The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Unsure Christians should read Ecclesiastes as Book 1, and perhaps this as Book 2. "perhaps", as it provides some credible arguments, however I feel this book may be too harsh a critic without providing the reader with a transition. While it does provide an appendix of resources for help recovering, it doesn't deal with why religions persist. Religions have some benefit or else they would have hindered competing societies and consequently been discarded in times of strife. That might make for a better Book 2: showing why they were useful, and why they aren't anymore.

That image bearing the words "Imagine No Religion" is just as ridiculous as an image saying "Imagine No Airplanes." -- Don Spidell
why? -- Patrick
Some airplanes were used in the 9/11 atrocities, so does that mean we should eliminate airplanes? No, that's silly. Some people who held religious beliefs carried out the 9/11 atrocities, so does that mean we should eliminate religion? No, that's silly too because it was a very particular group of misguided Muslim fanatics who caused 9/11. Saying that there should be no religion is too broad. It lumps the jihadists in with the Mennonites and that's not fair. And postulating on the state of the world with no religion is useless because there's really no way to tell what it would be like. It might be worse! It would be better to say there should be no religious beliefs that cause one to kill a bunch of people. Real Muslims would agree with that too. - Don Spidell
Perhaps we should just teach our kids some good critical thinking practices expose them to lots of ideas and let them come to their own conclusions. -- David W
"we should just teach our kids some good critical thinking practices" But why? Why should we teach them good critical thinking practices, etc, and not teach them religion? To say that implies that critical thinking is more important than belief, a characterization many devout believers wouldn't agree with. (Disclaimer, I'm an Orthodox Christian. We baptize and chrismate our children. They take communion before they learn to talk. Orthopraxis is part of life, not something we add on later.) -- mah
If you cannot think critically how do you choose what you believe? -- David W
You missed the point. My children do not have a choice of what they believe. They believe because ours is a believing household. Young children do not choose to believe or not. I don't think anyone would contest this. By the time they reach maturity, they'll have to make a choice. Until then they don't choose. Besides which, belief is not the result of a rational process: you cannot reason yourself to God. Finally, for me it is useful to consider how this applies to those who are not capable of critical thinking (some forms of mental handicap or mental illness would apply here). I don't think that the those not capable of critical thinking also lack the capacity for belief. Simply put, critical thought is not a prerequisite for belief.
I attempt trust information based on the following criteria: because I obtained it from a source which has in the past proven reliable, because it matches my own observations, or because I can infer it from other information I already know and trust to some degree. When I have children I will try to focus on teaching them the things I a most certain of first. It so happens that there are not a lot of religious beliefs I would consider myself extremely certain of, so I'll try to inject some doubt along with my opinions on the subject. Of course, you may disagree with this approach, and I might still be missing your point, but I'm not sure this is the best place to discuss the subject, so this will be my last comment on this post. Feel free to reply though. -- David W
Well, what does religion get us? As far as I can tell it does three Big Things: social insurance for the needy, establishes code of behavior, and provides a default answer for all questions. In a country like the US, the gov't now covers social insurance, rule of law provides the code of behavior, and while lots of questions have been resolved, many more remain unanswered. So, in the US, religion helps only with a default answer. What does it cost us? A nation divided into mutually incompatible groups, where death by following precepts leads to life immortal. Compare that to airplanes.... -- Patrick.
One topic I wanted to interject earlier, but got caught up doing work (stupid job) was something I struggle with personally regarding this particular topic. Sam Harris (who I neither endorse nor deny) wrote about religious moderates and their impact on society. The problem for Harris is that because we have a long history (constitutionally) of protecting religious freedom, we are overly anxious about speaking ill of religion in general. As a result, he posits, we enable the seedy underbelly of religion. For example fundamentalist christianity and radical islam. FWIW, I don't agree with him, however his argument gives me pause to reflect on my own attitude toward, what I would characterize as moderate religiosity. Which (since I know them IRL) I would put Mah, and Don in this category (not that I am correct, or represent their ideas about themselves, this is just my own characterization of them). - Nathan
Oh and also, I can imagine a world with neither airplanes or fact since I am afraid of both, I would call that place heaven. - Nathan
(Patrick, how can I type paragraphs? Or is this your way of keeping me from commenting too much?) "we enable the seedy underbelly of religion" -- keep in mind that fundamentalist/radical Islam did not develop in religiously tolerant societies. But I wouldn't have a problem saying that religious pluralism in the US has enabled Christian fundamentalism. "what does religion get us?" I think Richard Dawkins has shown, and I agree, that religion isn't necessary to enable a code of behavior. I believe he used the Golden Rule as an example of a universal principle. "Provides a default answer for all questions" That seems to be the result of Scholasticism and religion's response to the Enlightenment. Eastern Orthodox (and even, to a lesser degree, Roman Catholic) Christianity doesn't spend as much time trying to show that "God is the default answer". Yes, religion provides creation myths and some people mistake these for dogma, but they aren't an integral facet of religion per se. Finally, Nathan, I would fear nutcases more than a nebulous concept like "religion". For example, there is a good chance that the Virginia Tech killer (like many of the other school shooters) was areligous (a judgment I make based on some initial reports of his nationality).
David W, Different people have different criteria for trusting information, but I like yours "in the past proven reliable". If you ask a Buddhist they'll tell you to test the reliability of the "Four Noble Truths" -- don't just take their word for it. I've read similar things from Orthodox Monastics. Test it, try it out. And I certainly encourage my children to understand the "Why" and "How" and not just do the "What". I'm confident that they'll later appreciate the "What" that much more and be drawn to it themselves because they understand the "Why" and "How" If you know of a better place to discuss these things, I'm available ;)
Well, what do religions provide, if not for financial support, code of conduct, and answers to humanity's endless questioning? --- As for Dawkins and code of behavior, he claims in The God Delusion that they don't make sense nowadays (What do you mean I can't kill her? She worked during the day of Shabbat!), not that religions don't try to enforce a code of conduct (You're killing babies! Die!!!) -- Patrick.
I suppose it would help if we actually defined "religion." That word can mean different things to different people. Some think of it as an elaborate and mindless set of rituals. I'm not much for that. I am for faith in God, belief in Jesus, and the promise of going to heaven when I die because of my accepting Jesus' death on the cross as payment for my sins. Religion in general doesn't do much for anyone. Following Jesus does get one into heaven. It might be helpful if I laid out all my beliefs and some reasoning behind them one day in my blog. Reading a few posts and comments I make about religion, putting me into a certain category, and then associating me with seemingly likeminded political leaders is a recipe for disaster. I'm not a Pat Robertson or George Bush. - Don Spidell
"what do religions provide?" I suspect you're trying to be too pragmatic. For many people, it does seem to provide the things you list (though, I'm surprised that you think government now plays the role of religion -- I was under the impression that you didn't favor more government. Perhaps that is only my own bias.) My point is that those things are not the *purpose* of religion. Christianity, in particular, offers us a way to reach our fullest potential as humans by giving us a path to achieve unity with God. The Orthodox would say that Christianity's primary concern is not enabling our humanity, but enabling our divinity. Granted, this means that fewer people find "use" in religion because their immediate concerns (financial support=social security, morality=law, questioning=science) are not met there. For a person who feels complete without religion, religion serves no purpose, but then, that's a tautology.
Would you be willing to sacrifice your religion to save your soul? Do your own works, follow your own heart, and do not let others come between Us. Religions divide humanity, causing pain, sorrow, and grief; what greater sin is there? -- Patrick.
AFAIK the major religions don't have mandates that say "you can only befriend people of the same religion." Your argument that religions divide humanity is the same as saying that "government" is evil based on Iraq's dictatorship. "Religion" has been responsible for many things in the past, but isn't any worse of an idea than "Government" which has also done some horrible things in the past. -Doug
It's not religions that divide humanity, it's our collective sinful nature that divides us and creates all sorts of religious, political, social, economic conflict between us. - DS
"Would you be willing to sacrifice your religion to save your soul?" I'm confused by the question. You'll have to clarify. And, yes, absolutely: be yourself, don't let others create conflict where there is none. I don't see that Christianity tells you to be someone you aren't. Nor in the command to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you" anything that creates division. Has religion as an institution hurt others? Yes. But think about the murderous institutions of the 20th century. The ones that come to mind for me were explicity anti-religious. Religion is not the cause of problems. People are.
Religion creates in-groups and out-groups, i.e. believers and heathens. Creating groups sets people up to dehumanize non-members, which ushers in a host of sins. As you point out, both State and Religion have drawn blood from imaginary lines between people. If one wants a unstained path to God, losing one's state & religion and seeking God seems advisable. -- Patrick.
Well, if Christians are doing their job, they are inviting the unsaved to become saved and not focusing on separating themselves from the "heathens". Jesus invited everyone to come to Him, thus He and His message aren't creating divisions among people. People are doing the dividing. - DS
Do you seriously think that if you eliminate religion and government that people will not create new divisions, new in-groups, to order themselves and persecute others? Group creation seems to be part of how people act. You can see division wherever you see people, in the most secular, individualistic settings. Still, what you say is true: God does not need religion. Religious ritual does not provide anyone with the path to God (and I say that as one whose Christian practice is filled with Byzantine ritual). What you seem to advocate, though, is isolationist individualism. Love (which I maintain you must practice in a quest for God) cannot be practiced without others, whether they share your belief or not. The way humanity groups itself isn't the cause of problems. The cause is the acceptance by people in any group -- be it a religion, a state, or a book reading club -- of ridicule, persecution, or violence against others.
When was the last time you heard about a bookclub-motivated murder? ;) -- Patrick.
Geez... Can't a guy use hyperbole without getting called on the carpet about it? ;) Seriously, my point was that people use groups (religion, race, nationalism, programming language preference, emacs vs vi, and on and on) to create an "us" to battle a "them". -- mah
I will kill anyone that uses nano!