1998-09-17 - Re: Democracy… (fwd) The Nature of Religion

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From: Michael Hohensee <mah248@nyu.edu>
To: Matthew James Gering <mgering@ecosystems.net>
Message Hash: 9d3e43f52b4cceaa0bc50ffc40b143d69e25755d70cd3b9fb9b8f61411bf7651
Message ID: <3601E054.999D3DE2@nyu.edu>
Reply To: <33CCFE438B9DD01192E800A024C84A192846AD@mossbay.chaffeyhomes.com>
UTC Datetime: 1998-09-17 15:18:08 UTC
Raw Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 23:18:08 +0800

Raw message

From: Michael Hohensee <mah248@nyu.edu>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 23:18:08 +0800
To: Matthew James Gering <mgering@ecosystems.net>
Subject: Re: Democracy... (fwd) The Nature of Religion
In-Reply-To: <33CCFE438B9DD01192E800A024C84A192846AD@mossbay.chaffeyhomes.com>
Message-ID: <3601E054.999D3DE2@nyu.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Actually, you may be interested to know that *everyone* is religious, in
some manner.  Everyone has at least one untestable assumption about the
world.  That is, everyone has a kind of faith.  Let's give some

Christians believe that there exists a Being, called God, which somehow
created the universe and guides (or not, depending on whether or not
you're a Deist) its development.  Furthermore, they believe that Jesus
Christ was the son of God.  This is an untestable assumption.  Nobody
can *prove* that God exists.  They simply choose to act on the
assumption that He does.

Moslems believe in the existance of a different God, and have different
rules and details in their religion, but their fundamental assumption is
the same.  God exists.  God created the universe.  They can't prove any
of it, but they nevertheless choose to act as if it is true.

Atheists believe that God *doesn't* exist, which is essentially the same
kind of belief that is described above.  If you can't prove that God
*does* exist, you can't prove that He doesn't exist either.  This is
their untestable assumption about the universe.

Even people who are nonreligious, or agnostic, have a religion.  For
them the question is not whether or not God exists,--they don't know one
way or the other-- but whether or not the *universe*, (the external
world) exists apart from themselves.  After all, if I choose to believe
that the universe doesn't exist, and is instead some dream that I'm
entertaining myself with, there is no test you can perform which can
convince me otherwise.  Similarly, if I choose to believe that the
universe *does* exist apart from myself, there is no test that can be
carried out what will convince me otherwise (because, if it *doesn't*
exist, I must be very good at decieving myself).

The Transcendentalists of the 19th century, for example, do not really
believe that the universe exists apart from themselves.  They believe
that the human mind (or, more specifically and honestly, their minds)
are what governs the way the universe works.  To them, when men
"discover" new effects in nature, those effects are a direct result of
the discovery.  That is, that the belief in the effects are what cause
the effects.  To them, the map is the territory.

Scientists tend to think differently.  Their beliefs can be described by
those laid out in General Semantics.  "The map is not the territory; the
word is not the thing."  That is, the universe exists *apart* from our
conceptions of it.  This is my personal religion.  I begin from the
fundamental assumption that the universe does in fact exist apart from
myself, and base all further beliefs on that.  

I personally feel that this philosophy is one of the most mature and
socially responsible ones in existance, because, knowing that the
universe is not in fact something I've dreamed up, I know that other
people are emphatically *not* mine, and that I have no natural right to
impose my will upon them in any coercive way.  This is quite different
from the stance that many God followers and Transcendentalists take.

But then, that's just my biased point of view, since I'm religious and
everything. :)

Matthew James Gering wrote:
> > Atheism means that one believes that there is no God.
> You trying to claim atheism is a religion itself is like the christians
> always claiming non-christians are satin worshippers. Forget about the
> origination of the word, in today's reality most atheists simply forgo
> religion completely.
> There is no reason to think that a god does exist, so why would one even
> need to think about or believe in the negative.
> > Ah, so there are personal beliefs that aren't religion and
> > then there are personal beliefs that are?
> Yes, beliefs based on valid reason, empiricism and science are not
> religious, the generally follow the path from conjecture to theory to
> fact. You may hold lots of personal conjecture that do qualify as
> beliefs but are not religious in nature, they are not exempt from
> empirical evidence and the laws of thermodynamics. Beliefs based on
> faith and mysticism are religious. Religion is irrational.
> > What a self-rightous, pretentious,  egotistical viewpoint.
> Thank you.
> > Actualy not, the vast majority of people believe in God, just not your
> > particular brand - which after all is what the 1st is all about.
> Perhaps in Bible-belt Texas, not around here (not in the city anyway).
>         Matt