Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: The Problem With Religion

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  • Andre Alessi,

    Am I the only one who finds Richard Dawkins and the other "atheism uber alles" usual suspects to be at least as objectionable as overtly in-your-face religious types? What's the difference between his "There is only one truth, and that's my truth" and that of organised religions?

    I tend to see Dawkins, PZ Myers, et al. as the equivalent of the shock queens of the gay rights movement-they realised there was no way they were ever going to be accepted by their hardcore opposition, and that controversy brought them to the attention of the otherwise apathetic mainstream, so they went full tilt OTT.

    That's not to say I don't think Dawkins is a dick when he wants to be, but he's essentially operating in a hostile environment, at least in America (which is the biggest driver of religious nonsense in the Western world today) and would get absolutely no coverage if he was less than confrontational. And in the end, why should he refrain from calling absurd beliefs absurd?

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I think Jeremy Clarkson is a world-class fuckwit, and yet still I am compelled to watch.

    I think some of the time he's an idiot, but I find him very funny. He reminds me of a friend of mine who is also into cars, in his humour and mannerisms.

    For what it is (a boys yobo car show), I think Top Gear is tremendously well done. They manage to get entirely non-car people to watch, while still conveying car type information.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    yeah I tend to agree - someone has to counter the rise of fundie-ism and standing up in public and claiming "religion is a crock" hasn't been something that people have been doing much recently (well in the west not since the rise of the catholic church) - it's only now that state religion is slowly crumbling we're seeing people free to speak out.

    The problem of course is that as a rule not-believing just doesn't have the passion that the true believer has - so there just aren't a lot of militant atheists - for the past 2000 years it's just been better to keep your head down and hope no one notices you (just like I learned to pretend to sing the hymns in school assembly to avoid detention).

    What I do like about Dawkins et al is that most of the time (when they're not being misquoted) what they're really doing is just pushing the scientific method as a way to decide about how the world works

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Hollywood,

    Just a word on the Celtic and Rangers ‘Old Firm’ rivalry you mention in your excellent piece David. It has some relevance to the tribalism connection you’ve made. As a longtime observer and onetime resident of Glasgow I feel compelled to point out that the religious aspect of the rivalry is becoming less and less significant with each passing generation of supporter. That is not to say it doesn’t still exist or that it is any less intense (people still get murdered on account of colours worn) but it has clearly moved away from religion and has rather more to do with politics these days. Or more specifically, the political situation in Ireland. Where once it was a Catholic (Celtic) v Protestant (Rangers) thing, it has over the past couple of decades manifested itself into a Republican (Celtic) v Unionist/Loyalist (Rangers) issue.

    Where your stereotypical Rangers supporter – and I use the word ‘stereotypical’ with some caution because I’m generalising here – is very pro-monarchy and pro-Northern Ireland being part of “Britain”, your ‘stereotypical’ Celtic supporter is more likely to preach Republican principles and have a certain amount of sympathy for that cause in an Irish context. I do realise the root of that particular political debate is very much linked to religion in the first place, but the emphasis has certainly shifted in recent generations. It is no longer as cut and dried as it used to be, and indeed nowadays it is not unusual for members of the same family to support opposite sides of the Old Firm divide.

    While Celtic have always employed staff inclusively (a Protestant manager led Celtic to its greatest ever triumph and many of its best players have been er, non-Catholic), Rangers had what amounted to a sectarian employment policy right up until the mid-to-late 1980s – something which obviously contributed to prolonging this nonsense into the modern day.

    Then there’s that whole football ethos thing – with Celtic (traditionally) being the more cavalier/entertaining team, and Rangers being the more staid and conservative win-at-all-costs club. The fact that these two clubs have dominated Scottish football for so long also contributes to the intensity of it all - if “we” don’t win it, “they” will … so there is also a fair amount of natural and genuine sporting rivalry at play there as well.

    There’s also a class/establishment/underdog thing happening. That’s a little more complex and probably a whole article in itself … but given that I’m way off topic already, I won’t go there.

    Apols for ranting on ... just my second PA post n'all! Religion/politics/tribalism ... suffice to say, a potent brew.

    Since May 2009 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    The guide in the Mosque we visited in Bahrain was devout and friendly. I felt a bit sad when I realised that the substance of Moslem teachings were largely Christian Old Testament, not that I know much about that.
    I was asked to take part in an Easter drama on the Stations of the Cross for a Drama group, but saying that I was an aethiest I thought not. No they said. Please do it anyway. So I did but was distinctly uncomfortable when a nun came up to me afterwards and gazed into my eyes and praised my performance as Jesus heading to extinction, and the tears trickled down her face.
    "Er um. I am pleased that you enjoyed the um...." Help.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life is my favourite religion site.

    It'll tell you which US states are the most pious, show religious trends in India and keep you up to date on the Pope's job approval ratings.

    Also, things like same-sex marriage laws around the world.

    Information really is beautiful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Impressed with the goat-story-finding. I was was assuming it was part of the reasonably various body of extra-biblical folklore.

    When I was at school, I had two RE teachers over the course of some years.

    One of them was yer common-or-garden RE teacher. When challenged on any point (such as showing proof of the existence of god) you could more or less see 'does not compute' flash up on his internal monitor. He was easily dismissed as an idiot.

    The other was far more interesting. Although by the time I met him, he appeared to have found some sort of inner peace, you could easily imagine that in earlier years, the phrase 'tortured soul' could have been applied to him frequently.

    Although he himself was a christian, he clearly wrestled with his faith. He would generally spend lessons forcing us to realise how absurd most of the bible actually was, and how much of it was cribbed from other parts (as he pointed out, huge chunks of the four main gospels appear to have been cut/pasted from each other).

    He is responsible for my knowledge of the goat story. One lesson was devoted to teaching us the creation of the official king james bible, and how this involved the dropping of quite a few gospels which until that point had been taken as...well...gospel. The goat story was used as an illustrative example.

    Although he was insanely strict, he was an excellent teacher. The sort of christian that I can get along with quite easily.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I once lived with a girl whose friend was a Jehovah's Witness. Not willingly, she was just too young to be able to resist, and had to spend most of her weekends proselytizing when she really wanted to be studying hard to ace Bursary, to get into Med school.

    Eventually, she confronted her parents about this, when they wanted to pull her out of school and marry her off at the age of 16. She told them she didn't believe. They kicked her out of the house that night, and she came to live with us, empty handed. They had not allowed her to take one single thing with her other than the clothes she was wearing. They refused to allow her to see her younger brother (who was IIRC, disabled in some way, and meant a lot to her, and she to him).

    She did manage in the end to get into Med school, and has gone on to a distinguished career in Medicine. She was lucky to have a lot of brains, some friends who cared, and to live in a country that provides at least some support for people with nothing. I wonder how many other Witnesses are not so lucky.

    So I still feel sorry for every young Witness who come to my door. But I don't feel any compunction any more at turning them away. The way she told it, she was usually glad of it, that having to go into people's houses to try to convert them to a religion that she herself did not even believe in was really hard work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10654 posts Report Reply

  • Jo S,

    Well I agree that Richard Dawkins can be a bit of a shit-stirrer, but he is a very enjoyable speaker. I didn't manage to get a ticket to his public lectures here in auckland but I watched the webcast of the talk this week and found it very interesting. (p.s. is over 40 mins long)

    His theories on how people's belief in religion fit into evolution were provocative, but not aggressively put forward (but as a non-beleiver, I'm obviously less likely to take offence).

    is it autumn yet? • Since May 2007 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Jesus that's a depressing story, Ben. And I've just realised that I was about to retype this, which basically boils down to

    As often as religious belief causes people to act selflessly and for the good of others, it seems to provide an excuse for other people to indulge their nastiest impulses.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Jesus that's a depressing story, Ben.

    Much of my extended family still resides in the Exclusive Brethren and are permanently estranged. My grandfather was blocked at the door at his own brother's funeral.

    And then on the other side of the family there's the great-uncle I've never met. They disowned him for religious reasons on account of being gay.

    I'm not too fond of religions.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Leigh Kennaway,

    Jesus famously cursing a fig tree (to death)..

    A clear case of provocation. That fig tree was totally asking for it.

    Well, he can't get away with that excuse any more can he! Guess that shoots down the omnipotent theory....

    sunny Pt Chevalier • Since Mar 2008 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Then the boys, in the form of kids, came out, and began to dance round Him; and the women, seeing this, were very much astonished...

    ... And immediately, while these women were standing by, the kids were changed into boys.

    OMG: Jesus turned the kids into kids, and then back into kids again? It's a miracle!

    Celibacy. Ur doin it wrong.

    Heh.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    So that's Abrahamic monotheistic religions covered. What about all the rest? Te problem with fish; focusing exclusively on Ray, Mullet and Flounder.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I think what a lot of this boils down to is a question: What relationship is there between the metaphysical claims of religion on one hand, and its ethical strictures and effect on an individual's relationship with their wider community on the other? Can you have one without the other, or do the two necessitate each other somehow?

    This is where a lot of modern, conscientious religious folks get caught up. If you can live a good life without believing in the supernatural claims of your religion, why believe them at all? Unfortunately, the religious folks who acknowledge that this is a possibility aren't the vocal ones in the debate about the worth of religion-instead, we get the foaming-at-the-mouth types who refuse to believe that an atheist nevertheless could consciously and actually choose to be a good person. There's no possibility of forward progress in a debate between that lot and atheists like myself.

    But of course, it's that question that gnaws away at the root beliefs of moderate religious people, and forces many of them ultimately to either abandon beliefs that are effectively trivial (in the philosophical sense, not the pejorative) or throw their lot in with the "Believe or be damned!" lunatics.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Thank you Dr Haywood. Magnificent!

    could this be one for the copyright thread?

    As dead as god in Australia, I'm afraid

    I love Top Gear. Of course, I partially watch it because Richard is so lickably gorgeous. Your excuse is probably different. Cars or something.

    Fast lovely cars - the skits with caravans and old dungers not so much. And nothing about licking, you're right.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    What relationship is there between the metaphysical claims of religion on one hand, and its ethical strictures and effect on an individual's relationship with their wider community on the other?

    Being Christian or christian

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    I think what a lot of this boils down to is a question: What relationship is there between the metaphysical claims of music on one hand, and its ethical strictures and effect on an individual's relationship with their wider community on the other?

    This is where a lot of modern, conscientious music fans get caught up. If you can live a good life without believing in the supernatural claims of your favourite music artist, why believe them at all? Unfortunately, the music fans who acknowledge that this is a possibility aren't the vocal ones in the debate about the worth of music-instead, we get the foaming-at-the-mouth types who refuse to believe that an non fan nevertheless could consciously and actually choose to be a cool person. There's no possibility of forward progress in a debate between that lot and non fans like myself.

    But of course, it's that question that gnaws away at the root beliefs of moderate music fans, and forces many of them ultimately to either abandon fandoms that are effectively trivial (in the philosophical sense, not the pejorative) or throw their lot in with the "Believe or be damned!" hardcore fans.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Putting the heavy in metal

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    This is one of those moments where it's glaringly obvious that New Zealand, unlike the UK which offers Religious studies to A levels, provides very little in the way of a religious studies curriculum in secondary school and most discussion is constructed around experience gleaned of Abarahmic traditions and what happened to my mate Stalin at an ENSOC party or what have you. No offence intended, merely that Pâté de Religion contains a hell of a lot of ingredients.

    Having said that I'm not against attacks on the monotheistic religions that are being slagged off here.

    But slag off my religion and I'll cut your fucking throat ; )

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Putting the heavy in metal

    Amen, brothers and sisters.

    The Beatles - Were just a band.
    The Sex Pistols - Just a band.
    The Clash - Just a band.
    Minor Threat - Just a band.
    The Cure - Just a band.
    The Smiths - Just a band.
    Nirvana - Just a band.
    The Pixies - Just a band.
    Oasis - Just a band.
    Radiohead - Just a band.
    The next big thing - JUST A BAND.

    Hope that's the vid I was thinking of, BTW. Firewalls are not my friends.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Jesus that's a depressing story, Ben.

    It's kind of got a happy ending, though? It's amazing what people can rise above. I think her family saw some of the error of their ways too, in the end.

    Now she provides blissful relief to thousands of people in pain - she became an anesthetist. Ironic, given the JW horror of needles.

    As often as religious belief causes people to act selflessly and for the good of others, it seems to provide an excuse for other people to indulge their nastiest impulses.

    Hard to be sure if its "as often". But it seems all the more hypocritical when it's done by people who exalt their morality.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10654 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Hope that's the vid I was thinking of

    Ae, worth an embed. Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I love Top Gear. Of course, I partially watch it because Richard is so lickably gorgeous. Your excuse is probably different. Cars or something.

    Fast lovely cars - the skits with caravans and old dungers not so much. And nothing about licking, you're right.

    nah yobbos doing stupid stuff is what keeps me watching.

    ------
    Religious folks I can handle - so long as it keeps them happy it's fine by me. Like most folk there as some nice people and some not so nice.

    Religion, however is a political entity full of corrupt evil buggers (or buggerers).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I wasn't going to, but..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

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