TED Conversations

Tim Colgan


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Has religion outlived it's usefulness?

I'd like to start this conversation with a quote from Richard Dawkins:

"Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!"

The Guardian, October 11, 2001

So my question is - assuming religion ever did serve a useful function for humanity, is it perhaps time that we get beyond religion and develop other tools to provide for human needs?

NOTE: To people making comments - I encourage you to not only give a brief response to the main question but also try to respond to one or more of the other comments. Keeping it brief, respectful and perhaps phrased as a question will help generate a true conversation. Thanks. And come back and visit when you can.


Closing Statement from Tim Colgan

Many thanks to all those who contributed to this discussion. Upon starting this conversation I was concerned that ted wasn't the right place, fearing it would be dominated by a single mind-set. But the diversity of opinions expressed here is amazing. These threads represent a true mosaic of human opinion. Perhaps not a perfect sampling, but a fascinating cross-sample of personal beliefs. The conversations themselves reveal a bit about humanity - filled with sibling rivalries, with moments of compassion. Highly recommended to anyone to take the time to read.

Although it's probably obvious from the conversation's introduction that my intentions included an agenda, that agenda was soon blown out of the water. We had trouble coming to agreement on the definition of religion. Whether it's called religion or not, humans need institutions to provide it's function. To me religion is most symbolized by it's place - temple, mosque, synagogue, church... A place where people gather to share their humanity and ponder the infinite, and their place in it. Perhaps ted is one of those places.

Thanks again to all who contributed. It has been truly enlightening. That's to say, each of you has shone light into some aspect of our topic.

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    Feb 23 2011: Can anyone, religious or not, think of faith as being anything but a drug? Both drug dealers and drug addicts will hate those who try to 'cure' them. Try to take away the piles of money made by drug dealers!! Try to take away the comfy dreams the drug addicts keep themselves vapored in!! Takes courage to face the tough reality, doesn't it! Volunteering horrifying withdrawal symptoms? Not a chance!! Not if 3/4 of the earthlings would have to undergo treatment. So what if they endanger the entire humanity? From behind the piles of easy money or behind the thick vapor of delusion it's hard to see even a doomsday missile coming at you full speed. For them the end will be sudden and quick. No worry about the agony of watching it in the making or in flight.
    Beloved believers, it's not your many faiths that keep us awake at night, it's the SURE IMMINENT COLLISION between them!!!!
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      Feb 24 2011: Good points. Anyone got a good response to Ariana?

      How do we deal with the "imminent collision" that the multitude of current faiths seem to destine?
    • Feb 28 2011: "imminent collision"? You mean past, present and future collisions? What do we call ...Belfast, Balkans, Spanish Inquisition, ongoing Middle East, Shia-Sunni.......? Political conflicts? Land issues? Tribal rivalries?

      Glad to know there's "no hypothesis" for collisions. Isn't it nice to know we're all the same children of god, all going to the same heaven and I am the queen of england.

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