There cannot be a rational interpretation of religion...

Discussion in 'Agnosticism and Atheism' started by Ukr-Cdn, Feb 14, 2009.

  1. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

    I'm going to lay it out there, so that you can recognize any bias I let into my writing-- I'm agnostic and I think Richard Dawkins is a moron.

    I think the tonal/nagual argument that you make is something that can't be resolved by science and reason. In all scientific evidence, there's nothing to even suggest that there's a "nagual" realm, or anything like a soul. Therefore, I'd say that, as an agnostic, I don't think that there's anything like a "nagual realm," and that can be chalked up to individual perception. Individuals aren't the focus of the argument, and therefore are, for this purpose, immaterial.

    I also think that religion can't be used to explain itself, just like a computer can't explain itself and humans can't explain themselves-- it's impossible because we can't fully understand ourselves. Religion is notorious for using "because I said so" excuses for it's behavior (the Crusades, for one) and so has demonstrated that it does not have the capacity to explain itself.

    Overall, the parallels between religions (with the possible exceptions of Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism because of their lack of a godhead) are too overwhelming to ignore, something I feel justifies saying "religion of the world" instead of "religionS of the world." Maybe this is my folly, but I'd say it justifies my "reductionist" attitude.
  2. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Arrogant, yes, but "moron"? I'll pass for now on the ironic opportunity to be a Christian defending Dawkins on the atheist/agnostic forum.

    Why aren't individuals the focus of the argument? Societies are made up of individuals, and we're talking about the functionality of religion and whether or not it can adequately be explained in rational terms. From your post, I'd conclude that it can't, because you're ruling out of the discussion the inner life of individuals, and that's a large part of what religion is. "Nagual" is a metaphor designating certain aspects of human experience beyond the material, physical or sensual. These aspects would include intangible ideals or concepts, abstractions like justice, liberty, beauty, truth, and love. There are people who try to deny the existence or importance of those things or to reduce them to tangibles that can be measured, but I think they're missing the main attractions. Justice, the ideal, seldom exists in the "real" world of courtrooms and lawyers, but it's still an important concept that people fight and die for, and we can find reflections of it even in the so-called "criminal justice system" (talk about a smokey mirror!). Music lovers find Bach beautiful and intensely spiritual. (Although I know folks who hate his music. I said to my girlfriend in church once, can you imagine what Christianity would be without Bach's organ music. She said "Yes, church might be a pleasant experience". My relatives make snide remarks about mice running up and down the keyboard.) But a lot of us find it inspiring. I think people of scientific, reductionist orientation would be inclined to describe it in terms of notes on pages, keys and pedals moving, molecules vibrating, and neurons firing in people's heads, and what's so great about that? To miss the vision is to miss the essence. The terms "spiritual" or "nagual" may conjure up images of spooks and mediums in some people's minds, but they just refer to intangible aspects of reality which many perceive and find important--just as the tonal is important. And yes, science can't measure them. God is love.
  3. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

  4. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member


    If science can't measure them, why are we discussing them in a forum about rationally explaining religion? If it's "beyond" reason or science, that, by definition is irrational.

    The comparison of my argument to explaining music scientifically on a note-by-note basis is invalid. I was looking at the big picture and the kind of micromanaging explanation you were referring to is, while totally valid, not an analog to what I was talking about.

    Your argument that the individual attractions to religion fits in to my argument perfectly, by the way. The people founding the religions (much less sentimental people that you, I'm sure) knew how to attract people to the religion-- by promising all these intangible ideas. In some religions, those are actually a real goal, because it's essential to the survival of that population.

    I apologize for the comparison, but when studying a disease, you don't look at tiny variations between individuals. I don't see why it should be any different with religion-- the variations can be explained in a sentence.
  5. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    As I understand the OP, it was about Durkheim's statement:"There cannot be a rational interpretation of religion which is fundamentally irreligious; an irreligious interpretation of religion wouldbe an interpretation which denied the phenomenon it was trying to study." To exclude unmeasurable phenomena from the discussion of religion illustrates exactly Durkheim's point, for such an analysis would be itself unscientific and irrational.

    So how would science account for the inspirational quality of Bach's music?

    Are you suggesting that Jesus and His disciples were cynical manipulators of people's emotions? I think that quite apart from their impact on the original adopting population, the significance of these ideas lies in their merit.
  6. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

  7. LanSLIde

    LanSLIde Member

    That someone should adopt as similarly as possible the mental state of those whose ideas they judge seems by no means a bad idea - far to the contrary it would encourage one of the most diplomatic environments imaginable, were most capable of doing so.

    However, in debates of faith/logic i still feel there's an unmovable wall in that one can understand the components of a faith but still value logic more and vice-versa

    Or, of course, the barrier mentioned in this wonderful quote someone on the site posted (who I wish I remembered as they deserve credit for tasteful quoting):

    Being that science changes as our understandings change (even while due to scientific progress and study), do you still feel modern science an absolute truth on which we should base assertions while eliminating other methods of attributing truthfulness to ideas? Organized religion is certainly fallible, but what of other non-scientific ideas?
  8. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

    I think that science is the most powerful and accurate tool we have of discerning our reality. However, it's obviously fallible and understands that and therefore makes no assertions that it is the truth, it's just the most likely truth based on what we observe.

    Science has a method to it. Any other method of seeing reality could be "true" but the likelihood of that being very close to the truth is about the same as having a map of the universe and throwing a dart at it with a blindfold on, hoping for the dart to hit Earth. All science does is take away the blindfold.
  9. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    It makes for a good "just so" story, but so far it's not "science" but just naturalistic materialism that provides that explanation. That's exactly my point. A person ascribing to that mindset would explain Bach's spirituality that way. And they'd think they were right, but they would be wrong, and they are as incapable of knowing that as the tone deaf.

    One Roman historian notorious for his forgery. Who was that? It's news to me that there is "hard evdience" that Jesus appeared on any lists of persons executed or any census rolls. To my knowledge, the Romans didn't keep those records of all the thousands of people who were executed every year, nor do I know of any census rolls that would have included Jesus. Several Roman historians mention "Christus", but long after the event and were probably relying on Christian sources for their information. The most credible evidence we have of his existence is from Paul, who knew Peter and Jesus' brother, James, both of whom claimed to be close to Jesus. It's not much, but it's as much or more than we have about many historical figures we think existed. What evidence do we have of the Buddha's existence? Yet does anybody even question that one? Or what about Socrates? We know of him from three sources: his alleged pupil Plato, who is also our main source for the lost continent of Atlantis; the satirist Aristophanes, who depicts him as a spacey ivory tower egghead in a swing; and Xenophon, whose account differs in details from that of the other two. In the case of Jesus, I think he probably existed, but it doesn't much matter to me. I assume that many of the teachings and miracles recounted in Scripture are inaccurate. But I know that there is also not much evidence to suggest that he was entirely "made up", and I find it hard to believe that people making up a Savior/Messiah figure would make up one like that.
    Or some of us turn to pseudo-scientific theories that give them a sense of superior insight into reality and faith that one day science will surely have it all wrapped up.
  10. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

    Ad hominem attacks don't count as valid arguments.
  11. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    The argument is that anti-religion can also be reduced to pycho-social explanations.
  12. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Then why do you continue to use them? Your dismissive approach to believers and their arguments as "nothing but" a reflection of their simple mindedness and/or some kind of ego defense mechanism to make life more exciting and bearable for them is, as you put it, an ad hominem attack.
  13. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

    No, it's not. It's a rational explanation of the phenomena of religion. I said it's a survival mechanism. That means it's important to, you know, living and stuff. Just because you're getting defensive about the examples I'm using does not mean I'm making ad hominem attacks.

    If you must know, I view religion as very important, but I think religion is something that needs to keep up with the times-- religion needs to fit with what we know now, which not a single religion on the planet does. I am of the opinion that all religions are outdated and we need a new one that works for what people know and hold important today. In the absence of a working religion, people turn to stupid things like celebrities to cling to to find a way to divert them from their lives.

    Now, stop making ad hominem attacks and make a rational argument if you have one.
  14. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

    I never claimed that it couldn't be. Everything can, really.
  15. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    You haven't identified what you consider to be the "ad hominem" attack in my post. Ordinarily, and "ad hominem" attack would involve attacking extraneous qualities of the person making an argument rather than responding to the argument itself. An illustration that comes to mind is one that happened to me awhile back on hip forums, when I presented evidence that religion didn't start all wars and the response was that okies are dumb hillbillies. I don't think anything comparable is involved here. If there is anything you could have misconstrued as ad hominem in my previous post, it was: "Or some of us turn to pseudo-scientific theories that give them a sense of superior insight into reality and faith that one day science will surely have it all wrapped up." Technically, that isn't ad hominem. It was responding to your suggestion that religion is rooted in the human need for diversion. There is admittedly language a sensitive ego might take as an attack, but it seems to me the basic point was to suggest that the basis for the conclusion that religion is "nothing but" is rooted in a belief system that may be "nothing but", and if it's all "nothing but", as your previous post suggests, then none of us can be sure we know what we're talking about. but you sure sound like you think you do.
    As for rational arguments, I made several that I thought might fit into that category that filled up most of the post you took the last sentence out of and reacted to.
  16. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

    Touche. I saw your comments about my attitude and decided, reasonably or not, that they were ad hominem. They were comments about me, to be sure, but I'm not sure if comments about an attitude would be considered "ad hominem". I should look that up, so I apologize for that.
  17. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    No problem. Pacem.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that your explanation of religion in terms of relief of boredom is impressionistic. It's original, I'll give it that. At least I've never heard it before. But that's why it's not scientific--at least not yet. Can you come up with some empirically testable, refutable hypotheses that would determine whether or not religion is related to boredom? The fact that interest in celebreties might provide and alternative outlet would complicate the experimental design. Why should we prefer your reductionist explanations to others that are available? Marx said that "religion is the opiate of the people"--a way of keeping the exploited proletarial happy and under control. Freud said religion is a quest for a Father Figure. Both of these explanations have some basis in fact. Why aren't they right? By the way, I both theories have seen better days, and are currently out of favor--which is not uncommon for reductionist theories. Yet another one, which I find more convincing, is Frankl's search for meaning. Religion gives me a sense of meaning and purpose--maybe because I have one.
  18. Carcharinidae

    Carcharinidae Member

    I can, but it wouldn't be an ethical experiment. It wouldn't be short, either. It would basically have to be civilization in a bubble-- observe a small, isolated group of people over a long period of time and see how they relate to splinter groups and each other. In a sense, history has already done that (sort of) over the history of the world. Unfortunately, there's an enormous confounding variable-- we all came from the same group of people in the Continental Rift in Africa.

    Unless there's some genetic coding for the behavior of religion. That would be both really cool and really definitive.

    Both Marx's and Freud's statements are sort of umbrella-ed under the boredom theory, as well. I've never read (or heard of) Frankl's work, but if I wanted to, I could add "fear of the nothing" to the boredom theory and just cover all those bases. I do think that there are elements of truth in all of these, but, when you're studying something that is entirely a human invention, like religion, or manners, or the economy, you can never be 100% sure of the truth.
  19. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake resigned HipForums Supporter

    I think he was probably right. At least up to a point.
    I think there can be a rational approach to parts of religion, but there is always a supra-rational element. I think if I'm not mistaken that this was the position of Thomas Aquinas. Reason can only take us so far.

    In the Krishna Consciousness literature, a non-devotee trying to understand the Bhagavad Gita is compared to a bee licking the outside of a bottle of honey - isn't that what Durkheim is saying in other words?

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