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This seems like such an obvious topic that it's probably been done before, but if so I don't recall it. Anyway. I've been making my views on religion known more than my relatively restrained usual lately, and I've come across some really smart people who disagree with basic premises of what I think. While I can definitely be persuaded on matters of semantics, the overall gist of the arguments I've seen - basically that disciplines other than scientific ones (say, philosophy, theology, even literature, etc) describe reality, that there is somehow a different sort of reality for them to describe, I can't be persuaded into thinking, at least not with the arguments I've met with so far. Whatever forces organize the universe are unlikely in my view to take human considerations (hey, isn't astrology a discipline to some people) into account when acting.

Anyway, I have gone many years with the (perhaps unjustified) assumption that most people on this board are atheists; but even if this is true there are likely to be disagreements about what the implications of this are. Lovecraft (an unapologeticaly elitist atheist) thought that voting rights should require an IQ test, for example. When I see Sarah Palin, I am tempted to agree. Intelligence does not mean that people won't be crazy it just makes it statistically less likely. Anyway that's enough from me, it's been a while since there was a good/new discussion thread on here so hopefully this goes somewhere.
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Tolerant of religion and religious people (most of my friends are religious to some degree) but I really hate extremists who twist religion into some sort of weapon to use against people they disagree with (terrorists, right-wing Christian conservatives.)

I would like to point out that, afaik, we Yanks have the worst plague of religion in any Western country. Not because of the religion itself, again, it's because of the extremists who are using it brainwash the ignorati and gain a political seat. Why they think the way they do I have no fucking clue, because they contradict themselves all the time and using religion as their weapon seems fitting - unsure whether it's because they're trying to be ironic or if they miss the point. These are the people who brought us such as greats as "Jesus rides on dinosaur" and "Intelligent Design."

I am afraid. 
Also I will learn to spell atheist eventually 
Don Quichot was walking a dusty path with Sancho, untill they came to a point they caught a view of a crowd. It looked as they were in a fight and Din Quichot took his soard, attacking the crowd as it were enemies.
Sancho couldn't do much more than screaming: No my lord, they're not enemies, they're just shaving sheep.
Too late as Don Quichot got beaten up knowing the dust took lost of his sight.

I always think of this story when it comes to religion. 
Good Thread 
Also one of the topics you should never talk about with people you don't know.

I'm agnostic nihilist, treat that as non-religionist left wing wing but more combative.

In that same idea, people who are religious I personally see as flawed. At the same time there is something there because they're not all stupid.

If I was on an illegal as opposed to legal drug now I could be bothered and capable to say what I mean.

Sorry Tron.

Hey I'm still writing.

Watchmen is a great film. 
The Lens 
Personally, I feel that no set of beliefs are superior to another. Beliefs are like a stew where you just don't want everyone to have same ones just like there isn't one best "food".

You want diversity. It is through that diversity that you get different lenses to see the world. As sameness is a weakness in biology (evolution), it is a weakness in thought (socially and culturally). Sameness never caused a renaissance.

Where this goes wrong is the politicization of religion and/or atheism.

Generally, one characteristic of religions that people tend to hate is the "group think element" which leads to animosity towards outside groups (hence politicization).

This occurs within atheism too, of course.

The reason that religion is often taboo subject is due to the human tendency to disingenuously "politicize" religion for personal gain (status, political office, power, scapegoating) or to be socially accepted or merely the human "monkey see, monkey do" ("someone I respect is doing it, I'll do it too").

/My personal belief system is the "open mind" (i.e. Anyone with final philosophical opinions is willfully satisfying himself/herself with insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion; i.e. whatever is going on in this wonderful universe isn't intelligible to us yet and nothing can be ruled in or out.) 
... but I think the worst thing anyone can do is let someone else do their thinking for them (IOW, Monty Python's the Life Of Brian is one of my favourite things ever). 
I think that religion serves some sort of purpose for a lot of individuals (there seems to be a strong need for spirituality in most people) and for societies as well (or it would never have become this strong).

Now I'd rather see religion go, even though I'm tolerant to moderately religious people. But as I stated above, a lot of people seem to need religion or some sort of superstitious believe system. Maybe it is better for them to have religion than to face the questions that pose themselves once you take religion out of the picture. Because if you start "thinking for yourself" and defining your own set of values, you need to question a lot of things and that's a lot of work, and may be above a lot of people.

In summary, I can only repeat that I believe that for most people, being moderately religious is much better than having no believe / value system at all, which is why I tolerate it. 
Religion... What A Program... 
My family is formerly Christians' Catholic...

I believe in God for sure, but this is a personal deal in between God and myself...

Nobody can tell me what to think, what to do, who to pray: freedom !

Afterall, believing in god in something personnal, and nobody can be blamed in case not believing in god, or believing too much in God... Behing moderated is the better way to go, and I really think we should eliminate all extremists, whatever God they pray...

... though... 
great responses so far. Thanks guys.

Re: Zwiffle - I thought Yanks was the way British people referred to Americans not the way they referred to themselves (amused). The fact that Intelligent Design was shot down in a court of law (Dover) illustrates (I hope) that evidence still has priority over popular conviction in the American legal system, but I agree, I am also afraid.

Re: Madfox - a good illustration, it's awesome how Sancho's function as a sidekick is basically to hold Quixote back! Here is a similar joke (and this is FROM the middle east) that I think captures the same idea:

scorpion: carry me on your back across that river, frog!
frog: no, you're dangerous, if I come anywhere near you, you could sting me!
scorpion: well, if I did that while I was on your back in the middle of the river, we'd both drown!
frog: good point.
halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog.
frog: WHY!
scorpion: because this is the middle east. (lol)

further responses coming. 
Wow. Religion, racism and evidently self-contradictory view points.

And it's only at 9 posts so far... 
Couple More Responses 
re: ijed
Nice to see someone else describe themself as a nihilist. The term agnostic though seems unnecessary, it basically says "my beliefs are based on current evidence" and really, the term "atheist" has been straw-manned into "you have FAITH that there is no Abrahamic invisible patriarch controlling reality! Aha! my delusional stupidity and your rationality are EQUIVALENT!" (and lol at the fact that this equivalence is apparently some giant victory for theists; the best they can do is try to prove that you're as retarded as they are!). As you imply though every atheist needs an explanation for why religion exists, and I'm with you in being tempted toward the "they're flawed (lack integrity, intelligence, etc)" explanation.

Re: Baker
I agree that diversity is important, but some sets of beliefs are definitely superior to others. Some beliefs promote human well-being better than others, and some beliefs (not necessarily the same ones) are closer to truth than others. Diversity within reason, is my sort of view. 
Re: Nonentity 
didn't see racism here unless you're referring to my mideast joke, which comes from a book of jokes from around the world, and is actually from the middle east (and is thus people from there making fun of themselves). plus (to go on with this perhaps mistaken idea) middle east is not a race it's an ethnically diverse location.

as for evidently self-contradictory perhaps you'd like to explain your assertions rather than sneering from your high-ivory-horse-tower (to crossbreed a couple cliches). 
"Personally, I feel that no set of beliefs are superior to another. Beliefs are like a stew where you just don't want everyone to have same ones just like there isn't one best "food".

You want diversity."

I believe in magic elves that live in my sock drawer and grant me wishes based on how many hard boiled eggs I can fit into my mouth. Still want to include me and give me equal billing in the stew?

Religion is nonsense and anyone who believes in it, I'm sorry, I just can't take them 100% seriously. If you're going to go there you need to include Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy because they all have the same level of evidence available.

I have religious friends and I put up with their religious activities when I need to but I in no way will ever believe in it.

When I see how religion has completely polluted the political system in this country (USA) it makes me sad. Braying sheep voting with their bibles instead of their brains is a ridiculous way to choose a leader.

The bible is fiction, there is no god, and we are evolved apes living on a rock in space. It's time for the world to gain some common sense and grow the hell up.

I'll try to stay out of this thread from now on because I tend to be pretty caustic on this topic. Don't want to de-rail it into a flame war. Just wanted to get my viewpoint on the table. 
Who Rules The Universe ? 
Certainey not God... If he would love us, we would not have to support all what human being is supporting (War, Earthquake, Diseases, etc...) So while I believe in God, I am almost thinking either God is on strike, or that God hates us... though... 
Sorry To Post Such A High % Of The Content Here 
I often wonder why the rest of the universe would exist if the world was created so that humans could live in it. Why would this 'moral test' goal require billions of stars, on a scale that no one (not even us creative types) can even IMAGINE? My answer: God is Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python's Holy Grail. He needs a giant uninhabited weapons test area because he's kinda eccentric and angry and likes to test out new destructive methods lol. The missile was particularly brilliant.

happy to hear your POV Willem. Thanks. 
Friedrich H. Tenbruck 
You guys should read some tenbruck , German sociologist. No idea if his works are avail. in English.
He makes some good points about how humans need to associate some form of higher meaning with their actions ("culture"), and how this evolved from being implicit ("need it to live together") when in smallish groups, and then--with the rise of naturalistic science--from religion ("can't explain it better") to the (often overwhelming) feeling that we can in fact influence close to every aspect of the world.

iirc "Glaubensgeschichte der Moderne" (Zeitschrift fuer Politik, issue 1, 1976) might be quite relevant.

That's of course my sight of things and I'm pretty sure I can't quite summarize it as well as it needs to be summarized. Possibly mixing up different arguments there, too. 
I Think Of God As A Thing 
Heaven - you will got to heaven if you live your life good - True - you will be happier if you do good things and can look back at your life with no regrets.

Hell - you will go to hell if you live your life bad - True - you will be in hell if you spend everyday feeling bad about your bad descisions and regretable actions. You cant re-write your past, it is stuck with you, in your memory until oblivion takes you back.

In a basic sense I look to my liberal protestant C of E upbringing for moral guidance, not a literal background story as to how we all got here and what we can and cannot say/do/think or whatever.

Obvious logical moral standards can be taken from the bible, like "Thou shal not kill/steal/etc". Nothin wrong with teaching that to kids.

But people who take it a step too far annoy me. They really annoy me. Some jumped up teeange girl who goes to mass all of the time, dresses all prissy, never swears, quotes from the bible, tries to "change" peoples views to fit those of her god, takes the whole "holier than thou" opinion of people who dont think the same. Its a plague of ignorance I tell you, a PLAGUE!!!!!!

Do anal 
What An Ending 
I believe in magic elves that live in my sock drawer and grant me wishes based on how many hard boiled eggs I can fit into my mouth. Still want to include me and give me equal billing in the stew?

You conceal your unusual beliefs very well. ;)

I should have said reasonable beliefs.

Most governments tend to grant special privileges to people with religious beliefs like extra days off work or the right to wear certain hats.

Something is wrong in the world if you have to join a religion to wear your favorite hat to work. 
@Willem Pt. 2 
When I see how religion has completely polluted the political system in this country (USA) it makes me sad. Braying sheep voting with their bibles instead of their brains is a ridiculous way to choose a leader.

I think much of this is a function of what is essentially a legally-sanctioned 2 party system in the USA.

The result of limited competition in a political system is collusion and collusion leads to each party making only a minimal effort to "lead" with strong built-in safeguards against reform and most "changes" are to enrich the actual participants in the political system -- which is the inevitable result of all forms of artificially limited competition. 
Something is wrong in the world if you have to join a religion to wear your favorite hat to work.
I so agree. We always wanted to create a religion that grants you unlimited rights to free speech, masked protesting, etc. 
Kraken, also called the Crab-fish, which is not that huge, for heads and tails counted, he is no larger than our ´┐Żland is wide [i.e. less than 16 km] ... He stays at the sea floor, constantly surrounded by innumerable small fishes, who serve as his food and are fed by him in return: for his meal, if I remember correctly what E. Pontoppidan writes, lasts no longer than three months, and another three are then needed to digest it. His excrements nurture in the following an army of lesser fish, and for this reason, fishermen plumb after his resting place ... Gradually, Kraken ascends to the surface, and when he is at ten to twelve fathoms, the boats had better move out of his vicinity, as he will shortly thereafter burst up, like a floating island, spurting water from his dreadful nostrils and making ring waves around him, which can reach many miles. Could one doubt that this is the Leviathan of Job? 
Elephant Talk 
the being of the creature has never been proven.
I can only think by the grace of remembering myself.
Does this implend consiousness?
I don't know, the feeling of the power to remember myself only gives me a sense of a God remembering it all.

Now I go looking what I was forgotten, because I membered myself to consiousness, while I can't remember... 
To Lord Diabolus 
Agnostic, approve of pastoral care, indifferent to religion, intolerant of extremism, open to the possibility of a lot that is beyond current scientific knowledge including god-equivalent beings. 
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