TED Conversations

Jordan Miller

Network Marketing Professional, RevvNRG


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How important is Religion?

How important is Religion in shaping the way society thinks and subsequently acts?

Theology and religion are passions of mine but I notice there aren't to many ted talks on the topics. Why is this? Is there a way to change this? What is the stigma associated with Theology and how can we overcome it as a society in order to speak of it openly? Or perhaps this isn't even a worthy goal? What do you think?


Closing Statement from Jordan Miller

From what I'm able to gather there were 2 main camps of thought.

The camp with fewer people by far was the camp that believed religion was entirely useless and the sooner we're rid of it the better. Thus they believed no discussion on the topic would be helpful or even necessary.

Christophe Cop was (after some prodding) probably the most logical and thought out of this group, he said, "I do not think religion is important when it comes to 'idea worth spreading'..."

The other camp clearly consisted of religious people and non-religious people who advocated discussion for various reasons. and thus believing that it is beneficial to discuss some ideas were brought forth to help that end.

Kathy K brings up a good point, "Still, discussion of the topic is a rare freedom which still exists in this country..."

Bruno Neves speaks of a positive experience he had with a missionary though he does not believe in God and concludes, "long story short, I learned something from him, for we were both very open regarding our beliefs."

The main inhibitor of religious discussions that this group came up with is: people with strong religious or strong anti-religious beliefs refuse to listen to anyone, get defensive and attack the the beliefs of others. Thus the discussion is halted and pointless.

One way that was brought forth to keep this from happening is to only have philosophers and theologians discuss it, but it was admitted that limiting the participants to the scholarly would leave out a quintessential part of the religious experience.

Molly Hanlon summed up what is needed to have an open discussion in this sentence, "It can be done, though, if believers and non-believers stop looking at one another with disgust and contempt but rather with wonder."

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    Feb 17 2011: Religion, as previously stated, is historically significant. As far as the future, one can only speculate.

    And I don't necessarily see a stigma associated with Theology, but rather with religion, and the two can be uncoupled. Theology is a historical, philosophical, even scientific, approach to understanding. Atheists, agnostics, non-believers can all be theologians, and these people, as well as others, are open to dissecting, analyzing, and critically approaching religion as a field of study. Most religious people, though, aren't open to these conversations. They do not want their beliefs to be challenged, nor do they think they can.

    A good friend of mine, am Evangelical Christian once asked me if I could "believe in God and form a relationship with Christ for one week?" I, in return, asked her if she could give up her belief for a week. She said no, it was too ingrained in her and her way of life. It's that rigidity that makes it difficult to develop conversations. To get a religious person to talk about religion sans personal belief is difficult, but to get a theologian to do so is not as difficult.

    Bart Ehrmann, in his book Jesus, Interrupted, makes some interesting points about what is actually taught in seminary versus what is preached to the public on a weekly basis. It's an interesting dichotomy and addresses some of your questions.
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      Feb 17 2011: excellent points!

      so what I gather here is it would be easier to have a theological discussion amongst scientists and theologians and philosophers. yes I agree that would be much easier because its so systematic and scholarly, and yes because those pesky personal biases wont get in the way.

      I think a discussion amongst those groups would be good and beneficial but I wonder if it would be a true religious discussion if we leave out the religious folk - personal biases and all. aren't they a key component to religion - the true believers?
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        Feb 17 2011: Yes, you're correct in saying that both sides are needed. You can't have a debate based upon variations, you need opposing viewpoints. I have a hard time having conversations with my friends oftentimes because my question of "Why?" is often met with "Because I believe." This goes back to the filling the gaps argument that has been referenced many times. Only open minds can lead to open discussion, and I found the comments made my Lesley Hazelton about faith (http://blog.ted.com/2011/02/15/uncertainty-touches-the-best-of-what-is-human-in-us-qa-with-lesley-hazleton/) extremely important in this regard.

        It seems as though these debates and progressive conversations won't necessarily happen regularly between lay-people, as those with opposing viewpoints don't tend to gravitate toward one another, nor can they stand each other long enough to have a beneficial conversation. It can be done, though, if believers and non-believers stop looking at one another with disgust and contempt but rather with wonder. I tell some of my friends that I'm intrigued by their religious dedication and, as a scientist, like to figure out the answers to questions, thus they're great "experiments."
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          Feb 21 2011: I hate that - because I believe - but at the same time I love it.

          I view belief and faith as a vehicle to truth in every avenue of life. if you didn't belief scientific experiments could provide some nugget of truth about the world you'd never do those experiments and you'd never gain that truth. this is true for the sciences and for the religion.

          Those that answer questions with, "because I believe" I think are exercising a large amount of faith which I hope will turn into true knowledge someday. After all the choice to believe something is a choice absolutely laden with moral significance.

          Unfortunately so many people don't hold the same model of faith that I do. they go right on saying "because I believe" for the rest of their lives without ever testing that belief to the greatest extent they could. thus they become biased and stop in their progression in the acquisition of further light and knowledge. and being thus static in their knowledge they become defensive when another view point or even more truth is offered them.

          it's sad really, and it happens in religion and it happens in science over and over and over again. I just wish there was more discussion to help people crack their shell of defensiveness about their beliefs. a debate is not even what I want. like you said I just want an open discussion between open people.

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