Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


This conversation is closed.

“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)

        " 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 22 2011: My response can only be, there's no one religion you know. What you know is your distant view on it.
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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: .
        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 . “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 ? 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? ( .) 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.” ( )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. ( )
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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 .
      "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: . 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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    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 .
      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
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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.
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    Sep 26 2011: Anything that requires the phrase "I believe" and has no definition in the physical world that we measure and observe.

    I enjoy the etymology of the word -

    The word can be traced back to an old Latin word religio meaning "taboo, restraint." A deeper study discovers the word comes from the two words re and ligare. Re is a prefix meaning "return," and ligare means "to bind;" in other words, "return to bondage." ~ Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
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      Sep 26 2011: Michael, that is revolutionary and near pithy!
      Why restrict it?
      Consider: Anything that compels people to believe.
      Since reading a few books on the brain’s development, I have been unsatisfied with restriction to the physical. For example, consider this thought as an axiom: History shows that empathy defeats hate. I speculate that a statistical study would demonstrate a basis for the statement.
      I look forward to your comments.
  • Sep 24 2011: “obtain the experience of suffering.” One can learn to endure suffering in order to gain understanding. An everyday example is in the feeling of frustration when learning something new. As one learns, some of the frustration is replaced with a feeling of satisfaction due to the new understanding. One dearly held belief for many is that new understanding can lead to better experience. Apply a sorties argument to this and you can see we are always one moment away from suffering (something that was worse) or one moment away from satisfaction (something that is better).

    “Control how others ‘suffer.’" The implication is that one understands, but the other doesn't. One can partially control what the other will experience by communicating certain ideas. The objective is to induce a feeling of motivation that will be satisfied by shared understanding. The feeling of anticipation is accompanied by a feeling of frustration (or some other kind of suffering) until the understanding is gained. There are many variations of this technique from schools to war.

    You said, "people have the opportunity to place their faith in reality most of which is unknown." I enjoy that comment. Most everyone will agree with it, even though it cannot be proven that most of reality is unknown.

    All who think have a philosophy, whether they know it or not. All experience is religious; it's a question of what kind of religion. You shape it and you allow (or prevent) the other from shaping it - that is at points where you know how to allow or prevent.
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      Sep 25 2011: Merriam-Webster online: “suffering” took me to “sufferance” meaning “patient endurance.” Thus, “endure suffering” seems redundant. Anyway, learning is work, but neither suffering nor enduring. My language is not important, though: am I on the right definition to understand your message?
      I did not understand “sorties argument,” but Google directed me to: . Again, am I on the right track?
      The premise that learning something new is “suffering” is strange to me. The other day I wanted to understand why Abraham Lincoln assigned responsibility for the US Civil War to God. I found his letter containing the claim and saw that it was a voluntary addendum to his report of a conversation. I studied other key documents wherein he addressed “God,” plus the South Carolina Declaration of Secession and formed an opinion as to what Lincoln meant. Neither my appreciation for Lincoln (that inspired my study) nor the work to carry out the study was suffering--it was a delight.
      Here, I merely want to understand your idea, and so far, the work seems excessive.
      I am glad you enjoy “faith in reality” and agree “most” is controversial. I’d be comfortable with “much.”
      I agree everybody who thinks has a method or philosophy.
      However, I doubt all experience is “religion”. When a person decides to understand, he employs integrity to find the evidences that lead to discovery. If he exhausts hi s resources without reaching discovery, his position is, “I do not know.” He may state the assumption he favors and propose a plausible theory. However, if, with no discovery, he claims to know, he has destroyed his opportunity to understand and has fallen into religion. Without reproducible evidence, no one should believe him.
      Please clarify and share more.
      • Sep 25 2011: 'Suffering' and 'sufferance' are similar. Try 'worse vs. better.' Increase in worse increases suffering. Sometimes a little gain in worse trades for a larger gain in better.
        Sorties: Remove one straw from a hay stack; it is still a stack. Therefore, removing one straw doesn't change that it is a stack. You obey the rules, one straw at a time but, soon notice you no longer have a stack. I apply the sorties paradox to suffering.
        Learning suffering. Wanting knowledge is suffering. Learning alleviates it. I suspect you've had special training in such transformations. It is Christian. Many fear new ideas, yet their life depends upon them and they are unavoidable. Communication is religious.
        Excessive: I gave a useful definition for religion in a few sentences – should I reduce it to bullet-points?
        We cannot prove reality beyond what we know. The words 'most, much' don't affect this. Transformation of self (or not) is religious.
        'Experience, religious, and religion' are like 'dimension, space and shape.' Space is dimensional, but not all space is the same shape. Experience is religious, but not all experience is the same religion.
        Your story: A person has decided to understand (he isn't screaming or inert.)
        Defines attitude toward the unknown (integrity, regardless if deserved.)
        Defines what to seek for finding the unknown (now there's a paradox.)
        Affirms possibility of a satisfying discovery, no proof. Carries implicit risk that discovery can destroy self.
        Suggests attitude to have if disappointed: Belief endures even if current belief fails.
        Warns: Claiming false knowledge can ruin access to understanding.
        Provides moral injunction for sharing reality; personal experience valid only if it can become communal.
        Is it deliberate that yours parallels Christianity? A few key concepts were not included. E.g. you might have started prior to the decision to understand.
        I hope this provides clarity. Thank you for the opportunity.
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          Sep 25 2011: Enduring ignorance is worse than working to learn, which makes understanding better. Did I copy?
          Sorties: You have an old ship, tear it apart, then rebuild--same parts, same way. You have a new ship with old parts.
          I question, “It is Christian.” If you are saying I am still suffering indoctrination, I agree.
          “Communication is religious.” Religion requires assumption. Two people decide to talk; each assumes opportunity. P does not understand integrity--can only be honest, while T delivers integrity. T freely shares, trusting P will understand. However, P does not sense approval of his idea, so he terminates the conversation, convinced that T should be shunned. T, in integrity does not object to P’s decision to terminate. That was religion—false assumption.
          However, when two parties employ integrity, their assumption is justifiable, and they are able to reach agreement, perhaps that they have opposing preferences. With continued dialogue, their agreement increases until they no longer need to talk—they are aware of each other’s preferences. This is covered in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Circles.” If you read it or have already, please let me know if you agree it is pertinent.
          When it comes to religion, I neither follow nor want one. I am a human being and member of the community of living beings. I do not plan to confine my association to a religion again for the rest of my life. I am prepared for my afterdeath. Since your bulleted explanation begins with a false premise and is detailed, I am reluctant to study it. Maybe you can reassure me I should for some reason, for example, the point above about indoctrination.
          After much effort to understand, I think it is fair to say the statement, “Religion is what you do when you do not know what to do,” does not connect for me. What I do when I don’t know what to do is list my options, consider my resources, consider what’s at stake, then chose the best option as I perceive the options.
          Your generosity is abundant.
      • Sep 26 2011: I am answering the question at the top of the blog: What definition of “religion” might TED members approve?
        I'm offering these ideas:
        Religion pertains to: What one does when one doesn't know what to do.
        What one includes/excludes from experience (transformation):
        The possibility and actuality of transformation for self.
        Communication with other than self (transformation shaped by other.)
        By natural extension, these concepts can be used to effect transformation of other, but by necessity this will also effect transformation of self.

        You cannot escape involvement in these ideas, that is one of the reasons they are religious. You can say you don't communicate or change, but to who and why and how? The manner in which you are involved is your religion. That's not by discovery, it's merely by definition (which is the requested assignment.) Since no one can escape involvement in these ideas, they are useful for analyzing anyone's position in relation to the ideas. Everyone has a religion, what is it? Every thinking person has a philosophy, what is it? Every person creates something all the time, what are they creating? That someone claims they don't communicate with something other than themselves, or they don't change, or they don't use ideas to live by, or they don't create anything indicates that they don't understand the ideas, not that the ideas are false. It's like saying architecture doesn't use space; it's not if it uses space, buy how it uses space. Or, I don't really agree with physics, those are nice ideas, but not for me. It's a perplexing kind of statement. I see from your post that you too realize we live with some really impoverished religions. Once we know the subject, we can effect a change. I am a fan of Emerson, but I've not read any of his work for quite some time.
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          Sep 26 2011: I appreciate your contributions, even though I do not understand them.
          Only in my fifth reading over more years did I perceive RWE's "Divinity School Address," 1787, to contain his statement in effect, "You'll want to kill me when I say I think Jesus was only a man." Unfortunately, I cannot talk to my friend (says I) RWE and ask him if that was what he meant. The fact that Harvard Divinity School banished him for thirty years after that speech suggests I am correct.
          It was not RWE’s writing that changed in those five readings. It was my path of recovery from indoctrination into Christianity and overcoming the fear of admitting to myself that because he would compete with my family members for my attention Jesus cannot be my lord.
          RWE is a friend of mine, but I can only guess what he is thinking. I have the advantage that you are alive. I trust that both of us will continue trying to understand.
          Thank you for the opportunity to express this idea of continuity in empathetic dialogue.
      • Sep 26 2011: There is such a thing a pseudo-religion. Many so-called Christians do for religion what Hallmark has done for art. Maybe you should start a second dialogue for what it means to be a pseudo-religion. That way we could could separate the notes from the noise. I didn't take the assignment to mean "define what passes for religion in contemporary culture." I took the assignment to mean, "what is religion?"
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          Sep 26 2011: I think you took my request correctily. In fact, I am looking for a revolutionary definition that would empower people to regard their religion as a personal preference about which they can freely converse--no defenses, no apologies, no resentments, no division, and most of all no violence, abuse, or rejection of other people.
          I cannot start a conversation about a topic for which I have no passion or years of reading and thought and personal struggle. However, if you start a conversation, I will happily try to contribute.
          Please check the new dialogue with Sidharth Hariharan and see if his thoughts helped me understand (not necessarily agree with) yours, as I do not think all method is religious.
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          Sep 26 2011: Onecae, Phillip.
          "Pseudo Religion"

          I'm reading an extensive study on "Gnosis".

          Your dialogue brings to my mind that this time has many similarities with the first 3 centuries. Myths and practices from cultures from the East and Egypt came together in Greece and Palestine since Alexander the Great. They mixed and evolved a few centuries until around the time of Jesus it reached some consensus with deviations.
          The Gospels were part of it and hijacked to establish Christianity. This was a political act.
          In the meanwhile many different schools went on as before but were demonized by the church fathers, the protectors of the true faith.

          Faith was born on that moment because Gnosis means "knowledge". The church fathers wrote many books in their attempt to refute all that deviated from the Gospel.
          This went on till Constantine the Great used the Christian faith for his own political gain and made it into the official religion of Rome.

          If you want to know what religion is then read the last sentence once more.
          In analogy we Westerners later on named everything they saw as a faith, religion.

          In our time the reverse is happening. The church is crumbling and the situation of the Gnostic era is restored. It is the natural consequence of the release from the pressure that the church exercised on society for over 17 centuries.
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          Sep 27 2011: Focusing on a definition, “religion” is the use of popular belief for political power. Please advise.
          It will be interesting to see if your “Gnosis” study touches the other two major Abrahamic religions. I am uneasy that this conversation has neither Muslim nor Jewish reasoning that I can discern, other than the TED talks I mentioned as references.
          The only conversations I have had about Islam where years ago with PhD workers, one a chemical engineer, the other a chemist. I learned, “Phil, sooner or later you will submit to Allah, and that’s about all I [they] want to say.”

          It seems a historical timeline to your definition would be instructive. Thus, Alexander the Great (reign 336-323 BCE) references “pagan Gnosticism,” Jesus died about 33 CE, Gospels Mark and Matthew written about 50 – 70 CE and thus distant hearsay, Constantine the Great died 337 CE, and I might add “The Prince” by Machiavelli who used irony to explain the use of religion in politics yet not suffer execution.
          Noting the recent victories by animal rights activists (dog eating festival in Jiinhua City cancelled see online at and bull fighting in Barcelona ending see online at ) why don’t people who want to live in peace, with justice according to written law that nevertheless accommodates individual personal preferences exercise their majority vote or make their wishes known? Why must people who care enough to understand suffer the wars between peoples over what they do not know?
          But, back to the topic, please comment on the definition I gleaned from your message.
          (Onecae, please notice that I am responding to Frans' message addressed to you and me.)
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        Sep 28 2011: All three religions of Abraham had a political impetus.
        With the covenant Moses gave the people an identity and afterwards it was the Torah as the law that united them. Before that they were different nomadic tribes with a common tradition.
        Christians united local people with the Gospels to oppose the Jews that confederated with the Roman occupation. This caused their severe persecution. Again it is the written word that gives them their identity.
        With Islam it was the same story all over. Medina embraced the opportunity to unit local tribes under the law of Qur’an. With that force they could occupy Mecca and the same process spread all over the region to subject tribes to the guardians of the Qur’an. Two versions of Islam that gave later rise to the Sunnis and Shiites.

        In Europe after the migration of German peoples it was Charles the Great that used his version of the church to unite Western Europe and again later The Normand’s turned the church to their aims which caused the division from the church in the East. (Catholics/Orthodox).
        The Reformation wasn’t much better. It gave the nobility freedom from the church and a free pass for trade and commerce. Even in our time in N. Ireland it was a political cause as Protestants dominated the Catholics economically. It wasn’t religion but social division and discrimination that had to be settled.

        It was knowledge from the Gnostic period that entered Europe that gave rise to the renaissance which was the beginning of the end of the church. At first with the Moors and Jews in southern Spain and somewhat later in Italy as a result of the crusades. With loot of gold and jewelry they also found intellectual value to bring home. The fight between Faith and Knowledge started there and then and isn’t over yet.

        So, the definition of religion seems to be historically to put your faith into words and make into the law. Force it upon everyone and divide the believers and unbelievers in friend and the enemy.
        “Divide and rule.”
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          Sep 28 2011: Thank you, Frans,
          That summary would have taken me weeks to learn.
          In America, most colonists were Christians. Some preserved the Christianity they imported and others effected changes. Most colonial charters stated they had come to spread Christianity. Many atrocities occurred, notably the Salem "witch" executions of 1692: 20 executions and up to 13 deaths in prisons.
          By the time twelve colonies organized under the First Continental Congress, in 1774, the Enlightenment was flourishing. A deistic core of 1776 Founders wrote a Declaration of Independence featuring “Nature’s God” that would defeat King George’s God! They probably needed the claim to excite Christian soldiers to war with Christian Great Britain. Victory brought America’s obsession with liberty despite justice.
          Eleven years later, with the war behind them, another deistic core created a new nation, predicated on the idea that God does not govern nations. Following 1776 words, “[just] governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” the 1787 Founders, in the Preamble, assigned responsibility for governance to We the People.
          The Preamble to the US Constitution is probably the most powerful and just political statements on Earth. It far surpasses the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Yet it lies fallow. When the nation began operating in 1789, the Christianization of America began, and the far right continues the fight for a Christian theocracy.
          For example, Muslim-Americans in Tennessee can’t find a contractor to build their worship center!
          The founders wrote a Constitution that guarantees the States a republican form of government. But the ruin of democracy is evident in America if nowhere else. As long as the people leave it to God, none of the seven goals of the Preamble, especially unity and justice, can happen.
          I’d like to see the Preamble’s seven goals or better in use by all people.
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      Sep 28 2011: Onecae, please assume I am talking about an 1850s paleontologist who wishes to understand whether a dinosaur bone has been unearthed; then re-examine one of my paragraphs from the past:
      "When a person decides to understand, he employs integrity to find the evidences that lead to discovery. If he exhausts his resources without reaching discovery, his position is, “I do not know.” He may state the assumption he favors and propose a plausible theory. However, if, with no discovery, he claims to know, he has destroyed his opportunity to understand and has fallen into religion. Without reproducible evidence, no one should believe him."
      I feel the paleontologist is a researcher and is not religious, because he refuses to advance the assumption that he has found a dinosaur bone. He reports: I think I found a dinosaur bone, but my work is inconclusive. I do not know.
      On the other hand, he trusts and is committed to his knowledge and his tools, and confidently stores the bone, expecting new methods to be developed that will solve his problem or associated fossils to be uncovered. Thus, he has faith in paleontology and in that way could be regarded as religious.
      Does that reflect your meaning when you write "all experience is religion".
      • Sep 28 2011: Phil,
        Here's a metaphor: Shape is to space as religion is to experience.

        You do know your story is very close to an outline of the gospels?

        How about this: To define "gblygk," find several to examine.
        Compared to: To define "religion," find several to examine.
        E.g. You have to know what it is in order to find it – therefore, you've assumed your conclusion.

        Compare: I'm going to look for other "things" and see how they relate to what I have already experienced.

        In regards to your story: A person who believes more understanding is possible and has faith in a way to obtain it has already developed an advanced religion. There are, of course, more 'crude' religions, e.g. ones that don't deliver understanding.
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          Sep 28 2011: “A person who believes more understanding is possible and has faith in a way to obtain it has already developed an advanced religion.”
          I disagree with you, and have written so before. This person of faith is not religious if, after exhausting his resources and talent he concludes that he has not advanced understanding and reports that conclusion.
          Only if he (falsely) reports that he has increased understanding has he fallen into the pit of religion. In that case, sooner or later, reality will catch up and his religion will be corrected, whether he is living or not.
          The person who intends to falsify his work is not a person of faith. He is simply a liar.
          Anyone who follows him has been duped, often, because they too lack integrity.
      • Sep 29 2011: Phil,
        Reports? What?
        Who do you believe people are reporting to? Their little unicorn friend?
        A Professor? The snoopy neighbor?

        Do you know someone or thing willing and capable of judging life based of whether or not it articulates conclusions and reports them? Jesus, you really were indoctrinated.

        In what way would your hypothetical, admittedly ignorant character judge the validity of his own experience? What if he didn't even know enough to report it to your authorities?

        Your sentence,
        "...he concludes that he has not advanced understanding and reports that conclusion," reads just as well this way,
        "...he believes that he has not advanced understanding."

        I'm wondering; since, you already have defined religion as something discovered rather than invented, why do you go through all of this rigmarole? I think you should just nail it down here and now. That you say "pit of religion," indicates your conclusions are part of your assumptions. You might just start, "Assuming religion is a pit which traps the free spirit of man, which ones are the most dreadful?"
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          Sep 29 2011: "What if he didn't even know enough to report it to your authorities?"
          The only authority in my story is reality. The reporting I’m referring to extends from self to posterity.
          The researcher must have faith in his methods and resources; otherwise he would not spend a moment in the endeavor. His own curiosity drives him. His faith is so strong, if, after all his work, perhaps a lifetime, he still does not know, he admits to himself he does not know. Mother Teresa admitted she did not know.
          In contrast, the religious man, committed to what he believes, fools himself by constructing support for the idea he was researching. He distorts his view of reality.
          If we go back to my original request for discussion and re-examine the Einstein story, we have a perfect illustration. Einstein had the idea that the universe is static. When he completed his mathematical model in 1905, his report was the world’s first evidence that the universe is dynamic as well as expanding. The evidence did not fit his idea, so he added a “cosmological constant.” See online at . Einstein used a fudge factor which he regretted in 1930.
          It seems Einstein never overcame his religious tendency, speaking seemingly contradictory ideas in 1941. See online at . Maybe apparent contradiction can be resolved with his definition of “religion” !!
          Like so many great people, when faced with the question, “What controls evolution?” Einstein never seemed to admit to himself, “I do not know.” One might add, “. . . but haven’t stopped thinking.”
          In a word, what I advocate is this: never close your mind by believing. But you don’t waste your 80 years disputing facts, such as the earth is more like a globe than a disk.
          Onecae Onecae, I hope this helps our dialogue, because I can’t think of a happier one in my past (some as happy). I want your happiness just as earnestly as I want my family members happinesses.
      • Sep 30 2011: Phil,
        I think we share the same happiness. Even though you didn't say it, I'm thankful you saw my comments as a little humorous – which they were.

        Religion doesn't cause people to be vain, ignorant, prideful. Just because some religions name the conditions doesn't mean they invented them. These conditions exist for people with or without an institutionalized religion.

        I don't mind a bit allowing reality to be an authority – but you know, I have to ask – does reality include everything? Does it include me?

        The end or your story is also the beginning. What do you do when you don't know what to do? Regardless of the level of smug, arrogant vanity – no matter how one tries to establish an unchanging, all-inclusive kingdom, no matter how many new little ideas are prevented from developing for the sake of remaining all powerful – something new will come into your experience. (Does that paraphrase ring any bells for Herod?)
        In some cases, if you know you don't understand, admit it. In Einstein's case, make some hopeful guesses. However, if you appease vanity, you might get into trouble.

        In whatever case, people have experienced the eternally recurring position of not knowing what to do, especially when face with something new. They invent various ways. In that Einstein chose to appease vanity, he was shut off from the related understanding. Lesser people are greater because they choose to endure their ignorance, not for the sake of suffering, but in the hope of attaining understanding. There are religions that address both positions.
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          Sep 30 2011: Onecae, what a warm message! Thank you.
          Yes, I thought I sensed humor. Thank you for patience, too.
          Your thoughts have been on my mind during a busy morning, pondering, “All experience is religious; it's a question of what kind of religion.”
          Can that statement be reversed: All religion is experience; it’s a question of what kind of experience?
          Please consider one of my unusual opinions. I do not know, but think that souls cannot be experienced, because they are merely intellectual constructs--phantasms.
          Creating or contributing to an intellectual construct is an experience, and the product is an entity but a phantasm--unreal. For example, the gods in ancient imaginings to explain the earth’s sun were phantasms and could not be experienced. Certainly, we cannot find a person who can demonstrate the presence of a soul, and no one can match a deceased body with a soul. It seems the soul cannot be experienced.
          Yet soul is a fundamental object of many religions. For souls, the statement: “All religion is experience; it’s a question of what kind of experience,” holds for the intellectual construct but not for the resulting phantasm. Whatu think?
          Don’t forget, I am not writing the truth—only my thoughts—and do not wish to rile anyone who has expectations for their soul.
      • 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. The influence remains a part of each even in the case of separation.

        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, I did not understand your last paragraph, starting with "Dangerous, effective . . . "
      • Oct 1 2011: Dangerous, effective methods: Consider a person who doesn't know how to drive. They should not establish a free relationship with a car without also establishing a rigid relationship with a driving instructor. They will hopefully experience the transformation from not knowing to knowing, but it is still dangerous and should be treated as such.
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          Oct 2 2011: Applying the driving student metaphor to religion, the believer should stay close to his clergyman. Right?
          But what are the two areas referred to in "both areas of human endeavor"?
      • Oct 4 2011: Phil,
        Yeah, that's a problem. The word "religion" is politically and emotionally charged, fragmented and broad. The case of the "believer" and "clergyman" is a classic literary position:the believer outpaces the clergy, resulting in a reversal of positions, or the believer becomes thankful and we all learn a moral lesson of some sort.
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          Oct 4 2011: I think I see. Here's my adaptation from "Children," Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923:

          For the guru:
          Your students are with you yet they belong not to you.
          You give them your empathy but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.
          You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
          For psycholgical maturity goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

          Seem on track?
  • Sep 24 2011: Religion is what you do when you do not know what to do.

    When one doesn't know what to do, there follows a kind of suffering.

    The resolution of the suffering obtains through:
    1) Transformation of self, akin to developing new understanding, (transcendence) and/or
    2) Transformation of self through the inclusion or exclusion of something that is other than self into ones understanding (communication).

    There are definite steps one can take to obtain the experience of suffering and resolve it through increased understanding. The manner in which one does this shapes the reality of ones experience. Of course, it is also possible to somewhat control how others "suffer" and the transformations they will/can undergo.
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      Sep 24 2011: Onecae,
      I can’t relate to “religion” herein but relate to suffering and resolution. I don’t understand “obtain the experience of suffering.” “Control how others ‘suffer’” eludes me. Can you give an example to help us understand?
      I relate through this experience. I explained elsewhere in this conversation that Baptist peers did not accommodate my Catholic wife’s contributions to our married couples class; they picked on Catholic doctrine and claimed Catholics go to hell. Consequently, I wrote a letter of withdrawal. I was a driver in the widow’s van pool, Chairman of the Family Enrichment Committee advocating studies of Plato and other classics, choir member, serious Sunday school participant, and long-time contributor. My pastor received his copy of my letter and said, “Phil, for 20 years, you have prompted this church to examine itself. Don’t quit.” I responded, “It is time for me to do something else.”
      For a few months I was perhaps the loneliest person in Baton Rouge. Then, I became motivated to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. I wrote about social issues, specializing in protection of religious thought yet separation of church and state. Eventually, I thought I found an association I would not leave: We the People. But as I focused on the foundation of America, I realized that America is not only a nation of Christians, but the Christian majority had “Christianized” America and were driving for a theocracy.
      Long before my quest to bring attention to the Preamble to the US Constitution, I reiterated in nearly 100 published letters that people have the opportunity to place their faith in reality most of which is unknown. Often I wrote about the truth (with no capitals to avoid deification) and even attempted to coin a word, like thetruth.
      I think my experience has suffering, transformation, and getting outside myself. However, other than the assumption that reality exists, I do not understand mine to be a religious experience. Do you?
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    Sep 24 2011: My personal definition on religion, is when a group of people have a shared view, which in some way encompasses helping the people around them, in order to honour someone or something.

    I disagree with one of your definitions of religion. The "until he encounters reality" part. I do not believe that religion, by definition, is a self imposed delusion. While I agree that the majority of religious people are delusional, I do not see it as a defining attribute.

    I feel that most people would be happy if you defined it as: "A set of beliefs which includes a code of conduct to live by, and covers that which can not be explained or understood, spanning from creation, to death, and beyond"

    The only benefit that I see in todays common religions, is that it gives people answers to questions that they do not understand. That it causes people to believe that there is order in nature, rather then chaos. That illnesses and car accidents are not random, but planned events, to test and strengthen them.
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      Sep 24 2011: Mike,
      Thank you for sharing.
      I understand that “encounters reality” is not comforting. However, religion in general is not comforting for humankind. It may be comforting for like-minded believers, but even within major religions people kill people of different beliefs: Protestants kill Catholics, for example. Both pray for peace, yet both encounter the reality of a gun aimed at them.
      Also, there’s the question of the afterdeath. Someone asked Benjamin Franklin, 85, if Jesus was God, and he responded, in effect, “I never seriously considered it and don’t need to speculate. I’ll know soon,” expecting an encounter with reality. Did you see the movie, “Before the Rain?” A religious grandfather shoots his granddaughter in the back. He encountered reality.
      If these examples are meaningful to you, maybe you can suggest a phrase that is better than “encounters reality.” I’ll try.
      I wonder if many people think life goes better if a person believes it is best not to believe. When you don’t know something, it is better to admit it first to yourself, and then represent yourself accurately by proclaiming, “I don’t know.” Take an easy example: Is there extraterrestrial life? I don’t know. A little different, but still easy for me: Will Phil’s afterdeath involve everlasting life? I don’t know but think not. Thus, I don’t “believe.” I may know, have a preference, or not know. I trust and am committed to reality.
      Regardless, your second definition contains elements that humankind would require, and I will keep it in a collection of contributions from this talk for the next revision(s). Did you see my three revisions, which I entered yesterday? And I offered a revolutionary one in the dialogue with Matthieu Mossec.
      Most car accidents are caused by risky behavior. Contrary ideas are mere speculation. However, problems do present opportunity for solutions and some illnesses prompt behavioral change.
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        Sep 24 2011: Hold on, you've made a leap here where you shouldn't have. You're using the result, to condemn the ideal. You're saying that because people kill for their god, that it causes the belief in god to be bad, but that's not true. You can use that logic and say that because people fight wars over oil and other resources, that business is bad, and that you are evil and encouraging war, if you support or own a business. The core of religion, is different then the war. People have war despite religion, not because of it. This is most likely caused by the fact that religions are created by men seeking power. They use religion as a guise and motivator to attain that power. You can use a hammer to build a house, or to kill. If someone uses it to kill, that does not mean that it is ALWAYS used to kill.

        Many people fear death. Religion and the prospect of an afterlife help those people to overcome their fear. Without it, then the fear could easily control them. People like you and I are ok with "I don't know" being the answer. We do not lose sleep over it. While others are not ok with it, and it consumes them if they are unable to find an answer.

        Religion at its core, serves to give people an answer when they can not find one, or are unhappy with the one that they have. When we did not know about gravity and how it controlled the orbit of planets, it was easy for people to believe that the sun was held in the sky by god. As science gives us answers to questions that were previously unanswered, religion is required to adapt in order to not be in conflict. If a religion fails to adapt, it fails, and is taken over by another religion or set of beliefs.
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          Sep 25 2011: Borrowing, I agree with two questions from Ursula Goodnenough:
          - Where did the laws of physics come from?
          - Why does the universe seem so strange?
          People who would discover the answers to these questions respond, “I do not know.” Clergymen and their followers have answers.
  • Sep 23 2011: (part 1)
    It is a noble venture to see the view of others to gain further understanding of the world we live in. Conversation is as valuable as the earnest efforts of the participants. Although the definition of words in a definition maybe subjective. The active part of applying the words will convey a simple common idea. I would like to address your greatest concern for my definition and that is “Define God”. Since the general population remains lay people with regard to religious experience. It is left to the professionals of the field to expand the understanding of their first hand knowledge. This they do an effort, to allow the general population to participate in “Life Everlasting” through rituals and doctrine. This is religion and it applies to those that seek the knowledge without the lifetime commitment of study, pray and mediation. Much like other professions, they share their knowledge to benefit mankind. Our ability to communicate with God or know his nature is not innate. It is not common to the average man. Most people have not had an experience of hearing the voice of the Holy-Spirit and recognizing it as God’s voice. So we have entrusted priests, shaman and other holy men to define what that experience is for us. We have had faith in their ability and accepted certain documents to be Holy Scriptures. We have entrusted them to define God’s will for us and have upheld the teaching for thousands of years, such as in The Ten Commandants. Empires have been built on our definition of God’s will and a multitude of lives have been lost for the same cause. All of this as man has communicated to man God’s will and his expressed persona. So, yes man has defined God in every manner possible. We have had faith over the centuries that these Holy-men have had the ability to speak from a place void of any personal motives and simply expressed God’s pure will for us. I feel that this has not be always been the case.
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    Sep 23 2011: It seems to me the conversation requires three definitions:

    1. Religion uses mystery, unverifiable claims, and supporting doctrine to address the believers’ heartfelt concerns and prescribe ethics for a lifestyle; it is sustained by modification as reality is discovered.
    2. Religion is a person’s evolving motivation, inspiration, and power to discover his preferences and sustain contributions in life.
    3. 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 satisfies the group.

    Please comment and do not consider this a conclusion. I just felt some effort to summarize was needed. If you feel I have not included your, please alert me, as I tried.

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      Sep 23 2011: buddhism does not teach any sort of higher power, nor personal relationship with it. buddhism is not a religion by your definition.
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      Sep 23 2011: Hello, Adriaan. I appreciate your thoughts. If we examine your definition, which probably is shared more or less by many TED members, does it fit one of the three definitions I just entered as a separate comment by me? Forgive, me, but I want short definitions. (Your message prompted my update.)
      I have come to think the one thing humankind needs is love. However, “love” has five meanings, so I prefer “empathy”. “Compassion” is a major word among a group of TED contributors, but it seems specific to the observation that someone is in dire need—can’t work out of their problems on their own; I would resent it if someone stepped in and treated me that way; in fact, someone did that when my company terminated my job after thirty-five years service—told me I needed to get a low-paying job, and I informed him he had a lot of nerve and needed to get council from a social worker.
      Nevertheless, I appreciate your meaning when you use the word “love,” and one of the questions I have for humankind is this: If love—agape—empathy—is what the world needs, why convert it to “God.” What’s wrong with Love is love, instead of God is love? Why hide empathy by substituting a deity?
      When I share thoughts like this, many people have a mind switch that turns ATHEIST on. However, I am not an atheist. I think it is important to keep an open mind to whatever controls humankind and that I—Phil--could not be open minded as long as I was focused on God. That’s just me and not for you; you stay on your path, but I do not mind you knowing about mine.
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          Sep 23 2011: Sorry. I compose on Word and paste into TED for that very reason.
          I don't know what you are reading when you claim "if you'd come to love God." Are you referring to your God or my God? I would never turn my back on my God, except if one of my family members was in the balance. In that case, I'd be true to myself and save my family member. My God would deal with that as it must. And my God is for me only--not to be shared.
          Sorry, but I have no interest in ministries or spirituality. Those preferences are mine and are not important to anyone but me.
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          Sep 24 2011: My heart is broken just to read your pain, but you must know: every human being has their own God. There is a different God for each human, because no one thinks the same way.
          Lovingly, Phil
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          Sep 24 2011: Dear Adriaan,
          I thought "lovingly" would communicate that I know pain.
          My son died at age 19 in a head on car crash on a beautiful Sunday at noon on LA 451 in a curve that invites the driver to think it is ending but tightens up. It was in 1991. My daughters and I (my wife would not go) drove through the curve at 35 mph, then 55, and then 75 before we felt control of our car was threatened. We guess he was traveling about 80 mph—something most teenage boys try and survive.
          I don't blame God for it. I blame a father who did not read enough to know that the human brain does not have the elements needed for judgment until age 25, typically. My son was unusually smart and would have responded to that knowledge, I speculate.
          His death changed my perspective, and for the first time in my life I started focusing on classical literature instead of recycling the futile quest to perfect Bible interpretation. I did not realize it, but self indoctrination in Christianity blinded me. I am still climbing out of my cave, but the light is no longer blinding (Plato's allegory of the cave: ).
          Reading the classics helped me focus on my wife and two daughters; and myself. Any time I am threatened (triple bypass, lung cancer, substantial loss of retirement savings, loss of respect for We the People, Louisiana storms, Louisiana governance) my refrain is, I must be aware, quick, and strong, because my three ladies need me. All of us celebrate our son's life and are thrilled when a neighbor or friend mentions him. We stay happy but can be turned to tears in a flash.
          My wife is religious, and I would not change anything about her. In fact, defense of her religion motivated my de-indoctrination more than anything but determination to take doubts seriously.
          When I doubt input, such as a religious story, I trust my own goodness (and often ask my wife's opinion for another view).
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          Oct 3 2011: Adriaan, somehow I did not receive notice of your contribution and did not discover it until just now. I appreciate your sharing.
          I have no doubt about my wife's reaction to the sermon you published.
          We have accepted the loss of Stephen's life and now focus on our daughters, each other, friends, and neighbors and celebrate Stephen when he occurs to anyone. Recently, his tee-ball coach approached me a the symphony and said, “Mr. Beaver, I don’t know if you remember me, but I am Mr. Jardell, Stephen’s tee-ball coach.” I was so delighted to hear “Stephen,” meaning my son; all I could do was happily greet Mr. Jardell. His joy was abundant as well.
          One other point. Our local major newspaper published almost 100 letters to the editor and my essay for "Faith and Values" section a Journal published my speech presented at LSU. My subject is "Faith in the truth much of which is unknown." I have never mentioned the loss of my son until here; I just felt you should know. It was cathartic for me, and I appreciate the humanity in you that prompted me.
          I want to write a non-fiction book (I have about 7 chapters) and knew it would never work as long as I could not write about Stephen. Now I can. Thank you.
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          Oct 4 2011: Adri, it is a mistake to think that I feel voids (other than the vast information and the deficiencies I carry). Maybe you see some, but I don't feel them.
          Coming to the realization that when I do not know something it is best for me to admit to myself, "I do not know and it is OK that I do not know and moreover, necessary as a provision for accepting reality when I encounter it," is the greatest event of my life, beyond falling in love with my wife, an ongoing process.
          I have no idea what my death entails, but have a good idea my afterdeath will be dust and what I have contributed to humankind's quest for fulfillment, whatever that is.
          My wife expects salvation as a Catholic, and for all I know she is correct. However, one thing I am certain of: I do not want to change anything about her, especially her beautiful mind. I want her to continue on her wonderful path. I feel the same way about you. I do not want to change your mind or path.
          My speeches are long (surprising, huh? aaaaeeeeiiii), so I propose to send you one as an attachment.
          Till next time.
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          Oct 4 2011: Adri,
          Let me be blunt about this: I don’t tolerate instructions, intended or not, about my wife and me, except from her.
          If you like Genesis, dwell on 6:1. I think it was written by an ignorant, dirty-old man. It matters not to me if you consider it the word of God, but at some point you might admit you know why it won’t work with me.
          And ponder John 6:37-38. If you trust God and Jesus like I do, you will see, as I do, that I was not given to Jesus. In other parts of the literature we can read the same idea as Phil Beaver is not among the elect; that’s just where I want to be. Since I have faith in and trust my origins, unknown as they may be, I am OK with not having been given to Jesus. It takes either gall or unawareness to imagine usurping what was assigned to Jesus, according to John 6:37-38.
          It is a difficult concept for some, but in a nutshell, my preferences for me are more important to me for me than your preferences for me.
          I still don’t have a way to send my speech.
          Till next time,
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          Oct 4 2011: Adri,
          Unfortunately for me, I spent too much of my life--50 years--trying to persuade myself to accept something I thought was false.
          Now, if it don't make sense to me, I ain't spending no time on it--accept to share my committment to and trust in reality.
          Others can. In my opinion, they are participating in an art form.
          I have no objections to the vast literature generated by enthusiasts of "Star Wars," but I am not interested in that, either.
          Till next time,
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          Oct 4 2011: Who is God?
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          Oct 4 2011: Adri, I repeat, please ponder John 6:37-38, which says that God did not give Phil Beaver to Jesus. I would not call myself an atheist. My faith is in reality, whatever that is. If it turns out God exists and Jesus is God, I am prepared to meet them, if that is in my future. In general, people who call me atheist are just unsure of what they are. Regardless, I do not call myself atheist.
          I wish you would read some of Onecae Onecae's thread. I think he would quite readily assert you started with a conclusion and are trying to support the conclusion. Better to focus on what I am saying about my self instead of what you think about what I am saying about myself. That's another art form.
          I hope you will respond about John 6:37-38 with appreciation.
          Till next time,
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          Oct 5 2011: Adri, do you consider this a malicious question? "are you surprised people say you're an atheist :)"
          I consider it malicious and hold you responsible for it.
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    Sep 22 2011: Religion is as soul is an everyday word that everyone thinks s/he understand until it is questioned.

    Most people use the word religion to point at practices common to a large group of people that are doing this in the name that they call themselves to be.
    This definition can be applied to any fan club and most religions and religious indeed operate as idolatry.
    Exceptions are called mystics because they only practice love.
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      Sep 22 2011: Frans, I agree. I so challenged myself many years ago and the task helped me grow. A couple people considered my draft definition and responded, “That’s pretty good.” I think this TED conversation will produce something about which many people can say, “That covers me.” Already, we have some good input.
      I'll never forget trying to communicate with a cleric, and early on we encountered the word "faith." I wrote, "These days, fundamentalists have appropriated "faith" by equivocating it to "religion" or "beliefs" or something along that line; atheists let them get away with it by claiming they are people of reason. I proposed for the discussion, "faith means trust in and commitment to" an idea, cause, or such. He wrote, "Faith," means different things to different people. I responded, "I am only referring to our dialogue." He never responded.
      Merriam-Webster online has for “idolatry”: 2: immoderate attachment or devotion to something.
      Humankind understands that since the big bang, matter began to form then life appeared. Thus, things and life exist instead of nothing (Leibniz). However, the fact that things and life exist does not justify the question, “Why?”
      Attachment to the “Why,” may be the ultimate idolatry.
      Mystics are like other clerics: some cannot withstand their access to persons.
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        Sep 23 2011: Your/our consciousness operates from the same self source that caused the so called Big-Bang and the Universe that came to be.
        There's only one moment, the Big-Bang is now as is all that we call time.
        What we perceive (any) one of us at (any) one moment that’s our point of focus in time and space.
        This perceiving causes a change of perspective. That's how things evolve.

        If this doesn't make sense Phillip, leave it as my poor attempt to express my thoughts.

        Your last sentence Phillip, I cannot follow what you mean by "withstand their access to persons".
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          Sep 23 2011: See if I understand. My DNA is a product of 13.7 billion years of evolution. True, life on earth may be only 2.6 billion years old, but life began with elements evolved since the big bang. Correct me if necessary.

          I was subtly saying that even among mystics some have turned their followers into sex objects. It takes powerful inner strength to withstand someone's offer of or request for intimacy, and failure occurs when people, even mystics, do not anticipate and commit to resistene -- success.
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        Sep 24 2011: Hi Phillip
        Quote: "See if I understand. My DNA is a product of 13.7 billion years of evolution. True, life on earth may be only 2.6 billion years old, but life began with elements evolved since the big bang. Correct me if necessary."

        It's a nice start.

        All being is a 'living' being.

        Living isn't the proper word but in analogy with life on a planet where locally a lot of dynamics in energy from various sources interplay. In our case, that of earth, the combination and configuration of elements and energy formed life as we know it.

        Could we step outside it all what is impossible because what is, is us - then we could see that one being as a kind of holistic projection where time is related to any location of focus as space is related to the reference between any horizon from any one location.
        Both are illusions to reality which is consciousness.

        Thinking out loud again.
        There is no past as there is no future, all time is now. And in any now moment it is our own inner action that transcends any observation into another 'new' one.
        Because we can recall those instances we have memory that suggest the existence of a phenomena that we call time.

        To understand such paradigms it helps to play with perspectives.
        By example people from Oceania don't row to another island. They row and that island comes to them. Try to contemplate this different stance.
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          Sep 24 2011: In as much as energy and mass are interchangeable, I can see that all being is dynamic. However, living requires more than cells. You need awareness.
          Also, I understand the interconnectedness in time and space and that I am a product of all that has gone before and will come after and thus am now.
          “Reality is consciousness” eludes me. Perception is an illusion and integrity advances discovery, but reality is not affected by either. Can you illustrate this idea?
          The swing of a pendulum prevents me from relating to indefiniteness of time.

          The rowing metaphor seems to fail if people from different islands are simultaneously rowing to an island that is between them.
          Very interesting thoughts, so respond if you like.
          BTW, I prefer to think that before the big bang there was potential energy. Does that seem out of touch with current thinking?
          For a long time, I have thought that if I see opportunity to help and don't act, I harm.
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        Sep 25 2011: Let me start in the reverse order.

        “For a long time, I have thought that if I see opportunity to help and don't act, I harm.”
        I can’t see the connection but as I understand it if that opportunity occurs in your direct vicinity you harm yourself by not helping.

        “I prefer to think that before the big bang there was potential energy.”
        Following my explanation before there was no Big-Bang. If it was a part of development it is happening now as everything is. Little hard to get your head around. Energy comes from nothing also called virtual. To illustrate in analogy with sound. The reverse is possible by generating the complement wave of any sound wave that results in a total flat or total silence. In the same way energy or matter has their counterpart.

        “The rowing metaphor seems to fail if people from different islands are simultaneously rowing to an island that is between them.”
        In this conclusion you follow your ordinary pattern of thinking. You take a bird view and start comparing. The idea is that every sentient being is a reflection of the one being as the sun is reflected in every pond. In the example every person is the center of existence each from a different point of view (relational). So the Island is coming toward both observers from opposite directions. This is also what the bird sees without reference to anything outside its view.

        For consciousness maybe see my entry on the question of Gerald.
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          Sep 25 2011: “You harm yourself by not helping.” Since I am part of the continuum, when I harm myself I harm the universe—right?
          “The Island is coming toward both observers from opposite directions.” This is a planar metaphor; may we switch to airplanes instead of rowing? “The sun is reflected in every pond.” This is a spherical metaphor. The bird in sunlight sees reflections in all the ponds. He also sees a plane flying from each London and NYC to Bermuda. If the bird hovers, she sees Bermuda stationary. If the planes arrive simultaneously, they crash. I am trying but don’t understand. Maybe in your model the planes and Bermuda and the bird are all traveling at the speed of light and can be only energy or time is warped or something. Just let me know.
          I missed the point “there was no Big-Bang.” Re-reading, I perceive it in “There is no past as there is no future, all time is now. “ Right? Since matter exists now, and there was no Big-Bang does it follow that matter always existed, perhaps in different balance with energy? In Stephen Hawking’s singularity was the infinite density insignificant compared to the mass of the universe? With no timeline from matter to life did life always exist?
          The brain monitors many perceptions and only inputs that exceed a threshold turn on awareness. Awareness precedes consciousness, since “unconsciousness equals consciousness minus awareness.” I think I follow this, but lost the connection—was it the question of harming if I don’t help?
          I appreciate your patience.
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        Sep 26 2011: Let me approach that 'island' differently.
        If you're connected with self (center in what exist) the world moves around you. If you identify with your body (disconnect) you move through the world.
        With the focus perspective shift.

        The only thing that exist is consciousness. It is in matter and by that conscious. Without matter its pure potential and not conscious. Life is a reflection of that consciousness in that it looks on itself.

        If you like it ponder on it if not forget it. It can only be seen by diving into the subconscious part of our being.
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          Sep 26 2011: Yes. We have tried and some time to ponder would be good. Meanwhile, if you think of a metaphor like the bird's eye view that might help me break through, Please share it.
          Wonderful dialogue; thank you.
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          Sep 26 2011: Please see Onecae Oncecae's latest comments and my resonse.
  • Sep 22 2011: Phil,
    I appreciate your efforts in pursuit of a mutually acceptable definition of religion. As we learn and understand the ideas of others it is important to have a foundation for their views and that foundation is in fact "the definition". We commonly understand things as they relate to our individual lives. It is necessary to understand how words related differently to others in their lives. Using common tools such as a definition helps bridge the communication gap between our understanding and our ability to understand the views and lives of others. I present my definition of religion for your consideration.

    Religion; is the organization of common minded individuals in pursuit of a quality of life guided by the desire for a pious life experience, as dictated by the leaders of the organization, responsible for interpreting the spiritual writing accepted by the organization as being authored by Man/God, and the common accepted social conduct and moral values associated with the spiritual writings, as well as the joint effort of man to define GOD ie: loving, vengeful, patient, almighty, etc.
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      Sep 22 2011: Jacqueline, first, I wrote my question to learn, and presented my definition only to be fair—give my all from the start. I welcome your definition and will comment to share my views/preferences but not to change your thoughts.
      “Common minded” concerns me, because it is rare, if existing, and when personal preferences come out, the crowd shuns you. For example, in a class of 4 men aged 45, when asked to confirm the statement, “Christ died to redeem me of my sins,” I answered, “I don’t know. Pilot had him killed and I think God could have handled Pilot’s decision to save him.” The teacher resigned.
      “Pious life experience” concerns me because it is subjective. Flaubert’s A Simple Soul might express my concern. Read online at .
      “Presentation by leaders” is not helpful at all. The act equates to voluntary enslavement.
      “Spiritual” relates to other worlds, and I have enough trouble coping with this world.
      As long as “common accepted social conduct” is specific to the “common minded,” that’s their choice. It’s only when that conduct would be imposed on the society at large that I become concerned. Therein, written law must prevail over religion. I don’t want anyone else’s religion—only mine.
      “Define God,” concerns me more than any other provision. I cannot imagine a more arrogant act by a human than to define God. The ones who have defined God most certainly have erred, because they can’t all be correct, and therefore probably not one is. If there is a God it is not likely to favor these erroneous definitions and their authors. Followers might also be concerned. Pascals wager has a dark side: if you choose the wrong God, you may be in trouble.
      Also, it concerns me that your definition does not appreciate the end: the encounter with reality. The Pope contends with this all the time--defending infallability in light of the latest discoveries.
      I hope this helps.
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    Sep 22 2011: Hi Phill

    Shopping is the new religion, or so it is said. I had a look at my dictionary, it had a few suggestions, I gravitated to this one :•"" a particular system of faith and worship : the world's great religions.""

    I think the major point of religion lies in the "system". Like the "Lord's Supper" in Christianity; or "Initiation" in the Freemasons, or being smeared with blood on shooting you first Stag; that sort of thing. I am a Christian; but do not consider myself religious. I came to my belief after weighing up all the alternatives & coming to the conclusion that the bible is the word of God. For me this was a rational deduction of the facts; in a similar way others come to the conclusion that Darwin got it right. We differ in conclusion, but the process is very similar.

    It is true that my chosen route often involves following aspects of religious system, but that is secondary to my core belief; & if I never performed a religious act again I would be little worse off. Often the "religion" takes over, & men in frocks elevate themselves above their fellow man; but hey; it was men in frocks that killed Jesus, so I avoid frocks.

    Mankind seems naturally religious; many have 'obsessive - compulsive' disorder; most of us just shower before breakfast, but we all have something. On this site I am considered religious because I believe in God. I dont waste precious space fussing about it, as that seems to be the consensus, & maybe that is the measure we should use. If you have a faith that is non-material then you are religious; but then even some materialists shower before breakfast!!

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      Sep 22 2011: Someone said, or so it is said:"Prove all things: hold fast that which is good." And that you call shopping?
      You say you weighed up all alternatives but this I don't believe. If so you would be informed about many things that appears to be not the case.
      You would have known, how the Bible came to be, how distorted the new Testament was in translations and something about the way "the faith" was forced upon us about a millennium ago.
      If you had looked at different religions you would've found out some similarities and differences to talk about.
      A little science could have learned you the good things of the Bible end of many other human endeavors to hold fast and to live by.
      You wouldn't have said: I'm a Christian and you are all different" but, rather:"I'm human and I love my fellowmen and our search for understanding and communion.
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      Sep 22 2011: For Peter Law, I did not want to get into specifics yet do not want to be unaccommodating.I don't know the truth. My opinion is: people, ancient and new, who represent the quoted Jesus, divide families, nations, humankind and anything else the quotes influence, including Christianity itself. Consider Luke 12:51-53: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there shall be five in one family divided against each other, three against two, and two against three. [And so on.]" The very idea of influencing families to accept division, let alone influencing neighbors to divide revolts me. No lord can get my attention with these ideas.No being, supernatural or not, that suggests division of people can lead me. No matter what path my family member follows, I will never stop loving and trying to help her. The Lord that would compete with my child cannot be my lord. This is not expression of opinion, but rather a statement of preference--my preference. Others are free to support division, but I do not know how much longer the world will brook it. I do not want hate, swords, fire, and division, as portrayed in Matt 10:34-37, Matt 19:29, Mark 10:29-30, Luke 12:49-53, and Luke 14:25-26.When Christians rebuke my stand, I am comforted by metaphors that follow some of these references: Matt 10:38, Mark 10:31, Luke 14:27. No man can dissuade me from my preferences.When it comes to ideas that are in conflict with what I want to be--a good husband and father as well as a good neighbor, I trust my judgment, not ancient writing or imposition of dogma. People who can separate their religion from their citizenship are fighting for the right to live in peace according to personal preference and allow others the same opportunity. I agree with them. Many Christians exclude themselves on quotes attributed to Jesus. I think it is good to consider life and occasionally ask, “Does my religion help or hurt?”Phil
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        Sep 23 2011: Frans/Phill

        My intention was merely to explain my separation of 'religion' & 'faith'; not to poke your anti-god gene. Sorry.

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          Sep 23 2011: Peter, you are free to try all you want, but you cannot judge me.
          There is no humor in hiding under the pretense of humor. You are free to call it anti-god, but you are only protecting your cave for your psychological shelter.
          You show cowardice when you jump into your subject—Christianity--but will not address my preference to deny a competitive relationship with a reputed Lord at the expense of fitness for humankind.
          To believe in a God, the believer must turn his back on whatever is in control, which may be God, and God may not look kindly on the souls that follow a God. (Not that I think souls are more than phantasms.) So that's where I stand. I am neither theist nor atheist nor non-theist, and I will not tolerate you and your kind trivializing my preference.
          One more point. I am a man of faith. It is in my genes to have faith in reality, most of which is unknown, and no man will ever again dissuade me or distract me from that faith.
          I don't want you to change to that faith but will always be glad to share with you or anyone else how I reaffirmed that faith after spending fifty years indoctrinating myself in Christianity. What a fool I was. (Remember now, "non-Christian" does not equivocate to atheist.) If you want to change, you can.
          I offer you all due intolerance for your pretenses and excuses.
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        Sep 23 2011: Phill
        Please chill. I judge no-one, your worldview is your business as is mine. Neither is the subject of this thread, & if we make it so then we will very likely be rubbed out by admin. You asked about 'religion'; I answered honestly from my experience with no comment on the preferences of others. Frans doesn't believe me, & you want to give me a bible study. I understand your position entirely; you are certainly not alone, & I am well used to flack for my position. I like humour, beats anger any day, & a stomach ulcer is something I don't need. Life is great but too short to take due intolerance (great phrase) on board.

        Live long & prosper.

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          Sep 23 2011: Peter, I appreciate your response. and good wishes. I do want your happiness. If you ever decide to contribute to one of my conversations, you will be welcome. I am glad you like the serious humor of "due intolerance".
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          Sep 27 2011: For the record,
          Peter says about me: “you want to give me a Bible study.” Wrong.
          Toward the end of my forty-year self indoctrination into Christianity, I considered the Bible passages I presented to Peter, which come under the general idea “the cost of being Jesus’ disciple,” I concluded that any lord weak enough to complete with my family members could not, would not be MY lord. I chose my preference for me, and I am prepared for my inevitable death on that basis.
          I do not want responsibility for anyone else’s life and therefore adamantly declare I do not want to change Peter’s mind or anyone else’s mind on these matters. However, I am ready to share my preferences and how I arrived at them. I did not solicit Christian commentary, but am qualified to state my preferences.
          On the other hand, I want separation of church and state. The wonderful experience I am having on TED has given me the notion that any religion that encourages the civic separation of human beings over their thoughts should be stripped of all its privileges granted by We the People. Perhaps that will become a new conversation or something.
  • Sep 21 2011: No they wouldn't but I thought I would take a shot at it anyway.
  • Sep 21 2011: Maybe it's as simple as a common belief one holds.
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      Sep 21 2011: Would religions agree to such trivialization?
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    Sep 21 2011: Practicing Humanitarian Treatment Towards All People by All People.

    Good Deeds.
    Good thoughts.
    Good words.
    Only these three at all times.
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      Sep 21 2011: Interesting view. I appreciate your thoughts and would like to know more. Why must it include "by all people," and in the ideal world, would everyone just tend to their own affairs? Would there be only privacy?
      To tie these three commitments to religion seems to imply reward. Otherwise, what you describe seems like mere psychological maturity, rare as it may be.
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    Sep 21 2011: Thats pretty much my thoughts on it. :) The only thing is that rather than belief being supressed by formalities I think the word I would choose would be mal-nourished-starved. The thing about religion is that it is by definition a man centered instituion wich is able to be -controlled. It is the supernatural part that seesm to be the afterthought.. It never seems to contradict itself(conviently) So my speculation is that someones "relgion" is rather an extension of some sort of superman complex (ego) disguised under the cloak of the supernatural or pious..
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      Sep 21 2011: Jacob, you gave inciteful feedback. Please see if this new, complete, statement paraphrases your thoughts:

      Religion is a habit of relationship and mystery with beliefs that are unfulfilled by formalities such as worship, 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 realities and appeal to the supernatural for some sense of control.

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    Sep 21 2011: I honestly think that TEDsters approve of almost any definition of religion. We just do not approve of its imposition on others, or of one world view forbidding or limiting the world views, explorations, or actions of others. We reserve the right to criticize and argue against religion when it causes violence or harm (even psychological) and when it is without compassion or when things assumed on faith are set as road blocks for what we consider more factual truths.
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      Sep 21 2011: I appreciate your honesty, and "approve" bothered me too. However, I thought my development of the question invited inclusive thinking and would not seem to impose anything on anyone. I am still awed by Ms. Sweeney’s expression and wonder if it was religious.
      A discussion of the definition seems worthwhile if for no other purpose than to show the diversity of usage. I hope your message does not kill any passion for the question.
      It seems to me people can communicate, each with 100% honesty, using the same language, but until they define their words, they are not conversing with integrity—the work required for understanding.
      For example, for 25 years, I honestly took it for granted that my wife regarded Jesus as the Son, obedient to the Father’s will, until an issue required me to listen with integrity. For the first time I heard her: “I cannot answer your question about God’s relation to Jesus, because they are the same entity. It is a mystery, but they are identical and cannot have a relationship.” I so regret 25 years of wonderful dialogue with my bride and wife, now of 42 years, and all they while I did not understand her words. (Now, I try to listen--even ask.)
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        Sep 21 2011: Hi Phil!
        My answer was a sincere response to the heart of your question and I did not assume you were imposing anything on me. I just finished watching Julia Sweeney's talk to which you refer even though I chose to previously skip it. I skipped it because just as I do not want anyone imposing their world view on me, I think it is unfair for anyone to advocate letting go of God per se. After all what definitive answers do any of us really have? To answer your question just above, I think of course it was religious. She clearly states that she was raised in a Catholic home so all of her metaphors and images would have an underlying religious foundation. However, her salient point is that she sees the conflict inherent in differing world views and this leads her to think that her tradition's religious stories might seem just as wacky to someone who was not raised with them. She says she is OK with feelings about God but cannot impose belief on herself or on others.
        I am 100% with you that defining our words is crucial. I am not with you however, when you imply that my answer was without inclusive thinking.
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          Sep 21 2011: I think it is wonderful that we can disagree.
          I hope Julia Sweeney will help us understand; I think she is not impressed with religious beliefs yet likes to interpret comforting psychological experiences as the “love of God” (an idea she learned from religion). It seems contradictory to me.
          Expressing personal preferences does not equate to imposition. Thus, Ms. Sweeney, in titling her talk “letting go of God,” is only expressing a choice she made (which I still do not get: if she let go of God why does she feel the love of God?).
          I am open to every TED talk, recalling that “No one can make [me] feel inferior [impose their world view on me] without [my] consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt. I only regret that there are not more hours in my day for TED communications.
          Would you think that “Tedsters approve . . . we just do not approve” might seem like code phrases for insiders?
          Somebody once said to me, “Phil, you are just too sensitive.” I responded, “You say sensitive. I say acutely aware.”
          I think you just don’t like my draft definition of religion. If you want to participate, I wish you would offer an alternative, rather than police my effort.
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        Sep 21 2011: Phil I was totally impressed by your first line and utterly unimpressed by your last. That suggestion was a true disappointment when my intent has been honest dialogue. How the heck does one interpret my response as policing your efforts? I welcome your acute awareness. I do think it needs to be recalibrated because I am no enemy and I am trying only to participate.

        I will rephrase my position one last time. My definition is irrelevant as I accept all definitions are valid to the holders. I believe you should have your unique world view, and that you have a right to define and see the world as you choose to, just as I claim the same right.
        The only thing I would object to in your definition is: encounters reality. I think is dismissive of anyone who is religious. I would substitute a 'a different reality' in that place.
        It is at the intersection points of two differing definitions that my first answer comes into play. I think your world view should not have any power to impose on others, or forbid or limit the explorations, or actions of others. I reserve the right to criticize and argue against religion when it causes violence or harm (even psychological) and when it is without compassion or when things assumed on faith are set as road blocks for what I consider more factual truths. I believe these limitations are necessary on a small planet which must accommodate many different world views.

        As I wish to continue in exchanges with you with positive good will and feel considerable hostility in your replies, I will have no more to say on this matter but wish you the very best.
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          Sep 21 2011: I appreciate your response.
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          Sep 28 2011: With all due appreciation for other peoples' opinions, for the record:
          Debra wrote: "The only thing I would object to in your definition is: encounters reality. I think is dismissive of anyone who is religious. I would substitute a 'a different reality' in that place."
          My opinion is that there is only one reality. even though perceptions or awareness or cosciousness of it my differ.
          For example, no one knows what Phil Beaver's afterdeath will be, yet it will be.
          The idea of seeking "your truth" is a flaw in Stephen L. Carter's book, Inetgrity (1996). Your opinion or preference is a worthy acceptance in a quest for the truth, but "your truth" is a false goal. Recall that I am writing my opinion, not the truth.
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    Sep 21 2011: my definition is religion is not spirituality.