There is a bit of schism, I believe, in the non-religious community. There are those who believe that the worst part of religions is the organization of them, the so-called "organized" religion. And then, there are people like me who believe that the worst part about religions is that they harbor irrational thought.

In my opinion, when you say that organized religion is bad, but that unorganized religion is just fine, or worse, good, then you are missing the point of what is at the root of all religion, irrationality. Irrational thinking is the enemy, not people organizing their life and/ or morals around a central idea. In fact, that is what they probably should be doing! But, it's just that it should be a rational idea.

To tell you the truth, I believe that the organization of religion is actually the best part of religion. In fact, it may very well be its only redeeming quality. It organizes people for political movements, charity, community activities, and a discussion of morality. And all of these are good things.... As long as they are based on rational thinking. Which is why, as I've said, it's the irrational part of religion which non-believers should rally against, not the organizational aspect of it.

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Comment by homo sapien on March 17, 2009 at 12:22pm
Greyfoot, if you are a theist, then you are, at least a little bit, religious. I think that what I regard as religion and what you regard as religion, are two different things. In my opinion, if you have even one spiritual belief, organized or not, then you are religious.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 17, 2009 at 3:21am
This is turning into a wonderfully technical discussion :-)

Greyfoot, you are technically correct in stating that religion and ideology may amount to the same thing in terms of the emphasis they place on reason and falsifibility. I think Karl Popper would agree with you on that point. You are on shaky ground if you argue that this makes them identical. For example, I do not believe that ideologies which do not worship a supernatural being qualify for tax exemption on religious grounds in the USA, Britain or Australia.

In the end it probably depends on which dictionary you use. Wikipedia provides definitions which would allow an ideology to be defined as a religion in some circumstances.

Definitions of ideology

A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.

An ideology is a set of beliefs, aims and ideas, especially in politics. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things (compare Weltanschauung), as in common sense (see Ideology in everyday society below) and several philosophical tendencies

Definitions of religion

A religion is a set of tenets and practices, often centered upon specific supernatural and moral claims about reality, the cosmos, and human nature, and often codified as prayer, ritual, or religious law. ...

1. A system of practices which act according to beliefs, including belief in the existence of at least one of the following: a human soul or spirit, a deity or higher being, or self after the death of one’s body.

2. Anything that involves the association of people in a manner resembling a religious institution or cult.

3. Any system or institution which one engages with in order to foster a sense of meaning or relevance in relation to something greater than oneself.

Comment by greyfoot on March 17, 2009 at 2:31am
I hate to quibble over small points here, but I didn't say Einstein was religious; I said he was a theist. The point of my comment was to distinguish the two from each other. I also didn't say that there are any "religious secularists," as that would be an oxymoron. I said that there are "theistic" secularists. A theist believes in a god or supernatural being, but that person does not have to belong to an organization. The phrase "unorganized religion" is also oxymoronic. A religion IS an organization, which leads to my response to Rosemary: Technically you are correct, but can you honestly tell me that extreme forms of religion and ideology don't amount to the same thing? We rationalists chide religion because it precludes free thought; the examples you mentioned (yes, even Nihilism) are guilty of the same. One of the definitions of religion is "scrupulous conformity: CONSCIENTIOUSNESS." Whether for "god" or for man, our propensity to relinquish our individuality for the sake of "belonging" always yields the same result.
Comment by homo sapien on March 16, 2009 at 4:23pm
I am going to have to respectfully disagree with you, Greyfoot. First, it should be noted that we no longer live in the middle ages, organized religion no longer dominates our lives. So, what is left of organized religion are largely good things. Also, I don't think Einstein was religious at all, and I don't consider Lincoln to be great. Now, there certainly are plenty of religious secularists, but their belief in unorganized religion is a bit problematic to me, because as I've said, they are still guided by irrational thought. Lastly, I never said we should be intolerant of someone else's beliefs. On the contrary, I think that we should keep an open mind on all ideas, but our minds shouldn't be so open that our brains fall out.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 16, 2009 at 2:38pm
Greyfoot, I'd like to make a pedantic point. Movements like Communism, Nazism, Nihilism and so on are technically ideologies rather than religions. Religions are concerned with irrational and/or illogical belief in a supernatural being or beings. Ideologies are concerned with irrational and/or illogical belief in an idea and/or teachings of a human (whether dead or alive).
Comment by greyfoot on March 16, 2009 at 11:07am
I'm going to have to disagree. I feel the organization IS the worst part of religion, because, without the organization, it wouldn't BE a religion. Organization is not always a good thing. Keep in mind that many of history's bloodthirsty tyrants (many of whom are inaccurately dubbed secular) organized as well.

Also keep in mind that many of the people whom we consider great (Einstein, Socrates, Lincoln, etc) were theists; the important distinction here is that they were secularists. The theism vs atheism debate is academic. The more tangible debate is secularism vs religion. Secularism essentially means not of religion, but religion doesn't necessarily have to be spiritual. Many so-called secular movements--like Communism--became their own religions. Organizations have a way of degenerating into extremist, mindless machines.

A mistake that we atheists make is the failure to acknowledge that there are plenty of theistic secularists. Yes, I'm aware that a lot of people falsely CLAIM to not be religious, but a fair number of theists fervently support the disbursement of organized religion. Our intolerance should not be directed toward what people personally believe, for, when we do that, we become just like the religious people we claim to oppose.
Comment by homo sapien on March 12, 2009 at 10:07pm
I think you're right about such attitudes being prevalent in the faith community. There are a lot of believers who don't consider themselves religious, but yet do the exact things you're talking about. It's hard to understand their line of reasoning, but I'm sure it makes perfect sense to them.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 12, 2009 at 8:06pm
I have not come across that "schism" in the non-believer's community. I have, however, come across it in the believer's community. Many evangelicals are proud of the fact that they are "not religious" and do not agree with "organized religion". What they usually mean is that they don't like attending formal church services that advertise their denominational alliance. The truth is that such people align themselves with other believers by stealth. They will attend "non-denominational" rallies, conventions, revival meetings and mega-church extravaganzas without realizing that they have strong ties to particular lines of religious thought. They will also buy books and Bible study guides from evangelical bookstores and publishers, again, without recognizing that these toe a certain party line. Such things are just as authoritarian in the views they push as the more obvious "organized" religious groups and publishers.


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