I am saddened by the knee-jerk hatred of religion some people here demonstrate. I see nothing to hate in religion per se. Sure, religion has led to some hateful actions. It has also led to some noble actions. I see it as no different than any other human activity: blessed with some good things, cursed with some bad things. There's lots of room for comparing and contrasting the good with the bad, and I would never argue with anybody else's overall conclusion as the ratio of the good to the bad. If you want to declare that religion has been 99% evil and 1% good, I won't argue with you. Indeed, I myself cannot imagine how I would calculate such a number. However, I do insist and will argue the point that religion has had some benefits for humanity.

The benefit that I'd like to focus on here is the wisdom that we sometimes find in religion. I'll cite three religious ideas that I think deserve our respect and indeed are useful.

The first is a quote I use all the time, sometimes against religious believers: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." In the first place, this statement, combined with the statement "My kingdom is not of this earth" is a clear admonition to keep religion out of the secular sphere. Can you think of any better justification for separation of church and state? The same thing applies to creationism and other religious intrusions into science. Render unto science, etc. Christ himself declared that religion must be confined to the spiritual. So keep your big fat religious nose out of science!

The second idea I find appealing is "Turn the other cheek." It's a powerful statement against anger, against revenge, and for pacifism. 

The third idea is Eastern: the notion that evil harms oneself more than it harms others: when you sin, you irreparably injure your psyche. Virtue is more than its own reward: it's mental hygiene.

There are many more valuable ideas that can be gained from religious thought. I should think that a prudent atheist would shamelessly steal those ideas.

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Thanks, Lillie. My parents did indeed try.

I'm endlessly happy that I didn't try. Having a sometimes strange sense of humor, I paraphrased the name of the Broadway show Most Happy Fella and titled a short memoir on parenting Most Happy Failure.

Chris, you spend too much time with books and their words and too little time with people and their actions; a prudent atheist will shamelessly leave those ideas alone. Absolutely alone.

Idea One. Can I think of any better justification [than the "Render unto...." idea] for separation of church and state?

Yes; the centuries of religious warfare and persecution in Europe are better justification.

Idea Two. You find "Turn the other cheek" appealing.

When did you last count how many cheeks you have, and how many scars or other wounds you have on your cheeks?

Idea Three. The notion that evil harms oneself more than it harms others.

When did you last make an attempt to distinguish short term effects from long term effects? As dependent as you are on words, an easy-to-refute lie will distract your attention long enough for a pickpocket to empty your pockets, or long enough for a more violent miscreant to do worse.

I nominate you for a Darwin Award.

I nominate you for a Darwin Award.

That's an ad hominem remark, which we try to avoid here.  That whole comment is ad hominem.

Ad hominem? No.

Hard ball? Yes. When people know only soft ball, I recommend that they not play hard ball.

In case that metaphor seems unclear:

I lived in San Francisco and told people who wanted to visit the Tenderloin to be prepared to walk as if they own the ground under and around them. To look weak is to invite an attack.

Of course you were making ad hominem remarks:  trying to argue by insulting the other person. 


To Tom Sarbeck: "Of course you were making ad hominem remarks:  trying to argue by insulting the other person."

I could possibly construe your last comment to me as an ad hominem attack, since you appear to have questioned my intelligence and not my argument..."Chris Crawford can much better say what he wants than you can!" But I'm not into reporting people.

People can be likable, and foolish enough to win a Darwin Award.

The three ideas CC described above are at best foolish and in some environments lethal.

1. Better justification [than the "Render unto...." idea].... Assuming that Christians act in accordance with Jesus' words is foolish and can be lethal.

2. Turning the other cheek will result in damaged cheeks. Foolish, but probably not lethal.

3. Evil harms [the evildoer] more than it harms others. This bit of wishful thinking reveals a desire to punish evildoers in this life and a lack of faith in reward and punishment in a next life. If accompanied by a lack of preparation for events in this life, it's also foolish.

Tom, you seem to think that words are a bad way to communicate. I challenge you to rebut any of my claims without using words. ;-)

As to separation of church and state: your argument hinges on subjective assessments. Let me rephrase my claim: can you think of a better way to convince a Christian of the value of separation of church and state than a direct quote from Jesus Christ?

I'm surprised that you and several others reject the admonition to 'turn the other cheek'. While I agree that there are plenty of situations in which it just doesn't work, I insist that it encapsulates a noble idea that deserves the aspiration of all civilized persons. I'll also point out that there are plenty of situations in which it produces better results than striking back. Fight back against a mugger and you could end up dead; better to just give him the money.

I'm not just surprised at your condemnation of 'idea three', I'm astounded. This idea is a long-established concept in Eastern philosophy and is entirely consistent with Western psychology. I can't recall any condemnation of the idea among serious thinkers.

Lastly, Darwin Awards are reserved for those who die from idiotic actions. I would not be so aggressive as to call you idiotic merely because we disagree.

I regularly play hard ball. Actions might hurt; names don't.

I agree with Friedrich Nietzsche: in the world in which most people live, Christian morality is the morality of slaves. For more info, visit Wikipedia.

Slaves get hurt. Are they wise to pass their foolishness along?

Christian morality is the morality of slaves.
-- Nietzsche

As is the doctrine of turning the other cheek.  The Jains inspired Gandhi to use the principle of ahimsa - harmlessness - to shame his opponents in pursuit of his goals and it worked ... but a LOT of people were badly injured in the process.  The same may be said of the followers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his non-violent campaigns in the Deep South in the 60s.  Does anyone here think this tactic would work in current-day Syria, where Bashar al-Assad attacks his own people in his quest to maintain power? 

I doubt it mightily.

The benefit that I'd like to focus on here is the wisdom that we sometimes find in religion. I'll cite three religious ideas that I think deserve our respect and indeed are useful.

Chris started this discussion to talk about the good things than can be found in religion.  Yet it has turned into yet more discussion of the bad things in religion. 

There are plenty of discussions about the bad things in religion, and we can better discuss the rich topic that Chris brought up, if we keep the bad things about religion to those other threads.

Nobody here is asserting that religion hasn't done those bad things. 

Labeling me a troll because you disagree with me seems a little overmuch, doesn't it? Do you propose to ostracize atheists who don't toe the Party Line as you define it? Is there no room in your perception of the community of atheists for disagreements? 


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