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Offline john

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Religion as sport
« on: September 05, 2008, 10:39:36 PM »
Consider the human institution of sport.  2 teams get together in an organized context, in every way identical except for the colors they wear, and engage in a theatrical pseudo-battle.  As with all theater, the fundamental purpose of sport is to deceive.  The fans of each team get so wrapped up in the success of their respective team that they may actually believe that the question of who will win the game is a matter of virtue.  They believe that the score is not simply a number - it communicates something essential about the nature of the universe, which would be utterly different if the numbers were reversed.

To demonstrate the futility of the zeal of sports fans to the sport itself, consider trying to learn the rules of a sport by completely ignoring the field and instead focusing exclusively on the fans.  The effort would be completely fruitless.  Why?  Because the urgency and zeal that the fans pour onto their respective teams tells you absolutely nothing about the nature of the sport.  The sport itself does not, therefore have any recognition of the idea that "we're number 1".  To attempt to evaluate the meaning of this claim, therefore, gets one nowhere in attempting to understand the sport.

The sport itself is defined by rules.  There is a field of extremely specific dimensions and markings.  There are referees, umpires, or other officials.  There is usually a clock, a set starting time, a scoreboard, and thousands of other details.  Fans don't pay attention to these things, because they are taken for granted.  These are the unmentioned overarching rules of the game that apply to any team.

I find that this model of understanding is completely applicable to religion.  The competing objectives, truth claims, and doctrinal differences ultimately amount to nothing more significant than team colors or mascots. 

What is my evidence for the existence of this game, in particular its overarching organization?  The fact that theists who absolutely fundamentally disagree with one another, sometimes to the point of death, will come together to oppose the scourge of atheism.  On this forum, the fundamentalist Muslim Afadly is on the same side as the Christian Defender of Christ.  This suggests several important things:

"Atheism is a religion." - It demonstrates that this statement is fantasy.  Theists wish that atheism was a religion, and may take comfort in trying to convince themselves that it is.  This is because if atheism was a religion, it would be part of the system.  It would be subject to the same game rules.  It would have to obey the lines on the field, the referees/umpires, etc.  If this statement were correct, then theists would have the same sort of comfortable, sanctioned opposition to it that sports fans have toward other teams, and would have no reason to unite with other teams to oppose it.  Atheism does not threaten any one team, but the entire sport.  All the fans tacitly recognize this, and object to it in one voice.  In doing so, they demonstrate that atheism is something qualitatively different than just another team in the game.

"We of (team A) have the Real Truth." - The fact that you pay attention only to your own team's colors does not mean that the game consists entirely of them.  If you believed that, then you wouldn't have a problem with us.  To therefore attempt to evaluate or validate individual claims, such as "Jesus saved me." or "There is no God but Allah", is nothing but a distraction.

What does this mean to atheists who are trying to solve the problem of religion? 

First, it explains why conversations with individual adherents about the validity of their claims is an exercise in futility.  The doctrine is not the point.  The beliefs are not the point.  Not even God is the point.  The point is the game.  You aren't going to solve the problem of football(soccer) inspired wars in South America by attempting to convince the Brazilians that they do not have the world's best forward.

Second, it suggests a very serious and very exploitable weakness of religion itself.  Whatever the rules of the game are, be they psychological, sociological, etc., they are very much vulnerable to attack.  All we have to do is figure out the overarching organizational structure and destroy it.

edit- spelling
« Last Edit: September 07, 2008, 01:18:53 PM by john »
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Offline Mooby

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2008, 01:38:36 AM »
Fans don't like it when others start driving cars onto their field just because they don't enjoy the game.

What some atheists fail to understand, though, is that that's part of the game.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2008, 01:40:39 AM by Mooby »
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Offline Goodkat

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2008, 01:54:50 AM »
Fans don't like it when others start driving cars onto their field just because they don't enjoy the game.

What some atheists fail to understand, though, is that that's part of the game.

A group of people don't like football because they see that it turns its fans into mindless animals and funnels their effort into oblivion, so they blow up the stands. That is part of the game?

Offline john

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2008, 01:55:05 AM »
What some atheists fail to understand, though, is that that's part of the game.

So you acknowledge that religion is a game.  Interesting.
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Offline kcrady

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2008, 04:04:15 AM »
Interesting hypothesis, John.

Second, it suggests a very serious and very exploitable weakness of religion itself.  Whatever the rules of the game are, be they psychological, sociological, etc., they are very much vulnerable to attack.  All we have to do is figure out the overarching organizational structure and destroy it.

Hmmm, I'll have to think about this more, but it may be that the "rules of the game" are elements of human nature that will prove to be exceedingly difficult to "attack" in any meaningful sense.  Things like a need for a community ("We're Number One!"), the sense of being part of something larger than oneself (doing "the Wave" in the stadium? ;) ), the built-in capacity of the brain to generate "spiritual" experiences, and so on.  The universality of religion/"spirituality" in human cultures would arguably indicate that something like this is the case.  A progressive, scientific world view may be able to adapt to meet these needs, but then it would become another team in the league.   

Do you think it would be helpful or harmful for atheists to become a team in the league?  Why? 
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Offline ;)

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2008, 05:59:14 AM »
I've never looked at it like that, but it fits remarkably well :)

Quote
Do you think it would be helpful or harmful for atheists to become a team in the league?

Atheists couldn't become a team in the league though, because we don't abide by their rules?
I see it more as Atheism creating a new sport, a freestyle sport in which you go from A to B according to your own rules ::)
Our freedom's consuming itself.

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2008, 08:41:26 AM »
Very insightful John.  Wish I thought of it.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

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Offline Mooby

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2008, 12:20:07 PM »
So you acknowledge that religion is a game.  Interesting.
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Offline john

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2008, 12:20:30 PM »
Do you think it would be helpful or harmful for atheists to become a team in the league?  Why? 

I think it would be harmful.  If I am right about this, then one of the critical elements of religion is the social agreement that it be deceitful yet fully believed.  The only problem religion has with us is that we stand up in the middle of the movie, walk right in front of the screen, and yell "This is only a movie!" at the top of our lungs.  Once you agree to ignore the deceit, it doesn't matter what show you put on.  If the religionists think you are putting on some sort of a show, then they ignore you because you are no longer a threat.

In your recent thread "If you became an atheist tomorrow, what would you miss?"

http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?topic=1179.msg21911#msg21911

Wherein you are trying to get at the point of religious belief, one of the theist replies simply consisted of the following statement.

The fun of believing.

At first, this may seem like a sarcastic throwaway statement, but I think it may actually be the most honest and significant reply.  Like theater or sport, they do it because it is fun. 

Now, as an aside to any theists who might be reading this and wondering "Ok, so what's wrong with it?  Are you saying we can't have our fun?"  The problem we have is not that you are enjoying the experience of completely losing yourself in the game, but that you demand that the entire world show up in the stadium on game day, and that your game necessarily includes the death of innocents.  You are taking it way, way too seriously and something must be done.

The point is that playing the game at all, regardless of how you play it, tacitly acknowledges the validity of the game.  The game cannot be changed by playing it.  If we put together a dream team and completely dominated the game, all we will accomplish is to amplify its significance.

It seems to me that the problem is that we play the game too much as it is.  When we get into discussions with theists about the historicity of Noah's Ark, for example, we are no more working against the game than we would be working against baseball by getting into an argument in a bar with a Yankees fan about whether or not Dimaggio was the best hitter of all time.

We need to find a way to call out the bullshit one level higher than we usually do.  Rather than opposing specific truth claims, which assume that both parties are genuinely trying to pursue truth, we need to respond by saying "You're not just wrong.  You're lying.  Not about this thing you believe, but that you are trying to believe truth as opposed to owning it.  You don't want the truth.  You simply want to be right."
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Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2008, 01:09:34 PM »
The point is that playing the game at all, regardless of how you play it, tacitly acknowledges the validity of the game.  The game cannot be changed by playing it.  If we put together a dream team and completely dominated the game, all we will accomplish is to amplify its significance.

Thought of the day.

It seems to me that the problem is that we play the game too much as it is.  When we get into discussions with theists about the historicity of Noah's Ark, for example, we are no more working against the game than we would be working against baseball by getting into an argument in a bar with a Yankees fan about whether or not Dimaggio was the best hitter of all time.

We need to find a way to call out the bulls**t one level higher than we usually do.  Rather than opposing specific truth claims, which assume that both parties are genuinely trying to pursue truth, we need to respond by saying "You're not just wrong.  You're lying.  Not about this thing you believe, but that you are trying to believe truth as opposed to owning it.  You don't want the truth.  You simply want to be right."

Exactly.  I fell into this 'play the game' dead end on a few of my posts over the last couple days.

I'd add this insight;

One of the games the Christians play (but not all of them) is a strict presuppositionalism.  They basically insist on playing by the legue rules where they are from -- and that legue is for a game of Calvinball.  In the process of insisting on playing by their rules, if you call them out on it (I call them solopsists, as presupposationalism is solopsism) they ignore the complaint and keep playing Calvinball.  It's ineffective in the long run to tell them they need to play by consistent and agreed upon rules...they still presume the rules they want.
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Offline kcrady

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2008, 01:51:04 AM »
Do you think it would be helpful or harmful for atheists to become a team in the league?  Why? 

I think it would be harmful.  If I am right about this, then one of the critical elements of religion is the social agreement that it be deceitful yet fully believed.

I was thinking more in terms of the "clan identity" aspect of it, with regard to Davedave's desire that atheists "unite."  So you're not saying that a strongly united atheist movement in which atheists self-identify as such and fight as a united front would necessarily be a "team" in the game, right?

The only problem religion has with us is that we stand up in the middle of the movie, walk right in front of the screen, and yell "This is only a movie!" at the top of our lungs.  Once you agree to ignore the deceit, it doesn't matter what show you put on.

Ah, OK.  The metaphor for this I had in the back of my mind is that religion is a Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) game.  LARP (as I understand it) is pretty much the same thing as a regular role-playing game (like Dungeons and Dragons), except that the players don costumes and act as their characters in an open physical setting.  I don't know exactly how they do the dice rolls and the monsters, etc..

In religion, the "player" becomes a spiritual warrior, saver of souls, holy man, miraculous healer, etc. instead of the D&D classes like figher, cleric, bard, magic-user, and so on.  Through their prayers, they can help insure that the gas pipeline God wants ::) gets built, etc..  Instead of being merely human, the religious person is an immortal superbeing acting out an important role in a cosmological drama.

The atheist is one who barges in and says, "No, you guys are just a bunch of dorks in silly costumes."

In your recent thread "If you became an atheist tomorrow, what would you miss?"

http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?topic=1179.msg21911#msg21911

Wherein you are trying to get at the point of religious belief, one of the theist replies simply consisted of the following statement.

The fun of believing.

At first, this may seem like a sarcastic throwaway statement, but I think it may actually be the most honest and significant reply.  Like theater or sport, they do it because it is fun.

Yes, I think it has to do with finding an escape from the mundane-ness of reality.  There is a reason that the fiction industry (books, movies, TV, theater) rakes in billions of dollars every year.  Reality is either miserable, or boring and pointless most of the time.  We crave ways to escape and/or transcend it. 

The difference between religion (and other things, like belief in the paranormal) and movies and novels is that in religion, the story isn't boxed into a theater or book.  There is no last page, no rolling of the credits.  When you go to your boring job with the boss you hate, you can take your unexpectedly convenient parking space as a little "Hello!" from Jesus or the transcendent superbeing of your choice.  or maybe as a synchronicity that validates your ability to create reality a la The Secret or What The Bleep Do We Know

Atheism denudes the world of this superimposed layer of magic, leaving the cubicles and the car payments as the only reality.  Atheism is popular with scientists, but then scientists are generally doing work they're passionate about, having direct contact with the frontiers of knowledge.  I don't know what the percentages are with other creative professions like designers, engineers, artists, writers, etc..  However, my impression is that atheism will never be as popular among janitors, garbage men and insurance salespersons as it is in more directly creative and meaningful lines of work.

The point is that playing the game at all, regardless of how you play it, tacitly acknowledges the validity of the game.  The game cannot be changed by playing it.  If we put together a dream team and completely dominated the game, all we will accomplish is to amplify its significance.

On the other hand, it may be that trying to stop people from playing the game would be like trying to stop people from ever reading novels or going to movies.  If that's the case, then finding a new way to imbue daily life with significance, meaning and "magic" that does not threaten our survival or our planetary ecosystem may be the only way to go.

It seems to me that the problem is that we play the game too much as it is.  When we get into discussions with theists about the historicity of Noah's Ark, for example, we are no more working against the game than we would be working against baseball by getting into an argument in a bar with a Yankees fan about whether or not Dimaggio was the best hitter of all time.

We need to find a way to call out the bulls**t one level higher than we usually do.  Rather than opposing specific truth claims, which assume that both parties are genuinely trying to pursue truth, we need to respond by saying "You're not just wrong.  You're lying.  Not about this thing you believe, but that you are trying to believe truth as opposed to owning it.  You don't want the truth.  You simply want to be right."

Could you clarify the distinction (as you see it) between wanting the truth, and wanting to be right?
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Offline john

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2008, 02:58:52 AM »
I was thinking more in terms of the "clan identity" aspect of it, with regard to Davedave's desire that atheists "unite."  So you're not saying that a strongly united atheist movement in which atheists self-identify as such and fight as a united front would necessarily be a "team" in the game, right?

Right.  Playing the game is a matter of the nature of our action, not that we act together.

Quote
On the other hand, it may be that trying to stop people from playing the game would be like trying to stop people from ever reading novels or going to movies.  If that's the case, then finding a new way to imbue daily life with significance, meaning and "magic" that does not threaten our survival or our planetary ecosystem may be the only way to go.

I can see your point.  When I talked about "destroying it", I was referring more to the overarching structure than the game itself, but didn't get the point across very well.  On further reflection, I am reminded that religions differ not only in their conclusions and ideals, but in their fundamental approach.  This suggests that there is more than one way to play the game.  It may be possible to consider such "play" in the context of something utterly sublime, such as a violin concerto is played.

Quote
Could you clarify the distinction (as you see it) between wanting the truth, and wanting to be right?

I think my viewpoint on that would be colored by what I do for a living, as you suggested in your previous post.  I am an IT network engineer.  My job consists of analyzing enormous, incredibly complex systems to solve problems which may have multiple simultaneous causes, or that are maddeningly intermittent.  I therefore depend daily on the scientific method, and experience an enormous sense of reward and importance when I solve a problem.  I therefore find it very easy to see pure, impartial empiricism as a practice that confers significance.  If you go after a spanning tree reconvergence that throws a single ASIC in a router in Germany into chaos, causing it to briefly drop its route table, which causes a massive bank statement printer in Milwaukee to go into clutch mode with gut instinct and intuition, you have absolutely no hope of success.

I see gut instinct and intuition, therefore, as simply the desire to be right.  I've seen a lot of guys cause absolutely legendary network disasters by gambling with their preferences rather than actually looking at the data before coming to a conclusion.

To determine truth, however, especially when it really matters, demands that one's preferences be carefully filtered out of the process of analysis.  This is what the scientific method does.  To set one's preferences aside and really look at the data, therefore, is the desire for truth as opposed to the desire to be right.
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Offline ksm

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2008, 03:03:12 AM »
I like this game analogy.

I will bend my feeble intellect against it to see if it suffers from analogy flaws. Most analogies do, but you might have beaten the odds this time.

It might not even be an analogy come to think about it...

Offline kcrady

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2008, 04:11:37 AM »
I see gut instinct and intuition, therefore, as simply the desire to be right.  I've seen a lot of guys cause absolutely legendary network disasters by gambling with their preferences rather than actually looking at the data before coming to a conclusion.

ROTFL!

"But gut instinct always worked for Captain Kirk!"

"Yeah, but Captain Kirk was always turning computers into smoking ruins, not getting them running again properly."

Your "desire to be right" sounds a lot like what David Brin means by "indignation addiction."  He proposes that research be conducted into the possibility that people can become addicted to the brain chemicals released when they are indignant, i.e. sure they are right.  A fundamentalist preaching a fire-and-brimstone sermon, railing against "sin" or a political ideologue railing against "godless libruls" or "greedy imperialist capitalist exploiters of the proletariat" gets a "high" from "being right," and thus is unwilling to critically examine their own ideas for accuracy.

To determine truth, however, especially when it really matters, demands that one's preferences be carefully filtered out of the process of analysis.  This is what the scientific method does.  To set one's preferences aside and really look at the data, therefore, is the desire for truth as opposed to the desire to be right.

Agreed. 
"The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks."

--Greta Christina

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2008, 06:59:06 AM »
The only problem religion has with us is that we stand up in the middle of the movie, walk right in front of the screen, and yell "This is only a movie!" at the top of our lungs.  Once you agree to ignore the deceit, it doesn't matter what show you put on.

Ah, OK.  The metaphor for this I had in the back of my mind is that religion is a Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) game.  LARP (as I understand it) is pretty much the same thing as a regular role-playing game (like Dungeons and Dragons), except that the players don costumes and act as their characters in an open physical setting.  I don't know exactly how they do the dice rolls and the monsters, etc..

In religion, the "player" becomes a spiritual warrior, saver of souls, holy man, miraculous healer, etc. instead of the D&D classes like figher, cleric, bard, magic-user, and so on.  Through their prayers, they can help insure that the gas pipeline God wants ::) gets built, etc..  Instead of being merely human, the religious person is an immortal superbeing acting out an important role in a cosmological drama.

The atheist is one who barges in and says, "No, you guys are just a bunch of dorks in silly costumes."

While this is rare, I do not agree with your analogy this time.  It's close, but John's is much more accurate; it is like two sports teams and the fans of those teams.   Imagine making fun of the guys in team paint and "C O W B O Y S" on their naked bellies.  The main difference is that the Christians want to make everywhere inside and outside the stadium the stadium. 

Imagine, on a non-game day, on a nondescript Tuesday, at lunch time ... the "C O W B O Y S" walking down the street and a bunch of Cosplay characters walking down the street.  At most, the Cowboys fans would have to have team jackets on.
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The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2008, 07:15:18 AM »
The fun of believing.
At first, this may seem like a sarcastic throwaway statement, but I think it may actually be the most honest and significant reply.  Like theater or sport, they do it because it is fun.

Yes, I think it has to do with finding an escape from the mundane-ness of reality.  There is a reason that the fiction industry (books, movies, TV, theater) rakes in billions of dollars every year.  Reality is either miserable, or boring and pointless most of the time.  We crave ways to escape and/or transcend it. 

The difference between religion (and other things, like belief in the paranormal) and movies and novels is that in religion, the story isn't boxed into a theater or book.  There is no last page, no rolling of the credits.  When you go to your boring job with the boss you hate, you can take your unexpectedly convenient parking space as a little "Hello!" from Jesus or the transcendent superbeing of your choice.  or maybe as a synchronicity that validates your ability to create reality a la The Secret or What The Bleep Do We Know

Atheism denudes the world of this superimposed layer of magic, leaving the cubicles and the car payments as the only reality.  Atheism is popular with scientists, but then scientists are generally doing work they're passionate about, having direct contact with the frontiers of knowledge.  I don't know what the percentages are with other creative professions like designers, engineers, artists, writers, etc..  However, my impression is that atheism will never be as popular among janitors, garbage men and insurance salespersons as it is in more directly creative and meaningful lines of work.

It's beyond being bored, though.  There is an air of deep cliquish fantasy there, but there is also an undercurrent of fear. 

As was pointed out by one former Evangelical, all books written for the Christian popular press could be titled "How to believe/have_faith/... despite ... [something in reality]".

The post where I mentioned this tendency was largely ignored, but I think it's critical to this discussion;

How to keep your faith in spite of ...
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?topic=1185


A while back, I stumbled on an entry from Chris Hallquist's blog where he reviews a book from Frank Schaffer subtitled; "How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Live to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back"

Here's what stood out for me;

Quote
Review: Frank Schaffer's Crazy for God
...

There are a few insights into evangelicalism: how his dad's conversion story varied with the tellings, from revival tent meeting to "studying Greek philosophy... and that it occurred to him that the Bible answered the philosophical questions raised by the Greeks." Then there's this gem:

Quote
It is no coincidence that about 99 percent of evangelical books are written to help people order their lives according to an invisible world when everything in the visible world is challenging faith. The title of almost any evangelical book could be "How to Keep Your Faith in Spite of..." fill in the blank, college, art, science, philosophy, sex, temptation, literature, media, TV, movies, your homosexual tendencies, your heterosexual tendencies... in other words, every break you take.

This passage was something of an "aha!" moment for me: I knew of course that a lot of apologetics focused on helping people keep their faith in spite of history, science, and philosophy (the latter, I understand, was the dad's specialty), but it never occurred to me that Evangelical books on popular culture might fill this same essential role.

...

The story ends with Frank describing how he came to despise the leaders of the religious right as he had more and more contact with them and had to find a way out, which is where the crappy film making comes in. That, and the fact that his involvement with the religious right was a relatively brief part of his life, suggests a sort of moral to the story: people can get wrapped up in something they aren't quite supportive of, get fed up and leave relatively quickly, and yet they've done what they've done, and it can't be undone. They've left their mark on the world.

http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com/2008/03/review-frank-schaffers-crazy-for-god.html

I assert that the same type of focus on non-real events and ethereal spiritualism is endemic in religious views in general.  This does not mean that all religious people are living in fantasy land, only that the religious views are expressed or relied upon are abstractions that have no basis in reality and that this is intentional.  It's like a fantasy book club where you don't even have to read the book.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2008, 08:15:04 AM »
The point is that playing the game at all, regardless of how you play it, tacitly acknowledges the validity of the game.  The game cannot be changed by playing it.  If we put together a dream team and completely dominated the game, all we will accomplish is to amplify its significance.

On the other hand, it may be that trying to stop people from playing the game would be like trying to stop people from ever reading novels or going to movies.  If that's the case, then finding a new way to imbue daily life with significance, meaning and "magic" that does not threaten our survival or our planetary ecosystem may be the only way to go.

It would be akin to saying "Your team sucks!" during a play, or more exactly "What's the point of moving the ball/puck/... around ... isn't it kinda silly when you have better things to do?" as well as telling a binging alcoholic at the game "Did you know that excessive alcohol intake causes liver damage -- and your team sucks?"  A "@uck off" or in this case "Bless you"/... would be the gut level response. 

The mailbox feedback here shows that is exactly what happens.  The responses are almost always polarized and range from 'Go to Hell' through 'bless you ... I pray that you do not go to Hell'.  A chunk in the middle are actually thinking somewhat, but they are still in the moment in the game and are stunned that you can't see the wonder of the ball/puck/... in motion.  Yet, the bulk of the responses already know that you're an @$$ for pointing out that Pro Wrestling is an act (with very fit athletes playing the camped up roles), or that many of the players on the field are talented but dumb.

Speaking of the players, listen to the interviews with and about Christian evangelical attack dog Ravi Zacharias on the Reasonable Doubts podcast; http://doubtreligion.blogspot.com .  The hosts of that show get torn to shreds mostly by the volume of nonsense Zacharias throws at them, but also his style and presuppositional stance that he pulls them into.  The follow up show has Jeremy Beahan from the Reason Driven Podcast who dissects just how RZ cornholed them and tells them what they know; you were out flanked, raped, and he made you like it -- regardless if you were on the winning team.

(Side note: Did you see the video with the lady who was smiling and talking about how (after the rapture) she will be riding a white horse through the sky back to Earth to rule with Jesus?  It's magical, but it's also cheering for your team.)

One issue with this analogy, though; In order to 'understand the game' you have to 'be in the moment of the game'.  The calls from theists to believe first or feel the spirit to understand are right in line with watching a sports game and reviling in the chaos, perfection, and magic going on between the players and on the field itself.  To reach into that moment would mean to join the game, and then we're back at playing by the rules of the game and arguing over rules here and there. 


Side note: Read Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell if you have not yet.  Very practical insights and information.  I've found that getting electronic copies of books -- ones I like and ones I reference -- is a good way to do research and review of any subject; 

http://www.scribd.com/search?query=breaking+spell+dennett&x=0&y=0
Login: Grab one from http://www.bugmenot.com if you don't want to be bothered

Amazon (direct; support your favorite site by using the link it provides):

http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Spell-Religion-Natural-Phenomenon/dp/0143038338

Bad recording of one of the "Da Bears" SNL skits;

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPP3aTB6nLo[/youtube]
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2008, 08:35:17 AM »
On the other hand, it may be that trying to stop people from playing the game would be like trying to stop people from ever reading novels or going to movies.  If that's the case, then finding a new way to imbue daily life with significance, meaning and "magic" that does not threaten our survival or our planetary ecosystem may be the only way to go.

I can see your point.  When I talked about "destroying it", I was referring more to the overarching structure than the game itself, but didn't get the point across very well.  On further reflection, I am reminded that religions differ not only in their conclusions and ideals, but in their fundamental approach.  This suggests that there is more than one way to play the game.  It may be possible to consider such "play" in the context of something utterly sublime, such as a violin concerto is played.

Yet, often theists ask "Well, if not my religious beliefs, what do you have?"  They are asking the question of why they should cheer or join another team.  By not having another team to join, they basically have nothing to go on and are dismissive.  (It is important that they ask this like a local fan would ask it at a local game ... and the answer is implied; you got nothing ... admit it ... GO TEAM!)

Conversely, I've noticed that asking the question ...

Why your religion and not some other religion?

... also gets no response worth following up with.  I think the question is important, but it does not speak to people in the game.

So, there's an issue with the two questions that we need to address or deal with (by ignoring, destroying, or circumventing them);

  • If not 'the god', what do you have?
  (Note: implies a 1:1 replacement for 'the god')
  • Why your religion and not some other religion?


Side note: This reminds me of Windows users or Mac users complaining about the other operating system.   If one OS doesn't have *exactly* the same abilities of another OS down to a menu setting on a specific narrowly tailored application, then that OS is worthless.  That's of course nonsense, but people don't want to learn the intricacies of other operating systems; difference is bad...thus the other thing is cr@p.  As a veteran of these conversations, I can tell you that talking about these things is a waste of time.   My little sister uses Linux.  Why?  Because I gave her a computer with it that I could remotely maintain and I didn't want to mess with it.  She likes it much more than Windows ... and complains about Windows when she is forced to use it.  My father is the opposite, and is annoyed if he sees Linux when he expected Windows and can't understand why anyone would use anything but Windows.  I'm sure that this type of thinking sounds familiar to everyone in this discussion.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2008, 09:08:21 AM »
Could you clarify the distinction (as you see it) between wanting the truth, and wanting to be right?

I think my viewpoint on that would be colored by what I do for a living, as you suggested in your previous post.  I am an IT network engineer.  My job consists of analyzing enormous, incredibly complex systems to solve problems which may have multiple simultaneous causes, or that are maddeningly intermittent.  I therefore depend daily on the scientific method, and experience an enormous sense of reward and importance when I solve a problem.  I therefore find it very easy to see pure, impartial empiricism as a practice that confers significance.  If you go after a spanning tree reconvergence that throws a single ASIC in a router in Germany into chaos, causing it to briefly drop its route table, which causes a massive bank statement printer in Milwaukee to go into clutch mode with gut instinct and intuition, you have absolutely no hope of success.

I see gut instinct and intuition, therefore, as simply the desire to be right.  I've seen a lot of guys cause absolutely legendary network disasters by gambling with their preferences rather than actually looking at the data before coming to a conclusion.

To determine truth, however, especially when it really matters, demands that one's preferences be carefully filtered out of the process of analysis.  This is what the scientific method does.  To set one's preferences aside and really look at the data, therefore, is the desire for truth as opposed to the desire to be right.

Don't totally dismiss the gut, though.  I agree with what you say, yet when you back up to a project level and someone asks you your opinion on a bunch of ideas that are new to you ... you probably have a very good grasp of what ideas are worth spending time investigating and what ones are just bad ideas ... even if they look to be logical and practical to a normal person outside your set of experiences.  You can make those judgements very quickly, and at most you will pause to ask specific questions as you sort the good from the bad while you are likely ignorant of the details in either.

Intuition is extremely valuable.  As mentioned at the end of Flock of Dodos, though, at some stage moving from the guts to the brain is necessary and I agree that it is maddening when people in technical projects don't make that move and in the process cause all sorts of long-term havoc.

Getting back on subject; religions have many fundamental flaws, yet people deal with them dynamically and are able to do this sorting very quickly.  Yet, it also encourages needless complexity and perpetuation of those flaws.


Plug: Book: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (also see Ted.com), and Dan Gilbert's presentation http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html .  Gladwell shows that intuition can be used to make accurate snap judgements that are non-intuitive, and that that skill can be trained and expanded.   

As an example; Occasionally, I use a word that if you asked me what it meant a few minutes earlier I would shrug and tell you I had no idea.  Yet, when I check how I used the word -- the context of the word -- it turns out that I used it correctly; the word is 'perfect for' that one instance.  Yet, though that is the case often, I also check unusual words or even the spelling of common words to correct as many errors that I make when creating something new as I can.  I fail at that editing task quite often, and I am humbled by that into attempting to do better the next time.  Yet, some editing can only happen well after the text has been created.  Religion defies editing and review and lives in the moment; it is largely immune to investigation and analysis as Dennett pointed out.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #19 on: September 07, 2008, 09:29:30 AM »
Your "desire to be right" sounds a lot like what David Brin means by "indignation addiction."  He proposes that research be conducted into the possibility that people can become addicted to the brain chemicals released when they are indignant, i.e. sure they are right.  A fundamentalist preaching a fire-and-brimstone sermon, railing against "sin" or a political ideologue railing against "godless libruls" or "greedy imperialist capitalist exploiters of the proletariat" gets a "high" from "being right," and thus is unwilling to critically examine their own ideas for accuracy.

Good insight.  I'm reviewing the link right now.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #20 on: September 08, 2008, 06:08:07 PM »
*bump!*

OK, I apologize to John for dumping so much into his thread. 

It's still a good one, though ... don't let it die!    ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Alkan

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2008, 07:03:55 PM »
Atheism still falls under the definition of religion of one considers religions to be teams in the sport of understanding what's beyond what is physically seen.

Atheists still insist that they're right, as does Christianity, and they argue pointlessly over it. One is obviously incorrect, and has less basis for certain claims, but a lot more basis for the claim of whether or not there is a God...

Offline Vynn

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #22 on: September 08, 2008, 07:12:10 PM »
Atheism still falls under the definition of religion of one considers religions to be teams in the sport of understanding what's beyond what is physically seen.

I disagree, because someone can be an atheist and be religious in any number of ways NOT affiliated with any god-belief-religion. An atheist simply does not believe in god. An atheist can be religious in his convictions on a political party, his goals for humanity, his motivations, but he's not religious (usually) in his atheism. Though i admit it is possible.


Atheists still insist that they're right, as does Christianity, and they argue pointlessly over it.

Some atheists insist that they are right, and some don't. Really, it's not the point. The point is, there's more reason for one stance than the other. (It doesn't make sense to believe in myths with no evidence just because they make you feel better about yourself.)

Also, i don't buy into the notion of it being a "pointless" argument. I think there's a valid point to be made, and it's a worthwhile debate to have. (Perhaps you are religious in your characterization of what christians and atheists do, and whether it has a point? Hmm??)


One is obviously incorrect, and has less basis for certain claims, but a lot more basis for the claim of whether or not there is a God...

I don't understand this last part. Can you help me with it? Which one is obviously incorrect? Why? So what? What then follows?

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #23 on: September 08, 2008, 07:18:41 PM »
Atheism still falls under the definition of religion of one considers religions to be teams in the sport of understanding what's beyond what is physically seen.

I'm not going to do all the work on this one when you've provided so little.  Show support for what you're saying or retract it.

Atheists still insist that they're right, as does Christianity, and they argue pointlessly over it. One is obviously incorrect, and has less basis for certain claims, but a lot more basis for the claim of whether or not there is a God...

I insist on reality.  If one or more god(s) are part of that reality, then I need only be shown that is the case ... and I'm no longer an atheist.  That's not a very high bar for the theists to meet if they have god(s) that are part of reality.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Alkan

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #24 on: September 08, 2008, 07:24:00 PM »

One is obviously incorrect, and has less basis for certain claims, but a lot more basis for the claim of whether or not there is a God...

I don't understand this last part. Can you help me with it? Which one is obviously incorrect? Why? So what? What then follows?

Yeah, its a small shred of evidence that many could argue over, but it would be pointless. Jesus did have a huge radical change in philosophy, contradictory to the old testament, while having no record of being a genius in any way. There was no record of how he came to conclusions, no record of being interested in music, art, math, nature, etc.

Just a random change in moral philosophy. But that really is the only evidence. The rest of the Bible is crap. It is by the fact that the Bible is extremely contradictory that I think it is possible that Jesus may have been more than a man.

However, that doesn't mean Christians are right about science. They're completely off, obviously. It is obvious that evolution is how we became humans, and it is obvious that a disbelief in any God is an assumption.

Offline Vynn

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #25 on: September 08, 2008, 07:42:08 PM »
Yeah, its a small shred of evidence that many could argue over, but it would be pointless.

Just because you say that an argument is pointless, doesn't mean that it necessarily is. To state it flatly is to state it religiously.


Jesus did have a huge radical change in philosophy, contradictory to the old testament, while having no record of being a genius in any way. There was no record of how he came to conclusions, no record of being interested in music, art, math, nature, etc.

I don't know whether this is true or not. Certainly other figures in history have had an effect on humanity.


Just a random change in moral philosophy. But that really is the only evidence. The rest of the Bible is crap. It is by the fact that the Bible is extremely contradictory that I think it is possible that Jesus may have been more than a man.

That does not follow, as far as i can tell. Further, i would say that the bible as a whole has had an impact on humanity as much or more than the figure of Jesus. (What religions have done with the bible, etc..  )


However, that doesn't mean Christians are right about science. They're completely off, obviously. It is obvious that evolution is how we became humans, and it is obvious that a disbelief in any God is an assumption.

An assumption can be reasonable or unreasonable. Disbelief in god is reasonable as there's not any good evidence for a god. Certainly, there may be a god, but it's quite obvious (i think) that such a god as this doesn't care much whether we believe or not. If he did, we would expect a different reality to be around us.

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #26 on: September 08, 2008, 07:50:01 PM »
Atheists still insist that they're right, as does Christianity, and they argue pointlessly over it. One is obviously incorrect, and has less basis for certain claims, but a lot more basis for the claim of whether or not there is a God...

Let's deal with reality;

What is your religious position?
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?topic=833


The theists;
Gnostic Monotheist - I know for certain that only one specific god exists.    - 5
Agnostic Monotheist - I do not know for certain, but I think only one specific god exists.    - 1
Agnostic Polytheist - I do not know for certain, but I think there is more than one god.    - 2
Agnostic Pantheist - I do not know for certain, but I think that everything is god.    - 1
Agnostic Deist - I do not know for certain, but I think there is a god that started the universe but does not actively meddle with it or us.    - 2
Ignostic Pantheist - While the concepts of god(s) are meaningless, it is likely that that everything is god.    - 1


The atheists;
Gnostic Atheist - I know for certain that there are no gods.     - 3
Agnostic Atheist - I do not know for certain, but I think there are no gods.    - 15
Ignostic Atheist - While the concepts of god(s) are meaningless, it is likely that there are no gods.    - 4
Apnostic Atheist - I don't care if there are any gods, but I guess there are no gods.    - 1


There is no parity between the two groups.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #27 on: September 08, 2008, 08:04:44 PM »
I'd like to hear from John and kcrady...
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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Re: Religion as sport
« Reply #28 on: September 19, 2008, 08:19:44 PM »
TED Talks - Jonathan Haidt: The real difference between liberals and conservatives

Quote
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.

http://static.videoegg.com/ted/movies/JonathanHaidt_2008-embed-2Clay_high.flv

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer