TED Conversations

Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


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

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


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    Sep 26 2011: I agree that empathy can defeats hate, but consider that empathy is subjective to the wider ideology of the group or society. Empathy is an evolutionary response with positive outcomes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Another itteration...

        A formed group or identity based around immeasurable claims.

        This gives it the needed object.
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          Sep 27 2011: I understand your points and support your definition as it stands. If you are like me, you don't stop thinking, so if something occurs to you, please express it—if not here in a new conversation.
          One point I'd like to share: In other conversations (e.g., see Juliette Zahn or Onecae Onecae) I cite "psychological maturity," which pertains to each individual. I think each person has duty to self, recognized or not, to strive for psychological maturity within the 80 or so years he/she lives. The information an individual may consider is staggering in scope. The ideal is to contribute to mankind’s “psychological development,” quoting you.
          During each lifetime, humankind is also maturing, or each individual lives during a segment of humankind’s development toward psychological maturity. I want a revolutionary change in humankind’s psychological maturity. It seems to me you and some others in this conversation are working on it.
          Please comment.
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          Sep 28 2011: Ooops! I missed this in my review work: "A formed group or identity based around immeasurable claims."
          What's in my intro now is: "Religion is any immeasurable claim that exerts influence on a group or society."
          I want to change it to your latest statement, "A formed group or identity based around immeasurable claims."
          Do you want me to, or is there somthing else?
          Sorry for the inconvenience.

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