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Cultural Traditions and Narrative. 

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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05 May 2019 08:43
 

Frequently when the subject of religion comes up in popular culture the proposition is made that we can and should preserve the good parts and eliminate the bad parts. Not throw the baby out with the bathwater is a common phrase. A similar conversation happens when considering more general problems in the context of a national dispute or clash of cultures. One group has traditions and ceremonies that cannot be integrated into the moral fabric of the other and vice a versa. There is this idea that some benign and compromised version of one or more cultures might cohabitate. I think this does happen organically in places. Large metropolitan areas are often culturally diverse and the diversity is, in many ways peaceful and prosperous.

What I’m curious about is how deliberate and organized can this be? Can we really reverse engineer traditional arrangements at large scales? I feel like doing this with military intervention and/or legislation has been dramatically unsuccessful. Doing it with markets is occasionally successful. Mostly it has to just find a groove on its own. Or not.

I’ll just use religion as the easiest working example but there are many. Many people identify as culturally (some religion) while maintaining that they believe in some set of set of secular values like social democracy. Their metaphysical commitment isn’t especially important here. They might be privately devout or not. What matters is that their behavior reflects a desire for world citizenship. Many scientists, for instance deliberately do not broadcast their private religious convictions or practice. They collaborate with other scientists who may or may not agree on those issues and defend the scientific discourse from tangents. They understand that it’s best kept separate.

My hope and desire is that traditions can be preserved and rescued from the more toxic elements of their origin. I’d like to continue to celebrate holidays and preserve historical sites and let people feel comfortable in their traditional habits. My fear is that this isn’t separable. It could be that rituals and stories that emerged from what we would now consider barbaric behavior will persistently provoke that behavior.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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06 May 2019 13:28
 

My hope and desire is that traditions can be preserved and rescued from the more toxic elements of their origin. I’d like to continue to celebrate holidays and preserve historical sites and let people feel comfortable in their traditional habits. My fear is that this isn’t separable. It could be that rituals and stories that emerged from what we would now consider barbaric behavior will persistently provoke that behavior.

You mention religion as an example here (is that your intent?), but which religion has “toxic origins” in “barbaric behavior,” and how are their stories any more or less prone to barbarism than “revolution for ideal state” or “justice for the oppressed?”  In any case, you might find Robert Fogel’s The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism reassuring, if you’re worried principally about the toxic effects of religion (at least in the US).  Religion has played no small role in the march of social progress in this country, and it may still.

Can we really reverse engineer traditional arrangements at large scales?  I feel like doing this with military intervention and/or legislation has been dramatically unsuccessful.

Actually, this was dramatically successful in both post-war Germany and Japan.  The mitigating factor there was probably the total destruction of the prior way of life and the more or less benign way in which the new one was installed.  In fact, the root the liberal democratic state took in societies where no stable tradition for one existed goes a long way to suggesting it is a viable option for the organization of societies.  But, absent beating the shit out of a people captivated by a bad form of government, engineering by military intervention and legislation has been, yes, dramatically unsuccessful (see Iraq and Afghanistan, two catastrophic failures).

For my part I think arranging these things from the top down with any specificity is like trying to arrange friendships in a classroom.  At best you can provide the facilitating conditions for them to emerge, but engineering specific ones seems ridiculous.  Yet there is no shortage of new actors who think that they have the answer on how to do the equivalent in society at large, and the futility of their “solutions” can be inversely measured against the violence with which they are imposed (in the US, it’s ruining lives and careers, not actually killing people—so symbolic murder, not literal).

 

[ Edited: 06 May 2019 13:33 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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06 May 2019 18:21
 

A helpful way to approach this might be to ensure egalitarian laws and social structures are in place to preserve traditions, customs and heritage sites (the good bits) while ensuring that groups are prevented from violating the egalitarian rights and privileges of others outside of their traditions, customs and sites.

A modicum of obey the laws of the land to help prevent the harmful traditions and customs might also be a nice touch.

This way all the traditions personally held ( that don’t hurt or negatively affect others)  can be followed to a citizenry’s heart’s content, so long as they aren’t bugging other citizens.  And under-cover ugliness can be prevented/punished - so we don’t end up with ‘traditional involuntary amputation’....etc…

[ Edited: 06 May 2019 18:24 by Jefe]
 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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06 May 2019 23:05
 

 

 


Religion is a throwaway example here. It could any number of other things. It’s just common and requires less exposition than other examples. I understand that religions are diverse and complicated.

I do think there is an arc toward peaceful cohabitation. I think it’s not unreasonable given analysis of certain global indexes. I do believe that people do generally have more common interests and common sensibilities than they have intractable differences. It’s sad to me that our attention so infrequently acknowledges this. Conflict seems to stimulate our imagination in ways that cooperation does not.

I guess my enfolded question that I forgot to ask is whether or not traditions with a toxic element/origin can be remodeled into something truly benign? I think we have to believe that to have real hope for civilization. Still, I think there some evidence that poisons linger. Things like human sacrifice, witch burning and cannibalism are largely considered barbaric and antiquated by most world cultures but homage to stuff like persists in ceremonies we still perform. I don’t think that a majority of Catholics are actually likely to eat human flesh but I am concerned the metaphor even in ritual could be informing and preserving some harmful intuitions. Again, not picking on Catholics deliberately. It’s just a widely familiar example.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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07 May 2019 03:11
 

I’m still not seeing where you are coming from, or where you are going here, nor do I see how religion is “common” and “requires less exposition” than other examples.  What, again, are these examples, and how, exactly, does religion so obviously emerge from toxic or barbaric elements that need to be overcome, as you seem to be presuming it does?  And, what harmful intuitions could be fostered here?  Witch burning, human sacrifice, and cannibalism are such hyperbolic and uninformative examples that I’m surprised you bring them up. 

Unless I was misinformed, Christianity has its social and historic origin as a religion of salvation and hope for the oppressed or the otherwise underclass in Rome, a fact not lost on defenders of the faith like Terry Eagleton, who against the New Atheists notes that its message of communal love, non-violence, and dignity of the down trodden make it an almost ideal engine for social reform (which is probably why in this country it has been one).  Why not focus on that instead of worrying over horrors whose causal factors are virtually—and in the West totally—extinct? 

To take just one example of how your apparent line of questioning puzzles me, pace Harris, the Inquisition is no more endemic to the truth of Christianity than the gulags, purges and death squads of Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Min are endemic to the truth in Marx (I use this example specifically because both phenomena are parallel secular and religious behaviors, sharing a common root). Instead, as I see it, forced conformity within the group and the hostility to members of the out-group correlative to cohesion of the in-group is the hurdle religious thinking has to overcome, not any side-show horrors of its ancestry.  And this hurdle is not unique to religion, and whether it especially afflicts religion is debatable.

To your point of “an arc toward peaceful cohabitation,” the ecumenical movement in the world religions has been alive as long as I have been alive, albeit not nearly lively enough, perhaps, in the places where it is needed most. 

[ Edited: 07 May 2019 03:15 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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07 May 2019 06:07
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 03:11 AM

I’m still not seeing where you are coming from, or where you are going here, nor do I see how religion is “common” and “requires less exposition” than other examples.  What, again, are these examples, and how, exactly, does religion so obviously emerge from toxic or barbaric elements that need to be overcome, as you seem to be presuming it does?  And, what harmful intuitions could be fostered here?  Witch burning, human sacrifice, and cannibalism are such hyperbolic and uninformative examples that I’m surprised you bring them up. 

Unless I was misinformed, Christianity has its social and historic origin as a religion of salvation and hope for the oppressed or the otherwise underclass in Rome, a fact not lost on defenders of the faith like Terry Eagleton, who against the New Atheists notes that its message of communal love, non-violence, and dignity of the down trodden make it an almost ideal engine for social reform (which is probably why in this country it has been one).  Why not focus on that instead of worrying over horrors whose causal factors are virtually—and in the West totally—extinct? 

To take just one example of how your apparent line of questioning puzzles me, pace Harris, the Inquisition is no more endemic to the truth of Christianity than the gulags, purges and death squads of Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Min are endemic to the truth in Marx (I use this example specifically because both phenomena are parallel secular and religious behaviors, sharing a common root). Instead, as I see it, forced conformity within the group and the hostility to members of the out-group correlative to cohesion of the in-group is the hurdle religious thinking has to overcome, not any side-show horrors of its ancestry.  And this hurdle is not unique to religion, and whether it especially afflicts religion is debatable.

To your point of “an arc toward peaceful cohabitation,” the ecumenical movement in the world religions has been alive as long as I have been alive, albeit not nearly lively enough, perhaps, in the places where it is needed most.

Are you saying that religions don’t influence people’s attitudes and habitual ways after they stop being religious?

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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07 May 2019 06:21
 
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 06:07 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 03:11 AM

I’m still not seeing where you are coming from, or where you are going here, nor do I see how religion is “common” and “requires less exposition” than other examples.  What, again, are these examples, and how, exactly, does religion so obviously emerge from toxic or barbaric elements that need to be overcome, as you seem to be presuming it does?  And, what harmful intuitions could be fostered here?  Witch burning, human sacrifice, and cannibalism are such hyperbolic and uninformative examples that I’m surprised you bring them up. 

Unless I was misinformed, Christianity has its social and historic origin as a religion of salvation and hope for the oppressed or the otherwise underclass in Rome, a fact not lost on defenders of the faith like Terry Eagleton, who against the New Atheists notes that its message of communal love, non-violence, and dignity of the down trodden make it an almost ideal engine for social reform (which is probably why in this country it has been one).  Why not focus on that instead of worrying over horrors whose causal factors are virtually—and in the West totally—extinct? 

To take just one example of how your apparent line of questioning puzzles me, pace Harris, the Inquisition is no more endemic to the truth of Christianity than the gulags, purges and death squads of Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Min are endemic to the truth in Marx (I use this example specifically because both phenomena are parallel secular and religious behaviors, sharing a common root). Instead, as I see it, forced conformity within the group and the hostility to members of the out-group correlative to cohesion of the in-group is the hurdle religious thinking has to overcome, not any side-show horrors of its ancestry.  And this hurdle is not unique to religion, and whether it especially afflicts religion is debatable.

To your point of “an arc toward peaceful cohabitation,” the ecumenical movement in the world religions has been alive as long as I have been alive, albeit not nearly lively enough, perhaps, in the places where it is needed most.

Are you saying that religions don’t influence people’s attitudes and habitual ways after they stop being religious?

No.

 
Garret
 
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Garret
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07 May 2019 06:36
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 03:11 AM

I’m still not seeing where you are coming from, or where you are going here, nor do I see how religion is “common” and “requires less exposition” than other examples.  What, again, are these examples, and how, exactly, does religion so obviously emerge from toxic or barbaric elements that need to be overcome, as you seem to be presuming it does?  And, what harmful intuitions could be fostered here?  Witch burning, human sacrifice, and cannibalism are such hyperbolic and uninformative examples that I’m surprised you bring them up. 

Unless I was misinformed, Christianity has its social and historic origin as a religion of salvation and hope for the oppressed or the otherwise underclass in Rome, a fact not lost on defenders of the faith like Terry Eagleton, who against the New Atheists notes that its message of communal love, non-violence, and dignity of the down trodden make it an almost ideal engine for social reform (which is probably why in this country it has been one).  Why not focus on that instead of worrying over horrors whose causal factors are virtually—and in the West totally—extinct? 

To take just one example of how your apparent line of questioning puzzles me, pace Harris, the Inquisition is no more endemic to the truth of Christianity than the gulags, purges and death squads of Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Min are endemic to the truth in Marx (I use this example specifically because both phenomena are parallel secular and religious behaviors, sharing a common root). Instead, as I see it, forced conformity within the group and the hostility to members of the out-group correlative to cohesion of the in-group is the hurdle religious thinking has to overcome, not any side-show horrors of its ancestry.  And this hurdle is not unique to religion, and whether it especially afflicts religion is debatable.

To your point of “an arc toward peaceful cohabitation,” the ecumenical movement in the world religions has been alive as long as I have been alive, albeit not nearly lively enough, perhaps, in the places where it is needed most.

I find the argument that religion has been a progressive force for social change unconvincing.  In every example I can think of where religion has been on the side of “good” it has also been on the side of “bad.”  For example the religious leaders of the English abolition movement are often touted as an example of how much good religion can do.  Whenever someone uses that example the immediate thought I have is how do they explain away the fact that the entire rest of the country was also religious?  It’s like pointing at the winner of a marathon and saying that they won because they were wearing shoes, which ignores the fact that 99% of all the other runners were also wearing shoes.

I do think that all of this is evidence that religion is neither the root cause nor the solution to our problems though.  More likely that religion is a by product of human social structures.  The answer to how these solutions actually do come about will be found in how those structures change over time.  Further evidence of this can be seen in how religion changes over time.  Religion doesn’t prevent or solve problems quickly, but rather does so at whatever pace society changes at.

I think of it this way, there’s psychological experimentation that has proven our brain makes a decision before we are even consciously aware of it.  Our brain then finds rationalizations for those decisions to help explain them.  Religion is not the catalyst of change, but rather a rationalization for why change is necessary (on the opposite side, it is always a rationalization for those who refuse to change as well).

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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07 May 2019 06:44
 

It’s like pointing at the winner of a marathon and saying that they won because they were wearing shoes, which ignores the fact that 99% of all the other runners were also wearing shoes.

No, it’s like pointing out that the one who won the marathon believes his or her way of training made the difference, even though everyone in the marathon thinks their training is necessary, and many more or less train the same way.  And no sensible runner thinks their training was the sole factor.  So with religion and social change.

Religion is not the catalyst of change, but rather a rationalization for why change is necessary.

What’s the difference?

I agree on the dual conservative and liberal tendencies of religious belief.  It can of course fortify both the status quo and lead to change.  I just don’t see how this duality means it can’t be a force for either, since it clearly operates as a force for both.

 

[ Edited: 07 May 2019 09:43 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
nonverbal
 
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07 May 2019 07:58
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 06:21 AM
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 06:07 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 03:11 AM

I’m still not seeing where you are coming from, or where you are going here, nor do I see how religion is “common” and “requires less exposition” than other examples.  What, again, are these examples, and how, exactly, does religion so obviously emerge from toxic or barbaric elements that need to be overcome, as you seem to be presuming it does?  And, what harmful intuitions could be fostered here?  Witch burning, human sacrifice, and cannibalism are such hyperbolic and uninformative examples that I’m surprised you bring them up. 

Unless I was misinformed, Christianity has its social and historic origin as a religion of salvation and hope for the oppressed or the otherwise underclass in Rome, a fact not lost on defenders of the faith like Terry Eagleton, who against the New Atheists notes that its message of communal love, non-violence, and dignity of the down trodden make it an almost ideal engine for social reform (which is probably why in this country it has been one).  Why not focus on that instead of worrying over horrors whose causal factors are virtually—and in the West totally—extinct? 

To take just one example of how your apparent line of questioning puzzles me, pace Harris, the Inquisition is no more endemic to the truth of Christianity than the gulags, purges and death squads of Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Min are endemic to the truth in Marx (I use this example specifically because both phenomena are parallel secular and religious behaviors, sharing a common root). Instead, as I see it, forced conformity within the group and the hostility to members of the out-group correlative to cohesion of the in-group is the hurdle religious thinking has to overcome, not any side-show horrors of its ancestry.  And this hurdle is not unique to religion, and whether it especially afflicts religion is debatable.

To your point of “an arc toward peaceful cohabitation,” the ecumenical movement in the world religions has been alive as long as I have been alive, albeit not nearly lively enough, perhaps, in the places where it is needed most.

Are you saying that religions don’t influence people’s attitudes and habitual ways after they stop being religious?

No.

Is every religiously derived habit and attitude positive in your opinion?

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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07 May 2019 09:34
 
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 07:58 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 06:21 AM
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 06:07 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 03:11 AM

I’m still not seeing where you are coming from, or where you are going here, nor do I see how religion is “common” and “requires less exposition” than other examples.  What, again, are these examples, and how, exactly, does religion so obviously emerge from toxic or barbaric elements that need to be overcome, as you seem to be presuming it does?  And, what harmful intuitions could be fostered here?  Witch burning, human sacrifice, and cannibalism are such hyperbolic and uninformative examples that I’m surprised you bring them up. 

Unless I was misinformed, Christianity has its social and historic origin as a religion of salvation and hope for the oppressed or the otherwise underclass in Rome, a fact not lost on defenders of the faith like Terry Eagleton, who against the New Atheists notes that its message of communal love, non-violence, and dignity of the down trodden make it an almost ideal engine for social reform (which is probably why in this country it has been one).  Why not focus on that instead of worrying over horrors whose causal factors are virtually—and in the West totally—extinct? 

To take just one example of how your apparent line of questioning puzzles me, pace Harris, the Inquisition is no more endemic to the truth of Christianity than the gulags, purges and death squads of Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Min are endemic to the truth in Marx (I use this example specifically because both phenomena are parallel secular and religious behaviors, sharing a common root). Instead, as I see it, forced conformity within the group and the hostility to members of the out-group correlative to cohesion of the in-group is the hurdle religious thinking has to overcome, not any side-show horrors of its ancestry.  And this hurdle is not unique to religion, and whether it especially afflicts religion is debatable.

To your point of “an arc toward peaceful cohabitation,” the ecumenical movement in the world religions has been alive as long as I have been alive, albeit not nearly lively enough, perhaps, in the places where it is needed most.

Are you saying that religions don’t influence people’s attitudes and habitual ways after they stop being religious?

No.

Is every religiously derived habit and attitude positive in your opinion?

No, and not just because I’m wary of universals regarding something as amorphous as religious belief, but because we have bona fide examples of religiously derived attitudes and habits that are morally toxic.  If you want something along the lines of a universal from me, I guess it might be that religious belief represents the repository of inclusive ends one holds most dear, absent having or needing evidentiary justification for them, leaving it aside whether those ideals or ends are morally beneficial or morally destructive.  But that would be a generic statement that doesn’t say much, and it would require more elaboration that is a work in progress as we speak.

 

[ Edited: 07 May 2019 09:39 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
nonverbal
 
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07 May 2019 12:05
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 09:34 AM

. . . If you want something along the lines of a universal from me, . . .

I have a feeling you know that’s not what I’m looking for. But I’ll stop pestering you now.

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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07 May 2019 13:13
 
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 12:05 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 09:34 AM

. . . If you want something along the lines of a universal from me, . . .

I have a feeling you know that’s not what I’m looking for. But I’ll stop pestering you now.

No, I really don’t know what you are looking for.  My answer was sincere, and I didn’t think you were pestering.  I took you for asking direct questions the answers to which would make my position more clear, given some unspoken concern you had.  So what is that concern?  What are you looking for?

 

[ Edited: 07 May 2019 13:18 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
nonverbal
 
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07 May 2019 13:29
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 01:13 PM
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 12:05 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 09:34 AM

. . . If you want something along the lines of a universal from me, . . .

I have a feeling you know that’s not what I’m looking for. But I’ll stop pestering you now.

No, I really don’t know what you are looking for.  My answer was sincere, and I didn’t think you were pestering.  I took you for asking direct questions the answers to which would make my position more clear, given some unspoken concern you had.  So what is that concern?  What are you looking for?

Just asking questions. Nothing to be concerned about.

 

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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07 May 2019 13:30
 
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 01:29 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 01:13 PM
nonverbal - 07 May 2019 12:05 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 09:34 AM

. . . If you want something along the lines of a universal from me, . . .

I have a feeling you know that’s not what I’m looking for. But I’ll stop pestering you now.

No, I really don’t know what you are looking for.  My answer was sincere, and I didn’t think you were pestering.  I took you for asking direct questions the answers to which would make my position more clear, given some unspoken concern you had.  So what is that concern?  What are you looking for?

Just asking questions. Nothing to be concerned about.

Roger that.

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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07 May 2019 20:00
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 07 May 2019 03:11 AM

I’m still not seeing where you are coming from, or where you are going here, nor do I see how religion is “common” and “requires less exposition” than other examples.  What, again, are these examples, and how, exactly, does religion so obviously emerge from toxic or barbaric elements that need to be overcome, as you seem to be presuming it does?  And, what harmful intuitions could be fostered here?  Witch burning, human sacrifice, and cannibalism are such hyperbolic and uninformative examples that I’m surprised you bring them up. 

Unless I was misinformed, Christianity has its social and historic origin as a religion of salvation and hope for the oppressed or the otherwise underclass in Rome, a fact not lost on defenders of the faith like Terry Eagleton, who against the New Atheists notes that its message of communal love, non-violence, and dignity of the down trodden make it an almost ideal engine for social reform (which is probably why in this country it has been one).  Why not focus on that instead of worrying over horrors whose causal factors are virtually—and in the West totally—extinct? 

To take just one example of how your apparent line of questioning puzzles me, pace Harris, the Inquisition is no more endemic to the truth of Christianity than the gulags, purges and death squads of Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, and Ho Chi Min are endemic to the truth in Marx (I use this example specifically because both phenomena are parallel secular and religious behaviors, sharing a common root). Instead, as I see it, forced conformity within the group and the hostility to members of the out-group correlative to cohesion of the in-group is the hurdle religious thinking has to overcome, not any side-show horrors of its ancestry.  And this hurdle is not unique to religion, and whether it especially afflicts religion is debatable.

To your point of “an arc toward peaceful cohabitation,” the ecumenical movement in the world religions has been alive as long as I have been alive, albeit not nearly lively enough, perhaps, in the places where it is needed most.

We’ve already established our disagreements about mono theism in previous threads. As I said, a throwaway example. Defending my position here isn’t germane to the point in question. I can concede it in the interest of moving on.

Do you consider any cultural traditions to be immoral or maladaptive? Maybe we can substitute those and try to isolate a concept?

There are outwardly benign rituals all over the world where some antiquated and harmful act is now represented by a metaphor. (think holidays) Many harmful traditions are preserved in our language. Scapegoating. Rule of thumb. Pound of flesh. I think there are analogous examples in art, sports, politics and elsewhere.

My central concern remains about the nature and nurture of human intuition. I think that bad culture informs bad intuitions. I think that a lot of our traditions are either accidents of history or else some kind of convenient hybrid that was expedient for some colonial expansion or nation building exercise. I think that celebrating something mindlessly out of habit or obligation can be harmful in the sense that it save something we would be better off throwing away.

 

 
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