Do you believe in God?

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I am really amazed that nobody yet came up with Ludwig Feuerbach as explanation,: "God is the mirror of the humans." He came up with it in the first half of the 19th century, and has heavily influenced Marx and Engels.

Meaning that humans tend to project some inner parts of themselves into god, and therefore god is nothing else than an externalised part of the humans.
Well, it’s no secret that gods did not create Man, Man created gods.
 
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Can you get the government to acknowledge a set of beliefs as a religion and be protected and have tax exempt status if they are all based on verifiable objective truths, or is part of the requirement that they not be scientifically verifiable?
 

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I don't care why people follow a religion. I care that religion is treated as sacred.
I'm mostly interested in end results, whether as propaganda or fanaticism.

I am really amazed that nobody yet came up with Ludwig Feuerbach as explanation,: "God is the mirror of the humans." He came up with it in the first half of the 19th century, and has heavily influenced Marx and Engels.

Meaning that humans tend to project some inner parts of themselves into god, and therefore god is nothing else than an externalised part of the humans.
And on the Eighth Day, Man created God in his own likeness.
And God was Pissed.

--Unknown.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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Any deity that designed us to behave in opposition to our urges, who then relied on a system of corrupted gossip to disseminate their notion of 'ultimate morality' is just too ridiculous to contemplate as anything other than terrible fiction.
There's an interesting historical theory in connection with this.

Apparently in ancient Mesopotamia the rise of nosy and moralistic deities, and the construction of large temple complexes dedicated to their worship, coincides with homo sapiens' abandoning the nomadic hunter/gatherer way of life and settling in larger communities as agriculturalists.

The theory is that joining such larger communities in order to enjoy the benefits of membership, at least in terms of access to food, though probably not in other respects, raised the immediate problem of how you persuade people who don't know each other and have no kinship connection to with each other to trust each other.

The temples, the theory goes, helped provide a way for the community to cohere and a method of building trust between people who didn't know each other.

That is, if you accepted the god of the city as the king of the gods, at least locally, you could carry on worshipping your ancestral and household deities and spirits if you wanted, but joining the cult of the local god provided you with a way of validating your promises (to pay for goods on credit, for example, or to grant someone rights to use your land in return for a consideration) by swearing a solemn oath in the temple, then that gave your words some credence, even with people who didn't know you, amongst your co-religionists.

Furthermore, since keeping social order would obviously become more of an issue in a large community comprising mainly unrelated groups than in small bands of hunter-gatherers, it's perhaps hardly surprising that the local gods developed strong views on murder, theft, adultery and oath-breaking.

Or, rather, it's perhaps not that surprising that communities with that kind of deity, particularly if she or he knew all your secrets and would punish wrongdoers in either this life or the next, and probably in both, tended to be more successful than communities that weren't able to impose that sort of social control and thus keep the peace.

Add to that the fact the temple could act as a trusted and neutral third party, to keep records, contracts, wills and so on on behalf of local citizens (at least the ones with money), as well as administering oaths, and it's easy to see how important religion became as force for social cohesion very early on.

So in this reading, punitive morality reinforced by the promise of judgment in the next life, if not this one, is a feature, rather than a bug, of early religion.

Come to think of it, I wonder if this maybe behind the religiosity of parts of the USA -- historically, when you had all sorts of people moving west and settling in new towns and communities where people didn't know each other, it was probably a good move for folks who arrived in town and wanted to establish they were respectable and trustworthy to join the local church and use that as the social hub rather than hang out in the local saloon and make friends that way.
 

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Can you get the government to acknowledge a set of beliefs as a religion and be protected and have tax exempt status if they are all based on verifiable objective truths, or is part of the requirement that they not be scientifically verifiable?
The Satanic Temple now has IRS tax exemption as a religion and they are explicitly atheist and philosophical materialists.
 
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There's an interesting historical theory in connection with this.

Apparently in ancient Mesopotamia the rise of nosy and moralistic deities, and the construction of large temple complexes dedicated to their worship, coincides with homo sapiens' abandoning the nomadic hunter/gatherer way of life and settling in larger communities as agriculturalists.

The theory is that joining such larger communities in order to enjoy the benefits of membership, at least in terms of access to food, though probably not in other respects, raised the immediate problem of how you persuade people who don't know each other and have no kinship connection to with each other to trust each other.

The temples, the theory goes, helped provide a way for the community to cohere and a method of building trust between people who didn't know each other.

That is, if you accepted the god of the city as the king of the gods, at least locally, you could carry on worshipping your ancestral and household deities and spirits if you wanted, but joining the cult of the local god provided you with a way of validating your promises (to pay for goods on credit, for example, or to grant someone rights to use your land in return for a consideration) by swearing a solemn oath in the temple, then that gave your words some credence, even with people who didn't know you, amongst your co-religionists.

Furthermore, since keeping social order would obviously become more of an issue in a large community comprising mainly unrelated groups than in small bands of hunter-gatherers, it's perhaps hardly surprising that the local gods developed strong views on murder, theft, adultery and oath-breaking.

Or, rather, it's perhaps not that surprising that communities with that kind of deity, particularly if she or he knew all your secrets and would punish wrongdoers in either this life or the next, and probably in both, tended to be more successful than communities that weren't able to impose that sort of social control and thus keep the peace.

Add to that the fact the temple could act as a trusted and neutral third party, to keep records, contracts, wills and so on on behalf of local citizens (at least the ones with money), as well as administering oaths, and it's easy to see how important religion became as force for social cohesion very early on.

So in this reading, punitive morality reinforced by the promise of judgment in the next life, if not this one, is a feature, rather than a bug, of early religion.

Come to think of it, I wonder if this maybe behind the religiosity of parts of the USA -- historically, when you had all sorts of people moving west and settling in new towns and communities where people didn't know each other, it was probably a good move for folks who arrived in town and wanted to establish they were respectable and trustworthy to join the local church and use that as the social hub rather than hang out in the local saloon and make friends that way.
Going back to your book quote that mentions 19th century Mormons. There’s an interesting microcosmic example in Dalton, New Hampshire (a place I knew intimately).

Robert Frost, in one of his poems, mentioned that a third of that small town joined the Mormon Church and headed West. This fact has otherwise been completely forgotten in present-day Dalton. The remaining descendants are now either nonreligious, or they are UCC, the one church building in the town. UCC is directly descended from the Puritans, but today they are well-known for being strongly liberal.

The people of Dalton today are soft libertarians, so UCC’s social politics are acceptable to them. It appears the religious authoritarians sorted themselves out and went West with Joseph Smith - definitely a religious sacrifice, but not a clear one, as we will see.

The Mormons got to the Midwest and ran into trouble with the locals. Their odd theology and their opposition to owning slaves were no doubt part of this, as well as Smith’s cultish corruption. But even so, when a second migration to the Intermountain West occurred under Brigham Young, New Englanders mostly stayed behind in the relative civilization of the Midwest. They formed their own branch of Mormonism, which nowadays is so socially liberal you can hardly distinguish it from UCC.

Religion was enough to get prosperous libertarian-democratic people to the Midwest, but it wasn’t enough to get them to the Far West, a huge sacrifice by all accounts. Young was also extremely authoritarian, which couldn’t have sat well with the New Englanders.

The strong authoritarians and the desperate immigrants went West a second time, and it shows. In this way, an authoritarian part of the Puritans sorted itself out and wound up on the Wasatch Front. These people are so different from what I expected of my fellow New Englanders, that it took my doing some historical research to really see the connection.

I suppose my point is this - authoritarian self-sacrifice is useful in religion up to a point. It can be submerged in a larger, less authoritarian society and then decohere. The educated descendants of Young’s Mormons have left the Church in noticeable numbers since the second half of the 20th century. Education, mass media, middle class mobility, and now the Internet, have all played a role.

So authoritarians can overplay their hand, and liberal religions, though less compelling, do show some staying power as communities. I don’t know if they can survive the Internet era, though. All Christian churches in the US are losing members, except the fundies. It’s possible they will follow the same path with enough time.
 

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Apparently in ancient Mesopotamia the rise of nosy and moralistic deities, and the construction of large temple complexes dedicated to their worship, coincides with homo sapiens' abandoning the nomadic hunter/gatherer way of life and settling in larger communities as agriculturalists.
That makes a lot of sense. In evolutionary terms, we're very new to this scaling of human communities from small nomadic tribes (albeit with a rich texture of trading alliances) to communities of thousands, even millions, of people all jammed together in a relatively small space. The theory is that we're still quite limited in the number of stable social relationships we can maintain, somewhere in the range of 150 (Dunbar's number). So we're still wrestling with ways to organize larger groups, and most anything we come up with is going to be somewhat effective, but also somewhat a misbegotten mess, because humans just aren't built for this.
 

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Okay, the DMV makes exception for religious headgear. I might be wrong (I'm willing to admit I could be), but the DMV allows the wearing of religious headgear in DMV photos so long as it doesn't cover the face, so no single religion is getting preferential treatment. If you're not religious and want to wear religious headgear, I don't think anyone is going to stop you. The idea being that headgear is permissible as long as it is a part of your identity and doesn't hide identifying features of the picture.

How about religious exemptions to vaccination (which is much easier to get than merely "sincerely held belief" exemptions, and both are thankfully going down), religious holidays (holy days), military and prison chapels, religious exemptions to facial hair regulations, and on and on and on.
There's a difference between accommodating one's religious beliefs and giving preferential treatment because of one's religion. A prison chapel is an example of accommodating one's religious beliefs, and serves any religion they have a chaplain for. The military is the same way. They're not getting special treatment because of their religion.

In principle, no, but what about, oh, Xmass as an official holiday? It is not something for everyone though, have you SEEN Rs go off if you try to claim it is for something else or just a generic holiday? Or military grave markers, there is a huge pushback any time you want them to recognize something other than a cross as a valid choice.

There are plenty of unofficial ways where christianity is the de fact default too. Try claiming a minority religion or no religion on everything unless you love the closet.
As for religious holidays, I have never gotten a religious holiday off that wasn't also celebrated by the secular world. Christmas has been celebrated by the secular world at large for a very long time.

Grave markers? I've seen plenty of non-cross markers. I guess it depends on the culture of wherever you are. But there's no law requiring a cross be part of the grave marker that I know of.

Yes, people can be asshats about religion, and that can rub off on how people run their businesses. But there's no law sanctioning that - and if there is, then it needs to be challenged in court.
 
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I remember pretending to pray through years of school because it didn't occur to me that I was allowed not to. Thing is, I knew if I had a non-Christian religion they'd excuse me on that, but I didn't think that extended to simply not believing in any gods. I would have like to have avoided religious assemblies entirely, because being preached at about something you don't believe in is annoying and tiring and somewhat ridiculous, but for whatever reason I never said "hang on, I'm an atheist." I think I thought that would just make them try harder to make me believe.
 

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As for religious holidays, I have never gotten a religious holiday off that wasn't also celebrated by the secular world. Christmas has been celebrated by the secular world at large for a very long time.

Grave markers? I've seen plenty of non-cross markers. I guess it depends on the culture of wherever you are. But there's no law requiring a cross be part of the grave marker that I know of.
I take it you have never heard of "The War on Xmass" pretty much every holiday season then?

What military grave markers can be used ARE basically a law, dead service member's families can only choose from an approved list. You can not just come up with some new symbol and request it. It took a long time to finally get the pentagram approved because the lead official involved pretty much stated he would never approve it. When it was finally approved (it eventually led to a court case) for one Circle people started jumping on it if it was close to what they would choose.

 

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So in this reading, punitive morality reinforced by the promise of judgment in the next life, if not this one, is a feature, rather than a bug, of early religion.
Certainly! I'm not debating that religion played a vital role as peacekeeper, records keeper, insurance/welfare, during earlier times when civil law was entirely subject to the tyrannical whim of a local despot. And because parish services were both limited-localized and dependent upon active membership in an arbitrary dogmatic religion, they lost their control over those services when a more impartial civil/corporate competitor took them over.

My point was more that the way religious works (or more specifically fails to work) is proof enough to me, that the god(s) they claim to represent are false.
 

Innula Zenovka

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I suppose my point is this - authoritarian self-sacrifice is useful in religion up to a point. It can be submerged in a larger, less authoritarian society and then decohere. The educated descendants of Young’s Mormons have left the Church in noticeable numbers since the second half of the 20th century. Education, mass media, middle class mobility, and now the Internet, have all played a role.
Certainly, yes, and religions -- at least if they survive long enough to be regarded as religions rather than cults -- generally survive to the extent to which they can grow and change along with the society of which they are a component.

It's certainly very interesting to compare how protestant churches in the UK developed as compared with the USA. Here the big historical internal migration was, in stark contrast to the USA, from the countryside to the cities, as part of industrialisation.

Once the Industrial Revolution got going over here, so many country people had to leave the land, for economic reasons, and seek work in the cities, which were all growing rapidly, and thus lost their familiar social structure (including the village church, which would be Church of England and was very much an instrument of authority, on the side of the gentry) only to find themselves in dire conditions in the industrial slums.

The churches, in particular the non-conforming churches (that is, mainstream Protestant, but not part of the Church of England), and the Roman Catholic Church once it allowed to, towards the latter part of the C19th, followed the workers into the slums and, as well doing a lot of moralising also -- some of them, anyway -- did invaluable work offering medical and social services, and setting up social centres offering libraries, reading rooms, coffee shops, educational courses and so on, in order to give people a place to relax and socialise other than the pubs and gin palaces, and which eventually gave birth to the Christian Socialist Movement (now renamed "Christians on the Left") which was very influential in the Labour Party at one point.

Harold Wilson, the sometime Labour Prime Minister, famously said that the British Labour movement owed more to Methodism than to Marx, and that was once certainly the case. Up until the mid 1980s, and possibly longer, it was always a reasonable expectation up in the north of England, at least, that active Methodists, Baptists and members of the United Reformed Church would be on the political left, and probably active in the Labour Party and their trade union too.

That's very much the opposite, I think, to how it went in the USA when people were moving west, away from the cities and into rural communities, and their churches developed very differently (at least the churches of the white pioneers and settlers did -- those of the black population have their own, very different, history and identity, I believe).

Certainly! I'm not debating that religion played a vital role as peacekeeper, records keeper, insurance/welfare, during earlier times when civil law was entirely subject to the tyrannical whim of a local despot. And because parish services were both limited-localized and dependent upon active membership in an arbitrary dogmatic religion, they lost their control over those services when a more impartial civil/corporate competitor took them over.

My point was more that the way religious works (or more specifically fails to work) is proof enough to me, that the god(s) they claim to represent are false.
I think I'm missing a step in the argument somewhere.

We agree that religion worked pretty well as a social institution during early times, but that's got nothing to do with whether the god(s) involved actually exist or not -- we both agree they didn't exist then and don't exist now, except in the minds of their worshippers.

So I don't see how "the way that religio[n] works (or more specifically fails to work)" proves anything about whether "the god(s) they claim to represent are false."

Surely, if anything, it proves that the way a religion works or doesn't has nothing to do with the existence of the god in question and everything to do with social conditions, which is what I would expect, since I'm interested in religion purely as a cultural and social practice, which presumably works for its adherents otherwise -- at least in most of the world -- they'd leave it, at least if they have the opportunity.

So I'm interested in how it works for members of a particular faith community, or doesn't. Whether their god or gods exist seems to me utterly irrelevant (though very relevant to the members, obviously), since I regard the question as formally unanswerable this side of the grave (otherwise belief wouldn't come into it, since it would be a question of knowledge), but that doesn't matter since the religion functions, or doesn't, perfectly well without divine intervention.
 
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There's an interesting historical theory in connection with this.

...The temples, the theory goes, helped provide a way for the community to cohere and a method of building trust between people who didn't know each other.

That is, if you accepted the god of the city as the king of the gods, at least locally, you could carry on worshipping your ancestral and household deities and spirits if you wanted, but joining the cult of the local god provided you with a way of validating your promises (to pay for goods on credit, for example, or to grant someone rights to use your land in return for a consideration) by swearing a solemn oath in the temple, then that gave your words some credence, even with people who didn't know you, amongst your co-religionists.

Furthermore, since keeping social order would obviously become more of an issue in a large community comprising mainly unrelated groups than in small bands of hunter-gatherers, it's perhaps hardly surprising that the local gods developed strong views on murder, theft, adultery and oath-breaking. ...
Pretty much what I was trying to say earlier, in that whether or not God existed, a valid purpose was served. People for the most part need religion or a religion substitute, and I'd rather have a somewhat broken Christianity or Judaism or whatever the ancient Babylonians and Egyptions had in place over say, something Ann Ryan or Trump or the Koch brothers or their equvaltents across time would have preferred (and achieved, because of power and self-interest). There would not have even been lip service to compassion and social justice, just duty and blind obedience and hard work for "dear leader". That point pretty much got lost amidst the anger and snark early on.
 

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I take it you have never heard of "The War on Xmass" pretty much every holiday season then?
I'm aware of that. I understand it as individuals, particularly evangelical Christians, who take umbrage when others don't acknowledge the "reason for the season". I wasn't aware that the government took part in that.

What military grave markers can be used ARE basically a law, dead service member's families can only choose from an approved list. You can not just come up with some new symbol and request it. It took a long time to finally get the pentagram approved because the lead official involved pretty much stated he would never approve it. When it was finally approved (it eventually led to a court case) for one Circle people started jumping on it if it was close to what they would choose.

That much I was not aware of.
 
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Can you get the government to acknowledge a set of beliefs as a religion and be protected and have tax exempt status if they are all based on verifiable objective truths, or is part of the requirement that they not be scientifically verifiable?
That's one of the things the Pastfarians and Subgenius and Discordians and other parody religions are doing.

Me, I don't want them to be giving ANY sets of beliefs special protection or tax exempt status.
 

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Okay, the DMV makes exception for religious headgear. I might be wrong (I'm willing to admit I could be), but the DMV allows the wearing of religious headgear in DMV photos so long as it doesn't cover the face, so no single religion is getting preferential treatment.
But religion is getting preferential treatment. If I want to get my picture taken with ferret ears and whiskers, I'm out of luck unless I make up a Church of the Great Ferret.

There's a difference between accommodating one's religious beliefs and giving preferential treatment because of one's religion.
To me, these are the same thing. I don't care about religion A getting more accomodations than religion B. I care that religious beliefs are given MORE accommodations than non-religious beliefs.

Because so many religious beliefs are not as benign as "I want to wear a colander on my head".

Things like "I don't want my employees to get birth control on their insurance even if it doesn't cost me any more".

This shit is actually built into law. Look up "The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993"

I say NO. Just no. No special rights for beliefs just because someone claims some god dictated it.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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I say NO. Just no. No special rights for beliefs just because someone claims some god dictated it.
How would you feel about a rule that said all men had to grow beards and wear some sort of head covering for their driving licence photos?

That would ensure uniform treatment for everyone, after all.

If you reject this suggestion because you think the requirement would be both unduly burdensome for some men and completely unnecessary, then how would you answer the objection that it's no more burdensome than requiring a Sikh man to remove his turban or shave his beard (or an orthodox Jewish man to remove his kippah (or yarmulke, as they used to be called, I think)?

Sikhs, Jews, and Muslims might well object that while the God of the Christians dictated that His followers did not have to follow many rules about covering their heads in public or growing a beard, or covering the faces in public if they're women, and that this has become the cultural norm for non-believers, too, in both Christian cultures and in cultures that grew out of the Enlightenment in C18th Europe, which basically got rid of the Christian God but kept the values and cultural assumptions associated with Christianity, they come from very different traditions, and they don't see why they should be forced to adopt the customs of someone else's religion.

To my mind, the point of having a photo in your driving licence is that it represents your normal appearance. So unless there's some good reason not to, why not simply have the rule that people's images in their driving licence should reflect that.

That's in effect what we have in the UK, and it works perfectly well. Women in the UK whose tradition requires them to cover their faces must, nevertheless, have their passport and driver's licence showing their uncovered face, but, should they need to identify themselves as the owner of the document, they are able to insist that they are allowed to remove their facial covering in private, in the presence of woman office, who can verify the document.

That rule, it seems to me, was drawn up by someone who was primarily concerned to find the least burdensome way of checking that the passport or driving licence belongs to the person presenting it, and wasn't particularly interested in fighting culture wars.