position.

          I believe that I can respect what you and others believe while at the same time still holding that my position is the "one and only 'right' information."
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          Feb 21 2013: "We CAN accept a belief as another person's belief without embracing it as our own belief"

          Good advice.

          During an actual discussion or debate it is rare for someone to admit or accept another point of view makes more sense. Kind of like losing face. Sometimes we argue not to be wrong, to win the argument rather than to test and examine ideas.

          But then on private reflection afterwards some things might stick and make more sense. Perhaps you can only delude yourself so long when in your heart, or unconscious you find a view counter to the one you espouse seems more correct, even if you argue against it.

          There was a stage before I fully renounced my previous religion that I was arguing for the religion, while privately having my own doubts. I'm a bit embarrassed it took me so long to realise I was completely mistaken.

          According to some speakers at my old church Henry Kissinger is the anti Christ and the second coming is already late. I guess some Christians have been waiting for the second coming for 2000 years, and expecting it in their lifetime.

          It is tempting sometimes to jump in and feel you have been there done that and perhaps frustrated others can not see what you saw years ago. Hurry up and catch up - its obvious. To be dismissive of peoples own realisations will or wont happen in their own time.

          One humbling realisation I had was my views over the years have changed a lot. Revolutionary say 10 years ago and refined over the last few,. I like to think they have improved and broadened. IF I was having a discussion with myself from a few years ago I might find the views of my old self some what simplistic. And perhaps in a few years I will look back at my current views, that I put forward in discussions earnestly, and think how naive I was.
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        Feb 21 2013: Thanks Obey:>)
        I'm interested in examining/exploring ideas. To me, the life experience is a wonderful exploration, so I wouldn't deny myself more information by thinking/feeling that I have all the answers. Often times, as soon as people think they have the answers, they stop exploring. I'm going to be open to new information as I take my last breath in this earth school:>)

        With that in mind, I see no reason for your embarrassment Obey. You know, when I was young, I used to think that by a certain age, things in life would sort of be in order. I got to that age, and realized that is wasn't how I had planned! Ok....next stage will be in order. OOPS....when I got to the next stage/age, it wasn't as planned either....on and on. At different stages in the beginning, I often asked myself....."why didn't I know that BEFORE".....how embarrassing that I did not figure that out sooner!!! LOL

        In my 40s/50s, I finally realized that it was the journey, and all I'm experiencing and learning along the way that is important. I no longer try to project into the future. I live one moment at a time. That is not to say that I do not PLAN for the future. It simply means that I realize that life is what happens when we're making other plans...LOL!

        I enjoy your comments Obey.....it "feels" like you are genuinely exploring life, and I admire that practice:>)
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      Feb 20 2013: Don't you think, this frequently applies to those who take pride in being "rational"?
  • Feb 19 2013: How can any discussion be done with civility? Listen more than talk; confirm what we hear is what is meant; respect the opinions of all, especially of those who disagree...and above all, refuse to engage or continue with anyone that is belligerent.
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    Feb 8 2013: One thing to keep in mind: our beliefs shape our world view. That is to say, the entire construct of what we feel and know is shaped by our beliefs, whether those beliefs originate from faith or reason.

    When you ask someone to change their beliefs, you're asking them to change their world view. This is not only incredibly difficult, even for the most open-minded, but often feels very threatening.

    As we know, when humans feel threatened (or their view of reality is threatened), they are more likely to speak or act in a defensive or hostile manner.

    I think very few people are actually open to having their entire world view changed, and it's not likely to happen from an online discussion.
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      Feb 8 2013: Exactly my point as well.
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      Feb 8 2013: ", you're asking them to change their world view" . Very good point
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      Feb 14 2013: Re: "When you ask someone to change their beliefs, you're asking them to change their world view."

      So why are we so casual about the beliefs we instill in children?

      Do you know the story of the "ham butt problem?"
      Woman's making a ham for a big, family dinner. She goes to cut the butt off the ham and throw it away, and she looks at this piece of ham and she's like, "This is a perfectly good piece of ham. Why am I throwing this away?" She thought, "Well, my mom always did this." So she calls up mom, and she says, "Mom, why'd you cut the butt off the ham, when you're making a ham?" She says, "I don't know, my mom always did it!" So they call grandma, and grandma says, "My pan was too small!"
      Let's focus on the mother, she imitated a behavior without the knowledge of why she was doing the thing she was doing. Isn't this true of many of our beliefs and rituals?

      We don't ask others to change their beliefs, as much as we invite them obtain the knowledge of their beliefs.
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        Feb 14 2013: I completely agree: I don't think we should be casual about the beliefs we instill in children. In fact, I don't think we should be casual about any beliefs we hold. We should always be willing to question them, and to dismiss them if they prove faulty.
  • Feb 20 2013: Religion is different than spirituality. Spirituality is a partial experience of the greater. All spiritual experience is incomplete, because it is not possible to know the whole of God. At its best, religion is a dull reflection of God in a little mirror made by the hand of man. At its worst, religion is a tool used by the unscrupulous to twist the will of others or a weapon to subdue ideas that rationality cannot.

    If any discussion begins with recognition that any spiritual perception is incomplete, then a discussion is possible. Then difference can be properly seen in the context that the reflections in two different little mirrors may not be different Gods, but rather reflections of different parts of the same God. God is one, but the one is infinitely complex.

    A pretty good rule of thumb is that the more confident the tone of the speaker on religion, the less he knows about God and the more he knows about how to use the tool of religion..
  • Feb 14 2013: Personally I think that when people discuss politics, sports, everything else, they get as angry.

    I dont think the subject of God is unique in this failing of mankind.
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      Feb 14 2013: Lol
    • Feb 17 2013: Tify,
      You are right as rain.
      People can get angry with a baleful glare.
      They certainly don't need subject matter.
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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.
  • Feb 8 2013: Farokh,
    Perhaps we humans are foolish in the way we handle relations with others. We tend to judge others inaccurately, placing people in "pigeon holes" of identity according to what we understand. We try to force others, through varying techniques, to accept religions and doctrine. Humans have not developed an all-knowledgeable authority. Some have strong convictions even though humans are not omniscient. We tend to think there is something "wrong" with a person who does not accept conversion to his point of view.

    Perhaps we'd all be wiser to refrain from attempts to taking something OUT of a person, but be kind, loving and teach or share what we know is best from within ourselves. We'd be wise to accept a person "just where they are" in their present belief situation and look for the good in a person. Rather than make rules for others, become the best we expect of others.

    Fights involve failures of persons to listen well and lovingly understand a person's point of view. It's better to listen and respect than to jam a person into a jar he doesn't want. Let God do the judging; humans are not qualified to judge another's soul nor do we have supreme capabilities to see into the deeper reaches of people.
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      Feb 8 2013: Really liked your comment specially the last paragraph.
      • Feb 8 2013: Thank you. More could be said, i.e. history of racial conflicts, water and territorial claims, ego and false superiority concepts, et al. Humankind learns too slowly on some things. We'd all be better if we look to the future of peace and make peace deliberately through techniques other than harm or war!

        What human being has ever been granted ultimate supremacy over others for all things? We evolve. What is the goal of evolution of thought, of physical, of relationships? This is food for thought.

        Keep thinking!
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          Feb 12 2013: " Make peace DELIBERATELY through techniques other than harm or war " - that would be smart!
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    Feb 18 2013: Not wanting to single out any one religious for holding beliefs that need to be challenge I will add this note: there are 21 states in our country where corporal punishment in the classroom is legal, where it is legal for a teacher to beat a child with a wooden board, hard, and raising large bruises and blisters and even breaking the skin. And hundreds of thousands of children, incidentally, are subjected to this every year.
    Again Sam Harris weights in on the subject, "And the rationale for this behavior is explicitly religious. The creator of the universe himself has told us not to spare the rod, lest we spoil the child -- this is in Proverbs 13 and 20, and I believe, 23. But we can ask the obvious question: Is it a good idea, generally speaking, to subject children to pain and violence and public humiliation as a way of encouraging healthy emotional development
    and good behavior?"

    Shouldn't we be asking ourselves, "How can this be prevented?"
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      Feb 18 2013: I couln't agree more.
      What we should focus on is not necessarily how to prevent conversations about religion from turning into a fight as is it not the core of the problem. In my view, the core is the potentially harmful religious beliefs themselves, not the debate about them.
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        Feb 19 2013: Theodore and Anna,
        It is NOT acceptable to subject children to pain, violence and humiliation as a way to encourage healthy emotional development. It makes no sense, does not work, and in fact, encourages and reinforces the cycle of violence and abuse in our world. It is ESPECIALLY disgusting under the guise of religion, which often supposedly has a foundation of respect, compassion, kindness and love.

        I agee Anna, that it is the potentially harmful religious beliefs that are the problem...not the debate about them.
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      Feb 18 2013: Good morning Theodore,

      I was not aware that there were still 21 states which allowed corporal punishment.

      After reading your comment and Anna's, may I offer a thought?

      The scriptural principle you mentioned reads as follow: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.”—Proverbs 13:24; see also Proverbs 23:13, 14.

      Note that the scripture is aimed at the parents, not adults in general. It is a terrible thing when sound scriptural principles are manipulated to suit the needs of those who want to control others. In this case control children in school.

      Look at the insight I found in an article: “Extremes of permissiveness are as bad as extremes of punishment,” so noted a professor of child psychology, “but the fact that remediation is easier with the overdisciplined than the underdisciplined child favors leaning on the side of discipline when in doubt.”

      The professor emphasizes that the motive for giving physical punishment should be loving concern for the child’s present and future welfare."

      This, in my opinion, is a balanced view, which is in harmony with the scriptural principle.

      A loving parent who communicates with their child, and has disciplined them by instructing them in the kind of behavior that is acceptable and the kind that is not, will seldom, if ever have to resort to the rod.

      This has been my personal experience.

      None the less, I am glad our state does not have corporal punishment in the schools.
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        Feb 18 2013: While I understand its intent, I question it application when the article also uses language like,
        "This is the "Spanking Proverb" now in much disuse and distaste by a permissive Pepsi Generation -- though more and more wonder if it ought to be reinstituted -- The Law of Moses as well as the Proverbs allowed for corporal punishment based on this principle: "Bruising wounds [KJ: blueness of a wound; NEB: a good beating] "

        ("Bruising wounds"?)

        "Spare the Rod, but Note the Consequences" was the title of an article appearing in The Natal Mercury, a South African newspaper, lamenting the modern trend of holding back physical punishment from children at home and in school. Who is responsible for this changed attitude toward spanking? Professor Smythe, a pediatrician at the University of Natal, South Africa, places the blame squarely on child psychologists. "Usually on delving into the roots of an emotional issue," Smythe explains, "one finds the change in attitude starting with psychological dogma. At first violently opposed to any form of physical punishment, then appalled by the consequences of the indiscipline resulting from a creed of no frustrations and no inhibitions."


        Smythe is a curious person to be quoting and there are more credible sources on this topic.


        "Parents who spank their children are more likely to use other unacceptable forms of corporal punishment." American Academy of Pediatrics

        My suggestion is that people view the modern scientific research instead of relying on ancient wisdoms and that we continue to abolish such abuse.
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          Feb 19 2013: I thoroughly understand your point of view.
          Unfortunately I don't think you understand mine.

          If hitting children was the only way to harm them permanently I would have to give in to your way of thinking.

          But, verbal abuse and also plain neglect do just as much harm. In neither case is the child struck by the parent, but the results are just as desastrous.

          I only remember being struck once by my mom. She struck me once in the arm.
          My actions that day were intolerable. I had done harm that was irreversible.

          I cried alot after she hit me. Not so much because her slap hurt me, but because I had done something to hurt her, and showed a lack or respect and consideration for her...my mom.

          I have never forgotten it. It caught me by total surprise that she would raise a hand to me.
          A stern look was all that she usually wore whenever we misbehaved, and sometimes she would verbally scold us.

          I know I will not change your thinking Theodore.

          But please understand, that when a parent hits a child under the right circumstances and for the right reasons, motivated by a love of the child and his future, the child somehow understands the the pain inflicted is not on him, but on the parent.
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      Feb 19 2013: American reality is schizoid; Capital punishment is legal in 35 state,yet you express indignation that corporal punishment is legal in 21 states.
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        Feb 19 2013: I oppose capital punishment also. There is however an interesting correlation between corporal punishment and violence and criminality in later life. We can stop the cycle starting with the abuse of innocent children.
        "The more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults, the more likely they are to spank their own children, the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse, and the more marital conflict they experience as adults." Spanking has been associated with higher rates of physical aggression, more substance abuse, and increased risk of crime and violence when used with older children and adolescents."
        Wikipedia "Corporal punishment in the home
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    Feb 13 2013: There is a way. We can treat religion like something very personal, like, say, sex. Each has a position and a preference and each knows up to a certain time all are great and after that certain time it's not a priority anymore.
    • Feb 14 2013: this is a very good point. I feel faith is very personal and private. I certainly never discuss it . I feel it would dilute its value to me.
      I suppose in the same way we cover our nudity with most people.

      Faith by definition is connected to the feeling faculty. Perhaps there is either confusion,or overlap, between faith and belief ( more cerebral ?). We don't argue with someone else about a personal feeling, - perhaps a sexual one. e.g. "I am feeling such and such..."
      "Oh no you're not, you can't be, that is nonsense you can't feel such and such...." etc!
    • Feb 17 2013: Pabitra,

      You've actually won the HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.
      What a wonderfully expressed way to get to the point.

      Many years ago, I watched on TV Archie Bunker tear apart the morals of our time.
      I was shocked. But intrigued to see where this all would go.

      Last month, I watched on my computer, Shameless, a TV show.
      I was shocked. But intrigued to see where this all would go.

      We are an evolving humankind.
      Man made religions will have to change rapidly to keep up with the needs of their believers.
      God will still be here with us all.
      Religions will be here also.
      They will change, dragging their feet, but unwilling to take a back seat.

      Wars may be sparked by religions.
      They will not be sparked nor endorsed by God.
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        Feb 18 2013: Thanks Frank. I have no interest in the God that resides in Temples, Mosques or Churches, God in whose name there are fatwas and edicts, God who seeks to control every aspect of my life in public. Long live the god of small things and my secret awe for a wonderful oneness of the cosmos.
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    Feb 13 2013: If we remove the word "religious" or "religion" and replace with "a fundamental belief system" then we may get to a deeper level of the issue. It may not be religion but a core system of beliefs that we live our lives around. Catholicism, republican, vegan, pro-choice, etc. When a fundamental belief is challenged then we, as a species, tend to employ the more basic emotions. Anger, fighting etc.

    Perhaps we need to address that issue, and it may come about with evolution, social sciences, the advancement of morality and mental education.

    Can we debate religion? Sure, lets talk about Zeus or Thor etc... but we have socially evolved where those religions no longer hold sway. Hmmm... brings up an interesting idea. I wonder what some of the ancient debates on the Greek gods were. Was it heresy to talk about Zeus' philandering? I never really thought about the religious arguments of ancient times. I imagine that today we would find them rather silly. I wonder how we will be viewed in 2000 years.
    • Feb 18 2013: Leo,
      Please keep writing. You have the gift.
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        Feb 18 2013: Thanks, that is nice to hear.
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    Feb 13 2013: It's faith vs. faith. never a good combination.

    And don't let anyone persuade you that atheism isn't a faith in itself. It most certainly is, especially the 'militant' type from the gospel according to St Dawkins.

    The stronger one's faith, or belief, the further away from intelligent argument one gets.

    The only way intelligent discussion can take place is by genuinely wanting to understand an opposing view. It takes empathy to do that, plus the ability to question one's own standpoint.

    By definition, a belief system endemically has no intention of understanding its polar opposite, unless it has the courage to doubt itself - by which time it begins to move out of 'a belief', into a subject for stimulating discussion.
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      Feb 13 2013: Re: "don't let anyone persuade you that atheism isn't a faith in itself."

      How is the absence of a belief, a belief?
      What if one says they are a "non-believer" instead of the term atheist?" Is my "faith" now non-belief?
      One does not refer to one's self as a non racist.
      This is the reason Sam Harris does not use the term atheist.

      Re: "a belief system endemically has no intention of understanding its polar opposite"

      This too seems to be a questionable statement.
      A person with a belief system can understand an opposing belief system with out the intention of accepting.
      I understand communism, I do not accept it.
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        Feb 13 2013: Theodore, there are degrees of atheism just as much as there are degrees of religious faith. The more extreme or fundamentalist they are, the less likely it will be to want to understand their polar opposites.

        If a discussion descends into name-calling, belittling and elitist proclamations, there is usually some sort of faith/belief powering that argument. It may be because faith/belief moves too far away from rationality into emotion - thus being less open to a balanced discussion.

        We're getting into semantics here, but "non-belief" seems to me not the same as full-blown atheism. Atheism can no longer be regarded as a moderate stance and is almost used as a badge of honour in order to garner affirmations from like-minded others. Thus a preparation for "going into battle" in an argument, rather than seeking understanding.

        The very fact that you understand communism means that you can discuss it as much with a communist as you can with a capitalist without getting too heated, and with less likelihood of offense. Am I right?

        Understanding affirms or disproves emotional responses, and is a more effective way of approaching religious debate.
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          Feb 13 2013: Ahhh, the magic words, " seems to me."

          So when you write "Atheism can no longer be regarded as a moderate stance" you are really saying, "To me, Atheism........"
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        Feb 13 2013: Who else would it seem to? Should I be supporting every opinion I have with evidence? All evidence started life as opinion > hypothesis > theory before being accepted as mainstream. I enter debates with opinions just as much as you do. You are welcome to accept or decline them as much as you want.

        Yes you are right. To me, Atheism seems to be many things. Not least having a presumption towards ridding the world of religion completely, rather than trying to understand why billions of people subscribe to it in some form.

        I personally do not subscribe to any organised religion myself and am doubtful of the existence of God. But what gives me the right to devalue another person's way of understanding the universe without having prior understanding of them and why they believe it?

        I know you don't do this Theodore - but one never wins debates by inflicting injury on those who oppose. Injuring opposition in a debate is always a puerile, hollow victory.
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          Feb 13 2013: I think over the last 10-20 years atheism as evolved in its definition and use. It may be time to redefine. I understand both your points and agree with both as long as we modify the definition of atheism OR come up with a new word for one or the other.

          Atheism, as a simple lack of belief in a god, I do not add my belief systems. I do not believe in Smurfs either, but I certainly would not call my lack of belief a system. I also do not like classic cars, and I do not go to classic car shows, AND I do not go to seminars about why I hate classic cars and rail against those that do.... For me it is a non issue.

          Allan I would agree with your definition if you were to take the idea of Atheism and expand it to a belief system such as Dawkins prescribes. Militant Atheism. OK, that I interpret as something new and more in depth than the denotative definition of Atheism.

          Gay used to mean happy, but has evolved so that an individual can no longer use the denotative definition of the word. I wonder if the word "atheism" will go the same way.
        • Dan F

          • +1
          Feb 13 2013: Hi Leo and Allan,

          The reason a person is an atheist is why this debate can be upsetting to the conflicting religious point of view. Please look at my post below for my explanation of why I am an atheist.

          World class naturalist like Richard Dawkins and academic types such as the late Christopher Hitchens take and took issue with religion because of what has been learned, especially since Charles Darwin about biology and how the human condition is less unique from other living organisms than religious belief authorities and systems want to concede, because of the implications.

          No one cares if you don't believe in Smurfs or like classic cars, but if you said you don't believe in the spaghetti monster, ears would perk up. Trust me.

          Atheism as a consequence of academic knowledge is only becoming better defined.

          I like Theodores's rational on this topic.
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        Feb 13 2013: Leo, I think you're right about redefining atheism. Especially since Dawkins seems to have commandeered the word almost as his own, distorting it to represent a blunt instrument with which to club religion to death - in spite of the known evolved capacity of the human brain to intuit the spiritual as much as it can the scientific.

        Because of the aggressive connotations many perceive in the word 'atheism', maybe 'unbelief' or 'non-believer' would be a better badge to wear when embarking on a debate that really does want to get somewhere, but can't, because of an almost studied refusal to empathize.
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          Feb 13 2013: You must be a therapist or something like that. Your statements are in the definitive when they are actually just perceptions, yours, as I have already pointed out. Why the reluctant to own your perceptions? I find it intellectually dishonest to frame the conversation in a knowingly distorted fashion. You do know better, but still resort to this "bad habit" even when your called on it.

          Re: atheism
          Atheist no doubt defend themselves, even in an agressive manner, because they are so discriminated against by an overtly religious world.
          Philosophers such as Plato argued that atheism (as we understand it today) was a danger to society and should be punished as a crime.
          During the Early modern period, the term "atheist" was used as an insult and applied to a broad range of people, including those who held opposing theological beliefs, as well as suicides, immoral or self-indulgent people, and even opponents of the belief in witchcraft.
          The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from the University of Oxford and denied custody of his two children after publishing a pamphlet on The Necessity of Atheism.
          Seventeen states still have a law which states you must believe in God to maintain public office of any kind despite the excerpt from the Constitution of the United States, Article VI, Section III: ”… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

          So who is doing the labeling here, isn't it those with atheophobia?
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        Feb 13 2013: You forbid me to have opinions, and now perceptions are barred too because you see them as 'distortions' and 'intellectually dishonest'...?

        A recipe for good debate is surely one rich in opinions and perceptions? If opinions and perceptions were forbidden, then such a debate would have to be anchored in evidence and dogma from past knowledge - and thus would not get anywhere. Hence the thrust of Farokh's original question.

        I don't think it's dishonest to proclaim doubts about current so-called certainties, without having to consult that ubiquitous monkey on the shoulder who keeps whispering: "Evidence! Everything you say must be supported by EVIDENCE!" That may be all very well for logicians in search of their holy grail of WHAT we are - but what about WHO we are?

        You might accuse me of being dishonest again, because here comes another opinion:

        I maintain that science - incredibly beautiful though it is, will not be able to get much beyond establishing "what" we are. "Who" we are, on the other hand, is not a scientific discipline and I further maintain because of that, such important existential questions render science impotent. Therein lies the problem: Science then morphs into atheism because of that widening gulf of understanding.

        I'm not particularly atheophobic. What bothers me are the extremities of both atheism and religious fanaticism, what might be the causes of them and why they cannot be discussed without getting overheated (see original question).

        Now, I've put forward some suggestions in an attempt to answer that question. I may be right, I may be wrong, but it certainly isn't intending to be distorted and I am not dishonest.

        Yes you're right. I am a therapist. Well spotted.
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          Feb 13 2013: Let's be clear, I never said you were "dishonest," (or used the word opinion).
          I wrote, "I find it intellectually dishonest to frame the conversation in a knowingly distorted fashion."

          Here is the evidence: Ahhh, the magic words, " seems to me." So when you write "Atheism can no longer be regarded as a moderate stance" you are really saying, "To me, Atheism........"

          This is what, "Your statements are in the definitive when they are actually just perceptions, yours," meant.

          Your framing "atheism" as being, a definitive, ""don't let anyone persuade you that atheism isn't a faith in itself."
          I am merely pointing out the difference between these two statements.
          1) Atheism is a faith
          2 I think, ( perceive, believe etc) that atheism is a faith.
          ...and claiming that you do understand the difference.

          Here you qualify atheism, ""non-belief" seems to me not the same as full-blown atheism. (underline seems to me), but again revert back to the declarative form of framing, by using "is," and writing:

          "Atheism can no longer be regarded as a moderate stance and is almost used as a badge of honour in order to garner affirmations from like-minded others..."

          So you mean "full blown atheism" and we are now informed that this is just opinion, even though it is a declarative statement, that left unquestioned constructs what "is" in a definitive manner? Correct?

          In psychology this is akin to me saying, "I make me feel angry."
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      Feb 14 2013: Very good point.
    • Feb 18 2013: WoW...

      You folks have cranked up a whole new offshoot. atheism !!!

      But I have to say that your arguments are closely aligned with Obama's..
      Idea of penalties for the non-purchase of Health Insurance Policies.

      In psychology this is akin to me saying, "I make me feel angry."
      hahahahahahahahahahahaha what a gas..

      Sorry, I am too tired to get involved with this... lol
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        Feb 18 2013: "I make me feel angry." is a correct albeit awkward sounding statement, as opposed to the more common misrepresentation of emotional understanding, "You make in angry"
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    Feb 12 2013: Basically it is the underlining fear of one's faith being shaken by the opponents reasoning and arguments. Those who have superficial or surface knowledge of their particular faith , are the ones who get more angry and agitated, and they are the ones more vulnerable to the machinations of unscrupulous religious so called leaders.

    However, it is very different with those who are learned in the truest of sense in their particular faith. Knowledge is power. They do not easily fall prey and are very steadfast in their own Faith and such people also respect the belief system of other religions.

    So I think true knowledge dispensed by the rightly guided leaders of each religion will go a long way in preventing animosity and hatred. Each to his own way in peace.
  • Feb 8 2013: Usually when people fight over their beliefs, it's because they're not secure in their beliefs. They don't know what they believe is true or not. I think you'll find that the people who fight over their beliefs have hidden doubts about them.
    • Feb 11 2013: Agree partly. There are also cases when people are certain of their believes but want to shove it down other people's throats. This causes fights many a times.
      • Feb 12 2013: They may look certain to you, Blue Spectacles, but as a religious person I can speak from experience here. If they're trying to ram it down other people's throats they're trying to shore up their insecurities with over-the-top zeal. If you know what you believe is true, it doesn't matter to you what other people say. They can say what they like, what's true is true. It's not going to change according to how we think. It'd be nice if other people believed as I do, and I'll try to show them how they can know as I do, but it's ultimately their decision and theirs alone.
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    Feb 20 2013: My answer is humility.

    Humility is a virtue in many religions and atheists would benefit from it too. I think, it is arrogant to believe that my beliefs are superior to anyone else's and force everyone else to believe the same way or ridicule them for their beliefs. This is MY arrogant belief which I would like to force on everyone. It is ridiculous that people don't understand this :-).

    This wonderful talk gives a great picture of what we "really know".
  • Feb 18 2013: There are different religions out there. Religions are instruments to tune people to reach God. But sad thing is people forgot what religion says actually and fight over religions. Most of those people never give a second to think what it is . this is the main problem. People should think a minute before fighting. Religions are nothing but different ways to reach same goal. Once people realize this, there will be no fights. These pontiffs are appointed to preach what religion says but sadly the pontiffs dont do that and people are misguided
  • Feb 17 2013: Over these past years, i have seen these conversation among people with different religions, cultures and ext. and I believe there is one thing to it...as long as they are just to share opinions and explore opposite sides on the matter of their approach to their beliefs and reasons for their way of thinking. the conversations goes just right.
    but when the moment comes that those who are involved in the topic start to force their ideas to each other the whole conversations goes to waste. since beliefs are not mathematics to be proven and therefor odd possibilities always exist.
    I believe, if one is in the middle of the conversation its just best to keep the subject in a way that everyone pay attention to actually learn each other not change. however, the result is different peoples' beliefs actually changes this way, as i have seen, cause they eventually start to question themselves.
    • Feb 17 2013: WoW.

      yashar kardar
      You've won the HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.

      You've covered about all of it. Nothing more need be added.
      Thank you.
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    Feb 15 2013: Short answer, yes you can avoid a fight by not debating. By definition religions generally have faith as part of their cosmology. By definition faith is not provable. People allow themselves to be convinced by their parents or culture or rarely through long introspection or study. If any faith were objectively provable then we would have no free will and we would all belong to one religion. I have actually been told by a believer that the Bible is so clear that there is only one possible interpretation. If that were so then there would only be one sect of Christianity and also the Jews would not need so many Talmud commentaries to "Clarify" the Torah. Buddhist scriptures are somewhat better and there have been fewer wars but still there is ample disagreement. Same for all the other authorities or systems that I have heard of. In the end you have to find your own way that works for you.
    • Feb 17 2013: In the end every individual has to find his or her own way that works for him or her, without interfering with the freedom of other people. It is however not the end, in the beginning people should find their own way and we do not. We are trained, conditioned, embedded in a culture out of wich we start to think and argue. We identify our selfs with our cultural , scientifical , social, religious backgrounds and out of this identification we debate with life. Religions starts with the experience of an individual, often closely witnessed and confirmed by the people surrounding this individual. When the person initiating the 'religion' has past away the main aspect of direct experience, experience in the sense of being a living experience, is gone,.When the witnesses of the direct experience then also have past away, then all of direct experience is gone and what we then will have is tradition, culture. This is the dead corpse of the living experience before and so we see many religions turn out to become destructive as dead is destruction. When we, as individuals, cannot enter a living independent thinking based on independent inner life experience, we are condemned by our thinking lazyness, being a spiritual lazyness, to repeat dead thoughts. This is as living by the products of works of our ancestors in the idea we have nothing new to contribute, to create, to transform. As a Christian one can think one can rely on repeating the words of the bible, and even fight wars for this but one could also forget all those words and become a Jezus oneself in the most original way when truth is considered to be timeless and non-personal. As a Muslim one can endless repeat Qoran texts never realising Mohammed, as an individual, retreated in a cave to find his personal truth, related to the books Thora and Bible, a truth written down in the Qoran to be repeated since then.
    • Feb 17 2013: When the truth is a living truth, and not burried in 'religious statements', each individual would and could find this truth in direct life experience without being dependent on old regulations, traditions and laws. The big fight every individual is into is the inner fight, the everlasting inner fight to find truth, truth as a living experience being true in the actual moment of life. When people have no inner debate, no inner fight for this truth, thinking they already knew yesterday and will know for tomorrow, they will start to fight with the world around them.
      • Feb 17 2013: Alex,

        You missed me by a mile.
        I don't know a whit about inner truth, nor inner fight to find truth.

        I do know how to argue, and fight.
        I am not alone. Everyone can do the same.

        The key issue is whether or not we have to debate religion.
        We do not.
        But to allow another to have a bigger and better religion, is hard to bear.
        So we fight.
        We are fighting ideas only.
        We all know this. But we fight anyway.
        "C'est la vie", a French phrase, "Such is life"...
    • Feb 18 2013: Chad,

      You've done a great job explaining how we get involved in the first place.
      You've also covered how to avoid debating religions.

      Myself, I've spent too much time on the subject.

      I'd rather get into juicy scraps about government corruption....
  • Feb 14 2013: One's religious beliefs are deeply connected to their culture, upbringing and emotions. This is not an issue of lightly arrived at opinion. Religion is process in which humanity seeks to make sense of an often nonsensical existence. It gives reason to explain life's unexplainable rewards and misfortunes.

    Religious belief systems are too deeply ingrained for those who need to justify the vagarities of life. There is seldom a debate or convincing argument that will change their minds.

    Peace with our fellow man must rely on our own personal acceptance that others can follow their beliefs without criticism or debate. Extremism is the most troubling example of total non acceptance of other beliefs. It doesn't take much research to find that the core beliefs of most world religions are basically the same tools to get along with the rest of humanity.
    • Feb 17 2013: Valerie,

      You've said it all.
      We are plugged in at a young age to some belief system.
      Religion is the most popular.
      Nothing wrong with living a good life and respecting others.
  • Feb 14 2013: The believers forget that they are only the creature of GOD and not the GOD himself in all religions
    and everyone in this world want to believe in GOD (and upto some extent have that belief ) so by debating we all want to know how to strengthen that belief by seeking answers which we dont know and the person fighting will always be the one who is unable to answer or justify that answer.

    and "Belief" ( in this content religion ) in itself is the most powerful attribute of a person. .
    The difference (argument/fighting) comes when he wants to prove to others that he believes, by his actions

    Hope to get your views on this.
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      Feb 14 2013: They really forget sometimes....
    • Feb 17 2013: sumit sharma,

      I agree with you.

      Debate of any subject at all, is exactly the same as you've described so well.

      May I take license with this remark?
      "and religion in itself is the most powerful attribute of a person."

      I would however take exception with the word religion.
      Might I suggest instead "belief"?

      Would you perhaps allow this change?

      "Belief being the most powerful attribute of a person, and religion the vehicle a person uses.
      The argument/fighting (difference) by his actions, comes when he wants to prove (to others)
      that he believes...

      I hope this change will not offend you.
      • Feb 18 2013: Frank Barry

        I am grateful for this suggestion.
  • Feb 13 2013: Dialogues must have people who doubt their ideas on both sides. If one side is 100% sure of what he or she thinks, even if it is incorrect, the situation we have could not be called a debate. Religion often sinks deep in people's way of thinking. So when they talk, they are thinking in a system of religious thought. It is consequently very hard to get to their core and show them that there is a tiny probability that god (broad definition) does not exist. Also, hardcore atheists, who insist on the nonexistence of god, and are sure that there is no god, are unable to debate. The worst kinds of fight are seen when both sides are inflexible, and opposing. Two people cannot be both sure and right if they are opposing each other.

    There are times we are after the answer to simple questions, like "what", which is gaining definitions or new words for new concepts. Sometimes we are after harder questions, like "how", which is gaining mechanisms and relationships between the definitions and concepts we already have. Some people, take it to the next level by asking questions in the form "why", which is actually not that different from "how", but demands a humane purpose behind the phenomenon. When we ask "why" question about nature, we usually have to dump our lack of knowledge in words like energy minimization, entropy, etc. which are by the efforts of some brilliant minds, partly formulated and somehow structured. Still people demand "why", not knowing that they are actually still demanding "how". Religion comes in and gives them an answer "why" and wins their heart (metaphor). Science says "I don't know" and people are disappointed. Now, most people cannot bear the weight of "IGNORANCE", and rather have some answer, than no answer, regardless of what the answer signifies, because it gives them peace of mind. So religion is actually a powerful tool to satisfy the thirst of knowledge, only temporarily.
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    Feb 13 2013: Do Buddhist every argue religion?
    We might ask if Buddhism is actually a religion, or is it a philosophy? Buddhism is a practice.
    Buddhists don't feel complied to convert others into their beliefs the way other religions do.
    • Feb 18 2013: Theodore,

      I have the Feb 1st edition of the Watchtower.
      A nice elderly gent left it with me last week.
      "What We Learn From MOSES" is the subject.
      He said he would be back.

      I never had a Buddhist knock on my door.
      I know of no one else who has.

      A couple of Mormon young adults stop from time to time.
      They need to ask their important question...
      "Do you believe that Joesph Smith is the One True Prophet of the Lord?"
      I reply, ...
      and always ask them to stay for dinner, and a game of chess after.

      I've never found a religious solicitor of converts that wanted to argue religion...
      Lots of questions, but no arguments.
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    Feb 13 2013: Sure there is.

    Very few of the discussions or debates I have about religion end up as something I would call a fight.

    Disagreeing, even passionately is not necessarily a fight.

    Mind you most people I talk with don't claim to know they have the absolute truth. They may think they have the essence of it, but most acknowledge there are as many gods and goddesses in human culture and interpretations of these as there religious believers.

    But I take your point that it is a subject that can be heated.

    Suggest just keeping calm, not attacking the person or calling them stupid even if you think they are, and agreeing to disagree, or knowing when you are not going to get any where and calling it quits.
    • Feb 13 2013: If you are having a discussion , then there is no reason to think that anyone is stupid . You only think they are stupid if they are not adopting the same belief system you have, also if you think they are stupid then you are claiming to have the absolute truth. Trying to "get somewhere" is trying to prove you are right and they are wrong, which means you believe that you hold the absolute truth.
  • Feb 13 2013: When we become better at accepting things as they are and controlling our fear I think that this will no longer be a problem. Acceptance is generally what keeps us from reason. We refuse to allow something to be what it clearly is and we want to force it into something that we as an individual find personally pleasing. We do not want to accept that it is selfish of us to expect another to see things just as we do. And it's terribly egotistical to actually think that someone having a different belief than yours is the same as that person actively attacking your beliefs. We refuse to accept that we can not control the hearts and minds of others because we have not yet learned to control our own heart and mind. Their "defiance" represents the doubt we all carry within us as to whether or not we are "wrong". Instead of facing that doubt head on, and coming to a rational conclusion, most would rather not accept it and push on to comfort themselves without the use of logic. The fear of being wrong is so strong that we repeatedly deny the truth. It's truly childish behavior that our elders and peers allow to carry on because they do not want to accept that this is not the way to accomplish anything so the fighting continues. Obviously not everyone takes this approach, but there is still enough enabling and encouragement for this to be a problem. Basically it is taught.

    The sad part is that so many forget this is all a dream. Aside from nature all that we know to exist began as one person's dream. They took that dream and made it into something real. We are all playing in the longest running game of pretend where the only limits that exist are those which we choose for ourselves. Our accomplishments show that no matter what we believe we are capable of so much. To disagree is to deny what is. If only we could see that each person has only one dream and it is not our right to turn it into a nightmare. If only we could see the possibilities that wait just beyond our fear.
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    Feb 13 2013: Its better to be happy than right.

    Choose people for such a debate. For a healthy debate you need people who respect freedom of speech, can remain calm when abused.

    Otherwise avoid discussing faith.
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    Feb 12 2013: Debating my dog besting yours is less of thing than having you disrespect my most important basis for all that I am. The degree of my commitment to a belief causes my intense defense of it. I consider myself a reluctant believer and as such enjoy discussions with all about almost anything. They soon realize I care only to absorb from them (not persuade them) and only occasionally (superficially) push back on their weak flows but can quickly retract if they misinterpret my question.

    Therefore, my answer to your question on how to prevent the fight is simple. Keep your dog out of the fight then their dog has nothing to bite.
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    Nyla N.

    • +3
    Feb 11 2013: If a debate escalates into a fight, it's because the ego is involved (because it needs to be right). Religion is based on the ego, the need to be right and judge others. Spirituality (true spirituality) is based on the higher self, with no judgement or need to be right. It is a higher level of knowledge and wisdom that understands all matters, and accept people as they are, there is no right or wrong. Everything on Earth and in the universe is nothing but illusions, a training ground for us to grow in spirit and defeat the Ego.
  • Feb 8 2013: Hi FSN

    We can't prevent it. there are two topics that never ends, Politic and Religion. I think these two things are separate humanity. and I don't like it. Maybe that is who I chose to be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist. I chose to be flexible when it comes to religion.

    because this topic is a battle no one is going to be the winner, in this battle there is no left and right, right and wrong. there is simply one thing, Different Opinion.

    LOVE must have been the first and most accepted religion on Earth
    • Feb 8 2013: LOVE, yes indeed. Even for those who profess to have no religion. A smile is an international language common point for understanding and communicating that religion!
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    Feb 7 2013: One question you might ask yourself is what is at stake for a person to see his beliefs questioned? Often a person's faith is the fundamental structure that drives his choices and how he understands the world. Defending the faith is also, then, defending something very personal- more personal than politics or sports affiliations. Within faith I include any set of beliefs, whether connected to a specific religion or not.

    Another issue is that one person's assuming a posture of disrespect or ridicule tends to cascade into feelings of offense and retaliation. People are naturally less sensitive and vehement about someone's showing disrespect for a quarterback than for a diety or for your mother. How to prevent it? Respect other people and speak as if you do.
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    Feb 21 2013: I have read a delightful Zen story on the Internet recently:

    "Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall
    on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said,
    "Oh, no! The candle is out." The second monk said, "Aren't we not suppose to talk?"
    The third monk said, "Why must you two break the silence?" The fourth monk laughed
    and said, "Ha! I'm the only one who didn't speak."

    Frequently, those who try to stop the fight become participants. The fourth monk character is the most interesting. He is the bystander who just passes the judgment and is proud of himself that "he is not like the others". Ironically, he is a participant too :-) Luke 18:9-14 comes to mind.
  • Feb 20 2013: Point out the simple fact that, like language and eating utensils, a person's religion is a function of their culture.

    Pause for effect, then walk away. Or stay to argue which way a fork should be held, or that chopsticks are better - whichever your culture dictates is the One True Way.
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      Feb 21 2013: You are absolutely correct about culture. This simple fact should be obvious to most mature thinking adults, yet it is rationalized away or ignored even by otherwise bright people.

      time to take a walk.....
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    Feb 18 2013: Sub; DVA-SUPARNA
    A bird takes a shelter under a Tree and Unable look beyond. Another Searches for the Spirit. This Syndrome is addressed as DVA-SUPARNA in ancient philosophical Texts The Common Element is Unity of Thought and Mind to Conscious spiritual Enlightenment Index- Cosmology Vedas Interlinks-Knowledge Base -crate Centers of Excellence..
    Wisdom is to addres the issues through Spirituality- conferences..Cosmology World Peace
    • Feb 19 2013: Vidyardhi,

      I find it exciting when someone expresses ideas whereof I have no knowledge.
      The truth is, I shy away from the enlightenment of spirit. But, I just don't know.
      I will research DVA-SUPARNA for my personal enlightenment and benefit.
      Thank you.
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      Feb 20 2013: A skeptical monkey may admit the universe is an amazing place and there is much unknown but looks for evidence of claims. Another relies heavily on intuition and subjective experiences.

      I suggest there are forms of enlightenment that don't involve mysticism, magic, the supernatural.

      The spirit may be a useful metaphor for our finite consciousness and being, rather than something magical and eternal.

      Each to their own I guess as long as they don't harm others.
  • Feb 18 2013: I don’t think conversations about religion need devolve into fights, but it does require a deeper understanding of religions. Here’s what I mean.

    A complaint I’ve heard about religion is that it must be understood as a set of literal guidelines for human belief. The criticism presumes that religions require their followers to blindly hold to dogma as a strict set of one to one of facts in order to be consistent. Since these religions are usually held within an antiquated and stifling cosmology, they end up being culturally destructive, intellectually stultifying, and spiritually desultory because they achieve little beyond chasing after their own shadows and delusions.

    It’s under this pallor that religion is often criticized. I recognize how this sort of criticism comes about, but I think religion (as a whole, anyway) is different from this.

    For one thing, I think the failure of some religions isn’t an indictment of religion wholly so much an example of religious morbidity. Religions live by struggling perpetually to continue speaking meaningfully in a changing world, a struggle they often fail at. But these struggles are not condemnations of religion so much as natural challenges faced by religion simply being itself. Fundamentalism is more religion’s sick face than its true face.

    Even more than this though, I see religion as a way of being conscious of the universe in it’s totality. It comes from the radically narrative and lyrical character of our mind’s arrangement and production of meaning, and is inescapable. In fact, provided we are able to think about religion in a functional and fruitful way, I see very little reason why we should ever want to do away with it. Our religious consciousness is a basic part of what we are, existentially speaking, as thinking and caring beings. The inescapability of religion (and more specifically religious consciousness) is precisely why we must look to understand religion in all its trappings; something to do deeply & well.
    • W T

      • 0
      Feb 19 2013: ..."Our religious consciousness is a basic part of what we are, existentially speaking, as thinking and caring beings. The inescapability of religion (and more specifically religious consciousness) is precisely why we must look to understand religion in all its trappings; something to do deeply & well."

      Your words remind me of what Jesus himself some 2000 years ago said on his sermon on the mt of olives "Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need" (Matthew 5:3). We all have a spiritual need. But many fail to pay attention to it. I don't think we have a religious need.

      The religions created by men....the wanting to control the masses through laws and rules and mystique, have caused nothing but division and war.

      They use spirituality and religion interchangeably.
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      Feb 20 2013: Its a good point Seth.

      Dogmatic religious beliefs are somewhat different to more holistic views.

      As a skeptic I find beliefs with lots of specifics such as who to kill and what to eat harder to justify than a Deistic approach. But see no proof for any deity and am suspect of the interpretations attached to many of our human experiences.

      You know they still kill people they claim are witches in Africa and Papua New Guinea when someone gets sick etc.

      Ignorance, intuition, superstition, spirituality, neurological experiences and the follies of the human mind etc without evidence can lead to lots of interesting beliefs and questionable actions. Others are more benign, especially if you grow up in a culture that is more developed in terms of human rights, scientific education, separation of church and state, not indoctrinating children in religious type beliefs etc.
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    Feb 18 2013: Come on ...
    Surely there is a way.
    You can accept all what they say peacefully !
    You even can postpone it to another world ! They will let you kindly !
    See, it's the nature of the most of the religions to say after a while "Do so or you are blasphemer" etc.
    It's about faith. They can accept they are wrong about some ideas, like cooking or driving, but faith cannot accept any doubt. It is no kind of "maybe you are right, too."
    Faith is a dangerous thing. In the best case it is like "Let all those blinds go to hell. I'm safe."
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      Feb 18 2013: The problem is most of them doesn't like the "Postpone" thing .
    • Feb 19 2013: Amirpouya,

      That last sentence was the best part.
      You to have won the HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.

      A quite vigorous ending, much appreciated.
      Thank you.
      I must get this off my chest... sorry.

      Solicitation into religion has changed from the inquisition era,
      where you were asked to participate or else be tortured.

      In today's world, A soap-box, a tent, a Radio Program, a TV show,
      all collect funds from anyone who will listen to their spiel.
      It applies equally to religions and politics.

      It kind of makes one wonder about the Media. The big Con.
      When there are only 2 political choices who pay for advertising.
      Who else can be elected Dictator? Not the independent.

      Voters are such easy marks for the Con Men...
      Ok, I'm done..
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        Feb 19 2013: Frank,
        Don't be like that !
        I, and Farokh (The guy who started the conversation) live in Iran. It is really worse !
        We have one and only one political choice, imagine, I can vote or I am allowed to just shut up !
        And this party supports the religion, so I have to have their religion or I am a God damn blasphemer and they help me kindly to send me to the fire of the hell !
        If a religion improves, it says: "Be my slave or you become my slave's slave !" You can believe in a religion or they will take anything from you by their "holy" power.
        But if does not, like in Iran, it's just like Middle Ages in 21th century ! Soon we'll start burning witches !
        And believe me, it is a really good feeling to have medias to fool you, instead of having medias that have assumed you fools ... They not even try something smart to make me believe them ! They are insulting my understanding !
        • Feb 19 2013: Amirpouya,

          Wow !!!, Dang !!!, and a few more words of surprise.
          I can see why the venom runs so strongly from your pen....

          Frustration is hard to bear. But like the slaves of ancient times,
          told in the holy books. You may have to leave where you live,
          like the nomads or gypsies, and try to get to a country that will
          treat you as a valued human being.

          There is just no other answer.
          Stay and be crucified, or leave for greener pastures.
  • Feb 18 2013: As long as all denominations think themselves have the absolute truth and any deviation from their belief is a sin against them as well as god , then the answer is no
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    Feb 18 2013: Many religious leaders have long ago manage to convince their followers that to even entertain the ideas of another leader is a slight to them. This effectively reduce debate to a war of words with the intended result being the total destruction of your opponent.
    A true debate should a process of purifying ones belief by bringing the experiences of a fellow human(S) to the table for consideration. In this scenario all participators in the event should leave the table wiser than when they arrived.. .
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      Feb 20 2013: "I would never expect a single human to apprise me of the sum total of all possible human experiences; Why then would I expect a single "NDE" human to summarize all NDEs for me ?"

      I agree: It would be imprudent, as experiences here in the world we see, and in the worlds we don't see are infinitely diverse, and unpredictable.

      Nevertheless, NDE's are becoming fairly commonplace--as are accounts of them--now that medical science has advanced sufficiently to revive those who might have passed on before these advances.

      "On the other hand,nor should I discount any honest persons experience for the sole reason that it is unique or estranged to my own experiences."

      That, too, is prudent. Given my own life experiences which are bizarre enough, I'm loathe to dismiss any claims, without first exposing them to exhaustive scrutiny.
  • Feb 17 2013: I think that I am a bit unusual in that I am Metis although live very much mainstream and as I do not look Metis, do not suffer racism. But because of my heredity, I do support the more tolerant aboriginal belief systems. I was brought up Catholic but became agnostic in my early 20's. I believe that there are those who need religion and those who need it less to find reason for their existence.

    My bright, intelligent niece became Muslim and then married a Muslim. They are religious but we do accept each others beliefs, the commonalities of all religion, and actually can discuss it.....enough to know that we will not change each others minds but have no problem accepting that fact.

    I find that our discussions have bred more tolerance on both sides but we still must be very cautious to accept the differences.

    You are right Frank....'nothing wrong with living a good life and respecting others'. I wish there were more like you.
    • Feb 17 2013: Valerie,
      Welll, I do have an alter-ego, does that count?

      Did you know I belief all governments are evil?
      In 2000 years the world has been run by either religions or monarchies.
      And, today is corrupt.

      So it is easy to understand why debating religion ends up in an argument.

      You found a religious middle ground of sorts, and I applaud you.
      Something extra: In the year 12. two thousand years ago
      Plutarch, in writing, "On Morals,"
      Described market bubbles in the near-ancient world,
      and how the lending industry would periodically go bankrupt,
      and (bank corrupt) nearly everyone.
      All to create exorbitant wealth for themselves.
  • Feb 17 2013: Discussing about religion is like trying to bring peace between a pack of angry dogs. Reason and logic are out of question. Period.
    • Feb 17 2013: Hic Nuntio,

      You've won the HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.
      Thank you for telling it like it is.
  • Feb 17 2013: I was reading the comments and came to the conclusion that --

    Religion is not and cannot be a normal subject.
    Religion is instead a personal belief, named faith.
    Religion is a faith subject.
    Faith is a belief in something that cannot be changed by contrary evidence.

    Debate is ineffective when used against a personal belief.
    Therefore -- There is no way to prevent religious debates from turning into a big fight.
    • W T

      • +1
      Feb 18 2013: Nah...I disagree with you.

      Although your conclusion sounds logical, the truth of the matter is that sometimes religious debates end without turning into a big fight. It all depends on who the individuals are debating. :)

      I will say however that even though the debate might end amicably, the truth is you will rarely convince the other person to believe what you believe.
      • Feb 18 2013: Mary,

        You've won the HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award...
        Thank you for correcting my mistakes.

        Once I get started I sometimes veer into the wrong lane.
        • W T

          • +1
          Feb 19 2013: I love winning awards.......thank you.

          I don't think it was a mistake so much, just your point of view at the time.

          Yeah, I get carried away typing sometimes and will reread what I wrote and then have to go back and redo the whole thing. LOL
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      Feb 18 2013: It was amazing Frank!
  • Feb 17 2013: When the subject of religion comes up, I sit back & just listen to those who are talking, to get a feel for the attitude of how the conversation is going. If it is kept lite & nonaggressive, I will generally join in. But if aggressive, I will either try to change subject or walk away. Everyone one is entitled to believe what they wish and yes, most of it is grounded in their upbringing etc.
    What sees you through the day, without harming others, is fine by my standards.
    • Feb 17 2013: Another winner.

      Great manners.
      We used to say, "Tip Toe through the Tulips".
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    Feb 17 2013: well, people get angry.

    just scan the post on a variety of subjects on any number of news site, like Yahoo, or Huffington post...

    Even here on TED they get crazy - the posts about the second amendment (gun control) rack up more comments than all other subjects combined (a sad commentary on America & TED viewers), and some of those responders are in clear need of straight-jackets.

    Actually, I've watched a fair number of debates about religion and for the most part they are civil. The issue I have is not that people display emotion, but that the debate format is not a good means of getting to the truth of the matter at hand.
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      Feb 17 2013: People are very important indeed on debates.
    • Feb 17 2013: Peter,

      I lived in Los Angeles and read the LA daily newspapers.
      It was a soft commentary, and fun to read.

      Flying into Chicago, at the airport I bought some Chicago newspapers.
      They were totally different. Full of Fighting and Crime and Death.

      I could almost tell you the time and date this sort of trash news was moved into LA.
      It has not left.

      We in America are a brutal people.
      I can attest to this as I am old and can see back a long long way.

      World-wide- To counter these brutal circumstances people use Religious Beliefs.
      Religion is a wall of support that people use to help them through this life.
      Religion is a wish to a better today and tomorrow.
      Religion is man made, (please do not confuse this statement with any belief in God)
      but Faith is a belief in something that cannot be changed by contrary evidence.

      So arguments will continue, and rightly should.
      They are arguments concerning improvements of the human condition.
  • Ross G

    • +2
    Feb 14 2013: Speak only the truth, which has been revealed to you, and don't allow yourself to be provoked.

    It is admirable to protect the feelings of the individuals you are in deep conversation with. Truth can wound or it can heal. When you use the truth to deliberately harm, the truth may be removed from your heart. And if you use the truth to heal and edify, you may be entrusted with more.

    Consider Jesus Christ, the Messiah to both Islam and Christendom. Even He and his disciples found themselves in situations where the people became very "passionate". Even with their amazing skill in speech, their delicacy, love, patience, and the miracles; the people still crucified, imprisoned, stoned, beheaded, clubbed, and lanced them.

    It would seem that persecution for our beliefs is part of the territory. First you need to know the truth, then you need the courage to speak it.
    • Feb 17 2013: Ross,

      Your faith is admirable.
      But don't allow yourself to become subject to persecution for holding a personal belief.
      If you find yourself living under the thumb of a monster, move your feet.

      Courage means to be afraid to do something but to go ahead and do it.

      But, Courage does not mean for anyone to be stupid in doing so.
      I apologize, this remark is not directed towards you.
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    . .

    • +2
    Feb 13 2013: The purpose of all religion is harmony. All debate is outside the realm of harmony.
    • Feb 17 2013: Julliette,

      After watching those Obama-Romney debates, I am inclined to agree with you.
  • Feb 13 2013: I think that we need to teach that no one religion has eminent domain over Heaven or God. We need to teach our children that there are many paths that lead to the same destination. That is my humble opinion.
    • Feb 17 2013: Robin,

      Your opinion/ideas are not wrong, but --
      To teach our children that there are many paths that lead to the same destination may tend to
      bring unintended results.

      I recall the joke about St Peter leading a new group down the halls of Heaven...
      He past by one room with an open door. He said shhhhh. When later asked why?
      He responded,
      Their religion taught them, and they believe, that they are the only ones here.

      I apologize if I offended you. I have replacement Lawyer jokes available.
  • Feb 13 2013: Interesting point. I can definetly see a fight on what kids learn from their parents and what they find out at school about Santa.

    I think the reason some people want to teach religion at school is to teach moral/ethical values to students. If that is the case I think we should teach moral/ethical values out of the religious content. I think religion should be incorporated in the history curriculum.
    • Feb 17 2013: Alex,

      If you can wait long enough, that might happen.
      If I can get back from the great beyond, I will let you know for sure.
  • Feb 13 2013: It requires the practice of mental discipline to be able to alter one's reaction from
    "I hate you" to:
    "I hate the wrong, but not the wrong-doer" or:
    "I hate being hated, but will not give in ...I will not hate the one who is hating"
    • W T

      • 0
      Feb 13 2013: This is very hard to do. It requires alot of reflection, humility, and modesty.

      A high magnitude paradigm shift has to occur.....usually these kinds of paradigm shifts come after much suffering.
      • Feb 13 2013: I agree with you, but it can happen. sometimes if one endlessly practises - just with minor instances of hate or resentment even, then the mind can develop a habit, a little like practising the piano daily.

        One makes an effort, regularly, not thinking of the end point, but doing it because it is worthwhile in itself. And then something may happen effortlessly, and take one by surprise.

        I believe there are Eastern systems of meditative work that follow this sort of idea. I have heard of one in Japanese. Effort leading to effortlessness, but when one doesn't seek the end point.

        Unfortunately too, I have to say, that some suffering is too much for some people. In some it can be transformative in the way you describe, but for others the damage caused is too great, and leads to bitterness and imbalance. Very sadly. I think this is a strong reason for a collective social conscience.

        thank you for commenting
        • W T

          • +1
          Feb 13 2013: I happen to agree that our minds are very powerful indeed, and regular practice of positive thoughts can be very productive. Small doses like you say, not thinking of the end point.

          Even the scriptures say "make your mind over".....in other words....retrain your brain.

          This requires conscious effort.

          Many individuals do not know the power they have to change themselves.
          And even after they realize they have that power, our imperfection, and life's struggles soon have us forget....it is an ongoing struggle.

          And yes, many times bitterness is the result of suffering. I've seen it all too often.

          Now, please explain what a collective social conscience means. I'm sorry for my ignorance in this matter.
      • Feb 13 2013: I suppose, dear Mary, it is because this requires conscious effort, and usually for some prolonged period, that it is too seldom done.
        And as you say, life and its misfortunes override. I can't imagine how difficult it would be in the midst of a war zone for instance.

        Regarding social conscience, perhaps that is for another thread..I just meant that it would be in everyone's interest, if we decide it is a good idea to sponsor growth, harmony and education ... to actively pursue policies that mitigate severe suffering. We are fortunate in the western democracies that this is usually(?) the case (although the sincerity might sometimes be dubious, but...another thread)...
      • Feb 17 2013: Mary,

        I usually try a simple mantra each morning.
        I say to myself, "Think good thoughts".
        Telling my children to do the same thing might one day catch on.
        My youngest at 36 is trying. lol
        • W T

          • +1
          Feb 18 2013: I like your idea....I know it works....with me I must think positive at night, when trying to fall asleep, as well as in the mornings. LOL

          And yes, we must encourage our children to do so as well.

          I think that the exposure we have to positive psychology is helping alot of us rear our kids in new and wonderful ways don't you?
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    Feb 13 2013: Sure there is - don't have a religious debate at all! I'm not trying to be cute here. The simple fact is that any conversation, let alone a "debate" on religion, sex, region, cast, creed and what not can only end in one way - in a big fight. When that's the case, why have a debate at all? Isn't tolerance an option?
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    Feb 9 2013: Because religion, unlike science, cannot be proved with material things. This is the point of believing in a religion, to take what it says for granted.

    What unifies us is our common observations of the material world. If we all can see something then we all can agree that it exists. But that is not the way it is with religion. Religion it is a very personal and spiritual experience, and unless the other person you are talking to already shares with you your beliefs, it will be very hard transforming your personal thoughts and feelings to them using non-physical ways.

    Since religion has a great value in the mankind history, preserving it has always been one of the main priorities for many groups of people. Especially those who feel threatened if their beliefs were lost and who have bases built on their beliefs and religion. So they try to embed in their children the defense and even aggression towards whoever might form a threat to their ideologies. So the children grow to believe that it is them, and only them, are the right ones and everyone else wants to mislead them and they are lost themselves.

    So if every group has that response in them since a very young age, there would be clashes between them. No one would give in what they know to be true.

    The sensitivity of the group to the other religions depends on its traditions and cultures. Some cultures dont even accept anyone who is different, even if they did not express their differences publicly. Those are the hardest to be talked to because they don't accept your presence in the first place nor the presence of your different beliefs.

    But there are still others who are loosely attached to their inherited defense and aggression mechanisms. They are convinced with their choice and dont feel a need to express aggression towards those who dont cross the line in their debates.

    So to prevent conflicts in religious talks, we need to find open minded people and we need to respect our boundaries and limits.
  • Dan F

    • +2
    Feb 8 2013: Let's acknowledge that in some areas of the world this is a luxury because to debate religion can be life threatening. This liberty to question religion has been subject to the human history and condition in other areas of the world as well.

    The debate can become emotional because it can be so personal. Religion consists of thousands of different denominations around the world. Up until relatively recently (Charles Darwin) the debate was between religious leaders and scholars because the issues centered on the nature of the details in how best to worship a supreme being.

    Biology with its implied evolution of our existence from nonhuman parent stock has been a frontal assault on the whole question of religion. Religions share in common a belief system based on the idea that a supernatural being was responsible for our creation. These two concepts do not mesh well.

    The fact is tradition and commitment has a big influence on our religious beliefs, but does not immune us from recognizing changes that are going on around us. The freedom and liberty to voice an opinion is what make us civilized and grow. It is best to be civil in presenting what one has to say and despite the conflict, just agree to disagree.

    The freedom to debate is a great liberty. To pick a fight only hardens us.
  • W T

    • +2
    Feb 8 2013: I wish religion was the only thing people fought about........but it's not.

    Almost any kind of debate has the potential to turn into a big fight.

    I find that using the wisdom expressed in the following short poem can help anyone prevent fights.....whether face to face, or virtual:

    If wisdom's ways you wisely seek
    five things observe with care
    To whom you speak
    Of whom you speak
    And How
    And When
    And Where

    You cannot have civil conversations with every single person about every single topic. You must choose wisely.

    Although you might be a peaceful person, and respect other's points of view, there are individuals who are downright rude and may turn an amicable conversation on just about any topic into a tug-o-war.

    I find that when it comes to religion, it is good to respect other's views.
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      Feb 13 2013: Wise words indeed, yours and the poems.
      • W T

        • 0
        Feb 13 2013: Thank you.

        As evangelical christian, I am out and about talking to people all the time about all kinds of topics.....not just the Bible, although if possible I try to tie our conversation to a scriptural principle.

        I find that humans need to be listened to, regardless of their beliefs.

        Tolerance and understanding is very important if we are to coexist.

        Regardless of our personal choices of worship, we need to understand that we have an obligation to love our fellow human being, without judging them or looking down on them because they are of a different race, or religion, or a socio economic class.

        But time, and the school of hard knocks has made me careful....has taught me that I cannot talk to everyone about everything.

        It has been a hard lesson to learn.....because I am naturally an outgoing person.

        Thank you for your kind words Theodore.

        P.S. The poem came out of The Little House on the Prairie Book :)
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          Feb 13 2013: In this discussion I have included some observations about those without a religious orientation or atheists, a highly discriminated group. I am interested to know how you approach the subject. From your statements here you seem of be an inclusive person with empathy for the individual first, and respectful of what others believe or do not believe. As an evangelical christian, to what extent do you seek to convert others? What boundaries do you respect with regard to the religious views of others?
          Personally, I view religion as a personal matter. I'm willing to afford others their beliefs with the condition that they not be framed in an empirical manner. Karen Armstrong does this very well, focusing on that which we have in common.
      • W T

        • +1
        Feb 13 2013: With regards to nonreligious persons or atheists.....I find that just like religious individuals, nonreligious persons come in all shapes and sizes and attitudes.

        I have spoken to some staunch atheists face to face, and have been treated rudely. The mere fact I presented the good news to them was enough to get on their bad side. Even when I wanted to talk friendly, and get off the topic of the Bible, they were not interested in befriending me.

        I have also had the opposite experience. There is a young lady who lives near me who is an atheist. But, she is very kind, and we have wonderful conversations on all sorts of topics. I introduced her to TED. She has an open mind. So, she doesn't really care what my religion is or is not, she wants to be friendly because we have so many other things in common.

        Just because someone wears a title doesn't mean that person will be kind or not kind.

        You have to get to know the person and take a personal interest in them.

        As for converts.....well, I cannot convert anyone. In my ministry I talk to individuals and expose them to the Bible's teaching about God's kingdom, and the blessings it will bring to mankind. I always leave the conversation open for questions. Sometimes I am able to help them deal with personal issues through printed information. Sometimes I am able to counsel through reading scriptures. Other times I just lend a listening ear, or help in practical ways, like when a neighbor of mine needed someone to take care of his dying wife, I was able to find someone to help him with this matter.

        I truly believe in what Jesus taught...the golden rule...treat others as you would like others to treat you. And the greatest commands, love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself.

        There are no cultural, racial, or ethnic boundaries to these scriptural principles. I belong to a group of millions worldwide who live by these very principles.
      • W T

        • 0
        Feb 13 2013: I'm not sure about your last question regarding what boundaries I respect as to other's views?

        Can you be more specific?
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          Feb 13 2013: I think you have answered it very nicely by describing your relationship with your "atheist" friend. And by saying, "love your neighbor as yourself."

          Thank you for your insights.
      • W T

        • 0
        Feb 13 2013: You are very welcome.
  • Feb 8 2013: I usually find that those who have beliefs verging on the dogmatic or inflexible often have a deep well of insecurity within themselves, and maybe still need to be affirmed in who they are by people agreeing with them.

    Many people, unfortunately, are uneducated as to the beautiful ground that is opening up to be discovered that joins religions and sciences together. Some believe the gap is unbridgeable...but it is my belief,(that I am passionate about!), ...that one day we will find the bridges between the two which will clarify and unify.

    When they are found, we will know, because arguments will fade away. When we really know that which at present we do not, it will, I believe, be like watching the glass slipper fitting perfectly onto Cinderella's foot. Everyone watched in wonder and silence - their disbelief disappeared, because they saw with their own eyes.
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    Feb 21 2013: I generally agree with Arkady," Beliefs are closely related to our identity. When our beliefs are challenged, we take it as a personal challenge." What I've noticed are logic blocks, so to speak, where understandings reach a point and go no farther. It's up to each individual to expand their own understandings themselves. Arguments are counterproductive to understanding and when one ensues I feel, the topic should be left alone.
  • Feb 19 2013: In my opinion, most religious persons in the world are really "closet agnostics" but afraid to even admit it to themselves and thus risk losing their seat on the "heaven bus".
    • Feb 19 2013: The problem is that if you go into a discussion assuming the other is naive, you're automatically disrespecting them before ever having met them. This is a failure to understand the topic from the other person's point of view. Not taking perspective into account is equivalent to ethnocentrism. If you want to look for a reason for fights coming from a bunch of well-adjusted individuals about a reasonable topic, look no further.

      Respect is the answer. The difficult part of this, often left aside or incorrectly assumed, is a healthy appreciation of the other's perspective.
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      Feb 19 2013: Exactly !
      The world around me is a big big endless masquerade of people who have masks and blieve each other's !
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      Feb 19 2013: "In my opinion."

      That's a good start. At least we know that your ensuing conclusions, which aren't the result of a worldwide study, or a poll, can be dismissed out of the gate, as they only represent the feelings, the thoughts, the observations, and the ideas of only one--and that one heavily biased.

      "[M]ost religious persons in the world are really 'closet agnostics' but afraid to even admit it to themselves."

      Are you a "closet agnostic"? If so, that would explain how you arrived at your conclusion. That "closet" of which you speak, must be one of the largest in the history of mankind for it to hide the supposed truth of one's agnosticism from one's self as well as the entire world.

      If they're "afraid to even admit it to themselves," why should they, if that admission would severely impact the harmony they're now experiencing, and the tranquility. In the end it won't matter who's right: We all die. Sometimes "ignorance is bliss," but you'd have these supposed benighted souls to live with the truth as you have determined it, despite how it might upend their reality.

      "Misery loves company" it seems. You seem to say: "Why should these believers in an afterlife, and a Heaven, get to live out their deluded lives in peace, and not live with the sure knowledge of what is--there is no Heaven?"

      "[A]nd thus risk losing their seat on the 'heaven bus'."

      The Pope says that Heaven isn't a locale, or a destination, but a state of mind. By that reasoning, you don't have to die to experience Heaven, you merely have to alter your state of mind, from one that's Hell Bent, to one that's Heavenly Bestowed.
  • Feb 18 2013: Thank you Mary,

    One approval out of two tries isn't bad...

    An analogy --

    I went to many Federal, City, and University Libraries in several states.
    Checking out and reading books concerning life and health Insurance.
    NO negative books nor privately published accounts of the insurance industry were found.
    All the books were published by a single publisher for the insurance industry itself.
    Including most sales and training literature for at least the major insurance corporations.

    I suppose, religions are much the same.
    Their control of information may be why religious debate can be so volatile,

    Our Federal Government works the same.
    • Feb 18 2013: Talking about religion will often result in argument because only one side has an argument. Religion is not empirical, but science is. If two are talking about a non-empirical topic on which they both have strong opinions, there will be an argument: neither one has empricisim on his or her side. Without empiricism there is no logic. With no logic there is no reason. With no reason there is no common ground.
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    Feb 18 2013: yeah! Just call Christopher Hitchens in the debate,he would shut them all up.
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    Feb 18 2013: I have an unusual set of abilities--what some would classify as supernatural, but which, for me, are natural. On those occasion when I have revealed those abilities, I'm called either crazy, a liar, or deluded, mainly because science hasn't yet substantiated the existence of such abilities.

    Rather than given a polite hearing, I'm summarily dismissed, and my claims derided. I'm certain that I'm not the only one who sits on the sideline while others have their say, because to speak is to invite a thousand barbed comments.

    How will we ever learn, or have our worldview expanded, if we're intolerant of the views and experiences of others simply because they aren't, or haven't been, our experiences?

    How will we ever discuss all the anecdotal events of our life, if first we must pass them through the prism that is science, before they will even be considered as valid, and worthy of discussion?

    For all its value, let's not make science the next religion, the canons of which we dare not violate for fear that we'll trample the sacredness of the scientific method, and empiricism, simply because science has no explanation for all phenomenon.

    Not wishing to commit scientific heresy, such attitudes can stifle, and stymie scientific inquiry, compelling some in the scientific community to adhere to a line of reasoning, or theories--at least openly and among their peers--which they may have serious objections to, or profound reservations,
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    Feb 18 2013: Sam Harris gives a great talk about how beliefs can lead to needless human suffering. Harris asks "How have we convinced ourselves that every opinion has to count? How have we convinced ourselves that every culture has a point of view on....subjects worth considering? Does the Taliban have a point of view on physics that is worth considering? No. How is their ignorance any less obvious on the subject of human well-being?"

    When talking about religion we value differences of opinion in ways that we wouldn't in other area of our lives, and we need to start asking ourselves why we should.

    Harris says, "Consider the great problem of women's bodies: What to do about them? Well this is one thing you can do about them: You can cover them up. Now, it is the position, generally speaking, of our intellectual community that while we may not like this, we might think of this as "wrong" in Boston or Palo Alto, who are we to say that the proud denizens of an ancient culture are wrong to force their wives and daughters to live in cloth bags? And who are we to say, even, that they're wrong to beat them with lengths of steel cable, or throw battery acid in their faces if they decline the privilege of being smothered in this way?

    "Well, who are we not to say this? Who are we to pretend that we know so little about human well-being that we have to be non-judgmental about a practice like this? I'm not talking about voluntary wearing of a veil -- women should be able to wear whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned. But what does voluntary mean in a community where, when a girl gets raped, her father's first impulse, rather often, is to murder her out of shame?
    Just let that fact detonate in your brain for a minute: Your daughter gets raped, and what you want to do is kill her. What are the chances that represents a peak of human flourishing?"

    Is there disagreement that these beliefs worth challenging?
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      Feb 18 2013: I have mixed feeling on Sam. I saw him give a speech. It was truncated to a few hours so perhaps I would be more impressed if I were to meet him one on one. I do agree with many of his ideas and he does seem to be attempting to deliver a message with no power of his own to enforce it. I would take the message you mention above and boil it down to this idea (not all Sam, as this is my belief while respecting some of his ideas.)

      Respect the ideas and thoughts of an individual or Group. However, set laws to respect the human race.

      We can respect that a father believes he should kill his daughter if she is raped. But we can make it illegal for him to do so.

      We have free speech in the United States. So say what you want, BUT it is illegal to stand up in a crowded theatre and yell "Fire" (that is inciting to riot) OR, to threaten the Life of the president.

      I can see a time in the next few hundred years where we have worldwide laws. Take abortion. In the U.S. it is currently legal (but restricted by trimesters) You may not like it, you may have your opinions, but that is the current law. Perhaps we will eventually have similar world wide laws that are decided and governed by a world wide court/police system. We have that in its infancy now with the UN peace keeping force. Perhaps in time it will evolve.
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        Feb 18 2013: Harris's message is simply that we must be morally opposed to the ideas that do not prompt human flourishing, even when they come in the form of religious beliefs. They can not be exempted.
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          Feb 18 2013: At the talk I attended he was explaining his idea that happiness, as a human condition, may have many sources and that source varies from person to person.

          Now that you point out this observation I can remember the theme woven into that talk.

          I got several more ideas from his talk, but that is a conversation itself. Thanks for the viewpoint
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    Feb 18 2013: When it comes to religion, people use often use emotion, beliefs, and ego, as opposed to objectivity, reason, facts and humility.

    You as if there is a way to prevent ....

    Yes, religious debates must first be set among reasonable people. Unreasonable people will always find an unreasonable point to argue. Next, there should be set rules as in any debate such as, respect, agree to disagree, use facts, stay within objective and reason and tollerance.

    Reason and reasonable people is key! People who do not have the ability to stay within reasonable parameters and be respectful towards others opinion although they may not agree should never be considered for any discussion or debates because it defys the objective.
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      Feb 18 2013: Unfortunately, as John Stuart Mill put it in "The Subjection of Women":

      “So long as an opinion is strongly rooted in the feelings, it gains rather than loses in stability by having a preponderating weight of argument against it.”

      ...and one's religion is always rooted in feelings, being an effect of years of indoctrination by gurus or priests, strengthened by culture and community, or inspired by personal "epiphany" of some unreasonable sort. To present a true religious believer with counterarguments may spark even more feelings and an unequal emotional opposite reaction, possibly a conflict.

      ...or, as "Dr. House" nicely put it:

      "If you could reason with religious people there would be no religious people."
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    Feb 18 2013: Sorry for the clunky words. I meant to examine them as a concept, something like -

    (are not) "Religious debates" (arguments in which) two or more highly valuable preconceptions mutually insist on perception of objective correctness?

    a possible point being that the phrase "religious debate" could be described as an oxymoron.
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      Feb 18 2013: I do see why you describe "religious debate" as an oxymoron, but I cannot agree that religions are highly valuable preconceptions. We have new concepts nowadays, concepts based on reason, empirical evidence and careful study which have shown to be more highly valuable during the last 200 years that religion(s) has ever been in human history.
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        Feb 18 2013: ~ a great deal of value jas been attributed to them by all parties involved, though. The value is there, an attribution, just as with money or tulips. I personally find no value at all in jewel-encrusted eggs but whenever I try to take one away from someone, I get all kinds of flak.

        It's not for me to argue religion's value to the consumer, but in understanding the value that's accrued there, I can avoid causing unnecessary harm.
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    Feb 17 2013: Fighting, no matter what precipitated it is caused by the protection of our thoughts. As you are entitled to your thoughts so are others. What we are really doing is trying to sell our beliefs to others who are also protecting their thoughts. That's why arguments, which are different than fights, might succeed where fighting never does. The way to keep any argument from becoming a fight is to notice the moment when the discussion becomes circular, and simply discontinue it.

    This is very challenging because ego, our self protection system is almost always activated without a thoughtful, critical thinking process. We humans are so adept at protecting ourselves that we don't even notice when it happens. In addition we have a belief that our ideas themselves are an accurate representation our us, of who we are that it feels like when we protect our ideas, we are literally protecting ourselves. It's false of course because our thoughts are not us, they are really only symbols of the present moment learned in the past, that are further represented by more symbols (our words), which at best are incomplete representations of incomplete representations. Try to describe love. There is no complete description, and yet we know the feeling when we feel it.

    In short, an argument is different than a fight. It's possible to win an argument, but not a fight. You may bludgeon another into submission, but that beating will never change what's in his heart.
    • Feb 17 2013: Ward,

      Your God or my God was pretty clever to give us thoughts.
      Religions cannot control what we think. Aside from drugging us.
      That is why poison worked so well in replacing leaders.

      Yup, try to describe love. WoW. Don't forget "hate"...
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    Feb 17 2013: It's okay to have the heat, the contention. People will still come away with their thoughts expanded and future decisions made with more data, even if they resolve to be more close-minded than ever. It's all right.

    Realizing that it's all right usually takes the heat out of one's own need to express and feel understood - a useful spirituality doesn't need to prove itself.

    People are capable of changing their entire belief-sets in the blink of an eye, jovially, and without pain or chaos. It's more likely that they'll cling grimly to a belief that's been demonstrated to be in error, though. I think it's very, very rare that a belief 'needs' to be changed. Behavior has to be modified all the time. Trusting people in general to be able to modify behavior is all that's needed.

    "Religious debates" - two or more highly valuable preconceptions mutually insist on perception of objective correctness? I don't think it would be dishonest nor disrespectful to laugh out loud at the suggestion of such an activity.
    • Feb 17 2013: Krispin,

      Great comment until I got lost at "Religious debates"
      If I add the word "Do" in front to get "Do Religious debates" - ... etc.
      Will I be making your question work ??? I hope that is what you mean.
  • Feb 15 2013: no
  • Feb 14 2013: Morality is prioritized on the basis of usefulness or pain is the psychology thought according to Jonathan Haidt. Let me see if I have this right, are you telling me that you believe that it is wrong for anyone to interfere with your moral beliefs and practices ? If so then what you are talking about is Normal Relativism in regards to morality.
    • Feb 17 2013: Robin,

      Einstein would have been proud of you.
    • W T

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      Feb 18 2013: Robin....hope you don't mind me telling you this:

      When you want to reply to a comment, come back to the conversation and hit the red replie button, so that the person you are replying to sees your comment directed at them....otherwise, your comments will appear to be directed at noone in particular.......like your three comments above..........who were they for?

      Thank you,
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    Feb 14 2013: People get angry because they can't get their point across or the opposite side do not acknowledge their ideologies. First of all, getting into heated arguments with religious subjects need to be avoided. Religion and faith are something that are very personal and should be treated as such.
    • Feb 17 2013: Raam,

      Most people would agree with you.
      I cannot.
      I agree only that faith is very personal.
      Religion is man made and therefore only acceptable.
  • Feb 13 2013: “Difficult conversations are not about beliefs, but about the emotional underpinnings which serve to protect those beliefs and preserve our self-identity. These conversations don’t involve emotions, they are emotions.”

    If we acknowledge that we all experience things that are so emotionally meaningful, so beyond reason, that they represent the sacred, we can learn to respect those manifestations be it a picture of our child, our flag, or more abstract concepts such as justice, liberty, or God.
    • Feb 13 2013: You are still talking about belief. What you are talking about is an emotional belief that is not factual, the other belief is an intellectual belief based on fact. Some people are hard wired to believe in facts and some people are hard wired for the emotional I don't care what the facts are. What you are asking is for the Mathematician to understand why you believe 2 +2 equals six even though facts say it equals 4.
      • Feb 14 2013: I am all for intellectual beliefs based on facts and agree that facts and reason are crucial. However, based on studies in both anthropology and evolutionary psychology, we are all born, including the Mathematician, with a rough draft of moral intuitions which include care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. The priority of each of these moral channels is dependent upon our situational and cultural context and prioritized based upon the signal strength of our moral emotions.

        I am not asking for the Mathematician to give up the fact that 2+2 = 4 but I am asking for him/her to acknowledge that my experiences make my two daughters and two sons more important and meaningful to me (2+2=6) than his two sons and two daughters are to me (2+2=4) as his children would be more important to him. Intellectual reasoning tends to follow moral intuitions which are complex, multivariable, and often can't be quantified.

        Jonathan Haidt

        Robert Sapolsky
      • Feb 17 2013: Robin,

        You deal with reality, so 2+2=4. Correct.
        Except in a Horse Race.
        Then you need to deal with relativity and 2+2=2. Also Correct.

        This would make a great debate, but it is a bit off target here.
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    Feb 13 2013: Why don't we debate whether Santa Claus exists with children?

    This is a serious question.
    What would happen if I went around telling people's children that Santa did not really exist.
    Do you think a fight would occur?
    • Feb 13 2013: If you go and tell them they probably won't fight because you as an adult represents a figure of authority. They might cry and be sad but I guess they might eventually accept it. Now, I can easily see a fight in the middle of a classroom if a third grader tell another third grader that Santa doesn't exist.
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        Feb 13 2013: A fight might come from the parents who told them to believe in Santa.
        And we all go along with the charade.

        Dan Dennett makes this point about religion. He says he is in favor of teaching religion in the public schools, as long as we teach them all. He would let the children decide what to believe. But parents woud fight to continue to have their children believe what they want them to.
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          Feb 13 2013: Read my experience below Theodore...I think it backs up what you are saying...
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        Feb 13 2013: About 15 years ago I was reading out loud to my class from a book one of the students had checked out of the library.

        When I finished the story I asked the kids if they enjoyed it.

        From the back of the class one little boy said, "It was nice, but it was fake, because the tooth fairy doesn't exist".

        I then asked the rest of the kids what they thought. Most agreed that the tooth fairy didn't exist.

        It was a group of second graders, in a very affluent neighborhood.

        No fights broke out.

        The next day, however, I was summoned to the principals office and told that I could not be exposing children to truths. It was not up to me as a teacher. That on of my students had gone home and called his mom a big liar.......he still believed in the tooth fairy.....

        I explained how the children themselves had brought up the point, and that I had read a book one of them gave me from our school library..........there was no reasoning with the administrator.

        I got in trouble because a parent chose to lie to their child, and once the truth came out, I was the scapegoat for the parent. So sad....
        • Feb 13 2013: As A parent and Counselor I would have been angry at you too ! Yes we all know the tooth fairy is fake but the lie also serves a purpose. 1) it teaches children to believe in non concrete and abstract ideas, 2) it helps with the scary process of your teeth falling out In time, children stop listening to fairy tales and stop believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny. This usually corresponds with their increasing ability to handle abstract concepts and to deal with difficult challenges in their lives because of their accumulated life experiences
    • Feb 18 2013: Theodore,

      That scenario has happened many times already.
      It did make the parents mad.
      And rightly so.

      There is just no accounting for bad manners.
      But a punch in the nose should handle things.
  • Feb 12 2013: I think If you see religion as a meaning to transcend human beings, not much big fight.
    But if you say about belief, you gonna have trouble. Some people can't just accept that there are a whole more ideas range from no Gods at all to every thing has a God, or everything is God.
    Not surprising when normally your whole view about the world, about yourself is deep rooted in religion.
    When you know there are other ideas, it make you wonder which belief is right. And normally, we're not easy to be 'defeated'.
    But if you see the point of religion is not about belief, so a clash of belief is not necessary.
    So, if you see religious debate as a mean to be better understanding about the whole bunch of people out there, understand yourself, to be compassion.
    But if you think your belief is the TRUTH, so logically, every things else is FALSE, there will be fight, whether it just in your mind, or in your saying and actions.
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    Feb 12 2013: Yes. Don't have them.
  • Feb 12 2013: no but yes.
    no because there can never be a true debate about religion because religion is not rational.
    yes because with the promotion of reason, educating people to analyse information skeptically, religion can be seen for the rubbish that it is, effectively hijacking people and turning their lives to its purpose, not unlike a biological parasite. as intelligence and critical thinking increases, religion and the fighting it brings naturally fades away.
  • Feb 11 2013: There's a talk show out of Austin, Texas, USA, that promotes a positive discussion about religion. Naturally, they're atheist's and they have open calls from the public trying to assert their claim about their religion. I'm not a regular watcher, I've watched an episode or two and assorted clips but people carry on rather well there.

    People on the show rarely show anger, when they do, it's because people, usually callers, aren't listening or understanding the arguments being made. On the other hand, this isn't something that's unique to religion anyway, you can watch the same stuff on FOXnews with any number of hosts, and in regard to any subject they take a position on. Anger is inherent in some people, a weapon they wield with any cause.

    For me, I don't think you get critical or bright people in religion. You get a lot of broken people too, because they need religion. In the same way that I'd defend my freedom or my needs these people are of the same situation, but with religion, because it's a need for them.
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    Feb 11 2013: Whatever religion is, or resembles, is within us all - the desire to be with others, to know metaphysical answers and to find contentment in knowledge and happiness...

    When the religious debate conflicts with one of the above (as being a core belief), between the persons or people, it will become problematic to discuss coherently both sides of the debate.

    Like others here have said, we need to realize we all want the same things religious discussion brings, the reiterating nature in us all to want to know, be happy - with** ourselves and others.
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    Feb 9 2013: Hello Farokh,

    I agree with those on this thread who have mentioned that fighting about religious beliefs demonstrates insecurity with their own beliefs. As you insightfully mention in your introduction, "they get all angry and try to win...". If a person thinks s/he has "won" a debate, it reinforces their own beliefs on a very superficial level. Unless they have resolved their own deep feelings about their beliefs, they will continue to try to "win", and convert all of us to their own beliefs, which in their insecure worldview, would reinforce their beliefs even more.
    We can prevent this dynamic by not participating in the "fight" to "win", and having an open mind and heart which accepts and understands that people have different thoughts, feelings, ideas, preferences and opinions about their own personal beliefs.
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      Feb 9 2013: Colleen, in my experience, people with very closed minds often assume a posture of being unwilling to engage with thoughtful people who raise questions about their beliefs and claims. Where people are willing to engage with others who hold different and potentially challenging views, there are prospects for learning and understanding. Thoughts?
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        Feb 9 2013: I totally, wholeheartedly, without question agree Fritzie!!! There are ALWAYS opportunities to learn and understand WHEN/IF we are not "stuck" in our own narrow world view.

        I have many friends and family members who embrace many different religious beliefs and practices, we often talk about religious and philosophical beliefs, and I have never in my life encountered the close mindedness that I've observed at times in TED discussions. While I do not enjoy the narrow worldview that some people have, it certainly has helped me better understand the impact religious views held by narrow minded people have in our world. It is not very helpful, nor does it contribute to peace, in my perception.

        Once people believe that their perception is the one and only "truth", there is no opportunity for discussion, and this behavior simply demonstrates insecurity, which often goes hand in hand with closed minds.
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          Feb 9 2013: I am concerned about attributing a posture in discourse to insecurity. I think associating postures with insecurity may be precisely what hardens people in their positions. People who are secure in their beliefs can be quite belligerent as well in articulating them. And often as not they consider people who don't agree with them or question them as closed-minded!

          I don't actually think that believing there is one and only one truth particularly suggests insecurity.

          I don't typically engage in discussions about religion, because I believe people are entitled to their religious or spiritual beliefs, but this should not provide an excuse to wield them against others with different beliefs. The only time I comment at all is when people start making claims that new findings in science support their particular religion over other people's religions.

          I agree with you that when it comes to spiritual matters, there are no proofs and that people can read evidence different ways- and often do to support their particular beliefs.
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        Feb 9 2013: Good point Fritzie,
        People who are secure OR insecure may be able to articulate their beliefs in several different ways. To me, "security" and "belligerent" don't generally exist together, and that's just my own perception and observation.

        I don't typically engage in discussions about religion on TED sites, unless it is with someone who genuinely wants to explore. I also believe people are entitled to their own beliefs as long as those belierfs do not adversly impact others.

        I have engaged in discussions when advocates of a certain belief which is encouraged by a certain religion, attempt to control others with their beliefs, which have a foundation in religion.....or as you say...when people make claims that science supports THEIR religion over other people's religions, then I might pop in on the conversation:>)
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    Gail .

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    Feb 9 2013: The answer to that depends on the people involved.

    I had a conversation once with a woman who insisted that if America didn't comply with God's demands, then it would be wiped out - therefore her own life is in imminent danger. She referenced the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah as proof that her concerns were valid. Her fear was real. Her need to defend, reasonable from her point of view.

    She is part of a movement to ban certain behaviors (rights) in our society, thus her aim is to destroy freedom and equality for those who don't see things her (preacher's) way. This leaves those she is against feeling threatened - as threatened is she is feeling - especially if they are women, homosexuals, pagans, Wiccans, Muslim, etc. etc. etc.

    Put two threatened animals together, and you have a fight.

    How to prevent this? Society must first evolve and become self-aware. Those who are self-aware joyously explore variances in worldviews when they meet. There is an underlying QUESTION of "is there something to be learned here that could benefit my life?"

    So to condense it: Open mind with open mind = fun. Closed mind with closed mind = argument. One with an open mind who meets one with a closed mind will not engage. Engagement is futile.
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    Feb 8 2013: The main reason religious debates go wild is because the people involved talk about the various differences and problems between the religions. They fail to notice that the basic underlying principle of peace which is common to all religions ,be it Hinduism,Christianity or Islam .
    Also they tend to get emotional. Emotions tend to muffle one's rational thinking and they just express their views at the spur of the moment. This leads to the heated discussions and fights.
    The only solution is for the lpeople to choose their leaders wisely. Those people who are willing to put their heads together with other leaders and work out an amicable solution. When people calm down their emotions and have a conversation with a cool head, they ll realise that they all have something in common. Thsi will reduce fights a lot!!
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      Feb 10 2013: Agreed with you.
      But do they really need leaders in religion? can't people think for themselves?
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        Feb 10 2013: Farokh,
        Of course people can think for themselves. But that leads to 100 different thoughts from 100 different persons. We need that one man/woman to unify us in thought as well as purpose and lead us in the right path. If all the people get to express their opinions, it would be total chaos. A good leader can find Order even in the midst of chaos and root for the cause - Unity among religions.
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          Feb 10 2013: But is there possible that insisting on opinions of these men be a cause of disagreement and maybe one of the reasons that people don't accept others opinions because they deeply believe in them?
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        Feb 11 2013: That , ofcourse , is another way to look at it!! May be a the leader's decisons are wrong or maybe people believe strongly in something. But take the case of Berlin wall. It has nothing to do with religion. But the wall which separated east & west germany was a mark of the cold war. It was a subject of great controversy. Many people lost their lives. But when there was a change in leadership, the wall was immediately put down unifying Germany. A leader has the power to cause disagreement, but also can rewrite history. It all depends on the people choosing the representatives. I strongly believe a good leader can unify religions with tact rather than the masses doing it on their own.
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    Feb 8 2013: I think if we are going to discuss religion, we need two ingredients: 1) Patience & 2) Knowledge.
    I stand in the Christian corner & find that many have preconceptions regarding Christianity which have little relevance. So we have the makings of frustration at the start. I love the creation/evolution debate. I know quite a lot about thinking on both sides. It is a really interesting subject, but it can get bogged down by a kind of Dawkins Sunday school understanding of the bible.
    It works both ways, as often there is a feeling that the religious don't understand evolution. This may, or may not be the case. So we need patience, & need to be willing to listen to the other side's argument . There is a good debate to be had, but so often it is stifled by stereotypes & bad manners.

  • Feb 21 2013: Hi John,
    I can't help but to agree with you on this. My little children picked up on this as they observed and were disappointed and expressed it as well. If it happened God saw it as well.
  • Feb 20 2013: Thanks for asking. I would say, no based on years of observing incidents in the Church and Seminary forums.
    • Feb 21 2013: Heh, yeah, I know the feeling. But it only takes one positive example to demonstrate that it's possible. And I've experienced many. It's a heck of a lot easier when everyone understands that they're respected by everyone else (and are eager to forgive and be forgiven). And you can't go wrong with a little Love.
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    Feb 20 2013: Many people think that the goal of debates is to convince the other party. This is almost never possible. I think, the goal of debates should be to find common ground and mutual understanding. When the parties are not interested in the other side's position, debates are just a waste of time.
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    Feb 20 2013: Hello, perhaps one little part of solution should be change the term "discuss" by "share" when we treat the religion. Religion is something spiritual and it is related to human faith. Everyone should share their own experiene and try to learn from others. "No one has the absolute truth and no one is totally wrong"...

    Your question is very good focused because it seems that religions must guide us for peaceful ways and its hard to understand people fighting about religion...
    ... but nuancing your question... why human being ends all kind of debates (sports, politics, economics...) angry and into a big fight?
  • Feb 20 2013: Yes, have a religion softball tournament and the winner is the number one religion for the year
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    Feb 20 2013: @Shawki Shawki [Here and down-thread]

    "I would never expect a single human to apprise me of the sum total of all possible human experiences; Why then would I expect a single "NDE" human to summarize all NDEs for me ?"

    I agree: It would be imprudent, as experiences here in the world we see, and in the worlds we don't see are infinitely diverse, and unpredictable.

    Nevertheless, NDE's are becoming fairly commonplace--as are accounts of them--now that medical science has advanced sufficiently to revive those who might have passed on before these advances.


    "On the other hand,nor should I discount any honest persons experience for the sole reason that it is unique or estranged to my own experiences."

    That, too, is prudent. Given my own life experiences which are bizarre enough, I'm loathe to dismiss any claims, without first exposing them to exhaustive scrutiny.
  • Feb 19 2013: I'm pleased that the Pope is aware of the status of heaven. May he passeth it to his successor. As an avid agnostic, I refrain from proselytizing ...one man's tranquillity is another's hell. Death has been, is now and will always be one of mankind's greatest enigmas ... but we have a smorgasbord of heavens.
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      Feb 19 2013: "Death has been, is now and will always be one of mankind's greatest enigmas."

      Perhaps for you, but not for everyone. Many have died--clinically, that is--and have returned to share that experience. Dannion Brinkley comes to mind, one who has written extensively about his after-death experience, and then there's neurosurgeon and neuroscientist Dr. Eben Alexander, and his book, "Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (2012) in which he asserts that his out of body and near death experience (NDE) while in a meningitis-induced coma in 2008 proves that consciousness is independent of the brain, that death is an illusion, and that an eternity of perfect splendor awaits us beyond the grave — complete with angels, clouds, and departed relatives, but also including butterflies and beautiful girls in peasant dress. According to him, the current understanding of the mind 'now lies broken at our feet'— for 'What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more, than our physical brains as clear as I can, both to my fellow scientists and to people at large.'”

      "I refrain from proselytizing."

      That's a reasonable position. Similarly, what you believe is your business. And this brings us full circle to the discussion underway on this blog: I'm not here to convince you of anything. I have my proof, which is, for me, incontrovertible proof--a proof that buttresses my knowledge of an afterlife, but won't necessarily offer you sufficient proof to nudge you from a position of saying you don't know, to one of full knowing.

      The problem emerges when one side or the other attacks the other for not believing as they believe. This is the experience I've often encountered when sharing my life story and experiences, rather than the courtesy of a hearing without being subjected to ridicule.
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        Feb 20 2013: That NDE sounds remarkably a lot like a dream or hallucination.

        Butterflies and beautiful girls.

        Perhaps what you might expect when unconscious or near death.

        His interpretation could be correct. NDE are profound.

        I understand how attractive this vision is and why many would use this to reinforce their hopes and beliefs. Personally I look for something more compelling as proof of life after death. I class it as unknown, but most likely the end of our conscious existence.based on everything we know with reasonable confidence.
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          Feb 20 2013: "That NDE sounds remarkably a lot like a dream or hallucination."

          When taken out of context and serialized, anything can sound "remarkably ... like a dream or hallucination."

          NDEs are similar to OOBEs. Let me assure you, the various worlds, dimensions, and realties are mind-blowing, and feature everything imaginable and unimaginable.

          "His interpretation could be correct. NDE are profound."

          As are OOBEs. Fortunately, you can experience the latter without the downside of NDEs. Much of what I know and have experienced I don't reveal, because to reveal them would strain credulity, such is the nature of my Out-of-Body Explorations, and the various entities and lifeforms I've encountered.

          "I understand how attractive this vision is and why many would use this to reinforce their hopes and beliefs."

          Attractive to be sure, but I, and many like me, don't need it to reinforce "hopes and beliefs." Our daily lives are reinforcement enough, if such was required, which it isn't.

          "Personally I look for something more compelling as proof of life after death."

          And that's your choice, and your decision. Although, I fear, without a similar experience as that of Dr. Alexander, that "compelling proof" will remain as elusive as science's inability to fathom the existence of an afterlife, and fully plumb the mysteries surrounding consciousness.

          "I class it as unknown, but most likely the end of our conscious existence.based on everything we know with reasonable confidence."

          Your "reasonable confidence" is misplaced, since what we know is profoundly limited and doesn't account for life's simplest experience, and reality--the sourcing of Life in body, and Mind in brain.

          I harken back to this perennial limitation of science, fully knowing that science will never crack this simplest puzzle--for all its ubiquity--of human existence and the prevalence of intelligent lifeforms, albeit with man as nature's crowning achievement.

          For me each day is as supernatural as it is natural.
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          Feb 20 2013: All of life's experiences are unknown ,until they become known. I would never expect a single human to apprise me of the sum total of all possible human experiences; Why then would I expect a single "NDE" human to summarize all NDEs for me ? On the other hand,nor should I discount any honest persons experience for the sole reason that it is unique or estranged to my own experiences.
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          Feb 20 2013: Good point Shawki,
          I've had an NDE/OBE, researched hundreds of cases of NDE/OBEs, and while there are many similarities, there are also differences.

          For example, I did not experience "angels, clouds... butterflies and beautiful girls in peasant dress", nor was my experience in any way connected to religion.

          So, I agree with you Shawki, that I would never expect a simgle human to apprise me of that experience, nor would I expect a single human to summarize all NDE/OBEs:>)

          It seems like this conversation got hyjacked to NDE/OBEs rather than the topic question....
          "Is there any way to prevent religious debates from turning into a big fight?"

          My NDE/OBE experience was not at all about religion, and there are many other cases that are not dominated by religion, so in my humble perception, the topic of NDE/OBE has nothing to do with the topic question as presented.
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        Feb 20 2013: Hi Wilbert, while I haven't had a NDE personally, a close relative has, and I have conversed with others who have. I even looked at that book. The experience has helped my family member lose fear of hell, but does not see it as absolute proof.

        I'm not sure I need to personally have an NDE or OOBE to know enough to have a valid opinion. 'Knowing what we know about the brain, the mind and neurological processes I don't think it unreasonable to assume NDE etc is not a slam dunk argument for life after death.

        Actually I had an OOBE once.. Perhaps I really did travel out of my body. I don't know. I tend to think it was just something going on in my brain, particularly given my state of mind at the time.

        I heard of another Doctor who one day saw demons and angels erupting from the floor. He took himself to hospital and told them he was most likely having a stroke impacting a specific part of his brain. He was correct. Now maybe the stroke helped him see something real we normally can not see. But maybe it was just a hallucination.

        All these experiences, from seeing a god or goddess to demonic possession causing epilepsy, to alien abductions, I don't discount people have experiences, just a bit skeptical of some of the interpretation.

        I guess we agree people do have hallucinations and other amazing experiences and in some cases these are just natural albeit not to common brain misfirings.

        Others are more mundane or common. When you watch tv and lose awareness of your surroundings you are actually in a light trance. If I spin like a dervish I might have visions. If you llock a human in absolute dark and silence within minutes we start imagining/seeing/hearimg things. When you meditate or pray, same parts of everyones brain are active.

        How do you draw the line between stuff going on in our mind and correctly interpreting experiences as something supernatural touching some realm outside of our mental constructs?
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          Feb 20 2013: "Knowing what we know about the brain, the mind and neurological processes I don't think it unreasonable to assume NDE etc is not a slam dunk argument for life after death."

          The only "slam dunk argument" that will resonate for the masses is the survival of death itself.

          I don't presume the polemic skills to change minds with the persuasive power of words, or that my experiences will shift one's beliefs if those beliefs have hardened into denial, or a refutation of things termed supernatural.

          All I have is my anecdotal experience, and even that I proffer with extreme care, cognizant of the general resistance to paranormal events for which my life has seen many during a lifetime of living straddled two worlds--the one we see, and the one we don't.

          "I'm not sure I need to personally have an NDE or OOBE to know enough to have a valid opinion."

          An "opinion" certainly, but an informed "opinion" would require a greater involvment, or, at the very least, knowing the subject experientially to a degree that would inform a position, the difference between learning a skill from a book, and actually learning it as an apprentice with real-world practice.

          "I tend to think it was just something going on in my brain, particularly given my state of mind at the time."

          Consciousness is powerful, and a "state of mind" can trigger the creation of all kind of phenomenon, or connect us with realities we're unaccustomed to seeing.

          "I don't discount people have experiences, just a bit skeptical of some of the interpretation."

          On one blog, I detailed for you an extraterrestrial encounter, one which ultimated with the prediction of an earthquake, three months in advance of it, giving the precise date, and time.

          "How do you draw the line between stuff going on in our mind and correctly interpreting experiences as something supernatural touching some realm outside of our mental constructs?"

          Consciousness is super-creative, and creates realities. There is no realm outside of us.
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        Feb 20 2013: Let me put it this way, I know some people who tried mushrooms and others who tired LSD.

        One saw words and sounds as sparks coming from peoples mouths. Another thought the people around him turned in lizards, and another saw blue and red crystals in the air.

        I had some of the most vivid visions in my life recovering from surgery.

        Did the medication or psycho active substances open our senses to see something we normally can not? Or did the chemicals in our brain cause hallucinations?

        When you damage or play around with the brain you can trigger weird experiences. Now when your brain is starved of oxygen or your body is near total shut down due to some trauma or illness it is perhaps not that surprising people have incredible experiences.

        Again, they could be propelled into another magical realm. Actually it may be real, but not the afterlife. It could be a supernatural holding place before an afterlife or total oblivion.

        Or it could be our poor brains going through some shut down process with hallucinations.

        It is hard to test but I can think of some evidence that would make it more likely people are having a real supernatural experience. But have yet to see anything like this.

        I guess it can be kind of insulting to hear a view like mine towards some profound experience with much attached meaning and interpretation. Again, I don't discount the experiences. And I hope not to offend.
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          Feb 20 2013: "Did the medication or psycho active substances open our senses to see something we normally can not? Or did the chemicals in our brain cause hallucinations?"

          Brain and mind, and body and life are two of the illusions to which we're bound. Simply put, we believe that we're subject to the body--physicality--for sight, touch, taste, hearing, and the operation of the mind from which consciousness emanates.

          We're not. But as long as this belief constitutes our reality, damage to the body can precipitate the death of the body, just as any chemical alteration of the brain can have a huge impact on thought, and therefore on the consciousness that seems to require a brain for its existence.

          This seeming coupling of body and brain with Life and Mind accounts for the seeming cooperation that we see between them, a cooperation that ceases once we're free of the body, especially during sleep, an OOBE, or a NDE.

          "Now when your brain is starved of oxygen or your body is near total shut down due to some trauma or illness it is perhaps not that surprising people have incredible experiences."

          Indeed, as the astral body and consciousness are now free of physical limitations, and physical interpretations of experiences--free to create, and co-create whatever realities meet their fancy.

          "Or it could be our poor brains going through some shut down process with hallucinations."

          As I've stated, once the brain is out of the equation, the mind and consciousness can conjure up an infinite number of possible experiences, and do so without the physical limitations that once attended such creations.

          We're not our bodies, but we're made to believe that we are. This illusion serves a purpose. Without it, our connection to the physical world wouldn't be as strong--and neither would we experience it with the same level of gravity and urgency.

          Those living would be like me, neither here nor there, but a resident in both worlds, knowing the past and future with equal ease, and assurance.
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          Feb 20 2013: "I guess it can be kind of insulting to hear a view like mine towards some profound experience with much attached meaning and interpretation. Again, I don't discount the experiences. And I hope not to offend."

          Not at all: I'm not offended. I understand how incredulous my statements are, and that they'll more likely be disbelieved than belived.

          This world is really no different than other worlds we don't see. In all worlds and realities we're creating our experiences. This world is no exception.

          What's different, or seem to be, is that we don't usually see the connection between thoughts and the reality that these thoughts create. I can. For me, thought and action, cause and effect can be immediate, just as it is in other realities that we term non-physical--so immediate that they may be considered one.

          We can create Hell here as well as there. We can create Heaven here as well as there. And we usually do.

          When we're co-creating, here and there, our realties aren't too dissimilar and we can converse one with the other on a common plane of understanding and experience, but we're not just limited to those understandings and experiences, but can spiral out from these centers of commonality and entertain our own private world, or own peculiar reality.

          "Again, they could be propelled into another magical realm. Actually it may be real, but not the afterlife. It could be a supernatural holding place before an afterlife or total oblivion."

          Here and there, your belief controls the quality and the quantity of your life. Here and there, like attracts like--fear attracts fear and love attracts love. Here and there, you get what you believe you will get. Here and there, truth is what you say it is, and you or your experience is what you say it is.

          What amazes me most, is that few ever inquire about what it is that I have learned from being a denizen of this world and the next; they're usually intent on attacking and disabusing me of the notion of the supernatural.
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        Feb 20 2013: Thanks Wilbert. I've enjoyed reading and reflecting on your comments.
        It's probably good to hear points of view and experiences different from our own.
        Funnily enough there is some intersection of our views. While we diverge on others.
        By the way I am curious about your experiences and insights but don't want to pry.
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          Feb 21 2013: THANK YOU!

          I enjoy respectful exchanges, where both sides share their take on things rather than resort to preachments, or didaticism.

          Serendipitously, I discovered this morning an e-mail in my mailbox from CoastZone, happily devoted to "Accounts of NDEs." I present a portion of it here for your perusal and that of future readers of this blog:

          "Referring to those who experience NDEs as 'returnees,' he related an early case that he heard when he was stationed in the National Guard. The returnee said his NDE occurred after a drug overdose, and he was told 'it was not his time.' During his 'life review' he was shown that he was throwing away the gifts that God had given him. Once revived, 'that man...got up and walked away cold turkey from drug addiction,'-- the NDE absolutely turned his life around, he said.

          "Price has heard of four different ways people exit the body during an NDE-- the tunnel of light happens in only about 40% of the cases. The medical idea that a brain deprived of oxygen explains the tunnel effect, doesn't account for why during the NDE, people report a joyous reunion, a life review, and instruction, and then when they come back they're a different person, he contended. Suicide, Price has learned from the accounts, is not a good escape option. Though people aren't punished for it, they are still aware of all the problems they had in their life, as well as the grief they caused their loved ones. When people were resuscitated from their suicide attempt, they came back with the knowledge that they had to deal with their problems, he said.

          "Regarding hellish NDEs, Price shared a man's NDE account of being attacked by the claws of a T-Rex type creature. He would be healed only to be torn apart over and over again. When the man yelled 'help me Lord,' he woke up back in the hospital, and was subsequently able to turn his life around. Price also cited the case of Howard Storm's hellish near-death-experience, and how help finally came when he called
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          Feb 21 2013: on the Lord. For more NDE accounts, visit the International Association for Near-Death Studies ( IANDS)."
  • Feb 19 2013: Emmett,

    Now you've won the coveted HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD award.

    However, a good Scottish Lawyer could find another argument,
    Each essential fact must be corroborated by two independent pieces of evidence.
    One piece alone cannot corroborate an essential fact, it must be corroborated by
    a second independent source.

    Every day.
    I handicap horse-races, to determine the winner, and find the two best independent
    pieces of evidence taken from past performance data, can determine the winner.
    It becomes logical to bet that horse.
  • Feb 18 2013: i have found that it depends on the brand of "religious" that each person claims, or more specifically, what their intentions are in practicing a religion. take for instance, Christianity. realistically, no two people can have the same motivation to practice a specific denomination of Christianity, or any religion for that matter. however, in a general view, you will find that there are two primary categories that emerge naturally in regards to the individual purpose of christian practice; one being the legitimate curiosity and desire to seek truth about spirituality, god, and purpose of the individual, the other being the sense of requirement (and even guilt) that arises from societal expectations, tradition, or fear of burning in hell for all of eternity as punishment for anything less than perfect adherence to the doctrine of Christianity.

    the primary difference between these two purposes is the central motivation. for one, there is truth. for the other, there is the well-being of the self. that, i believe, is the root cause of the volatile, illogical, unforgiving advertisement and pseudo-martyrdom that you see in christian groups (and in many religious groups, for that matter) and their practitioners. they were never interested in contemplating the possibility of "the truth" being separate from their own doctrines, because their doctrines do not allow it. they have been taught that if they question the rules of their religion, they will be made into a social outcast, rejected by their loved ones and piers, and be sentenced to an eternity of unimaginable torture and suffering by their creator. it isn't far-fetched that they react in such a way; it is only self-preservation.

    i try to remove myself from my fate in the afterlife. i do not deserve heaven, so i assume that i will go to hell, or whatever alternative you prefer. it is, in fact, what i truly deserve, and i should make peace with it. my concern is not my well-being; it is simply the truth of all things.
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    Feb 18 2013: yeah! Just call Christopher Hitchens in the debate,he would shut them all up.
  • Feb 18 2013: One of the issues that makes religious debates contentious may lie in the different structures people use to hold their belief systems. Consider each belief item as a rod with holes at each end that can be connected together in various ways. One standard way to use the struts (beliefs) if to build a tower, like a TV antenna tower. It can become quite spectacular, reaching to great heights, but it is vulnerable; pull just one strut and the whole thing may fall. A particular belief cannot be challenged without threatening the whole belief system. Few can afford to have their whole belief system collapse and survive, so they defend it to the death.

    Another way to use the struts (beliefs) is to build a geodesic dome, like those designed by Buckminster Fuller. This structure is very robust. Several struts can be pulled out here and there without danger of the structure collapsing. A belief can be removed, examined, modified or even left out, and the essential structure remains while adjustments are made, possibly for an even more robust and adaptable structure at the end.

    I think the fundamentalist approach in any religious or philosophical tradition is like the TV Tower structure with no room to explore challenges to a particular belief, and so no room to debate other than to win or loose totally.

    A more diverse belief system, structured like a geodesic dome, can start small and simple as a youth and get larger and more rich in all directions as new experiences are added. Challenges and new views are welcomed to see if they can be included or not without threat of loss of self. A true debate of merits and deficiencies of a particular belief can be entertained, data can be introduced, and appropriate conclusions drawn.

    Much of the fighting in religious debates results from people with different belief structures that do not understand or respect the implications off accepting or rejecting a particular belief.
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    Feb 18 2013: One's religion is usually very close to one's heart. It is defining of them whether they are "devout" or not. With that being said, debating religion is more of a debate of competing identities. Any commentary that opposes that identity makes people feel unsafe. More than an idea is challenged, but rather, self. Therefore, people become incredibly defensive of their religion, and a normal discussion can quickly escalate into a verbal, or physical, brawl. They try and win because that is the only way that their identity can be made safe and stable.

    That being said, I believe it is extremely important to discuss religion. It is one of the best ways of learning about other cultures and other people. What do they hold dear? What do they exalt? What is sacred? These are all important questions, and when accompanied with a "why" lead into a path of discovery that is quite exhilarating.

    However, the only way to accomplish this is through maturity. It must be learned that it is not good to try and "disprove" someone's religion, but rather have a discussion of the differences, and why they exist. It must nor be a debate about religion, but a discussion of religion.
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    Feb 18 2013: .

    There are two types of religions. One is Transactional and the other, Transcendental.

    The first kind requires that we do something external, creating a group or belonging to a group that intends to change external reality. The second is about a subjective approach to inner peace. That tranquility is implied as already existing or waiting to be uncovered.

    The major conflicts are between various externally driven groups (the first kind). I am not sure how exclusive religions can become inclusive of other belief systems. Basic beliefs are hard to change.

    One way to avoid conflict is to look at our own shortcomings before focussing on that of others. Next idea is to practice some of the principles found in all religions such as kindness, generosity, acceptance and such. Focussed practice of any one of these principles will lead to all others.

    A change of perspective may help. Every human is different - never to be repeated again. It is really hard to group people under labels and yet religions tend to do just that. Most unwittingly, this is why they do split into a thousand subdivisions. Group thinking and group reinforcement does not help either. The idea then is to unwind from some of these hard constraints.

    About the second kind: Systems that look within require isolation and contemplation. Any debate or encounter is out of question. Such belief systems do no harm to the practitioner or others (including all living beings and the planet itself). Subjective belief systems could be the way to go because they have an inclusive attitude towars all that exists. It is an affirmation of reality.

    What do you think ?

    • Feb 18 2013: About the second kind. "isolation and contemplation".

      The US's youthful population since about the 1960's has been overwhelmed with such.
      But, for the most part, "isolation and contemplation" drug induced, and prison enforced.
      Populations still allow themselves to be led by the hawks of war.
      Devotions to God, and drug use are today quietly allowed within society and prison.
      I know this is not what you meant when you wrote.

      Today religions are in decline, as are practitioners of "affirmations of reality".
      The Catholic church, this week, spoke about the thrust of their mission.
      The church will concentrate more upon Africa and South America for the near future.
      The pope will quit in favor of new leadership, and new ideas.
      A quiet chat no doubt...
  • Feb 18 2013: lol I like your comments ! someday we will just have to chat
  • Feb 18 2013: you are correct again.......... lol .
  • Feb 18 2013: Thank you ! I needed that :)
  • Feb 18 2013: You know what they say.....never argue religion or politics. For very good reason.

    Both have caused more violence, wars and countless death throughout history than any plagues could ever do.

    Humanity has always been politically ruled by those who feel most strongly about their personal beliefs and are willing to devote their life to making the rest of society think their way. For centuries, religion and politics were one and greed and righteousness seemed to be the prevailing factors. Even those who inherited their position were so surrounded by those who make their way to the right hand of decision makers corrupted the rulers.

    This is the story of our history, with a few bright lights occasionally. So can modern education and enlightenment change things? Or is it just a fault of our humanity that the common man, who spends most of his time just getting through life, cannot mobilize to make change.

    The Arab Spring, however flawed, is a bright light. It is a result of the internet and dissatisfaction. The world is becoming a smaller place and anyone with a computer can educate themselves. (Ever read Robert Fisk?) The world is finding out that the common man CAN make a difference. Idle No More in Canada spread like wildfire...beyond the First Nations beginning.

    Is it because people are finally believing in climate change and how the environment is affecting them directly by damage to the air, water, food supply?

    Who knows what difference is will make in the long run. (I started another Conversation for just this issue) I can only hope that the ability for the non activist to find out for themselves will determine who they will vote for next election. That said, I have found that people who have a predisposed opinion determined by their religion or politics only read what supports their point of view.
  • Feb 17 2013: Is there any way to prevent religious debates from turning into a big fight? I believe, yes, IF, the following is accepted and followed: 1. Motive... Today the word argument is used and understood to mean that all parties have "winning" as the primary goal. However in its origin the word referred to all sides seeking the truths of the topic or at least some commonality of the various beliefs. 2. Respect... I've heard all my life said "Oh, I respect your beliefs, but..." Today, I honestly can say there are many beliefs that I have only disrespect for. However I know that I am obliged to respect the person that holds them as there is always a source and reason for them to have that belief no matter how foolish they might be or seem to be. Even if it is because the person is simply Bull Headed, something made them that way. They might stay that way after all good reasoning or they just might have a change of "Heart" 3. Emotions... a.Convictions are always being fine tuned in any serious thinker. b. Anger is the product of Fear. At first sign of anger by any party the cause of the fear should be acknowledged and identified "What is the fear based on and how can the Fear be eliminated" so the debate can progress. I sure there are more helpful guidelines. I think this topic is paramount to building a successful formation of a peace loving humanity in view of a very extended history of senseless slaughter, and degradation of life and our home the Earth because of misunderstanding and different understandings of our origin, and responsibilities to ourselves, each other, and as many in today's world shutter to think of our responsibility to our Creator! Thanks for initiating this topic!
  • Feb 17 2013: Then I would say: you miss your self about a mile. When you do not know about inner truth, I do not mean to posses inner truth, becos one cannot posses this., but about having or having no inner truth in direct awarenes where do you think you can argue about? And where then would you like to fight about? About not knowing? If all people would stop debating at the moment they realise they do not know about truth and have no inner fight to go for truth, then we would not have any edebates about religion at all. What way at the end do you think we have to find for for ourselfs wich would work for our self? The way of repeating all kinds of diverse different dead truths, conserved in traditions, regulations and laws, or the way of not knowing but argueing and fighting in ignorance,? Or the way of inner development to experience the living thruth in the living direct moment as it is expressed into our world of time and space? This last way cannot be otherwise as individual experience in clear awareness, it is the way where we cannot rely on any authority outside our selfs. Then about Buddhism. Buddhism originally is no religion but a philosophy, it became cultural religion in time by followers of Buddha who used the teachings of Buddha as a framework to give themself an identity wich as we know is called 'Buddhist'. When you would study Buddhism and the history of Buddhism you will discover the truth as it is to find in history. Also in Buddhism there is hate, murder, corruption, sexual misconduct. Just be aware over 80% of the population in Japan is in one or another way connected to a variety of Buddhism. It did not prevent them to start a war and to murder many many people in the most horrible way, man, woman and even children. A couple of years ago monks in South Korea did fight for at least 2 days in their monastery to get control over the cashflow. Monastries in South Korea are part of the rich elite overthere !
  • Feb 17 2013: Religions are not worth debating. It is much better to debate something which compliments and furthers our involvement with respect for each-other and keep a grasp of truth based reality.
    • Feb 17 2013: Gosh Martin,

      I agree.
      Could we throw debating Politics into the same worthless non-reality?
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      Feb 18 2013: Martin - the problem is that religion so very often compromises and sabotages respect for each other and grasp of truth-based reality and therefore it HAS to be put on the negotiation table and discussed.
      I'm not speaking of a debate between two or more religions, but a debate about the value of religions themselves and their possible consequences for humanity at large.
    • Feb 18 2013: Martin

      There are belief systems by which one acts.
      and ones act always effects others in one way or another.

      when that effect is negligible we can avoid discussions ( thats what we do to avoid fights , even with our beloved ones ) but when the effect is considerable and negative then it is better to discuss rather then fighting over it.

      Still a larger part of the world is driven by religion and thats what matter for them.
      and by these discussions we can clear some doubts which we may have.
      I am not a perfect human being and i cant live harmoniously with only my beliefs
      I need to understand yours too.

      Hope to get your views on the same.
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    Feb 17 2013: No way. Perhaps, there is a chance with a deal about profits.
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    Feb 17 2013: No way. Perhaps, there is a chance with a deal about profits.
  • Feb 17 2013: I am a religious educator in England. One way that might help set parameters for debate is to recognise the difference between public and privately held knowledge. religions have various private methods of gaining knowledge, especially those with a strong emphasis on revelation as a route to knowledge. However, debate, by its nature is in the public sphere, and some scholars such as Gerard Delanty (see eg "the cosmopolitan imagination") have suggested that religion should enter the public sphere ONLY if it is prepared to submit its knowledge to public scrutiny. this both safeguards the right to religious belief for individuals and also provides a framework for meaningful dialogue in the public sphere, including where there are contested truth claims.
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      Feb 17 2013: how is revelation a route to knowledge?
      • Feb 17 2013: thanks for this Peter, this is exactly the reason why religious debate across the full range of human understanding is difficult. In some religions, revelation is the surest form of knowledge, which is why beliefs can be held for what appear to be questionable grounds from those outside of the tradition, who tend not to accept the basic premise of revealed truth. Delanty's point is that you can allow people to believe this in the private realm, but revealed truth clearly would not count as knowledge in the public sphere.
      • Feb 17 2013: peter,
        It isn't the route, I think it is the product.of knowledge.
    • Feb 17 2013: Martin,
      It sounds nice but --

      Religious belief tends to be sold as a commodity to be shared.
      The commerce of belief.

      Unshared by all religious organizations are certain secrets.

      Governments act likewise.
      Secrets are merely Government's knowledge withheld.

      That is why today we have Catholics, Republicans, Democrats, Protestants, Independents, Agnostics.
      It all makes for rousing arguments.
      • Feb 17 2013: true - the only point Delanty is making is that public debate needs to be held on the grounds of public knowldge, or publicly agreed methods of developing knowledge. so you should not allow people to enter any such debates with convictions that are not subject to rational, public scrutiny. (or if they do, recognise that this is simply an expression of an opinion, without sufficient weight to take an argument forward.)
        • Feb 17 2013: Martin,
          Exclusion for any reason is a judgement from fear at best.
          Not physical fear. But loss of control fear.

          Debate by it's very name instills a resolve to win at any cost.
          The Obama-Romney debates showed that to be true.
          Please watch them in detail, and you will find the fear and
          their efforts at control.

          Religious debate is no different.
  • Feb 13 2013: I don't think so. Religious debates normally lead to fights because are based on blind faith and the lack of reason, which leads to fanaticism. But I think sports fans are not too far from that group either. Jejeje!

    If everybody accept that these are all opinions and hypothesis and that nobody knows the absolute truth, that truth is relative to the observer and you should pick whatever satisfy your intellect without imposing your ideas but rather share your thoughts; acknowledging that in reality nobody knows for sure what the heck happen after we die, fights should not exist about topics that religions trying to debate. But I'm more worried about sports fans, they can be brutal, ... really!
  • Feb 13 2013: Because religion doesn't subscribe to being falsified, i.e. all religions are contradictory, islam, christianity, etc. But people believe them because the human mind is irrational and doesn't work correctly. We can think of religion as vestigal.

    Most people don't understand what science has discovered about how the human mind works - most reason is unconscious. See here:

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      Feb 13 2013: Re: "the human mind is irrational and doesn't work correctly"

      My brain is working fine, thank you, even though it may be irrational it times. I might ask if religion is rational?
      Often people learn a religion in the same manner they learn a language, they are exposed to it and accept it without question.
      • Feb 13 2013: Which religion, which god? There are thousands. How would a single human be able to claim to have studied all the religions and all the gods that have ever existed throughout history? Yet you claim you can know, I think it is people who believe who suffer from hubris and delusion. Since the god they tend to believe in is one that is local to them geographically or of the era in which they lived. Isn't that a curious thing?

        As for your brain, you aren't capable of deciding what you do and don't know. Science has shown all sorts of deficits in how our mind works. i.e. it is not reliable.
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          Feb 13 2013: What part of my reply did you not understand? Perhaps your brain is not "working."

          I wrote, "Often people learn a religion in the same manner they learn a language, they are exposed to it andaccept it without question." Do you disagree with this statement?

          Regarding what "science has shown", please provide a reference. We can't debate generalities.
          Regard Dan Denett's, I think you undertood the point,

          "Here's my proposal. I'm going to just take a couple of minutes to explain it -- education in world religions, on world religions, for all of our children in primary school, in high school, in public schools, in private schools and in home schooling. So what I'm proposing is, just as we require reading, writing, arithmetic, American history, so we should have a curriculum on facts about all the religions of the world -- about their history, about their creeds, about their texts, their music, their symbolisms, their prohibitions, their requirements. And this should be presented factually, straightforwardly, with no particular spin, to all of the children in the country. And as long as you teach them that, you can teach them anything else you like. That, I think, is maximal tolerance for religious freedom. As long as you inform your children about other religions, then you may -- and as early as you like and whatever you like -- teach them whatever creed you want them to learn. But also let them know about other religions."
      • Feb 13 2013: Unfortunately you don't understand that even with Dennett's proposed courses, you still wouldn't have done enough because there are lost gods/religions that no one knows about.

        You just don't seem to understand that it requires resources that human beings just do not possess.
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          Feb 13 2013: Please do not assume to know what I understand, it does you the disservice, not me.
          Is this a discussion or do you feel the need to be right? The need to "be right" is the point of the discussion in a way.

          Let' s start here: I wrote, "Often people learn a religion in the same manner they learn a language, they are exposed to it and accept it without question." Do you disagree with this statement?

          Why does the brain support beliefs? Obviously there is a human benefit for it or it might not be supported evolutionarily.

          "A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs of any such system can be classified as religious, philosophical, ideological or a combination of these. Philosopher Jonathan Glover says that beliefs are always a part of a belief system, and that belief systems are difficult to completely revise."

          Does evolution explain why the human brain supports religious belief?



          Complain to Dennett about his courses. Did you listen to his point?
      • Feb 13 2013: I really don't grasp why you are even replying, religion is false. It's demonstrably false. There is little need to teach lies to children and allow them to continue to exist.

        Are you religious in any way and do you believe in god?
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    Feb 12 2013: Most things, especially religion and politics, are theories and theologies that people have to perceive for themselves. They may believe fully and completely and by debating them it brings out their lesser qualities. A discussion between a Christian Zealot and a Jihadist Muslim for instance would probably degenerate into a fight faster that you can say their names. Their likely not to agree on any topics...at least not admit to agreeing.

    In order to keep a discussion or debate from becoming an arguement all parties have to be warned that although their ideals may be polarizing they aren't allowed to disolve into squabbling. They need to keep and open mind and actually listen to what the other person has to say without judgement.

    Basically all I'm saying is that there must be a base maturity agreed upon before you even open up the discussion.
  • Feb 12 2013: Never debate a falsehood.
  • Feb 12 2013: I think the easiest way to discuss religion is to study another's religion then try to explain it to them,
    I will use my self and Richard as examples,
    I am a Heathen who believes all forms of religion are correct to a degree,( and basically the same )
    Now, my friend Richard is a die hard Catholic. ,He just know that his version is right and is perfectly happy to spout it out .
    Now we both sit down for a week and "study "each others religion. After the week we try to convince each other why our new religion is better(for this discussion I am catholic argueing my point to Richard who is now my religion ) we don't get a lot done but it sure is fun!
  • Feb 11 2013: Some religions don't like to be questioned. Some religions WANT it to be questioned. So they have difference tolerance limits and propensity to violence. The difference in between religions is crucial when considering the running of debates.

    That's the macro POV: The debate is influenced by many factors:

    1. Religions: Are the religions involved in the debate relatively more violent or peaceful ?

    2. People: Are the personalities of those involved peaceful ? (it could be argued that different religions/ideologies encourage different personality traits among their respective followers)

    3. The intensity of the debate

    4. Hidden stakes/agendas involved.

    5. Definition of what a fight: Are you referring to a keyboard war or a physical brawl ? Or even worse a shoot out ?

    6. Location: There are legal restrictions on what can be spoken in many islamic countries. So debators might not be legally safe when debating against islam/holy figures in it.

    My personal experience: I've never had religious fights or witnessed any anger from buddhists when I criticize some aspects of buddhism(so far). When debating christians, a significant amount of Christians ended up saying 'you'd burn in hell' when they lose debates. As an atheist, I can attest that I have witnessed down right insults by atheists against many theists. However, one particular problem I faced when debating with muslims is that they are proficient in showering me with generous death threats.

    So to prevent fights:

    1. Develop peaceful personalities. Develop sporty attitudes toward criticism.

    2. Reform Religion to be more tolerant and peaceful. During debates don't get too attached to religion. Try to a neutral POV.

    3. Move on to places where debaters have legal protection during debates.

    4. Try avoiding/coolin down debate when you sense it geting intense

    5. Have code of conducts and strict rules prohibiting personal insults and issuing of 'death threats'.

    6. Disclose your stance and agenda before hand
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      Feb 12 2013: Blue, it seems you have been thinking about something I have wondered about without knowing whom to ask.

      I will say upfront that I am completely ignorant on this matter and am honestly just asking because I don't know.

      You have mentioned that you have never experienced angry reactions from buddhists and hypothesize that the level of anger that arises in discourse may depend in the religion the person believes in.

      I have noticed atheists too vary greatly in the way they discuss religion- whether in a mocking and condescending way or in a more sort of intellectual way. It seems that the way atheists enter debates about religion may be connected to the religion in which they were raised and more specifically whether they feel they were betrayed or hurt by the way they were educated in or raised in that faith.

      As an example, some of the most vehement cases against Christian belief I have seen on TED and elsewhere have come from people who present as anecdote, and to the outside observer it seems with bitterness, their personal negative experiences with Christianity or their Christian educations.

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    Feb 11 2013: Farohk, have you ever been involved in a religious conversation, when it broke out into a fight?

    And is your question about people of the SAME religion discussing something inside their religion,
    OR people from DIFFERENT religions talking about their own beliefs?
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      Feb 11 2013: Yes I'v been, a lot.
      same, different and even between none believers and believers. The result is always the same.
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        Feb 11 2013: Were the religious conversations that broke into fights between you and one other party, or was there a "group" discussion?

        I would love to hear an example of what happened, if you would care to share.
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    Feb 10 2013: yes it needs to make common sense to them. Not your common sense but theirs
  • Feb 10 2013: One thing I have observed, which may be relevant to this discussion, is that in some countries and cultures there are different attitudes and habits with regard to discussing religion - or 'wearing your heart on your sleeve' as the saying goes here (I am in southern England).
    We tend to be very quiet about our beliefs here. obviously there are some evangelical movements, but they are in the minority. I have often observed this is a difference between the indigenous English and our American second cousins.

    I am wondering whether this habit developed here after the horrendous religious persecutions, which went both ways between Catholics and Protestants (and others) ? We had to develop toleration in order to live together at all. Also the English tend to be naturally more restrained than many others (traditionally!).

    on a slightly different point, I think one reason for heated debate in religious topics is to do with semantics. Often arguments arise because people understand different (abstract) concepts from the same word usage. Word usage in the English language varies even between north and south of England, or Scotland, Ireland, - let alone further afield -New Zealand, the Americas etc etc.
    Perhaps before such a discussion is embarked upon, we should produce a dictionary !
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    Feb 9 2013: Sure! Before it degenerates into a fight disengage.
  • Feb 8 2013: Someone said it better than I on another topic on ted and I don't know where it is to quote it,
    so I can only paraphrase it as best I am able.
    Evidence for claims made, should solve it.
    Not wishful thinking, wanting something to be true, but actual evidence that can be quantified.
    If people really, really want to believe something is true or something proves (to them), what they so badly want
    to be true, that is the same to me as someone who stubbornly refuses the truth when it is presented. They really don't want to believe it.

    That being said, I must honor that if someone has an experience, the meaning to them is not only theirs, but they
    have every right to it. At times, I can neither disprove it, nor should I even try. The reverse is also true.

    I have had experiences I cannot prove. The difference is, I don't try and persuade others it is the only truth, proves anything, other than what it means to me. I just cannot get free land, tax-free money and have power over others simply because I say what I experienced is proof of some universal truth that grants me those things.

    I don't believe in God but the experiences I have had, I cannot explain nor do I fully understand, what they mean or might mean.

    I cannot disavow that there is more than the material but I truly believe (100%), that the sole purpose of religion is the utter and complete annihilation of the human spirit. This comes from my direct experience with religion and people of religion. That is my empirical evidence. I believe science and religion are both wrong, since neither has proven or provided a clear answer to the great question argued between them. So, maybe they are both wrong in some way they cannot see because they refuse to see. Alas, back to the argument.

    Probably fear. Fear we won't get what we need, or fear we will lose what we have. Covers everything in-between.
    Don't worry something good will happen. If it doesn't, don't worry. Something bad will happen.

    Are you okay? Of course.
  • Feb 8 2013: It varies Joseph Campbell essentially told us that some such discussions are pointless with some people. Hearing what someone else believes is interesting, but what I should believe is probably not unless you do a really good job.
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    Feb 7 2013: .
    Its not easy to do because unlike the subjects you listed, such as politics, sports etc etc,
    You're not often dealing with someone who is holding a beyond absurd position that flys in the face of reality, that you sometimes find with religious individuals.

    Progressives and Libertarians can end up in a heated debate because of their differences (for example),
    But Scientific observances and Religious mythology are two alien worlds apart.
    A person who studies nature and another person who claims the whole world is perfect for human habitation are not going to get on. One side is going to immediately lose alot of the required respect for the other when they open their mouths.
    Its that loss of respect that allows fists to fly, because people don't feel they're under any real obligation to respect someone who appears to be vastly uneducated in the required areas or is simply an idiot spouting nonsense and decides to enter and continue the debate regardless.