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All Religions Are Bad


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I have recently read Richard Dawkin's book 'The God Dellusion' and must admit that I feel persuaded by many of his arguments against religion. I also feel that much of what is written in this book is of concern to Buddhists (even though Dawkin's excludes Buddhism from the religions he is referring to). It has caused me to think a lot about the following questions:-

1)Is religion bad? Many would argue (as I have in the past) that beliefs are a personal matter and are usually harmless but is this the case? The importance of 'faith' in many religons means that people are willing to accept things without eveidence and in many cases despite of it. They are willing to go to any lenghts to protect this faith, frequently to the point of killing or dying for it. They often see others of different faiths as being condemened and as deserving punishment. Should this way of thinking be encouraged? It is now not acceptable to call somebody a 'ni**er' but it is perfectly acceptable to ###### someone to hel_l for having different beliefs.

2) Should Buddhism distance itself from being described as a religion? I have previously argued that faith does play a part in Buddhism but perhaps I am wrong. I feel the Buddha would want us follow only those things which we have thouroghly investigated for ourselves and through meditation have found evidence for. I have previously become defensive when others have questioned my beliefs but actually it is better that all our beliefs be open to questioning and criticism be encouraged.

3) Should we be critical of those Buddhists which follow customs which appear clearly in contradiction to the Buddha's teachings? Many Buddhists here in Thailand are involved in many practices (such as fortune telling, spirit worship, and magic amulets). Or should we continue to view these as harmless.

I am not asking these questions merely for the sake of argument but out of a desire to reach some sort of opinion about them.

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1)Is religion bad?

IMO, organised religion and theism are bad for a number of reasons. But I'm not at all sure that without religion everyone would be nice, secular humanists.

2) Should Buddhism distance itself from being described as a religion? I have previously argued that faith does play a part in Buddhism but perhaps I am wrong. I feel the Buddha would want us follow only those things which we have thouroghly investigated for ourselves and through meditation have found evidence for. I have previously become defensive when others have questioned my beliefs but actually it is better that all our beliefs be open to questioning and criticism be encouraged.

I think it's too late for Buddhism to claim it is not a religion, since the modern definition of religion seems to include anything involving faith in something that can't be proven (i.e. by science). I make a clear distinction between "blind faith" and the normal faith we have that we can achieve something we've never done before or, for example, faith that Einstein did in fact discover the Theory of Relativity even though we can't understand it ourselves. Using that distinction I don't have any blind faith type beliefs, but I do take some of the Buddha's propositions as hypotheses to be proven by practice. The point that critics of Buddhism miss is that all the benefits of Buddhism can be had in this lifetime.

3) Should we be critical of those Buddhists which follow customs which appear clearly in contradiction to the Buddha's teachings?

Personally, I think we should not. It's impossible to make much progress when we criticise others.

Focus,

not on the faults of others,

not on what they've done

or left undone,

but on what you

have & haven't done

yourself.

- Dhammapada (50)

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1)Is religion bad? Many would argue (as I have in the past) that beliefs are a personal matter and are usually harmless but is this the case? The importance of 'faith' in many religons means that people are willing to accept things without eveidence and in many cases despite of it. They are willing to go to any lenghts to protect this faith, frequently to the point of killing or dying for it. They often see others of different faiths as being condemened and as deserving punishment. Should this way of thinking be encouraged? It is now not acceptable to call somebody a 'ni**er' but it is perfectly acceptable to ###### someone to hel_l for having different beliefs.

Dawkins would rather argue that faith is bad, as faith is the underlying feature to religion. He sees faith as a kind of anti-reason. And of course as you realise two different faiths which are incompatible can lead to real problems not just for the people with faith.

2) Should Buddhism distance itself from being described as a religion? I have previously argued that faith does play a part in Buddhism but perhaps I am wrong. I feel the Buddha would want us follow only those things which we have thouroghly investigated for ourselves and through meditation have found evidence for. I have previously become defensive when others have questioned my beliefs but actually it is better that all our beliefs be open to questioning and criticism be encouraged.

You chose to use the word "should" which makes this harder to respond to, but I think Buddhism frequently does become defines as not a religion. However it only takes a short glance over any major buddhist country to see how "faith filled" the buddhist therein typically are. Buddhism as a tool is used, relied on, misused and so on just like any religion. this says nothing of the "pure" "essence" of buddhism however.

3) Should we be critical of those Buddhists which follow customs which appear clearly in contradiction to the Buddha's teachings? Many Buddhists here in Thailand are involved in many practices (such as fortune telling, spirit worship, and magic amulets). Or should we continue to view these as harmless.

Yes, you ought to be critical if you value integrity.

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1. I don't think music, art, religion, sports or other human cultural phenomenon are necessarily "bad" or should be banned outright. If you don't like Coca-cola switch to Pepsi or quit soft drinks all together. But don't condemn everyone else for drinking them. I think his book tries to prove a point and picks and chooses examples to lead the reader in a certain direction. It's good food for thought but a downright unhealthy diet if consumed daily for extended periods.

2. If you don't have faith in Dawkin's dogma there is no reason to re-define Buddhism or even define it in the first place.

3. One could travel the globe telling folks there religion is crap or that their kids are ugly and I'm not sure much good would come of it.

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mdeland- Im not sure you can make the comparison between religion and choice of soft drinks/culture/art etc. Yes they are all types of choices, but no they are not alike in all ways and as such, incomparable.

Your analogy is along the lines of the following: "we shouldn't ban guns because we don't ban cricket bats and you can kill someone with a cricket bat and with a gun".

Edited by OxfordWill
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I would define a religion or cult as a group of people who have faith in the existence of metaphysical entities. This is in contrast to science where metaphysical entities are considered as speculative and subject to proof. I would also use 'faith' for religious beliefs and leave 'belief' for other things we don't know but take on trust. Although in English 'belief' has two meanings I think that religious belief is an altogether different experience.

I don't know how people come to have these faiths in their religion! Buddhism seems to accept that some people just have the capacity for faith and so Buddhism accommodates this, but that for those who seek deeper meaning it also then reveals its more esoteric side. At that point faith is replaced with 'right intention', which is fair enough. One needs this just to start on the path and to do the practices. If somehow the practices do not work for you then discuss it with your master. You may need a new master or a different path. This just to show that 'right intention' is perfectly scientific and different to having faith.

Rationalism still has a long way to go to destroy religious propaganda. The world religions are so part of general culture that it can be difficult to see the indoctrination in action. But look at some of the newer cults, their programming, and, more interestingly, the de-programming needed when they break free to see how 'faith' operates. We obviously have the capacity to be in this state, but I feel that being programmed to block our ability to look deeply inside ourselves and thereby heal ourselves is the biggest crime that religions perpetrate on humans. On this I am in full accord with Nietzsche - Christianity is a crime against the human spirit.

As for Buddhism,I think have said before that the actual meditations and practices can quite easily be decoupled from their religious. That the same practices can be found in hinduism and taoism shows how portable they are. Whether we shall find a secular buddhism, or whether it would need another name, I don't know.

rych

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If faith is a virus then what is the antivirus to cure the disease?

One thing Dawkins says nothing about, because I suspect he knows nothing about it, is the inner esoteric journey needed to turn a believer into a practitioner. He advocates contemplating the wonders of the universe. Well... as an ex-physicist I can tell you that contemplating the universe is both hard work and thoroughly depressing! Most of the universe will kill you, and the parts that don't are populated with other machines that will try and kill you! Inspiring huh?! But nihilism is not so bad, as its uphill from there :o

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If Dawkins excluded Buddhism from his analysis of religon,then why discuss Dawkin's remarks from a Buddhist perspective? Besides, who is Dawkins? Does he have credentials to give an expert opinion, such as a Ph.D. in philosophy?

Second, to join the chorus of opinionated people who aren't experts or aren't God, I don't see much difference in English between words like faith and religion. However, it may be that Dawkins battles against a strawman called 'religion' when he means organized, institutionalized, controlling systems of human domination.

I don't know if Buddhists should criticize one another, but I know that Christians are forbidden to judge non-Christians, and are commanded to 'judge one another' in certain ways.

My concern about belief or faith is that it shows love for all people, and forbids violence against individuals. I understand the Buddha taught non-violence, but I don't see enough evidence that modern Buddhists are all that non-violent.

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It sounds like (I've read neither book) Hitchens and Dawkins take the extremist view that all religion is bad. I don't see how it can be made that black and white. There is a milder stance that recognises that religion can be either/both a positive and/or a negative force in people's lives, that much depends on how you use it.

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Does Buddhist tolerance for other religions mean we should respect them all equally and unquestionably no matter how absurd and dangerous their beliefs?

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Does Buddhist tolerance for other religions mean we should respect them all equally and unquestionably no matter how absurd and dangerous their beliefs?

are you SURE you are not asking for argument's sake?

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Does Buddhist tolerance for other religions mean we should respect them all equally and unquestionably no matter how absurd and dangerous their beliefs?

are you SURE you are not asking for argument's sake?

Yes I'm sure and my aim is to pose the question in order to futher my own understanding. I am not saying that Buddhist shouldn't be tolerant and respectful I am only asking how far this should go. Is it preferable to just live and let live or is there a point when we need to say 'this is wrong'. Should the Zen monks in Japan have made more of a stand against their involvement in WW2? Should more monks make a stand about the obvious deterioration of the behaviour of some monks in Thailand which is causing many to distrust them?

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The importance of 'faith' in many religons means that people are willing to accept things without eveidence and in many cases despite of it. They are willing to go to any lenghts to protect this faith, frequently to the point of killing or dying for it. They often see others of different faiths as being condemened and as deserving punishment. Should this way of thinking be encouraged?

Replace faith with democracy and you could have an interesting discussion of some very recent history.

>>>>

Dawkings was once called the third most respected intellectual in all of England, but from what I gather he doesn't go beyond the obvious point - you can't discover God through scientific experiments. I don't understand why, being such a smart man, he wastes time on that at all - you can't "discover" God by definition, it wouldn't be God if you could see him in a telescope and it wouldn't be nirvana if you could induce it with drugs.

You discover God through faith. You have to follow the process and go through certain steps and you will see the results according to your progress. How can I take people like Dawkings seriously if they have never tried or never did it right? It's like me refusing to look into a microscope and then denying existense of bacteria because I don't believe in microsopes.

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Does Buddhist tolerance for other religions mean we should respect them all equally and unquestionably no matter how absurd and dangerous their beliefs?

are you SURE you are not asking for argument's sake?

Yes I'm sure and my aim is to pose the question in order to futher my own understanding. I am not saying that Buddhist shouldn't be tolerant and respectful I am only asking how far this should go. Is it preferable to just live and let live or is there a point when we need to say 'this is wrong'. Should the Zen monks in Japan have made more of a stand against their involvement in WW2? Should more monks make a stand about the obvious deterioration of the behaviour of some monks in Thailand which is causing many to distrust them?

Then the answer to your 2 hypotheticals ... no the Zen's should not have 'made more of a stand' and yes the Sangha probably should be better about policing itself (not because of what other people think see or react to, but because the bad behaviour of other monks in your community is negative to the community itself)

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Organized religion is the worst threat mankind has ever faced. From the christian crusades to the muslim atrocities of today. People should be free to worship their God as they see fit as long as it harms no one else. My God never wrote any fairytale books nor did he ask any man to write any fairytale books.

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Religions are primarily how man has codified his moral conduct. Too say that religions are all bad or moral codes are all bad is absurd to me. I'm not necessarily a big fan of religions but I'm far more scared of those who have blind faith that the world would be a better place without religions. I don't think it's a very intellectually defendable position, just wishful thinking promulgated by untreated resentment.

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Religions are primarily how man has codified his moral conduct. Too say that religions are all bad or moral codes are all bad is absurd to me. I'm not necessarily a big fan of religions but I'm far more scared of those who have blind faith that the world would be a better place without religions. I don't think it's a very intellectually defendable position, just wishful thinking promulgated by untreated resentment.

Do you have any examples of how religion has given us moral guidance that secular philosophy could not give us?

On your second point I don’t think anyone is saying moral codes are bad.

An atheist’s point of view is that all religions are man made so any morals derived from them are also man made.

How did the followers of Moses ever make it to the mount if until that point they thought it ok to rape pillage murder? I can see it now, down he trots with his ten commandments and says “hang on guys just stop all the naughtiness God says its not good”

The good Samaritan where did he get his morals from, he did the right thing but he was obviously not a Christian as this was a story recounted by Christ.

Let’s look at some of the things that Religion has given us moral guidance, we can start with a new born baby just look how beautiful and perfect in every detail. Well almost for it is religion that thinks we can do better that , lets hack away at its genitalia, only religion could force someone to do this.

How about Europe 500 years ago thousands upon thousand of women (man made religion dose seem to have a hatred of women) are burnt as witches, how morally sound is that.

The Golden rule appears in all religions and Buddhism, "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." (Udana-Varga 5:18)

How could it happen, across the world and across time in every religion and philosophy if it were not man made.

We may get our morals from many places but religion isn’t one of them.

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Amongst my many concerns about religions and religious beliefs, one that worries me most is that religions seem to start from the basis of 'man is inherently bad'.

So from childhood we are taught that we are the only species that is born bad. Therefore we have to be saved, or save ourselves. <deleted>. No wonder we grow up killing each other etc. Tell your son he is a criminal from birth, what will he believe, and how will he act all his life?

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Some of you people seem to have a very warped view of what religions are teaching. No wonder you don't like them. If you look far enough you will find spiritual fellowships that teach things like:

Do good, receive good. Do bad, receive bad.

Love your neighbor.

Honour your parents.

Respect the interconnectedness of all life.

Take care of Mother Earth.

Don't lie.

My mother used to think that since some black people stole television sets from people's houses that they were all bad. You seem to be doing the same sort of logical extrapolation regarding religion and religious people. I think you need to develop a little skepticism regarding the moral infallibility of non-religious people. I think what you'll find is fundamentally religious and non-religious people are human.

For the record, I don't ground my spiritual beliefs in GOD; but I do respect folks who do, or don't.

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My God gave everyone a conscience when they were born. MOST people instinctively know right from wrong. It is only when people are TRAINED from birth to hate and to have warped ideas that it all goes sour. Organized religions teach that warped way of thinking. Some may call it brain washing and I think they are correct. Are all religions bad? Of course not but where do we draw the line?

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There's definitely some misunderstanding of Dawkins going on. His position is most clearly defined in his recent "The God Delusion" a.la. this thread, and can be read more briefly in various articles and journals since 2000. I am by no means his "bulldog" but to be fair to the man, his position is far better thought out than a reading of this thread would suggest.

Banchang raises a good point about the "source" of morality. If an all powerful God willed it be so that killing in cold blood was not wrong, would the act then become generally speaking a "right" act? It seems many religions reflect rather than instruct the basic human moral core. Whatever that might be.

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Don't worry about the source of morality. Just act moral and see what happens. This is the message of most sane religious and non-religious folks. No need to bash the majority of the world's citizens in the last several thousand years. I'm sure there are some folks who believe what Dawkins writes religiously and others who keep an open mind and heart. It's all good!

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Don't worry about the source of morality. Just act moral and see what happens. This is the message of most sane religious and non-religious folks. No need to bash the majority of the world's citizens in the last several thousand years. I'm sure there are some folks who believe what Dawkins writes religiously and others who keep an open mind and heart. It's all good!

Mdeland, a point that Dawkins makes, and with which I tend to agree with, is that the books used by some of the major religions contain a god who can best be described as psychopathically deranged (e.g. asking people to sacrifice their kids to demonstrate their devotion). The argument is that this may not be the best place for people to be getting their morals from. He also argues that there are some very moral atheists.

I agree that Dawkins has an 'axe to grind' and needs to be taking with 'a pinch of salt'.

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As a Christian pacifist, I find that even the most vile God-haters and enemies of organized religion do not argue against the direct teachings of the Christ, or of the Buddha. I say, forget what warped ideas the organized, violent, psychopathic leadership has twisted the teachings; just read the teachings yourself and see what they say.

Personally I object to the title of this topic: 'all religons are bad.' That states that Buddhism is bad, unless by some technicality Buddhism is not a religon, in which case is the subject off topic?

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There are many who argue that Buddhism is not a religion, especially when you define religion as, ' ...the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power ,esp personal God...' (Oxford American Dictionary). Buddhism is usually viewed as being godless and the Buddha denied the existence of a supreme God.

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As a Christian pacifist, I find that even the most vile God-haters and enemies of organized religion do not argue against the direct teachings of the Christ, or of the Buddha. I say, forget what warped ideas the organized, violent, psychopathic leadership has twisted the teachings; just read the teachings yourself and see what they say.

There is dispute as to what the 'direct teachings' of Christ and Buddha are, so it is impossible to do as you ask.

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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James is a wonderful book that traces many ways in which man has sought the spiritual and explored the "divine" throughout human history. From peyote rituals to spirit worship, the transcendent religious experience cannot, in my opinion, be reduced by logic-lovers into mere psychosis anymore than Art, Music and Poetry can. Logic is an interesting tool to use upon occasion, but a one-tool tool box is well, boring and often useless.

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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James is a wonderful book that traces many ways in which man has sought the spiritual and explored the "divine" throughout human history. From peyote rituals to spirit worship, the transcendent religious experience cannot, in my opinion, be reduced by logic-lovers into mere psychosis anymore than Art, Music and Poetry can. Logic is an interesting tool to use upon occasion, but a one-tool tool box is well, boring and often useless.

Logic is also not an interesting tool to be used only upon occasion--reason and logic are essential tools of human kind. For too long religions have been ascendant and have squelched reason with ridiculous suppositions that they ask their followers to accept on faith, for example old men who live in the sky. It is a fairly recent phenomenon that it is safe to openly declare a lack of faith without fear of being killed by the faithful. In fact, there are still many places in the world where it remains dangerous.

And if you think that religious people are the only ones who can appreciate a painting by Van Gogh or a Bach cantata, you are completely wrong. Being a person of reason does not preclude any such thing. Nor does it preclude appreciating the real world. In the words of one great physicist, Richard Feynman:

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars— mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is 'mere'. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination— stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern— of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent. (Footnote in The Feynman Lectures on Physics)

Logic and reasoning are far from a boring one-tool toolbox.

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I think one of the problems the logic-lovers have is that many poets of the religious persuasion speak and write in parable and metaphor. When one interprets this purely logically one misses the entire point. There are aspects of human experience that either can't or needn't be described by logical deduction or reduction. Sometimes, you just have to throw up your hands and say, "Far out, man!" No need for endless explanations.

Here's a series of definitions of the word "religion" from www.dictionary.com that perhaps can enlighten our discussion:

1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. 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.

6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.

8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow.

—Idiom9. get religion, Informal. a. to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices.

b. to resolve to mend one's errant ways: The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Origin: 1150–1200; ME religioun (< OF religion) < L religiōn- (s. of religiō) conscientiousness, piety, equiv. to relig(āre) to tie, fasten (re- re- + ligāre to bind, tie; cf. ligament) + -iōn- -ion; cf. rely]

Edited by mdeland
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I think one of the problems the logic-lovers have is that many poets of the religious persuasion speak and write in parable and metaphor. When one interprets this purely logically one misses the entire point. There are aspects of human experience that either can't or needn't be described by logical deduction or reduction. Sometimes, you just have to throw up your hands and say, "Far out, man!" No need for endless explanations.

'Logic lovers,' if such beasts really exist, are no less capable of throwing up their hands and saying "Far out, man!" than 'logic haters.' :o (Yes, I know using the term 'logic haters' is rather unfair, but so is the the term 'logic lovers.')

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