Do we really need to rid of ourselves of everything that is based in religion? Are there ideas from religion we should keep?

Following a conversation in chat today I thought I'd open up a discussion. I've had a look around the site and can't find a thread addressing this issue, if one exists please feel free to point me in the right direction.

I come from a catholic family where 'doing unto others', was ingrained in how we were raised. It is a 'belief' I choose to subscribe to. I try to make sure I don't adversely affect those around me and strive to consider the affect of my actions on others. This idea forms the basis of my political beliefs and also how I view the world. While talking about the problems the planet faces, myself and others were ruminating on some of the strategies religions use to combat some of these problems. I mentioned that I have considered volunteering at a local convent, solely because they provide food and shelter to local homeless people. Obviously the religion has put me off. I also patronise CAFOD and OXFAM, for work they do in developing countries. I buy goats and wells on a fairly regular basis. While I disagree with the religious background, encouraging and enabling self sufficiency in hostile environments of any description, is how to empower people, which in turn gives them an investment in their and others lives.
As the saying goes, 'give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.'

This got me wondering about whether as atheists, we negate ALL religious ideas, even if they may have merit. Charity and philanthropy are often borne out of religious conviction, yet can and do make some real changes to people's lives. Church communities (beyond the services) offer a much needed feeling of support for many and I've seen here how post-theists miss that. I have felt envious of people who find solace from grief through religious rituals. When not grieving I see their futility, but at the time, who's thinking straight? I can think of many other positive outcomes from religion, that are not automatically dependent on a faith system. Isn't it time we liberated the good ideas from the bad indoctrination and started using them ourselves?

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Comment by Johnsky on August 10, 2009 at 1:12am
Do unto others has little to do with religion and more to do with the realisation that,
A: If you do something bad to someone, they'll likely seek revenge.
B: If someone did that to you, you wouldn't like it very much.

It's hardly owned by religion, this is just plain common sense.

The same you will often find for most religious teachings. They are just re-iterations of plain basic common sense... the same common sense that existed before these religions were thought up.
Unfortunately, re-iterating what is already taken for granted just leaves the religious thinking that they created these moral values.

I've never been religious, nor was I raised by the religious... if they created these values, why then, might I ask them, do I naturally adhere to them?
I was raised by my father to strike back twice as hard... and yet, my self-formulated morals tell me to first ascertain 'why' they wanted to strike me first.

These are not religious teachings, these are my natural responses.

I have met a few religious who believe everyone is inherently evil without their "god" in their life...
If that were true, having never been religious and responded only by how I felt I should, then why then have I not committed evil?

Clearly these indoctrinations they believe do not exist beyond their sheltered religion.
Comment by JayBarti on August 9, 2009 at 3:44pm
I would love to keep nothing from religion, but culturally that is probably impossible.

Most of what I would keep from religion as Jason said can be found elsewhere, there are good alternatives to most of the community and outreach stuff. They have contributed to the creation of some nice idea's and some great works of art and architecture. The free ride organized religion enjoys is way out of proportion to any perceived benefit, I find it hard to believe they are "not for profit".

Religion is selling ice to Eskimos.

Haa! You know the more I look at the peddling of belief, the more it looks like a marketing scheme... tax exemptions, people giving them money without any real accountability attached and most of the people at the top seem to live like lords. I am sure there are some honest peddlers who really believe what they say and live like it, but it seems to me to actually be a very small percentage.
Comment by Jason Spicer on August 9, 2009 at 1:53pm
The way I see it, religion has never originated anything useful to humanity. Rather, religions have codified and institutionalized existing human ideas, and then claimed to have invented them. The Golden Rule is the premier example. It certainly predates Christianity (Confucius said something almost identical, hundreds of years before Christ), and in my humble opinion is nothing more than a fairly obvious and generally successful survival strategy. Atheists should reclaim the useful things that have been co-opted by religion and jettison the rest.

I agree that the comforting community gathering and rites of passage aspects of religion have yet to find a real counterpart in atheist circles, though I think secular alternatives already exist, and with very minor tweaking could fill that void. It strikes me that in post-religious Europe, the local pub environment might already stand in for the fellowship people have traditionally found in church. If it doesn't already, it certainly could. Many, many people around the world are already far more devoted to their favorite sports team than they ever were to a religion; a shared sense of purpose can be had at the local football or cricket pitch. Of course, a sports pub combines both of the above.

Rites of passage are a little trickier, though birthday parties are utterly secular, and there's no reason why wedding parties need any religious elements. A wedding is a good enough reason for a party without inviting that asshole Jehovah to the proceedings. Funerals are a tougher nut to crack, though again, there's no real reason why a eulogy or life celebration should invoke the almighty.

In short, no, the only good parts of religion were stolen in the first place. People have always had access to them directly, and always will. Religion is selling ice to Eskimos.
Comment by Ron Edwards on August 9, 2009 at 1:18pm
I would have no problem with religion if religious people kept their beliefs to themselves and did good deeds for humanity. I think most atheists would agree to that to some extent and it is even stated by The American Atheists that they are not out to eradicate religion all together. The problem with religion is how religious people shove their beliefs in your face, try to change laws and the constitution and simply become intolerable to anyone or anything that they object to.
I think many atheists would consider volunteering to help religious organizations if only religious people could act civilized and stop being so bigoted.
On the other hand, since it seems impossible for them to change, I don't really see them doing anything so special that non-believers couldn't do also... Infact, we could probably help those in need much better with far less greed, bigotry and pompousness.
As for the way things stand now, I couldn't bring myself to volunteer through a religious org. I would have to look for a secular org. that is doing similar work.



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