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The dark side of faith


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The dark side of faith


IT'S OFFICIAL: Too much religion may be a dangerous thing.


This is the implication of a study reported in the current issue of the Journal of Religion and Society, a publication of Creighton University's Center for the Study of Religion. The study, by evolutionary scientist Gregory S. Paul, looks at the correlation between levels of "popular religiosity" and various "quantifiable societal health" indicators in 18 prosperous democracies, including the United States.


Paul ranked societies based on the percentage of their population expressing absolute belief in God, the frequency of prayer reported by their citizens and their frequency of attendance at religious services. He then correlated this with data on rates of homicide, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, abortion and child mortality.


He found that the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics. Of the nations studied, the U.S. — which has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God (and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics) — also has by far the highest levels of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.


This conclusion will come as no surprise to those who have long gnashed their teeth in frustration while listening to right-wing evangelical claims that secular liberals are weak on "values." Paul's study confirms globally what is already evident in the U.S.: When it comes to "values," if you look at facts rather than mere rhetoric, the substantially more secular blue states routinely leave the Bible Belt red states in the dust.


Murder rates? Six of the seven states with the highest 2003 homicide rates were "red" in the 2004 elections (Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina), while the deep blue Northeastern states had murder rates well below the national average. Infant mortality rates? Highest in the South and Southwest; lowest in New England. Divorce rates? Marriages break up far more in red states than in blue. Teen pregnancy rates? The same.


Of course, the red/blue divide is only an imperfect proxy for levels of religiosity. And while Paul's study found that the correlation between high degrees of religiosity and high degrees of social dysfunction appears robust, it could be that high levels of social dysfunction fuel religiosity, rather than the other way around.


Although correlation is not causation, Paul's study offers much food for thought. At a minimum, his findings suggest that contrary to popular belief, lack of religiosity does societies no particular harm. This should offer ammunition to those who maintain that religious belief is a purely private matter and that government should remain neutral, not only among religions but also between religion and lack of religion. It should also give a boost to critics of "faith-based" social services and abstinence-only disease and pregnancy prevention programs.


We shouldn't shy away from the possibility that too much religiosity may be socially dangerous. Secular, rationalist approaches to problem-solving emphasize uncertainty, evidence and perpetual reevaluation. Religious faith is inherently nonrational.


This in itself does not make religion worthless or dangerous. All humans hold nonrational beliefs, and some of these may have both individual and societal value. But historically, societies run into trouble when powerful religions become imperial and absolutist.


The claim that religion can have a dark side should not be news. Does anyone doubt that Islamic extremism is linked to the recent rise in international terrorism? And since the history of Christianity is every bit as blood-drenched as the history of Islam, why should we doubt that extremist forms of modern American Christianity have their own pernicious and measurable effects on national health and well-being?


Arguably, Paul's study invites us to conclude that the most serious threat humanity faces today is religious extremism: nonrational, absolutist belief systems that refuse to tolerate difference and dissent.


My prediction is that right-wing evangelicals will do their best to discredit Paul's substantive findings. But when they fail, they'll just shrug: So what if highly religious societies have more murders and disease than less religious societies? Remember the trials of Job? God likes to test the faithful.


To the truly nonrational, even evidence that on its face undermines your beliefs can be twisted to support them. Absolutism means never having to say you're sorry.


And that, of course, is what makes it so very dangerous.




Anyone here could have written this. :Hmm:

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  • 2 weeks later...

figured I'd bump this thread up and add some from my new found Church of Reality.


This is from the Faith pages.



If people of faith had a consistent message from religion to religion, or believer to believer within the same religion, and God was telling everyone the same thing, then that might indicate there was a real source behind this faith. But what we in the Church of Reality see happening is that people make up stories and sucker gullible people into believing it. If you are a person of faith you can see this happening too. Every other religion except yours does it. Any believer can quickly see how other religions are deceiving their faithful. So by what test does one judge one's own religion to assert that your religion is more real than the other person's religion. The truth is - there is none.


Of course there are those who think that God talks to them directly and that's how they know their faith is real. They have had a supernatural experience where God confirmed to them personally what they believe in is true. The "know it in their heart" and have no doubts about it now. But - that too has a problem. People of other religions who believe the opposite of what you believe have had the same personal experience with God. From the outside it appears that God will confirm anything you believe in and everyone who claims divine personal communication with God seem equally credible.



God tells Christians to kill Muslims. God tells Muslims to kill Christians. Why can't God make up his mind?


So - is God telling people different things or are some of these people experiencing something that they think is God talking that really isn't. What if they are just imagining that they are talking to God, or rather God is talking to them. Or - for those who believe in God and Satan, how do you know that Satan isn't pretending to be God and fooling you? What objective test separates those who really hear God from those who think they hear God but don't really?


Lets say for example you are a believer and you have personally heard the word of God and you have a personal relationship with Jesus. However as you are aware that are a lot of weird religions out there who's members claim the exact same kind of relationship with God and Jesus that you have, but obviously that can't be because they believe in things you know aren't true. So somehow their experience with hearing the voice of God must be false. But they would claim that their relationship is real and yours is false. So - how do you objectively determine using faith and not science, that you are right and they are wrong? I challenge any believer to come up with a method, apply the method, and tell me which one is the true religion.

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Some of this is too good not to share. I hope anyone read will give the site a good looking at. I'm totally fascinated with it. Lots of typos unfortunately, I've been fixing them in these posts. LOL




When the Bible contradicts itself Christians start "interpreting" the Bible so that the Bible doesn't really mean what it says. Contradiction is masked by a constantly moving interpretation.


When trying to understand the Bible the Christian mind does the same thing. The Bible is full of self contradictions and contradictions with reality. Even if you take miracles into account and that God is omnipotent you are still left with a huge amount of stuff that is totally illogical, but is yet accepted as true. For example, the Old Testament says God required human and animal sacrifices just like the imaginary gods did. You have an omnipotent being that is so insecure that he needs lowly humans to perform sacrifice rituals for appeasement? It's like HELLO don't you see how ridiculous this is on it's face? An omnipotent being needing people to slaughter their children? Yeah right! But to the Christian mind it goes right in without question. The only miracle I see here is that people can actually be conned into believing this.


So - if you're a scam artist, what kind of person are you looking for to fall for your scam? You want to find people who are ready to believe anything. You want people who are already forking over 10% of their income to the invisible cloud being. People who have the back door of their mind unlocked. Someone who fired the security guard who's mental safe is wide open for the taking. Once a person can be suckered into surrendering their logic then they are ripe for the taking. And scam artists know this. That's what so many scams are directed at Christians. It's not that Satan is targeting the faithful, it's that the faithful fall for this stuff so easily because that are used to believing without question.



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