TED Conversations

Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


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“What view of religion might advance humankind’s psychological maturity?”

Through understanding, humankind continuously increases its psychological maturity. Yet there remain lifestyle concerns and unknowns; e.g., is evolution controlled?
Religion is each person’s acquisition and implementation of preferences for how to experience the unknown and variously integrate the resulting understanding or privation into their life.
Religion tends to respond to progress yet preserve plausible ethics and thus is an evolving art form; e.g., ancients regarded the sun a supernatural power but moderns understand it’s a natural nuclear reactor. Yet the supernatural ethic survives--perhaps as one object of humility.
Religion is expressed in stories, music, symbols, and other art. Institutional religion inculcates art into its young, preserving both understanding and misunderstanding. Each newborn has the duty to itself to achieve understanding in its lifespan, often overcoming natural or cultural limitations. Thus, people have widely differing psychological maturities; humankind must accommodate peace and limit harm.
In humankind’s collective consciousness the people share secular goals: justice, tranquility, defense, prosperity, the privilege of liberty, continuity for posterity, and in-it-togetherness. These goals accommodate beliefs yet authorize limitation of harm. For example, people who advocate taking poison to worship a deity must be limited.
Just governance obtains its authority from the governed--the people. The people must maintain the monopoly on force and coercion through written law that can be modified when injustice is discovered. Just force and coercion apply to behavior and not to thought, such how to express humility, a private matter.
Unfortunately, throughout history, politicians and clergymen have co-operated to use religion as a tool with which to usurp the people’s power. Only the governed can stop usurpation of their power.
Institutions that interfere with the people’s secular goals must suffer the rule of law.

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    Sep 22 2011: here is my take:

    religion is a theory of the world that is not grounded in verifiable observations.
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      Sep 22 2011: "Observations" seems unfit.
      Perhaps in the evolutionary process, humans observed that most humans die. Keeping the data, they concluded every human dies. Judging themselves superior to other living species, humans should survive death. But how? Through other worlds with spiritual entities called “souls.”
      They did not observe them: they thought of souls—intellectually constructed them.
      So, taking your model, I could write: religion is a theory based on an intellectual construct.
      I like your brevity, and want to mimic it: Religion is the practice of living according to an intellectual construct.
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        Sep 22 2011: what's wrong with observations? all known religions state things that are not observable, and they don't even claim they are. buddhism is a borderline case. they claim that their theses can be deducted on observation/reasoning basis. this is debatable. all other religions claim things that are purely "told so" with no attempt to prove in any way.

        science is intellectual construct? ethics is intellectual construct? if so, a practice of living according to science of ethics would be religion. that's why my emphasis was on the non-verifiableness.
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          Sep 22 2011: I can consider your objection, “what’s wrong with observations,” in my example of “souls.” But wait. Maybe your original proposal did not translate well to me. Maybe for my way of thinking I should revise your original as follows:
          • religion is a theory of the world that is grounded in unverifiable observations.
          Is that revision also what you meant? I would still have trouble with “observations,” because “souls” are not observations: they are phantasms. Maybe "intellectual construct" is the wrong idea—maybe that should be reserved for the dogma built up around a phantasm. I will consider that change in my draft definition.
          I don’t know how my objection to “observations” in religion gets equivocated to scientific observations, and “science” I avoid. I do not want to drive my audience away.
          Nevertheless, “science” which adopts an assumption and builds a body of information to support that assumption, never verifying the assumption, is, I assert, religion. That was the point of Albert Einstein’s unfortunate example. History does not know what he might have accomplished without the tunnel vision his static-universe doctrine imposed on him and, consequently, humankind.
          I regret my ignorance but cannot address Buddhism.
      • Sep 22 2011: Hey Phil,
        I do not think that we have had a chance to interact on here before. I enjoyed the take on the Preamble to our Constitution on another one of your threads. I wish I had the chance to comment there.

        It is my understanding that you see religion as a response to the observation of death. Is this correct?
        Although I would agree that this seems to be the case in some religions, namely Catholicism, it is not the case in all religions. Buddhism and Judaism are two examples that i can think of whose practices are mostly concerned with 'this world.' Moreover, primitive religions seem to attempt to explain the mysteries of life in general, with death being only one characteristic (Greek paganism, for example)

        "..living according to a mental construct."
        I think this is a better definition of the HUMAN EXPERIENCE than of RELIGION. It is simply a characteristic of being human, perhaps even the 'original sin.' I fear, however, that I can do no better. The best definition I have come up with so far is

        "A set of assumptions posing as axioms." which itself could be a better description of human thought in general than the religious impulse in particular.

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          Sep 22 2011: Hello, Seth, Please comment on the Preamble. I have here, I think. But no matter: You can.
          I do not see religion as restrictive to death. Humans have been struggling with the unknown for a long time. Recently, paleontologists found tools 1.8 million years old, so our ancestors not referred to as humans thought.
          Earliest writings are some 7,000 to 10,000 years old, and they merely render opinions about the gods—do not originate the idea. Back then anything that was not understood was subject to being labeled a god. The sun, the most powerful continual source of energy, was a god in most cultures.
          Today, even the sun is no longer a god, and is recognized as a natural nuclear reactor. The evolution of thought I see is that as humankind advances understanding, the god concept squeezes out. The extrapolation is: no god.
          I am not confident of extrapolations. Furthermore, I have no notion that humankind understands. Therefore, I don’t know and think it is OK that I don’t know. I am neither theist nor atheist nor non-theist. I am neutral on what I do not know.
          On the qestion of “souls,” I have the opinion they are phantasms. However, on the question of God, I have neither opinion nor preference. I simply do not know.
          I like your definition: Religion is set of assumptions posing as axioms. I think it applies especially to doctrine or dogma. You are courageous.
          Notice that my definition is for the individual. For example, about 65% into my adult indoctrination in Christianity, I began to say things my way, like “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ has come again.” I always hoped a peer would notice my revision from “will come again,” so I could answer: He comes again every time I obey his leadership.
          Eventually I referred to "my Jesus," and still would when the rest of the thought would not contradict me or my goodness.
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      Sep 22 2011: Religion is not just theories of the world; religion also comprises of codes of ethics to guide people on how they should live their lives. But mostly yes these ethics are based on world theories that don't often stand up to test.
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        Sep 22 2011: so we extend:

        religion is a comprehensive set of ethical/practical rules derived from and accompanied by a theory of the world that is not grounded in verifiable observations.

        or something like that.
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          Sep 23 2011: How about ;

          Religion is an ensemble of cultural beliefs and rituals connecting humans to what they don't have a proper explanation for.
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        Sep 23 2011: Charlie, I appreciate your point and think "heartfelt concern" in my draft definition includes "codes of ethics" and guidance on how to live. Can you think of a term that should replace "heartfelt concern'?
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          Sep 23 2011: Cheers :)
          I don't think heartfelt concern is relevant to all religions, although I would have perhaps replaced it with compassionate connection, but my definition of religion would be more like:
          A community of people banded together by a shared set of beliefs based on the assumption of the presence of a supernatural power.
          I think this, to me, is more accurate than many dictionary definitions, which miss the point of community.
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      Sep 22 2011: Some see it that way you say and others are seeing different.
      Religion provide no theory. It is based upon stories and those stories are invented to convey a reality that isn't visible to the eye. These are inner visions about your motives to live and to live by.
      These stories are told to look upon yourself.
      Read the story of Krishna and Arjuna, they don't play out there in the world but in your and everyones innerlife.
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        Sep 22 2011: all the religions i know present a theory of the world. you happen to know a religion that does not?
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        Sep 23 2011: wut?
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          Sep 23 2011: Kirsztian, I think I understand Frans.
          He is not referring to a religious institution but rather a prevailing, personal influence.
          For example, a cathedral full of Catholics are worshipping together and reciting the liturgy of the mass, but the image each participant has is unique—not what the Priest intends—because each person is the product of their understanding; they are influenced by their understanding of the liturgy, not the priest’s understanding or that of the persons standing beside them .
          When Frans speaks of “stories,” he also is addressing the uniqueness of each person; every person has heard/read/experienced different stories and interpreted those differing stories in different ways.
          For example, when I heard a Buddhist lecturer at LSU speak of advancing to the point you “kill your teacher,” I asked him, privately in the reception, “Would you not advance to the point that you would “kill” Buddhism?” His mind could not cope, so he did not respond. That was an example from experience.
          Here’s a story: Chekhov’s “Rothschild’s Fiddle” is the number one scripture I would recommend for all men who want a wife.
          And another: for people who don’t quite understand the importance of justice, William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.”
          Shakespeare influences our thinking whether we have ever read a word of his, because he permeated humankind.
          Frans’ words seems strange only because our minds are not ready to receive his message. Make no mistake. He means what he writes.
          Frans can correct my statements about his words and I will try to learn.
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    Sep 29 2011: Religion is a relic of the past. A bit like the skeleton of an old building that nobody has bothered to renovate up to modern standards.

    If religion could embrace the advances that have been made in modern science (such as evolution rather than creationism), then would it be more broadly acceptable? If it did, then could religion then still be able to legitimately call itself 'religion' if it were also to jettison the idea of an all-powerful creator?

    I don't know what the answer is. However, (although it is debateable), my gut feel is this: From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, there is a definite need within the human psyche for reverence, love, and to be in awe of things that will forever be bigger than us. Some call that need 'religion' and ascribe it to a God. Others ascribe the same thing to scientific processes - but it is still reverence, love and awe.

    Is this just semantics? I've had a similar coversation elsewhere on TED, and I strongly suspect that using religious type words to describe something (such as worship, reverence etc) induces a defensive reaction from the scientists/atheists among us - yet those same people were happy to use non-religious words to describe the same thing. (Just to add I mean no disrespect at all to the persons involved in that conversation). Would there be a similar defensive reaction in religious people if I were to use scientific words to describe the same thing?

    Just a thought...
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      Sep 29 2011: Allan, your ideas help.
      The “human condition” presents uncertainty: inspiration and motivation; threats to well being. Perhaps the psychologically mature humankind overcomes uncertainty, either through understanding or discovery. I doubt it. Hence, I think there will always be people who understand, “I don’t know and it alright that I don’t know,” yet confidently say, “I want religion, because it comforts me in this uncertain world.”
      I have tried to avoid the two words “religion” and s-, do avoid the s- word. To fundamentalists, it is like a red flag to a bull. Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The understanding caught this high chant from the poet's lips, and said, in the next age, ‘This was Jehovah come down out of heaven. I will kill you, if you say he was a man.’”
      I avoid s- by using “understanding” for the process and “understanding”, “technology” or “discovery” as its products. “Science” and derivatives appear in my footnotes. My writing can be perturbing for researchers. But I think the semantic struggle is worthy.
      I wrote in this conversation that atheists exacerbate the problem by fearing the word “faith”. Atheists exhibit faith in understanding, reality, the obvious, or something quite noble, yet do not admit it. They allow believers to equivocate “faith” to “religion”.
      Please review “Tolerance is insufficient; I suggest “respect”. That conversation astounded me with an array of words pivoted at “empathy”. “Tolerance” in the negative space, “intolerance” in the positive, “Appreciation” and “understanding” are beyond “respect”.
      I think psychological maturity obtains when most people are intolerant of statements that are obsolete to humankind (not the person), letting the obsolete party deal with it. Hence, my suggestion that written law disfavor religion that encourages division of humankind based on what no one knows.
      “(Just to add I mean no disrespect at all to the persons involved in that conversation).” Me, too.
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      Sep 29 2011: Hi Allan

      "If religion could embrace the advances that have been made in modern science (such as evolution rather than creationism), then would it be more broadly acceptable? If it did, then could religion then still be able to legitimately call itself 'religion' if it were also to jettison the idea of an all-powerful creator?"

      Maybe religious folk do embrace modern science & come to the conclusion that there must be an all-powerful creator !

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        Sep 30 2011: Good morning Peter

        "Maybe religious folk do embrace modern science & come to the conclusion that there must be an all-powerful creator !"

        Your implication is that religious folk are willing to embrace the idea that all life on earth has followed an evolutionary trajectory, as suggested by Darwin, as well as being put on earth as complete entities by an all-powerful creator. I'm not sure I understand this. Are you saying that a creator may have intervened at some advanced point along that trajectory?

        As a confirmed fence-sitting agnostic, I just need to understand where you are coming from.

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          Sep 30 2011: Hi Allan

          I think the evolution hypothesis has hijacked the term "science". From my perspective there is no empirical scientific data that would confirm that evolution in a molecules to man sense has taken place. There are many scientists who reject the whole idea &, reading both sides, I would (as a layman) agree with them.

          There is variation within a kind of animal driven by 'natural selection'. This is made possible by the enormous variability which each creature has in it's dna. The theory seems to be that 'given enough time' this variability will produce a totally new creature. However examples of this are pretty thin on the ground, & always require a leap of faith to accept.

          If my faith is going to leap I'd much rather go for the option that nature was designed & built by a greater intelligence. Even Dawkins admits it looks designed; it's obvious; just maybe it is. Our dislike of the God idea should have no effect on the science.

          This sort of reasoning eventually led to Christianity. That's where I'm coming from.

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        Sep 30 2011: Hi Peter,
        These, your words: "This sort of reasoning eventually led to Christianity." follows the idea you represent that what led to Christianity didn't imply evolution as a process for creation.
        Tell me, where did that come from? Do you know any original text or statement that says so?
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          Sep 30 2011: Hi Frans
          Not quite sure what you're after here. I'll try & explain what I think.
          I have always been on a quest to understand our presence here on this planet. I never considered religion to be a worthwhile avenue to explore. Looking back, I am not sure why. So I had settled in my mind that evolution was the most probable answer, but was disappointed it wasn't more certain.
          Long story short : I was forced by domestic pressures to look at the bible. I couldn't really fault it & was intrigued, but not convinced scientifically. I was given a couple of early creationist books & they seemed to answer a lot of my questions. So here we are.
          My take is that the bible is accurate, & genesis is to be taken literally. If that is the case then evolution cannot be responsible for creation. I know there are many different ideas on this, & am especially interested in why folks believe evolution to be true. I have never been able to understand this, even before my acceptance of Christianity.
          From your contributions, I take it that you accept evolution. What then is your reasoning?

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    Sep 28 2011: The religious institutions I am familiar with ignore the fact that much of their foundational beliefs are so antiquated and un-believable that to gain any insight at all from them you must reduce them to symbolism.

    I think it's time to put religion in it's place - time to take it off it's pedestal and treat it as we do good art.
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      Sep 28 2011: Jim, I agree with your first statement and appreciate brevity, even though I don't practice.
      From a political view, I agree with your second statement: treat religion like art.
      However, even bad art has its place and I oppose censorship.
      But, as soon as I learn that a parent is encouraging a child to become a martyr or exposing the child to poisonous snakes or denying the child health care to prove worship and praise, I want to take the child from the parent’s custody.
      Written law must trump religion.
      Revolutions start with one idea. Please help improve the introduction of this conversation and encourage people to contribute. I can increase the duration another three weeks or so and can revise the introduction anytime.
  • Sep 23 2011: (continued)
    On a personal note, I do not completely and complicity relinquish my individual responsibility for my health or financial future to any one. I do not allow anyone to speak to/listen to God for me. I don’t allow my actions to be guided by another’s perception of God’s will for me. I work at having a relationship with God. It allows my conscience to be clean and my actions to support my beliefs, not those of a religious doctrine. I do not attend church. I had until age 16 attended a Baptist Church. I have been saved and baptized in the church. In my late 40’s now, I realize that God created us individually to have a relationship with each of us, speaking to each of us in our hearts. Not just one out of a million of us. It has been necessary that religion has been carried on through the years. I think it is akin to education much like school. I think that it has a place in society for those that just can’t commit the time to a spiritual quest. We can’t all be doctors or lawyers but we understand the basics and we get by in our daily lives. We seek counsel for the big things in our lives and with relation to spirit we seek a religious community or a priest or pastor.
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      Sep 23 2011: Jacqueline, I am not qualified. I am only a chemical engineer who is willing to share his story. I think I relate to Hans, who might say taking my religion seriously is in my genes. In the last fifteen years, my studies have left “scripture” in the past except for reference, and I focus on secular studies, such as ratification of the US Constitution, evolution, brain health, avoiding disease, investments, etc.
      Reared by two great, lower-middle classed Americans, one a Mason and the other an Eastern Star, I was indoctrinated Southern Baptist. However, I was an avid reader and learned to select my next biography by reading the first and last page of a book and either checking it out or moving to the next one in line. One day it occurred to me to examine the Bible the same way. The first page was alright to me then, but the last page gave me precious doubt: no god worthy of my attention would be weak enough to threaten me. That doubt has served me well, yet I struggle with self indoctrination until age 54.
      At age 45 or so, having worshipped in two churches for about 20 years (my Baptist one and my wife’s Catholic churches) I decided to ask a favorite priest to administer to me the Lord’s Supper when my family reported for the Eucharist. We met many times so he could teach me, and in the concluding lesson, naive me learned about transubstantiation. I told this wonderful priest, “Well, that would put you between me and God, and that just will not work.” He responded, “Well then, our conversation has ended.” I said, “No problem. I’ll still appreciate your homilies, because they are from the heart.” He said, “And I will always welcome you.”
      One day--I was about 50—my Baptist Sunday school teacher was teaching Psalm 55. He casually said, “These thoughts had to come from a Christian.” I said, “Wait. That was written long before Jesus was born. How do you define “Christian”? He responded, “Anyone who seeks God.” [Continued}
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      Sep 23 2011: I realized for the first time that in all those years I was being taught by people who did not have the same language. I withdrew soon after that.
      Churchless, I have discovered that I am and always was a good guy, low as I may be (borrowing from Ralph Waldo Emerson). It was only my church--my body of believers--that claimed I was a sinner. Only the ministers who influenced me for 50 years presented the phantasms suggesting I am a sinner.
      I am a human being and member of the community of living species, primarily human kind, and do not want to reduce my association again in my lifetime.
      However, I do not want anyone to follow me, because I could be wrong. Obviously, I don’t think so, but must admit I could be facing judgment by Jesus or some other entity. I don’t think so for me, but don’t object if others think I am wrong.
      I don’t know anything about my origins—whether a creator is involved or not. However, I do not suspect my origins and do not fear my afterdeath--that vast time after my body dies. Also, I am satisfied to focus on accomplishments; if my afterdeath is dust it’s OK.
      However, I think I relate to Julia Sweeney. I do not believe the religion my mom and dad hoped I would and do not desire the influence of any cleric. But there are times when I am helpless. For example, my independent, early twenties daughter with a good job but no health insurance was visiting a friend in Houston. He called and said, “Mr. Beaver, Beka has thrown up seventeen times and is very weak. I don’t know what to do.” I said, “She is dehydrated and could die. Call an ambulance immediately and tell them she needs fluids.” He asked, “Who shall I say will pay.” I gave him my complete information and told him to have the hospital call me to complete whatever else they might need.” He said, “Thank you, Mr. Beaver,” and hung up. I fell to my knees. I’ve done it since.
      I think I relate to you, too, and my comment is, trust your own goodness.
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    Sep 22 2011: I stick to the definitions that you can find in dictionaries. I think most other definitions come about when people try to defend nonsensical points for whatever purpose they have in mind (eg. Making atheism a religion)
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      Sep 22 2011: Forgive the phunn, but you are sticking to a moving reference. Just take one of the major dictionaries and study it's history of defintions of religon,and you will find an amazing record.
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        Sep 24 2011: Fair point. Although I doubt that it has departed from its original definitions as much as TEDsters allow it to. I think what I am trying to say is that a dictionary would be a good source to base a definition on. A conversation where two people argue about religion within two irreconcilable frameworks is a little wasteful.
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          Sep 24 2011: I am a little miffed at the idea of "TEDster." What is that? Some kind of a cult? If it is, I'm outta here as soon as I am convinced that is so. What a waste cults are!
          I don't give a damn about dictionaries. They only reflect what is accepted. I want a revolution. I am not like the US Supreme Court. I am willing to confront the world to define "religion," the object that divides humankind over what they do not know.
          I don't think you are ready for that. Do you realize how bemused the world is over "religion"? Do you know what “bemused” means?
          Answer yourself.
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          Sep 24 2011: Matthieu, nothing but an apology for my outburst will suffice.
          I am sorry I was rude to you.
          However, I am very grateful for your prompt, and using the ideas I so poorly expressed,
          I composed this definition: Religion is the art of explaining human origins, continuity, and destinies such that believers associate for comfort and hope, dividing humankind over what is unknown.
          It seems I could delete the unfortunate message, but apologizing and leaving the record of why I apologize feels better to me. If you would like it deleted, I'll be glad to do that.
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        Sep 25 2011: TEDster refers to people who hang out on TED. I didn't make up the word. If you have a problem with it, you can take it up with Chris.

        We're on the same page you know, I absolutely hate cults too. A phrase such as " the object that divides humankind over what they do not know" will be easily dismissed by someone who has made up their own watered down definition of religion and yet it's absolutely right, you're right to say it. I ask that we stick to the dictionary, because I am tired of reading the convoluted definitions that only this individual or that individual sticks to when it's convenient. When this happens in a conversation, and it will, you'll understand where I am coming from.

        I know what bemused means. I can even give you the equivalent word in French.
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          Sep 25 2011: I have no problem with "TEDster." My realization of the cult issue will, however, change my appeals for dialogue, for example, in this case, it could become, “What definition of “religion” might help people communicate better?”
          It seems some participants use a question as their cue to push a different agendum. But some are honestly on a path they might prefer to alter once they see a new viewpoint. If that was not so, I might be a divorcé and a Southern Baptist still self indoctrinating, never to discover my preferences.
          I am glad you liked " the object that divides humankind over what they do not know." I think something good is going to come from the dialogue with Onecae Onecae.
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      Sep 24 2011: re·li·gion

      1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
      2. A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
      3. The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
      4. The life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
      5. The practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.

      At no point did it refer to a "god" or "higher power". The closest that it came, was using the words "especially" and "often", but neither of those have the same meaning as "exclusively". A religion is a group of people who mutually agree upon a set of beliefs. Really, the only thing that makes something a religion, is if the people who believe it, CALL it a religion. Science is a religion, if you call it one. As the scientists have a shared belief in science, and the rules surrounding the proper testing of scientific theories.

      You wanted the dictionary definition, so you got it. Too bad it didn't fit your ideas.
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        Sep 24 2011: "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods : ideas about the relationship between science and religion."

        Mac Dictionary
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        Sep 24 2011: Mike,
        I don’t know what dictionary you are quoting, but we each have access to MW online: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion .
        And I don’t know how you are using quotation marks in your statements. For example, where you quote “especially,” I read “especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency.” I suppose to you “superhuman agency,” does not refer to “god” or “higher power.”
        More importantly, I ponder gullibility. People who are trying to sell me something unneeded are able to stay in business because buyers are gullible. Again, part of my reason for believing I am better off not believing is to try to strengthen my resistance to my natural gullibility. Notice the modifier is my my my not your your your. I am talking about my preference.
        The Declaration of Independence, in its first reference to higher power uses the term “Nature’s God.” When you read that phrase, what equivocation do you apply? I take it literally.
        Don’t fret: It does not feel bad to me to read ideas I do not prefer. I am glad you are considering the question.
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        Sep 25 2011: You can call science a religion, but you'd be wrong.
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    Sep 21 2011: what is a definition? first define definition.

    definition of a class "C" is an attribute "A" so that all objects "x" in the world has the attribute "A" if and only if "x" is a member of "C".

    to see whether an attribute is indeed a good definition, we have to search for counterexamples of the forms:

    1. an object "x" that has the attribute "A", but we didn't mean it to be in class "C"
    2. an object "x" that does not have the attribute "A", but we intended to be in class "C"

    if such an "x" can be found, the definition is not satisfactory.

    that is, a definition must be strong enough to exclude all non-member things, but general enough to include all member things.

    for that reason "Practicing Humanitarian Treatment Towards All People by All People" is not a good definition of religion, because "humanism" has that attribute, but we don't want to consider it a religion.

    "common belief" is also not a good definition, because "etatism" is a common belief, but not a religion.

    "is not spirituality" is not a good definition, because a coconut is not spirituality, but surely not a religion either.
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      Sep 21 2011: Examining the proposed draft:
      • In religion, the believer perceives or adopts a heartfelt concern, makes an assumption that seems to satisfy the concern, develops and maintains dogma to support the assumption, and lives accordingly, perhaps until he encounters reality.

      For example, for subscribers to the concept of soul, the believer:

      Perceives or adopts a heartfelt concern: For example, concern about the afterdeath, that vast time after the body dies.
      Makes an assumption that seems to satisfy the concern: assume that souls are real and that their soul will survive the death of their body--defeat death.
      Develops and maintains dogma to support the assumption: creates other worlds as the source of souls and superior beings as dispensers and judges of souls and destinies that may be good, bad, or in between, involving reincarnations or not. Creates dogma and rituals to secure favorable destiny.
      Lives accordingly: follows the rituals needed to assure favorable destiny for their soul.

      Each element seems to fit.

      Did I seem to understand your method?

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        Sep 21 2011: person X has the heartfelt concern global warming kills the earth. he makes an assumption that technology is responsible for that. he develops and maintains the dogma that mankind must stop using "hard" technology, and must return to natural, "bio" technologies. he lives accordingly.

        this description fits to your criteria, but i would not call that a religion. it seems that this definition is too broad.

        (for nitpickers: i was not saying anything about the validity of the described world view.)
        • Sep 21 2011: Haha that's interesting! It does fit quite nicely! Why did you remove the last part? The "perhaps until he encounters reality"?

          Maybe it's not the definition that is wrong, maybe global warming is also really some kind of religion, I mean they even have their extremists, the Eco-terrorists.
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          Sep 21 2011: Please consider item 4 in Merriam-Webster online:

          a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

          To me, the case you cite or hypothesize is similar to my Einstein case. We cannot imagine what more Einstein might have accomplished had he not been "coloistered" by his static-universe paradigm.
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      Sep 27 2011: Krisztian, I tried to construct a definition that fulfills the requirments you layed out and want to know if you think I succeeded. The defintion is:
      Religion is the practice of dividing humankind into groups according to members’ willingness to accept specific assumptions about something not known, especially humanity’s origins and/or maintenance and/or destiny.
      People like me are excluded from religion because we prefer to accept that we do not know what we do not know. Without assumptions we are the "rest" of humankind.
      Does it work?
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        Sep 28 2011: no, because religion is clearly not a practice of dividing. many religious people don't engage in any dividing activities. this division thing is not the purpose, but the consequence or byproduct of religions.

        and no, because definition allows for beliefs like racism. racism is not religion.

        the former is the more important issue, the latter is easier to fix.
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          Sep 28 2011: Thanks for being there, Krisztian,
          Note that after writing you, my request for conversation shifted from “definition” to “usage,” in an update after the first week of discussion.
          Something influenced me to change “practice” to “method,” and include the statement, “Some people prefer to accept that they do not know what they do not know.” (To include myself and the people who have similar commitments.)
          Please comment.
          How is racism religious? Differences in appearance are obvious—no assumptions required. Religions do not recognize race, nor do people choose a religion because of their race. The idea that human quality is proportional to whiteness (see Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying, 1993, pp 64-65) is not religious: it is prejudicial ignorance and its corollary, resistance to oppression.
          That’s like claiming slavery is a religion. Advocating slavery is denial of the obvious: slavery harms the master more than the slave. See Thomas Paine, “African Slavery in America,” March 8, 1775, online at http://www.constitution.org/tp/afri.htm . “Slavery is religious” is like “cutting off your arm is comforting.”
          Last of all, it might be difficult to produce evidence that racism can be fixed more easily than religion.
          But I ask a more fundamental question: Does religion impede humankind’s path to psychological maturity?
  • Sep 30 2011: Collective Conciousness. We are all a part of the same. I feel like this would radically advance human kind's psychological maturity, because if we realize that we are all a part of the whole we have no choice but to strive for, and better ourselves.
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      Sep 30 2011: This is astounding! What a contribution, Christopher, not to slight the other contributors, including ones who seem against the underlying idea. I will revise the statement of the debate, somehow.
      Thanks for sharing in your profile.
      Twice I tried barbershop quarteting. Those guys are wonderful; their perfection drives mediocre singers to the bowling alleys. I use my small talents singing to my wife (and our daughters enjoy my sentiments, so I guess I sing for them, too).
      On my 68th birthday, June, 2011, with permission, I entered my wife’s seniors’ aerobics class at their 5 minute break. The instructor said, “Mr. Phil wants your attention.” I said, this is my birthday, and no one (implying Cynthia) can stop me. I want to announce something to the world and you are my witnesses.” I sensed my wife hurry around behind me and grab a chair. I walked over to her and began singing, “I’ve got a crush on you, Sweetiepie . . .” The class did not hear “Sweetiepie,” because of their applause. It was not me they were applauding; it was Cynthia and the independence and love she expresses everywhere she goes. I oppose anyone who questions her religion and feel the same way about my peaceful neighbors including TEDsters and myself.
      Are you focused on the Preamble to the US Constitution? Do you agree America has denied the world Abraham Lincoln’s dream (governance of the people by the people and for the people), by Christianizing America starting in 1789 when the nation began operating?
      Your way, help me draw attention to the Preamble’s goals for TEDsters. So far, no one has caught the importance of separation of state and church. If they did, they would realize what I am advocating protects each citizen’s opportunity to think. “Freedom of religion” obscures freedom to think. Freedom of religion is institutional; freedom to think is individual. Yet, freedom to think protects religion.
      I assumed TEDsters could help me out of my cave. We are well on our way.
      Thank you,
  • Sep 29 2011: Haha! LOL at the free bullying on religions. I don't know much about the usage of religions, but I don't think extreme generalizations are a sign of the psychological maturity you're talking about.

    It's really funny because I have many religious friends in my entourage. Buddhist friends, Christian relatives, Muslim collegues, even a rastafari! And when I look at their lives, when I talk with them, the image of religions I get is nothing like what you describe.

    Religion is something that is lived out at a personal level. Each person's experience and relationship with religion is different. If the religious people you met on the path of your life deceived you, or showed themselves weak and naive, I'm truly sorry for you, but they are in no way representative of the whole.

    If you think about it, all the bad aspects of religions you mention here don't stem from the religion itself. They all come from the hearts of the human beings. Even if you somehow managed to abolish all religions, don't you see that people will just find another reason to be divided, people will just find another way to hate each other, and try to manipulate and profit from each other?

    In my opinion, and it's only my own subjective opinion, but I don't think you're qualified to give an objective definition of religion. If I use religious terms just for the goosebumps, you already nailed it on a cross before even entering the discussion. Your definition is totally biased.
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      Sep 30 2011: Mr Kabobsoup, I appreciate your input.
      You’ve got it upside down. Religions are bullying the world, including the nice folks you associate with. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, it makes no difference to me what my neighbor believes; what We the People require is for him to behave according to the Preamble to the US Constitution. Yet many do not.
      I have overlapping circles of friends that include people of many religious and ethnic backgrounds. Some of them send me their bulletins, because they think I belong in their church, even though I have told them I do not want to reduce my association. Apparently, you read selectively, or you would know I worked with chemists and engineers from over 40 ethnic backgrounds. Many of them are my writing fans.
      I discussed today with my friend Kish Seth, PhD, ChE, the unexpected, rude treatment I received from a TEDster, apparently a Hindu. Kish told me there are militant Hindus. I had never encountered one. Kish believes in souls and I do not, yet we happily discuss it, because we appreciate each other. Each day we remind each other that our prime duty is to stay out of hospitals. I went to the fitness center this afternoon after Kish’s reminder, having skipped my wife’s schedule this morning!
      The Baptists in the church I resigned love me, read my letters to the editor, and tell me so. That includes the pastor, Rev. George Haile, who asks how my (Catholic) wife is, each time we meet. I like to think I positively influenced that body of believers.
      Like others in this conversation, you are in no position to judge me. 
      I’d like to share a policy. When I encounter an idea I don’t like, I point out my concern and offer an improvement or total substitute. I think I have demonstrated that policy on TED. Please consider it.
      Regardless, I am grateful you wrote.
      • Sep 30 2011: I have to admit I didn't read through the 158 posts of this discussion. I just read your introduction, and the selective list of all negative aspects you point out. Why would so many people put their faith in religions if it was really all bad like you say? In this discussion, you somehow dismiss all the good aspects of religions, you just focus on the bad side.

        My other point that you didn't mention was that the "bad side" of religion doesn't come from the religion itself, it comes from the wrong motivations of the believers. If I take a frying pan and I use it as a blunt weapon to kill somebody, you can't blame the frying pan. Its shape and weight can be easily exploited and bad people can use it as a weapon.

        So when you say religions are bullying the world, it's totally wrong. A minority of people are trying to use religion to bully and control the others. The majority of people choose religion because it encourages them to improve themselves, because you gather with people willing to go forward and you create valuable friendships. There are people who are willing to help, to listen to you.

        To me, it's like TED! TED is actually some kind of religion too! You believe TED is a tool that can improve the world and your life, so you invest a lot of time posting on these forums, and you're addicted, you just love it. It became very precious in your eyes. That's my definition of religion!

        And although we "Ted'sters" all pursue more or less the same goal (a better world), we are all different, we come from different backgrounds, and conflicts can arise, some people will try to impose their way of thinking. I tell you, TED is no different than Christianity or Islam.
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          Sep 30 2011: Mr Kababsoup, once again, I appreciate you sharing—the time and effort and thoughts. Your comments indicate you have not understood the conversation. I will work on a summary to go in the profile section.
          TED is not a religion. Here’s how: A contributor makes an assumption (so far not religious) about TEDsters. He contributes honestly according to integrity. If he observes that TED does not fulfill the assumption, he withdraws. There is nothing to hold him. In religion, the contributor would persuade himself to stay, regardless. If he stays, he is religious.
          Please focus on solving the puzzle, a puzzle the US Supreme court refuses to address; I think their decision is “let the believer define “religion” and we’ll see how the law impacts it”. I think they are impeding humankind’s path to psychological maturity.
          In my home, we have a Catholic, someone neutral regarding the existence of God, and two people who have not said, but are happy with each of their inspirational and motivational pursuits. The four seem an amazing, vulnerable team.
          All four are familiar with the Preamble to the US Constitution and more or less are committed to its seven goals. Their friends and acquaintances cover a wide range of lifestyles, from devout Catholic and Hindu etc. to non-churched, from monogamous couples to swingers and homosexuals, from young to old. That’s the picture. Over forty years this unit has been showered with the love of people who might say, “I don’t understand; all I know is that I love them.”
          What they don’t understand is that we treasure our good neighbors without concern for their religious preferences—don’t even want to know, unless they want to share. Sometimes, they seek our council; for example, a young Catholic couple trying to cope with Protestant neighbors in Mississippi.
          What makes us different from many others is this: We studied the details of the founding of this country and are committed to the Preamble. Please take interest.
      • Sep 30 2011: I give up, I think my english is not good enough, I don't get your point. I'm sorry.
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          Sep 30 2011: In a simple word, I advocate separation of church and state.
          I know this is important to you, so just hang in there. Progress is coming, and I want to bring it into play in time for you and I to enjoy it; I'm 68.
          Till your next comments.
      • Oct 1 2011: Oh! Ok! Haha it's funny because we actually totally agree then! People should be free to choose their religion, there should be no social pressure to force somebody to comply with one given religion, and religions should be stripped out of any kind of political power. Like I said, choices in religions should be kept at a personal, individual level.

        Sorry for my lousy English understanding, and sorry about my way too hasty response.

        Maybe one day people will be able to look at religion like music. You gather with people who like the same style of music, at home you reach an agreement with people you live with, and in public and you keep it in your headphones, you don't force the others to listen to it. If somebody is interested in what you're listening, you're also free to share.
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          Oct 1 2011: Mr Kebabsoup, how marvelous that we never gave up on each other and came to the joy "we totally agree."
          We agree on separation of church and state: no one should suffer civic interference with his/her religious thought.
          I agree with you that religion is an art form and like your metaphor that concludes on privacy.
          No problem with your understanding: I write too much. And trying to write literally is in my chemical engineering report training by Bob Agee (rest in peace).
          May we explore further agreements on the political aspects of the question?
          Have you considered the Preamble to the US Constitution, online at http://www.house.gov/house/Constitution/Constitution.html ? Do you find it useful in its brevity, sufficient in its seven goals, and worthy as a basis for governance? Do you find that the detailed UN Declaration of Human Rights goes too far? ( http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ .) What other national statements should be considered?
          I do not want to stir opposition by drawing attention to the US. I think America, so far, has failed the Preamble. I would like to see the world adopt or improve the seven goals in the Preamble and thereby excite Americans to focus on it for the first time since 1789, when the Christianization of America began.
          Americans ignored and ignore James Madison’s 1785 “TED debate ”, “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.” (http://www.constitution.org/jm/17850620_remon.htm )For me, the trial is over: I want neither Christianity nor God imposed on me. (Does not mean I am an atheist.)
          Tragically, Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 vision, “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” has never existed. (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/gettyb.asp )
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    Sep 28 2011: I have read most of the other conversations but must say some of them are stuck out on the metaphysical branches of the original thesis. Complicated subjects need to be kept simple when defining them and sometimes you have to stop thinking. Believe me I have "thought" myself into many corners. It wasn't until I looked back at my work and realized I had over-analyzed it.

    We discuss psychological development but I was referring to it on the macro level (millions of years). Societies behavior shapes itself around the behavior of those who are successful. Only time will tell whether or not non believers can be successful. The thing is... we aren't having enough kids. This means we will be leaving our children in a world run by delusion.

    My maturity didn't start until I looked at the clutter I filled my head with and started cleaning house.

    Bottom line... Delusion is a winning evolutionary strategy. You can't deny it. If you do then... That proves my point. hehe I crack me up.
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      Sep 28 2011: I understand.
      The odds are astounding and the readiness of people to cast good neighbors out over what no one knows is unconstitutional, to say the least, in the US. The Preamble IS the Constitution and all the rest is mechanism to fulfill it, but Americans shun it with a passion, because they want a "Christianized" America. I think Christianization of America is in its last years, though.
      I actually had a neighbor this week quote some scripture stating, in effect, if you discover your neighbor does not prefer your interpretation of the Bible, walk away and shake the dust off your boots. I had the serious humor to ask him if we are still good neighbors. He was condescending.
      Another neighbor claims to be an atheist, and when I tried to discuss the possibility that atheists are people of faith in understanding or the truth or reality, the eyes glazed over with reason and exit. But no words were uttered. As long as that goes on, they cannot help; they add to the problem.
      If you did not read my conversation about "Tolerance is insufficient," scan it and notice that no one favored the use of "tolerance," and several people made the case that in this world there is insufficient intolerance. I think practicing intolerance for divisive thinking is a start.
      One of the reasons I cannot write is that I spend most of my time reading. But dealing with a TED conversation that I start is the hardest work I have ever undertaken. I work hard to respect every contributor. Sometimes, people enter to push an agendum then look for their trigger to exit.
      I am working now to restate this conversation—sort of an interim report.
      I just love "hehe I crack me up." People who can crack up are my kind of people.
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    Sep 26 2011: I agree that empathy can defeats hate, but consider that empathy is subjective to the wider ideology of the group or society. Empathy is an evolutionary response with positive outcomes.

    As long as we have laugh tracks on TV shows while people are being hurt or humiliated, empathy will be limited in our society. There are many other reasons but this one is foremost in my mind.
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      Sep 26 2011: So the short version of your definition is acceptable to you? Please let me know.
      Merely defining empathy is a task. I agree. There are some TED talks on the subject, both current and old.
      To me, we are human beings and members of the community of living species. Thus, we humans are equal. We each have the right, within the rule of written law, to make our mistakes and learn according to our own preferences. Therefore, the first obligation of empathy is to observe each other's privacy.
      Compassion--observation of another person and evaluation that they need help may be an unjust action, depending upon their situation and how they feel about scrutiny.
      Invading another country to help the people who are opprssed there does not seem just to me. The United Nations is not working in this regard. I like very much Nazanin Afshin-Jum's talk "Voice for the voiceless, which proposes that the "United People" perhaps replaces "The United Nations. See at http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxVancouver-Nazanin-Afshin-Ja .
      "However, I do not think the arts and humor should be discouraged. It would ruin all of society.
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        Sep 27 2011: Yes, I would say

        Any immeasurable claim that exerts influence on a group or society.

        I oversimplify this but sometimes a thing this complcated needs a simple definition.
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          Sep 27 2011: Michael, you offer a great iteration, but I am not ready to quit working, if you have some more patience.
          it seems you started with general appeal but after my input moved to a vague statement. Also, I perceive a deficiency: we need an object. Let me review the statements, starting with your original one.
          Religion is “anything that requires the phrase "I believe" and has no definition in the physical world that we measure and observe.”
          Wishing to include intellectual as well as physical domains, I suggested religion is “anything that compels people to believe.” This is attractive, because it seems better for humans to consciously avoid believing, so they maintain focus on reality.
          You revised to religion is “any immeasurable claim that exerts influence on a group or society.” Somehow, this statement helped me recognize there must be some action, such as believing a doctrine.
          For example, as an elementary school student I believed that mastering Bible interpretation would position me to be the finest person I could possibly be, because the Bible was the word of God. The doctrine, the Bible is the word of God, dominated my focus through the prime of my life—college, courtship, marriage, child rearing, most of my 35-year career. Only as a maturing adult did I begin to discover my preferences for my life instead of trying to fulfill my parents’ vision for me.
          Another point: commonly, definitions of “religion” that address the unknowable employ the word “un-provable” where you used “immeasurable.”
          Please consider: Religion is “any un-provable claim that influences people to believe a doctrine instead of reality.”
          This statement still contains subtlety. I would not mind adding the ending phrase, “much of which is unknown,” but prefer your brevity.
          If I have made sense to you, please suggest another statement.
          I extended this conversation for one week.
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        Sep 27 2011: There are very specific reasons I use immeasurable over unprovable. Unprovable is to rigid of a word. Proof to an individual may be nothing more than the realization that religion serves the purpose of organizing individuals to share resources and offers us a reprieve from our distant view of evolution. Look throughout history and you will see that "proof" is as subjective as empathy.

        From the perspective of evolution, psychological development is no different than how your lip formed over millenia. Evolution only cares that it works.

        My viewpoint may be correct to me but its not a very efficient method of survival. Which is why we lose so many great minds to religion.

        To address the requirement of doctrine in your search. This seems to be a search through the prism of Abrahamic religions. I put superstition under the umbrella of religion and it has little to no doctrine, in fact it has only a memelike existance, but is familiar enough with those who engage in it to assist in the formation of human bonding.

        We need to be careful as non-believers not to use words like unprovable as the definition will be rejected by enough of the population to render it useless and may appear disengenuous to others.

        To address any deficiency, religion is simple enough to describe in one sentence. We must not fall into the trap of trying to include all the different flavors of religions and just define the word without trying to make a point.

        Another itteration...

        A formed group or identity based around immeasurable claims.

        This gives it the needed object.
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          Sep 27 2011: I understand your points and support your definition as it stands. If you are like me, you don't stop thinking, so if something occurs to you, please express it—if not here in a new conversation.
          One point I'd like to share: In other conversations (e.g., see Juliette Zahn or Onecae Onecae) I cite "psychological maturity," which pertains to each individual. I think each person has duty to self, recognized or not, to strive for psychological maturity within the 80 or so years he/she lives. The information an individual may consider is staggering in scope. The ideal is to contribute to mankind’s “psychological development,” quoting you.
          During each lifetime, humankind is also maturing, or each individual lives during a segment of humankind’s development toward psychological maturity. I want a revolutionary change in humankind’s psychological maturity. It seems to me you and some others in this conversation are working on it.
          Please comment.
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          Sep 28 2011: Ooops! I missed this in my review work: "A formed group or identity based around immeasurable claims."
          What's in my intro now is: "Religion is any immeasurable claim that exerts influence on a group or society."
          I want to change it to your latest statement, "A formed group or identity based around immeasurable claims."
          Do you want me to, or is there somthing else?
          Sorry for the inconvenience.
  • Sep 26 2011: Phil
    Frans Kellner's rowing metaphor has something going for it. He's trying to address our serious problem with the concept of existence and the strange requirements we impose with our current notions of time, space and substance. I've yet to find a word that means what Frans is trying to impart. I believe Frans would agree with the idea that a disturbance in wave frequency produces a different sphere of reality. The notion would require 1) something that can be disturbed 2) something that disturbs.

    Sidharth Hairgaran and I would be at odds. We don't all have the same religion. Analysis indicates that we only briefly know each other. It we apply different religious techniques we will most certainly arrive at different 'places.' His words carry an implicitly advance morality and claims knowledge he surely cannot have. The concept of 'arrival' and 'path' seem to impart the philosophy of determinism, as if the world we make has already been made, elsewhere, by another identity, who has given us tickets, etc.

    For example, an expansive and gracious consciousness is different from one that is narrow and focused. One can have one both, neither, or alternate between them. If one is on two paths at once, then one is not on one path at once. Insofar as something is different, then it is not the same.

    Religion is now. Who are you?

    "I do not think all method is religious"
    Anything one does or thinks transforms existence to some degree. Therefore, if religion is defined (in part) as a means to transform self or other, then all method is religious. Some religions can be better or worse depending on the transformations desired and methods applied. Using Frans' rowing metaphor: An island begins to obtain in the experience of a certain kind of rower: For others, an island becomes a pineapple farm or something else.
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      Sep 26 2011: Maybe the problem (mine at least) is the attempt to apply Frans’ point about consciousness to a physical metaphor—rowing to an island (I think the boats would sink). A concept I do appreciate is expressed by Frans’ latest message as getting out of self to observe. A writer in Atlantic Monthly, years ago, described “slat land,” where your mind can go and watch your behavior with other people literally while conversation is being conducted.
      Anyway, let’s try an intellectual metaphor—get away from physics (yet not so far as it may appear). John 8:58 claims Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” During my indoctrination, I took that to mean that even though he was born, Jesus existed beforehand, perhaps indefinitely. When I started reading older literature, I found evidence for Jesus’s claim. For example, Agathon’s argument in Plato’s “Symposium,” described the Jesus I admired (not the one reported in the Bible). It’s a quick read: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/symposium.html . Scroll down until you see Agathon start talking. Perhaps substitute “empathy” for love; of course the Greek was Eros, the god.
      By then, I had climbed out of my indoctrination enough that I could perceive that the Bible writer had plagiarized Plato. It hastened my exit from Christianity (still took years), which accelerated my flight from religion itself. (Don’t forget, I am writing about neither truth nor my opinion, but rather my preferences.)
      Now, Agathon lived before Jesus did, which is physics. But Agathon’s witness about the character of empathy is now: was true, is true, and will remain true.
      Did you see Michael Clancy’s contribution?
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    Sep 26 2011: Religion is like a vehicle you travel in the vehicle you like but the destination is the same path might be different not all roads are of roses some thorns come early some later but they have some thorns in the path..
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      Sep 26 2011: Hello, Sidharth, This is a beautiful simile that compels me to equate religion and life. Perhaps you present a clue to help me understand Onecae’s thoughts.
      I see four elements in your simile:
      - “The vehicle you like” is an assumption you trust and commit to. For example, your inherited culture.
      - “The destination is the same,” asserts that each human has the identical destiny. I wish you’d tell me what that is, but in case you don’t, I’ll offer: termination at death of the body, such that personal influences on the timelessness of existence is all that remains.
      - “The path might be different.” Does the difference come from “the vehicle you like,” the environment you are in, or the personal decisions you make, or something I did not think of?
      - There are “thorns in the path.” Despite the vehicle, you must make some choices and take action as you encounter problems.
      I’ll try to restate this in secular terms. A person cannot control life, since every person has the same destiny. However, to conduct life, he must trust and commit to a philosophy. Despite the philosophy, his influences will depend on his reaction to the problems.
      Please correct me where necessary and comment.
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        Sep 26 2011: you could have just asked me an explanation for my words than taking pain in dissecting the words i have put up. ok thanx for giving so much importance for my words. every religion leads to the same place or the destiny simple and the person who drive might be wrong but the vehicle is not wrong. If u drive it wrong it will go wrong its based upon our intentions I am just choosing my words pretty carefully with you rather if u jump to dissect it again. :) my words are simple don't dissect it so much as before please.. :) anyway it was nice..
        its just like you interpretted me the way u liked or understood that doesn't mean you are wrong and I am right or the other way around..
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          Sep 26 2011: From a communications viewpoint, for me to paraphrase what you write and then ask if I understood is a sincere compliment, so I was grateful for “thanx for giving so much importance for my words.”
          However, with partial understanding (I still don’t know what you mean by “same destiny”), I do not agree with your premise: “Every religion leads to the same place or destiny.”
          For example, Christians claim that the Bible is the word of God. However, some Christians do not take their claim literally. When “the word of God,” does not make sense to them, they reject “the word of God.” There are countless examples, but I will take one that is barely controversial.
          Mark 16:17-18. “And these signs will accompany those who believe . . . they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all . . .” (Some Christian TEDsters will attack me for questioning “their ‘scripture’,” but I reject their possessiveness and cite my preferences regarding what I studied—my response to literature that is available to every person.)
          All Christians believe, but only some handle snakes; only some drink poison. Habitual snake handlers die of snake bites. A sect that drinks poison together dies together. Their religions terminated their lives before their contributions to humankind could run their natural course.
          Perhaps your point is that everyone’s destiny is death. If so, I agree, but contend death is not a product of religion, except in cases like snake handlers and poison drinkers.
          Please comment.
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        Sep 26 2011: atlast everything leads to god see again it comes to the person who interprets it.. in Hinduism they say there are a lot of ways in attaining god like all roads lead to Rome. For those nut case who killed themselves god did not ask them to do instead they must have interpreted it in the wrong way like the driver of the vehicle. for instance BMW being a class vehicle driving it off the cliff and expecting to come out without any harm is really foolish.. questioning is not wrong but questioning them in the way they get hurt is wrong.. they might have had bad experiences in their past indulging or bringing them to such topic might have hurt them.. and keep in mind telling something is not wrong but trying to impose what we think onto them is wrong.
        I am not pointing anything at you but pardon me, perspective about anything or any belief should be widened but not blind due to widening.
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          Sep 26 2011: My preferences for my life are fulfilled by your thoughts in this way: Understanding is my vehicle and thorns are eating, cleaning, housekeeping, shopping, fitness, home maintenance, managing money, and other living chores that typically require my time, but moreover sickness, natural disasters tragedies and such gross interruptions, all of which keep me from the nobler work of accepting and responding to reality. In this noble work, my policy opposes believing, because to believe I must turn my back on reality.
          Thoughts I share apply to no one but me. They are neither truth nor opinion: they are my preferences. Your responses to my preferences are neither an issue for me nor a threat to your preferences for you.
          Please comment.
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          Sep 27 2011: Regarding my example of snake handlers Sidharth stated, “questioning is not wrong but questioning them in the way they get hurt is wrong. They might have had bad experiences in their past indulging or bringing them to such topic might have hurt them. And keep in mind telling something is not wrong but trying to impose what we think onto them is wrong.”
          For the record, I totally disagree. Threats to health and life caused by religious practices should be limited law. Thus, it should be illegal to handle poisonous snakes as a religious practice, and parents who expose their children to poisonous snakes should lose custody of the children. And that is just one example of the importance of written law trumping religious practices.
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        Sep 26 2011: you are wrong somewhere doing day to day things are not thorns they are just deeds for living.. Anybody can attain god if you respect money and treat it with due respect even money is God if you treat your friends with respect even they are God. God is a very small word but its just a word refering in context is huge you can call nature as God or if you are an Atheist no props even love is God anything you respect is God. parent for the instance they are God. The class teacher you love or like the most is God. Its simple everything thing in the world need or demands for respect just pay their due thats it.. Even a penny can become God if you just value it not even respect. How you value it is in your hands. moreover why have you mentioned a he? when you talk with the context of religion or God please use 'the person' or the being no gender in this sort of discussion please..
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          Sep 26 2011: “Even a penny can become God if you just value it not even respect. How you value it is in your hands. moreover why have you mentioned a he? when you talk with the context of religion or God please use 'the person' or the being no gender in this sort of discussion please.”
          I do not tolerate a dialogue wherein the other party puts words into my statements. I have neither used the word “god” nor “he” in reference to a god in my dialogue with you. Below is the only sentence of mine containing “he,” and there are none with “god.”
          “A person cannot control life, since every person has the same destiny. However, to conduct life, he must trust and commit to a philosophy.”
          You are forgiven, yet I await your recognition of what you are doing and an apology.
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      Sep 27 2011: Sidharth - Yes, and some like to walk to the destination.
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        Sep 28 2011: thanq for the support sir almost felt like i was talking with a wall :)
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    E G 10+

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    Sep 25 2011: I don't know ; should we all have the same definition of religion ? I don't think so ................ it's a too relative concept to every of us to can give to it a definition.
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      Sep 25 2011: You'd think I'd accept the decisions of the US Supreme Court.
  • Sep 21 2011: "In religion, the believer perceives or adopts a heartfelt concern, makes an assumption that seems to satisfy the concern, develops and maintains dogma to support the assumption, and lives accordingly, perhaps until he encounters reality."

    Mhh I feel this is more like a description of the path probably many religious people followed. I don't think it can be a definition by itself. Actually I'd like to ask you: Is that also how you experienced religion in your life yourself?

    I think we can start by gathering similar traits to all religions. That's actually a very good thing to do. Then we would realize that religions are not that different from each other, and there's actually no reason for two religions to hate each other.

    - I think all religions strive for something that is beyond the reach and scope of humanity by itself. There's a desire to reach an improved oneself.
    - religions are created and sustained by the gathering of people who share the same belief (more or less)
    - each religion has a set of practices, stories, and symbols to guide the believer, help him to follow certain moral values or lifestyles.
    - religions usually try to address the question of death, there's a desire to remove some uncertainty from death.
    - then you can't really understand death if you don't understand life. So I guess religions try to give a explanation about the meaning of life.
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      Sep 22 2011: Sorry; I was away for a while. I agree: path is the right image and “perceives or adopts” covers different paths. For example, a primal man emerges from a cave and is blinded by the sun and perceives it an angry god. Or a child is born to religious parents and adopts concerns they perceive, such as, “Will my next incarnation be favorable?”
      However, I think religion is a path toward reality and thank you for that clarification.
      I was reared Southern Baptist and happened to fall in love with a Catholic woman. I worshipped with her and then alone for many years. When we had children, I continued, but then asked the priest to administer the Lord’s Supper to me while he was administering the Eucharist to my family. After a few meetings, he informed me that I would have to “join the club to reap the benefits.” I could not. My wife then graciously attended Sunday school with me, until the fourth time my peers presented a case for Catholics burning in hell. I felt I had to make a decision. I dropped out of my church, then Christianity, then religion. Now, I am a human being and member of the community of living species. I do not plan to reduce my associations again.
      I began to search for a place where I belong and think it is defined by the Preamble to the US Constitution. However, We the People, defined therein, while being a promise for the entire world, is an unheralded minority of Americans. Constitution Day, September 17, is unheard of in America. I relate to Nazanin Afshin-Jum’s talk, “Voice for the voiceless,” wherein she proposes “The United People,” replace “The United Nations.” See online at http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxVancouver-Nazanin-Afshin-Ja .
      It seems to me your other points are covered by the draft definition. For example, some people assume religion guides morality, draws from beyond humanity, and affects death. People with similar assumptions associate. The draft definition can easly be modified to the plural.
      Please comment.
      • Sep 22 2011: Thank you for sharing so openly with us!

        It's kinda unrelated to the topic of the discussion, but one thing strikes me in your experience of religion: I can feel that you have been disappointed by the behavior of the religious people, actually, more accurately, you have been betrayed, because you had put your trust in them to a certain extend. But when you say "I dropped out of my church, then Christianity, then religion". What are the steps that led your from being betrayed by human beings, to denial of religions altogether?

        I don't know if I'm making any sense, but I think there's a difference between a cause, and all the clumsy people trying or pretending to defend this cause. I don't think you can't judge a cause only on the basis of the behavior of the followers.

        It's like if some country went on a war in the name of liberty or democracy. Even if you disapprove that war, it wouldn't lead you to deny the benefits of liberty and democracy.
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          Sep 22 2011: You are welcome.
          My path is unique, perhaps because I am a serious student of my religion. I would not call it disappointment at all. I am discovering myself and have been for about 15 years. I don’t deny religions, I just don’t want one. I would not support war for liberty and democracy. I want unity and justice first, then the other five provisions of the Preamble to the US Constitution. I will defend America for the Preamble and my homeland.
          The essence of my path includes indoctrination by my parents and community, precious doubt, college with a term paper on Hinduism and concluding its just another religion and mine is enough, rejection by Protestant women I dated, working with chemists and chemical engineers from over 40 ethnic backgrounds, falling in love with a Catholic woman, worshipping with her because I love her, a 15 month mind opening assignment in Greece, discovering I could not adapt to Catholicism yet thinking too independently in my Protestant church, realizing my children were being indoctrinated as exclusively “god’s people,” asking the family to attend Protestant church with me, seeing Protestants while aware my wife is Catholic freely say Catholics are going to hell for various doctrinal reasons, admitting my androgynous half was more important to me than their doctrine and association, writing a letter of resignation from my church, feeling lost and unassociated, searching for association while going through the five-year original Great Books Reading and Discussion Program, focusing on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Divinity School Address” wherein he claims Jesus was merely a man so I probably could think that in good company, discovering Agathon’s witness (incidentally omitted from the Great Books publication) in Plato’s “Symposium” which describes “my Jesus,” beginning a 12 year practice of publishing letters to the editor of the local paper, rejecting the new Great Books program to pursue my personal interests, [Continued]
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          Sep 22 2011: [Continued] thinking I found association in the Preamble to the US Constitution, studying and realizing the unwritten US constitution is “Christianized,” associating with a Unitarian church and realizing I do not brook tolerance of my preferences and opinions, forming a statement of what I am regarding association, attending weddings and funerals I am invited to, and realizing I can avoid church attendance by not entering but cannot avoid religion in civic events in America, and discovering TED.If I think of more, I'll add it.Please feel free to comment or question.Phil
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    Sep 21 2011: Hey Phillip! How are you?For me personally religion is more about observances or habit than it is about worship or belief in a deity.I define the idea of "worship" and "belief" by 2 principles. The first is relationship and the other is mystery. I think relgion (though these are included in most definitons) not only contradicts belief but also supresses mystery and destroys the true meaning of relationships.I am by defintion I suppose a confessing Christian although I do not believe nor do I think Jesus taught that Christianity is a religion . For instances in Jesus' day the ruling relgious class was the Phairsees and they implemented thousands of relgious rituals that people were to instructed to observe. So when Jesus came along and started doing things like healing on the sabbath, going into houses of addicts and prostitutes all these forbidden things - this really pissed the relgious class off because he was "breaking the rules". And untill this day it still gets under religous peoples skin if anyone "breaks the rules". I think people are generally uncomfortable with the uknown and with mystery of life- so religion seems to be a tool that people use as a weapon to create a false reality that is centered around the "ego"
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      Sep 21 2011: Hello, Jacob. I am motivated. How are you? Thank you for your responses.
      I want to mimic young Benjamin Franklin (who paraphrased others’ writings to understand and appreciate). Let me know of any changes needed in the following attempt to represent your message:
      Religion is an observation/habit of relationship and mystery with beliefs that can be suppressed by formalities such as worship, a deity, rituals, and rules. For example, a person can relate to the Jesus he perceives without believing Christianity. People who submit to religious institutions are uncomfortable with the unknown and yield independence for reputation.
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    Oct 5 2011: I hope each of you see your contributions in the final statement of the request. I sincerely tried to include you. Thank you for teaching me.
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    Oct 5 2011: Perhaps the view that religion is a means to an end and not the end in itself.
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      Oct 5 2011: Hello, Juliette,
      It's a good idea. Religion is a path.
      For mankind, the end may be as distant as the cooling of the sun or beyond.
      For institutions the end may be as distant as all deities or philosophies.
      For each person, the end may be supernatural heaven or accomplishments during life.
      On each level, no one knows.
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    Oct 4 2011: Clearing for final revision.
    Through understanding, humankind continuously increases its psychological maturity. Yet there remain lifestyle concerns and unknowns; e.g., is evolution controlled?
    Religion is the acquisition and implementation of preferences for how to experience the unknown and variously integrate the resulting understanding or privation into life.
    Religion tends to respond to progress yet preserve plausible ethics and thus is an evolving art form. For example, ancients regarded the sun a supernatural power but we now understands it’s a natural nuclear reactor. Yet the supernatural ethic survives--perhaps as one object of humility.
    Religion is expressed in stories, music, symbols, and other art. Religion inculcates art into its young, preserving both understanding and misunderstanding. Each newborn has the duty to itself to achieve understanding in its short lifetime, often overcoming natural or cultural limitations. Thus, people have widely differing psychological maturities; humankind must accommodate peace and limit harm.
    In humankind’s collective consciousness the people share secular goals, such as, unity, justice, tranquility, defense, prosperity, the privilege of liberty, and continuity for posterity. These goals accommodate beliefs yet authorize limitation of harm. For example, people who advocate taking poison to worship a deity must be limited.
    Just governance obtains its authority from the governed--the people. The people must maintain the monopoly on force and coercion through written law that can be modified when injustice is discovered. Just force and coercion apply to behavior and not to thought, such as the object of humility, a private matter.
    Unfortunately, throughout history, politicians and clergymen have co-operated to use religion as a tool with which to usurp the people’s power. Only the governed can stop usurpation of their power.
    Institutions that interfere with the people’s secular goals must suffer the rule of law.
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    Oct 4 2011: Onecae, I like focus on the individual and propose:
    Religion is an individual’s acquisition and implementation of preferences for how to experience the unknown and variously integrate the resulting understanding or privation into his/her life.
    A couple more word changes would be needed in the current request.
    Treating religion as the path of humankind’s psychological maturing recycles a basic disagreement we encountered before: I think religious practice requires belief in assumptions, whereas understanding does not brook assumptions. Understanding is founded on evidence.
    Government is the understanding that some people behave only if they are forced to; there must be a monopoly on force; just governance is authorized by the governed. No assumptions are involved, but there are deviations.
    Communication is not a religion; it involves trust and commitment to integrity, but when one party honestly has no integrity, it is detected and communications stop; the trust and commitment are not continued as they would be in religion. The party without integrity may.
    I avoid the word “science,” as I think it prevents people from understanding the role of religion.
    Understanding is a process to address a perceived observation. In early stages the process requires assumptions for explanation. With progress, the most plausible assumption is chosen for study. A well directed study may lead to discovery based on evidence. If not, the process may recycle to the next most plausible assumption. When all resources are exhausted, if there is no evidence of discovery, the conclusion is this: Our research is complete and we do not have an explanation. Perhaps the explanation did not occur to us or perhaps the perceived phenomenon is unreal. However, our conclusion is, “We do not know.” The product of the process understands. If, on the other hand, one of the assumptions is presented as an explanation for the perceived phenomenon, it is a religious result.
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    Oct 4 2011: I am perplexed by this conversation.

    I have no god of my own! If people choose to think they have their own personal god fine, but in my opinion it will only be because they need a reason to live that they can't find elsewhere. Life itself is enough for me. And no, "life" is not my "god".... And no, "god" is not me....

    Your question asks, "What view of religion might advance humankind’s psychological maturity?”

    My answer is "none".

    Engage in the world without looking for a fairytale ending.
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      Oct 4 2011: It is detailed. At first it did not seem worth it.
      But, I think this TED conversation arrived at a view of religion that accommodates your view: "Religion is the acquisition and implementation of preferences for how to experience the unknown and variously integrate the resulting understanding or privation into life."
      Maybe you did not acquire your view. It came from your family life or was in your genes. Tell me, if you like.
      Humankind would like justice, tranquility, defense, prosperity, the privilege of liberty, continuity for posterity, and recognition that we are in it together (revising from “unity”).
      Humankind's psychological maturity is far from such peace. I erroneously thought a common definition of “religion” would help. With input from a few TEDsters, my mind is totally changed: "view" of religion in the geopolitical world is the real point.
      I am deeply grateful to the participants (you).
      I think your view and mine are similar. I focus on understanding. For example, to the question, “Does a god exist?” my understanding is I doubt it but don’t know and no one else knows. If the conversation goes deeper, my responses stay in the same mind set. There’s no God worthy of my worship and praise; I just want to stay focused on reality. Does anything control evolution? Beyond the environment, I do not know. What controls the environment? I don’t know.
      So, you will not find me justifying any of theism, atheism, non-theism or any other idea that requires the advocate to justify assumptions. I understand that I do not know, and feel comfortable not knowing what I don’t know and thereby keeping my mind open to reality.
      Thank you for your comment.
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        Oct 4 2011: Phillip: "With input from a few TEDsters, my mind is totally changed"

        This is one of the great things about TED conversations. I, too, have gained new insight into issues I thought I had a good grasp of and changed my thinking. It's tremendously satisfying to know that an honest, rigorous exchange of ideas can lead to that. I think it is that kind of thinking that represents "humankind's phychological maturity".
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          Oct 4 2011: Jim, I could not agree more happily. Before TED, I thought I could see world progress, even though my state legistation and governor act like they live in caves, because the fact is Louisianians votes for them! For goodness sake! They legislate agains evolution.
          But a couple weeks ago, when I discovered TED---wow. It is like a new world, thanks to the TEDsters.
          My only regret is that the elite do not participate in the conversations. I would love to ask Sweeney what she meant by the conclusion of her wonderful talk. It takes me nowhere because she can't penetrate the "mystery."
          And I am disappointed that none of the prior contributors to the question "What is We the People?" contributed to my recent question. So, TED is not perfect, but it is better than anything else I have discovered, especially my tunnel.
          Speaking of "honest." I have a very interesting conversation that could be called "The insufficiency of honesty," after an essay by Stephen L. Carter, wherein he blew it, in my opinon.
          Your brevity is effective. I need to learn.
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    Oct 3 2011: Taking down the revision prior to 10/3/11. Phil
    Introducing me
    I’m a human being and member of living species, primarily humankind. I don’t want to reduce my association again in my lifetime. Also, I am a citizen of the United States and want to fulfill the Preamble to the US Constitution. The Preamble states seven secular goals.

    The revised draft usage
    Religion is how humankind divides across civic borders according to group members’ preferences for specific assumptions about something no one knows, especially humanity’s origins and/or maintenance and/or destiny. In consequential division, some people prefer to accept that they do not know what no one knows. Religion or no religion is harmless if people exercise collective consciousness: living species are all part of the whole.

    Supporting arguments
    Each newborn is equally uninformed and needs freedom to pursue its path to maturity. The fulfilled human is psychologically mature. Today, people live in a world filled with injustice.
    People who separate state from church want to live in peace according to personal preference and allow others the same opportunity.
    In governance, justice must prevail over religion. Any religion that encourages the civic separation of human beings because of thought should be stripped of civic privileges granted by the governed.

    I mean no disrespect toward anyone, including myself. I do not write truth, only my preferences. This draft is not mine. It is the product of this conversation.
  • Oct 2 2011: that each person has accepted the others belief system (belief in reason or feeling) BEFORE accepting the arguments as to WHY they should accept those beliefs. It hardly seems necessary to point out the folly of giving a rational argument supporting reason to somebody who has yet to accept reason as valid.
    It is because each individual already has a set of beliefs, implanted and shaped by forces beyond our conscious control, and we go through life finding support for those beliefs. If your belief system is one of logic and reason and you are raised in a religious setting then chances are that you will be unhappy with the church and stray into science, and vice-versa. Anybody who thinks that we choose what to believe, I propose you try this experiment: if you currently do not believe in god, stop. Believe in Him, now for about one minute. Are you capable of changing your belief? This is not to say our beliefs do not change, merely that we cannot consciously control how, when or what.
    Anyway to return to my original definition, we've all seen people frothing at the mouth over politics, religion, Mac vs. PC, science and atheism as well as countless others. If one takes a step back and looks at the whole picture, is the behavior of these individuals that different? Every one of those groups contain extremists, moderates and fair-weather folk, every group believes it is ultimately advancing a cause, every group sees itself as necessary and right and just. Would alien visitors find people arguing over books to be more important than those arguing soft drinks? Would God?
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      Oct 2 2011: Bill,
      I do not speak for all yet feel we appreciate your contribution and look forward to more.
      Moonan suggested religion is art that addresses the unknowns. Would your broader usage accelerate humankind’s progress toward psychological maturity?
      It seems, people have faith in their activities, but some do not believe—in fact I believe  that humans should not believe anything--should build defenses against natural gullibility.
      “Science” versus “religion” distracts humankind from understanding, which is both a process and a product (recognized by friend Hugh Finklea).
      In the brief process, there are, in succession: perception, consideration, assumptions, evaluations, selection, designs, research, evaluations, and conclusions (perhaps to study more). Finally, there are two possible products: understanding or belief. Belief is religion. One understanding is “After this study, we don’t know.” Please scan the conversation for Albert Einstein’s unfortunate illustration of religion’s ruin. Ideas, like “love overcomes all but religion,” can be researched with the power of statistics.
      Fortunate are the people who were reared without beliefs. My parents indoctrinated me thoroughly, and I continued until age 50. When it became clear that my indoctrination conflicted with my androgynous other half, precious doubt discovered in my youth empowered change. I am a very fortunate person, having fallen in love with someone of a differing indoctrination.
      Believers are different. People who understand that it is best to say, first to self, “I don’t know,” when they don’t know, are not aggressive, abusive, or violent toward people who assert they know yet are intolerant of “knower’s” claims.
      Some of us feel We the People, as defined in the Preamble to the US Constitution, must accommodate the people’s differences and abdicating this responsibility to God, as America does, retards mankind’s march to psychological maturity.
      Please keep helping direct and resolve this quest.
      • Oct 2 2011: Ok, I think I know where we are going wrong here, I think it has to do with the definition of "believe". You seem to be using it as a term that is synonymous with religion (I.e with spiritual overtones), whereas I am using it in a much broader context. This is not to say one of us is correct and the other wrong, but it does make it a bit difficult to have a conversation.
        When I use the word believe I mean to say that everybody has beliefs, even if they are not religious ones. For instance I believe in the colour orange with minimal evidence, basically my own subjective perception of the colour and anecdotes of other people's experiences with it. Now I BELIEVE that is sufficient evidence to support my claim that orange exists, yet I can not see the world through anybody elses eyes to verify my own observations. Therefore I believe in the colour orange without being able to prove that it exists. How would I prove it's existence to somebody who is colour-blind? Perhaps the colour-blind individual is correct and my perception is flawed. No matter what line of reasoning you excersise you will eventually reach a point where you must accept your evidence on faith.
        To return to the original question, I believe ( ;) ) that the definition I provided earlier is important to the advancement of humanity because I think we need to do away with "religion" (by my definition) but that spirituality is an important aspect of the human condition. If we did away with every spiritual belief system we would still be subjected to the damaging effects of people elevating politicians, or offices or countries above the interests of their fellow human beings. This is the behavior of "religion" by my new definition and as you can see that is the destructive aspect of the phenomenon, not necessarily the spiritual side of things. I hold one thing sacred: our duty to our fellow humans, from the past through the present and for those yet to come. That is the step that we collectively must take.
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          Oct 2 2011: Bill, I don’t want to harp on “belief,” but the color orange is not a matter of belief. It is a fact by assignment of “orange” as the wavelength of light reflected from particular objects, such as a University of Tennessee football jersey when the opponent is wearing white.
          And I agree everyone can be a victim of belief. In 1905, Einstein believed the universe is static. When his brilliant mathematics for the general theory of relativity gave him the evidence the universe is dynamic, he strengthened his belief by adding a fudge factor, which he called “Cosmological Constant.” In 1930, after Edwin Hubble proved the universe is dynamic, Einstein called his belief the greatest blunder of his life. That’s what I’m talking about when I say Phil Beaver has a policy against believing. Now, I do believe in love, most of the time.
          It seems to me you did not understand what I wrote about the process for understanding. Nevertheless, if we did away with “religion” in favor of “spirituality,” how would humankind’s psychological maturity advance?
          What is our duty to our fellow humans? To learn from those who went before? To take responsibility and accountability for ourselves—be independent and grow psychological maturity? Help those who cannot without help become independent? Honor the privacy of all others? Obey the written law and lobby against unjust laws? Trust and commit to the goals in the Preamble to the US Constitution?
          Please keep clarifying.
  • Oct 2 2011: Good day all, I haven't had a chance to read through all the comments yet, though they are quite enjoyable, I just wanted to get this idea out there before I hit the hay: "religion" is the behavior all humans exhibit towards institutions, which themselves are physical manifestations of intangible cultural values. I understand that this definition is very broad, covering everything from Christ vs. Buddah (quite possibly the least exciting Celebrity Death Match ever) to Coke vs. Pepsi (is it legal to have them under one roof? Are they like two subcritical masses of uranium, perpetually isolated from each other to prevent meltdown?) sorry I digress: I blame the hour.
    I shall attempt to explain my reasoing concisly: everybody everywhere accepts everything on faith. Not only this but we as conscious beings are unable to alter these beliefs directly.
    The standard comparison is between "science" and "religion" (for now let's just assume we mean the religions of Abraham) so let us begin there. To start with both religion and science have their dogmas. In a religion their dogma is easy to spot because it comes at the end (x = god, x + y = god, xy^2 = god) so basically any formula that does not reach the conclusion of god is thrown out, dismissed as "not a string producible within our theorem.
    The dogma of science is a bit trickier to spot (and much harder to think of an algebraic metaphor for) but basically it is the scientific process itself. Any conclusion that cannot be reached via the METHOD is deemed invalid. Now we get to the tricky part of belief.
    A person of the scientific world view believes in reason, logic and repeatable results.
    A person with a more religious persuasion may believe in their feelings "what the heart tells them".
    The first person will make all sorts of logical rational answers as to why logic and reason are better, while the religious individual will try to express their emotional experiences. This leads to a situation where it is necessary (con't)
  • Oct 1 2011: Thank you for your explanations, I'll really take the time to read and think about it.

    It's funny because just yesterday, I discussed with an American girl (I'm living in switzerland), I forgot how, but we ended up talking about religions, and she told me about a church where the pastor explicitly said to the gathering that they would go to hell if they voted for the democratic party. I was really shocked, I felt like it was a story out of the Middle-Age!

    Maybe in Europe people are less sensitive to this issue, simply because religions don't have that much political power. But on the other hand, some politicians try to stigmatize foreigners, an part of this discrimination is against their religions.

    As a Christian, I hope that one day, the U.S. will elect a Muslim President. But not because he's a Muslim, just because of who he is, and how much he's willing to sacrifice for his country.
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      Oct 1 2011: Thank you, Mr Kebabsoup,
      I look forward to your comments.
      Now you may be able to imagine our Baptist married couples class telling my wife "Catholics go to hell."
      I have no idea what is real. We may now have a Muslim President who sacrificed integrity for a different cause.
      Louisiana has a Christian Governor, Bobby Jindal, who the Hindu community shuns, thinking he is insincere. I have never voted for him, because I do not think he has integrity.
      I am the editor, so to speak, for my community yahoogroup, with 235 subscribers from 840 homes.
      On September 17, 2011, I think I was the only news man in Louisiana to call attention to US Constitution Day, a day when We the People should be celebrated with a double national holiday. One neighbor wrote me an email, "Well stated, sir," with comments, then dialogue bringing him to the hot button: ATHEIST ! He ended the dialogue with the following, sad dismissal:
      To: "Phil Beaver"
      Sent: Sunday, September 18, 2011 10:40 PM
      Subject: Re: [KenilworthSubdivisionNews] Celebrating We the People

      "Phil, I have attempted to share some truth with you to the best of my ability. The original disciples were a pretty run of the mill lot of individuals that were all uneducated and illiterate. Despite that, they were able to grasp what Jesus was saying. They had the benefit of actually physically walking with the Lord, but all that we have to go by is God's Word and guidance of the Holy Ghost. God speaks to us through his Word Phil. There is simply no way around that. This is really getting nowhere and your focal point is on worldly matters. To do so is certainly a choice you can make. I am making the choice to do what Jesus instructed his disciples to do when they were rebuffed saying "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them." I do truly wish things worked out where I could have shared more. Good luck."
      • Oct 4 2011: Phil,
        Wow, that's really funny. So, did you shake off a little dust toward him too, or are you still hopeful that he can be brought into the fold?
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          Oct 4 2011: Onecae, Wow! You have amazing ability to keep track of divergences.
          There’s no dust for my neighbor. There but for integrity (and the discovery that the indoctrination of my birth rejects the indoctrination of my wife’s birth) go I. I must be patient with the unfortunate “I”. (With “unfortunate,” I write what I think, not what I know.)
          The rest of the story is that I answered his email, “Are we still good neighbors?” His response was condescendingly affirmative. I have pushed his religious side out of my consciousness and will keep it there if possible.
          Let me explain my good fortune:
          I was instilled with precious doubt when I was perhaps in the fifth grade. When the neighbor kids were playing sandlot baseball, I was reading one of the sky-blue bound biographies checked out from Staub School, Knoxville, Tennessee. I started reading Volume 1, then 2 and so on. After a few, I realized some did not appeal to me, so I read the first page and the last page and skipped if not interested. One day, I decided to treat the “word of God,” the same way. The first page was too much for my youth. But the last page, specifically Revelation 22:18, invoked this thought: the real God would not feel so weak as to threaten people.
          Unfortunately I did not possess the confidence to trust my own mind and heart, so remained in the indoctrination my mom and dad suffered, then continued into self-indoctrination (with precious doubt) until I was 54 and my Baptist peers misbehaved toward my androgynous other half. I resigned from the Baptist brotherhood in a letter to the Baptist Message in Alexandria, LA, with a copy to my pastor in Baton Rouge. Thereafter, I have trusted my natural goodness and my brain and my family and my friends and all people (tentatively of course), regardless of their religious beliefs.
  • Oct 1 2011: Phil,
    Soul and spirit are different ideas. The spirit is the casual identity. When the spirit generates a consistent, but varied influence, a soul develops in the thing influenced as well as in the manner of influence.

    However, take a look at my revision of the draft:

    Religion is how humankind uses preferences for specific assumptions about something no one knows. The manner in which one includes or excludes such preferences influences understanding. Therefore religion becomes extremely dangerous or beneficial.
    In ordinary life, much of what is considered religious pertains only to humanity’s origins, maintenance, destiny or other areas provided that the understanding is harmless. In consequence, religion has divided between harmless and effective.
    Dangerous, effective methods are no longer considered religious by many people. Yet, understanding how to approach the unknown remains a key component in both areas of human endeavor.
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      Oct 1 2011: Onecae,

      Thanks for the distinction between spirit and soul. Hence, in a discussion, a person can treat other ideas with either respect or appreciation. By expressing appreciation in his responses, a formerly respectful person can become appreciative. Did my metaphor follow your distinction?

      Your revision of the draft is wonderful, because it has the softness needed for acceptance.
      May I modify it so that it addresses my concern, which is unity and justice authorized by the governed (the people as opposed to those in power)? My thought follow:

      Religion is how people and groups establish their preferences about something no one knows, dividing human kind across geopolitical borders.
      Religious preferences may be helpful or harmful, depending upon understanding. Humankind evolves toward reality, and thus has no preferences. With each discovery, some harmful religious ideas become evident, yet many remain defended by people and their religious institutions. However, behaviors based on harmful ideas must suffer the rule of law, justly authorized by the governed. Since humankind is the collection of all individuals and groups, for unity and justice, religions that advocate the civic division of humankind must lose the privileges granted by the governed.

      • Oct 2 2011: Phil,
        Your metaphor is an example of transformation; the identity changed the effect it produced. The soul pertains to the permanence of the influence. The influence that remains or would remain after communication is broken is the soul. If the causal identity produces a different kind of effect, that's the causal identity all on it's own. It might make claims of being caused by an other, but that's just it producing the effect of making claims. Cause immediately develops soul. The only way to stop is to stop causing. One can advance soul development by causing effects similar to other souls. The cause is not also the effect.

        How about this rewrite – not perfect, but better:

        Religion is the implementation of preference for how to experience the unknown and integrate the resulting understanding or lack of it into individual and communal norms.
        Because there can be many preferences regarding how the unknown is encountered, religion divides humankind across geopolitical borders.
        Religious preferences may be helpful or harmful, depending upon understanding. Humankind uses understanding to structure itself, and therefore it is possible to structure society upon un-renewed, prior understandings even in while others of the same society enjoy the benefits of new and renewed understanding.
        If new or renewed understanding is not made communal by governance, it becomes possible for harmful ideas to remain implemented and defended by people and institutions who have not developed a way to obtain new understanding. Because of this risk, where humankind is understood as an aggregate of individuals and groups, the onus of creating and establishing government falls on the aggregate, not on the factions or individuals.
        In this way, harmful behaviors are subject to penalties imposed by government regardless of their origins. And, the resulting new and renewed experience of understanding for any member is preserved for all members.

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          Oct 2 2011: Onecae,Let me ask something I should have messages ago. The social philosophy you understand is so unfamiliar to me I think I am taking an unfair amount of your time. Is there a website or other place where I can study transformations and such?
          The rewrite is great, as it is. For some readers, it needs brevity, and here’s my suggestion:
          Religion is the implementation of preference for how to experience the unknown and integrate the resulting understanding or misunderstanding into individual and group norms.
          Preferences naturally differ, so popular religion divides humankind across geopolitical borders.
          Humankind continually advances understanding. religions either lead or follow.
          Just government addresses only behavior, so harmless preferences are not involved. However, when preferences cause harm to or from any person, the religion must suffer the rule of law.
      • Oct 4 2011: Phil,
        There's more to say. Take a look at this rewrite:
        Religion is an individuals' preference for how to relate to the unknown and integrate the result into individual and group norms. Preferences in religion differ and insofar as they are shared they become institutionalized. The new institutions become related in new and varied ways and renamed as their functions are changed with development of understanding.
        Several import institutions relate directly to the progress of religion and are given new names that also affect the meaning of the word "religion." These important new institutions are: religion, government, communication and science. Each are systems of advanced, institutionalized preferences pertaining to the experience and relationship of the unknown and how the result is integrated into individual and group norms. The basic primal experience of individual preference has special value, in varied ways, in each of the institutions.
      • Oct 5 2011: Phil, These threads are really difficult to track for some reason.
        The definition above seeks to include all cases of religion by demonstrating how the fundamental notion becomes institutionalized and therefore deserving a new name or meaning. The idea is for the institutions of varied names to be built upon the primary "religious experience" which is our contact with reality. The word "our" will mean two or more people. The word "reality" was not included because it's problematic, whereas the notions of known and unknown don't create as many problems.
        Do not consider it to be an error to include the word "religion" among the institutions that develop from religion. It's merely a case of one word with two meanings, and not a case of a class including itself. Much like saying our house has a room in it that we call "our house."
        I hope I can post again before the time runs out on this conversation. Thank you for hosting it, I know it is a lot of work. The definition allows for the spiritual meaning of the word, and the secular, institutionalized meaning. It is fitting that there would be an institution of religion that protects any belief you care to have as long as it doesn't harm known others.
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    Sep 30 2011: First draft usage statement, terminated on 9/30/11.
    Introducing me:
    I am a human being and member of the community of living species, primarily human kind, and do not want to reduce my association again in my lifetime. Also, I am a citizen of the United States and want to fulfill the Preamble to the US Constitution.
    The draft usage I propose after one week of TED conversation:
    Religion is a means of dividing humankind into groups according to members’ willingness to accept specific assumptions about something not known, especially humanity’s origins and/or maintenance and/or destiny.
    Some people prefer to accept that they do not know what they do not know.
    The fulfilled human is psychologically mature.
    People who separate church from state are fighting to live in peace according to personal preference and allow others the same opportunity.
    Justice must prevail over religion. Any religion that encourages the civic separation of human beings because of thought should be stripped of privileges granted by the people.
    Representative responses to the request for a definition rather than usage:

    Religion is maintenance of cultural beliefs, rituals, and ethics connecting humans to what they can't properly explain.
    Religion is a body of believers that maintains a comprehensive set of ethical and practical rules derived from mystery and unverifiable claims to obtain living that improves the group.
    Religion is any immeasurable claim that exerts influence on a group or society.
    Religion is particular system of faith and worship, for example, a personal relationship with a higher power.
    “Religion” is the abuse of popular belief for political power.
    Religion maintains the relationship between self and other—everything else.

    Parallel ideas and additional ones are in the existing conversation. I encourage anyone who wants to reiterate their contribution as proposed usage to do so. I do not want to slight any ideas. I will post the original request in a minute.
    • Oct 4 2011: Phil,
      Hi. I'm trying to find where I was in the thread a few days ago. I had to comment on the first sentence of the above list:
      "Properly explain" carries the conclusion in the assumption. If you don't know, then you also don't know if you've properly explained it. "Religion is maintenance of cultural beliefs, rituals, and ethics."
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        Oct 4 2011: Onecae,
        I have a copy of the thread on Microsoft Word and scanned for "properly explain." I only found it in my list attempting to give representative ideas from the original request. So, apparently it was my word choice, not someone else's. (I would not have thought so.)
        Anyway, I agree with you that it is circular to the premise. It is similar to the statement, "The Bible is the word of God." It presumes first that God exists, second that the Gods represented in the Bible boil down to God, Constantine was an agent of God when he supported the clergy who assembled the Bible, etc., etc., etc.
        May we turn to the revised statement?
        I revised the objective from definition, to usage, and now to view. The defintion comes early: "Religion is the acquisition and implementation of preferences for how to experience the unknown and variously integrate the resulting understanding or privation into life." Thank you.
        The rest of the statment presents a view of where religion fits in the geopolitical struggle humankind conducts. It claims that religion must submit to the rule of just law as authorized by the people and explains why. It can be wordsmithed and clarified by brevity.
        I am satisfied and rewarded by the conversation that has happened and am ready to let it end.
        Yet I feel there is more rich input among TEDsters and am willing to extend another week.
        What's your thought? Let it end after today, or extend another week?
        • Oct 5 2011: Phil,
          For continued contact use charles at yescharles.com
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    Sep 28 2011: The original request for conversation:
    There are many TED talks touching religion, but none I’ve heard define it. What definition of “religion” might TED members approve?
    The draft I suggest: In religion, the believer perceives or adopts a heartfelt concern, makes an assumption that seems to satisfy the concern, develops and maintains dogma to support the assumption, and lives accordingly, perhaps until he encounters reality.
    For example, Einstein’s mathematics denied his assumption that the universe is static. So he introduced a “cosmological factor,” rejecting the evidence that his work offered. Later, he referred to that decision as the biggest blunder of his life and thanked Edwin Hubble for rescuing him.
    In a more widespread example, many people want to secure their “afterdeath.” They employ a doctrine of “soul”. They focus life on fulfilling the doctrine.
    I wanted to include Julia Sweeney’s idea, “Not exactly sure I believed what I so clearly felt: God’s love,” but am unsure, especially considering the title “on letting go of God.” Does my draft accommodate her heartfelt story?
    I think the US Supreme Court leaves it to the believer to define “religion,” then decides whether or not past decisions accommodate the practice, but I am not a lawyer, so feel free to try.
    How does the draft need to be modified to accommodate your preferences?
    Should I scrap the draft, or even the effort?
    Would the struggle for a definition help humankind?
  • Sep 27 2011: Religion pertains to the relationship between self and other. In this primitive sense, 'other' can mean 'other beings' or 'other things.'
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      Sep 27 2011: "Other" can be a being in a supernatural world (imaginary, or intellectual construct); or reality; or the destiny of humankind's opinion; or the goal of humankind's opinion; or perfect understand of reality; or nature.
      Did I understand you and what are my omissions?
      Another perspective :-) : you could be addressing the personal quest for psychological maturity, which can be impeded by religion.
      • Sep 27 2011: Grapple with that very basic question - Is there such a thing as other?
        Whatever that is not self is other.
        Your list of first choices for what the other might be is right on. I suspect, however, it can even be developed further and whatever you eventually include will be the things you are now omitting.