Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Religion & Hate (2)

Regarding the group discussion of Feb. 22 mentioned in the previous post: To the extent that there were different schools of thought or aspects of the question represented in this discussion, here is how the various opinions expressed cluster:

(1) Whatever there is to be said about ‘human nature’ or tendencies with or without religion towards hostility and dominance, religion specifically exacerbates this tendency or adds ingredients all its own.
  • All religions make competing truth-claims.
  • Religious truth claims are exclusive.
  • Other belief systems are not only wrong, but constitute a threat.
  • All orthodox (specifically Abrahamic) religions foster hatred of outgroups: there is a demonstrable correlation.
  • In the distant past, there were local deities. Modern theism makes matters worse.
  • Religion does not permit for testability of truth claims.
  • Religion lends an absolute authority to prejudices.
  • Religion is a map that bends reality to fit the map.
(2) Defense of religion or specific religions, and disputes over same occurred.
  • Hate is only felt by individuals, not religions.
  • Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are counter-examples of religion’s hatefulness.
  • Buddhism is nonviolent. Various claims & counter-claims:
    • Buddhism is philosophy not religion.
    • Japanese Buddhism fed into Japanese nationalism.
    • There is definitive documentation of Buddhist atrocities.
    • Tibetan Buddhism is not what the fans of the Dalai Lama make it out to be.
    • The American version of Buddhism is not the same as Buddhism in Asia.
  • The Axial Age saw the birth of more humane belief systems.
  • St. Paul instituted a major shift to cosmopolitanism.
  • Stalinism was a secular religion.
  • There is a universal attraction to religion: religion tells people how to live.
(3) Claims about human nature were rampant, and questions over the uniqueness of religion as a causal factor.
  • The fundamental question is one of in-groups vs. out-groups.
  • Religion is not more hate-inducing than other things.
  • There are various pretexts & rationalizations. (In the case of religion, there’s an appeal to an absolute authority—an argument used by some against religion.)
  • Religion is mixed in with cultural & other rivalries.
  • Group conflict may be a perennial phenomenon, preceding religion.
  • Experiments show that any differentiating factor can serve as a catalyst for the delineation of in and out groups.
  • There are other ideologies of contention, especially nationalism.
  • Someone asserted that gender is primary.
  • Someone introduced the observation that “America” is a god.
  • Do all groups inspire hate? Are aggression and violence universals?
  • Several factors were put forward as stimulating aggressive tendencies:
    • Population density.
    • Pecking order: leaders start wars.
    • Testosterone: young males are the main culprits.
    • Males & females engage in difference types of conflict.
    • Unattached males are most likely to be prone to warfare.
(4) What is the basis of morality? Is or can there be a science of morality?
  • Religion is not necessary to morality.
  • Relativism should be opposed.
  • There is a difference between subjective & objective reasoning.
  • There is the issue of the testability of claims.
  • There is a scientific basis to morality.
  • Morality is not a science yet, but there is progress. More study is needed to render morality scientific.
(5) Miscellaneous points:
  • The inconsistencies in religion are exploited to different ends.
  • An example of twisted reasoning is gratitude toward God for ‘sparing’ selected individuals from disasters in which many others perish.
  • Missionaries have by and large been awful people.
  • How does one weigh the good and bad aspects associated with religion?
  • Something was said about Freud or psychoanalysis, but I couldn’t make out what it was.
(6) Definitional & methodological questions:
  • What is meant by hatred? Does hatred = violence = war?
  • Is preference hatred?
  • Who gets to define what a religion is?
  • Can one factor out religion from everything else?
  • Someone oriented toward social science is not satisfied with exclusively biological explanations for socially/historically determinant phenomena.

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