Friday, March 03, 2006

Back on Track

It's high time this blog got back on track and stopped being merely atheist satire.

Jewgirl to the rescue!

I've alluded to this distinction a number of times through comments and now, it's time to actually adress it.

Religion and theism are different.

Correct me if I'm wrong Seth, but much of your dislike of Judaism has to do with:
  1. a bad Hebrew school experience (I know it happens...)
  2. parental pressure
I remember I asked once during Hebrew High why the clergy didn't tell the kids about different theologies before their confirmation year. His answer was along the lines of: "Kids aren't mature enough nor are they open-minded enough to truly consider all the different possibilities. Most kids would immediately jump to atheism without knowing the other options." For the most part, I would have to agree. Until you've gone through a bar mitzvah and have decided to further your Jewish education, considering other theologies might not be the best idea.

As I have mentioned a number of times, I am atheist and Jewish. Just because I am Jewish doesn't make me a theist or otherwise. Even if religion may "brainwash" kids to believe in God so they can discern right from wrong, this doesn't mean that all denominations expect you to believe in God. Sure, it's much more difficult to be an Orthodox athiest than a Reform athiest as I've heard from some of my Orthodox friends, but nonetheless could still be within the realm of possibility (quite a small possibility).

My main point is: religion is self-defined and always should be. It's fine to follow the teachings of another, but only after you have struggled with the ideas and concepts yourself and have questioned. I know that some of us on this blog have said that kids don't question religion & God enough, but this is an unfair accusation. Extremists (i.e. atheists & theists) tend to be more vocal in general about their opinions whereas the people in the middle don't seem to discuss their own opinions as frequently. Assuming that these middle people don't have opinions though is positively absurd, just as assuming all athiests believe the same things is absurd. Anyone who is not constantly changing their own opinions of theism is not open-minded enough to consider alternative options.

I think I may have digressed quite a bit, but in any case, try not to exclusively associate religion & theism. It's often not entirely valid.


At 3/04/2006 12:08 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

What we all want to know is, how much of the media and banks do you control personally, and how many Palestinian boys have you ever killed ?

At 3/04/2006 1:08 PM, Blogger Advocate of the Browns said...

What in the world does that have to do with anything?

You make a good point Maddy. A religious ceremony might change your perspective on the religion. But I don't agree that kids aren't mature enough. Kids develop maturity at different rates. the line between religion and theism is very very thin, but it is there. Thanks for the first non-carnival post in a while.

At 3/04/2006 3:09 PM, Blogger seth said...

No matter what religion may have done for you, people can question their beliefs about life without it.

At 3/04/2006 3:21 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Of course you can.

Just don't make assumptions about life with religion, it didn't turn me into a missionary.

At 3/04/2006 3:42 PM, Blogger seth said...

Well, it sure has killed a lot of people.

At 3/04/2006 7:16 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Forgive the cliche in advance:

Religion doesn't kill people, people kill people. One cannot blame religion for the ways and actions people take upon interpreting it.

At 3/04/2006 7:21 PM, Blogger seth said...

Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know that six million Jews were killed just because they were bad people.

At 3/04/2006 7:30 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

That's a weak argument and you know it.

Hitler, got the idea of an Aryan race from Indian history. When the Aryans invaded India and took over and decided to put themselves at a higher class level than the native Dravidians. Even if he did get this idea from religion, religion can't be held responsible for the way in which its interpreted.

And believe it or not, most people are actually decent. Do you go up and ask a decent & unobtrusive person whether he is religious? Whereas a bad person in your eyes is immediately assumed to derrive his bad ideas from his personal interpretation of a holy text.

Hitler used religion as a convienent excuse.

At 3/04/2006 10:16 PM, Blogger seth said...

Fine. Now justify the Inquisition's religious aspects.

At 3/04/2006 10:47 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Seth, you're missing my point.

Religion is just there. People read the holy text and interpret it however they feel like. Except for the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea, the Bible doesn't really endorse mass genocide.

Unfortunately, there are some sick-minded people who think that religion justifies the killing of a particular group or the murder of anyone at all. Religion does not however, put these ideas into people's heads. It will only control you as much as you let it.

In other words, people who use solely religion to justify their evil actions are really just putting a label on the inner workings of their own minds.

At 3/04/2006 11:11 PM, Blogger seth said...

Now that's just not true. Ferdinand and Isabelle founded the Spanish Inquisition to suppress heresy. They were upset that Spain was not religiously unified. They tortured and killed people because of religious reasons. The Crusades were launched to recapture Jerusalem for Christianity.

The Bible says to kill blasphemers. The Koran says to kill blasphemers. Muslim children being raised in the Middle East are being taught that it is okay to harm non-Muslims because the Koran says so.

Yes, some people merely use religion as an excuse for violence. But if children are raised to believe that their religion is the absolute truth, and taught the accompanying zealousy --which they are-- then for them, religion is the cause. Little children in Nazi Germany did not hate Jews because Jews weren't Aryan. They hated Jews because the adults told them that Jews were bad.

At 3/05/2006 7:29 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

That's true.

The problem though lies in the fact that atheists dislike religion for those reasons.

Extremists use religion all the time to justify their actions but that doesn't mean that religion is inherently bad.

So to dislike religion on the basis that extremists have used it as propaganda is faulty logic. Many other tools besides religion are used as propaganda.

We're dancing around our disagreement. Tell me explicitly: what is your dispute with religion?

At 3/05/2006 7:40 PM, Blogger seth said...

First off, it's unhealthy in a rational world. Second, parents around the world indoctrinate their children with religious values at a young age, and effectively turn off young minds from other viewpoints.

Naturally there are exceptions, but this is what happens to millions upon millions of children. If your parents teach you - even passively - at a young age that a particular viewpoint is better than others, kids will grow up believing it.

At 3/05/2006 8:33 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Why is it irrational? Do you mean in a zealous sense, because belief in God does not make one irrational. It's actually okay to believe in a higher power if that's how a person truly believes the world was created.

Do you consider yourself brainwashed? Did you finally break free of the "system?" Does that mean that you don't listen to anybody's viewpoints?

I mean, the world is full of people trying to influence your views. To ignore them just because they are trying to influence you doesn't make sense. The world is all people trying to get you to do a certain thing, to act a certain way to say certain words. Only through sorting through this media typhoon can we actually get somewhere in our lives.

This blog is trying to influence people. I'm influencing people and so are you. So is there another reason you don't like religion apart from the fact that it influences people?

At 3/05/2006 8:39 PM, Blogger seth said...

By definition, unsupported belief is irrational.

Yes, I was a theist until I actually started paying attention to what they were telling me at Hebrew School.

I don't disapprove of influence. I disapprove of parent's and authority figures abusing their influence. Like I've said before, if a child is taught something by their parents when s/he is young and impressionable, it will stick. Hence, you are not Christian.

At 3/05/2006 8:48 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

So the only reason I'm Jewish is because my parents are Jewish? Please, do elaborate.

At 3/05/2006 8:53 PM, Blogger seth said...

You tell me. Are your parents Jewish?

At 3/05/2006 9:45 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

If you're suggesting that I am only Jewish because my parents are Jewish, allow me to explain something.

Sure, I went to hebrew school because my parents wanted me to. Sure, I may have even become a bat mitzvah because my parents wanted me to, but that's where it ends.

From my becoming a bat mitzvah onward, every choice has been my own. I choose to be active in my congregation and I choose to remain Jewish. This is no longer because of my parents. In a lot of ways, I think I take Judaism a bit more seriously than they do.

I acknowledge that part of the reason why I am Jewish is because that's how my parents raised me, but at that crucial point of true acceptence, I embraced it. And I had previously tried other ways of worship: Wicca for example along with a few others. So it's not as though I have remained Jewish for my entire life. I simply haven't.

If I completely misinterpreted your comment, I apologize.

At 3/05/2006 10:17 PM, Blogger Advocate of the Browns said...

Seth. Religion is like sex, for lack of a better analogy while reading romeo and juliet.

Religion is a complex thing that no one person fully understands. it dictates your actions. It can kill you. It can cause you to hurt people. It can fuck you over(no pun intended). It can also give you life. A new perspective on things. help you deal with loss. And many other things. It's all about how you use or abuse its power.

At 3/06/2006 11:02 AM, Blogger Simon said...

Just a little question...

If you follow a religion, which is based on a text which says it is the word of God, how are you qualified to "interpret" those words?

Are you really allowed to judge the word of God?

If you are, that suggests your intellect is equal to (or even greater than) God's.

But surely that can't be the case, as there would then be no need to follow his word. And perhaps, he might follow yours...

At 3/06/2006 2:44 PM, Blogger Advocate of the Browns said...

All very good points Simon. But the interpretation argument is that God says this. He must mean this, because God likes to do things that say that he might have an opinion to say this. Everyone says they are right. That's where the controversy is. It isn't that people think they are as intellignet as god so they must be able to interpret the bible. People think that God has a certain style, so each thing he does should be interpreted to fit that style. Peopel think they understand God.

At 3/06/2006 3:02 PM, Blogger seth said...

Sure, you may be making your own choices now, but you wouldn't be making the same choices if your parents were Muslim.

At 3/06/2006 4:37 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Simon, I don't take the Torah as the literal word of God. I mean, if I don't believe in God, how can I take a document as being the word of a non-existant entity? But I see your point. Even if I were a theist, Reform Jews believe that Torah & Rabinnic law are open to change and can be adapted more to the times in which we live.

Seth, I'm sure you didn't mean to generalize about Muslims by that comment, so we'll ignore that.

At 3/06/2006 4:41 PM, Blogger seth said...

…what? I just used that as an example of another religion. You wouldn't be making the same choices if you were Christian or Hindu either.

At 3/06/2006 5:02 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Well sure.

But what's your point? I know you're getting at something...

At 3/06/2006 6:03 PM, Blogger seth said...

Parental influence and whatnot. Maybe you'd have been just as into Christianity. But now you'll never know.

At 3/07/2006 8:27 AM, Blogger Simon said...

Good point about choice. The choices we make are limited or effected by the "programming" we receive from birth.

For example, when we got a kitten, my son and my girlfriend enjoyed making him chase his tail by waving it in his face. He started chewing the end of it. Now, years later, when he cleans his tail he chews it, making the fir into a spike so he looks like some kind of cat-scorpion.

This got me to thinking - we've managed to program our cat into doing something he wouldn't naturally have done. And even though we no-longer wave his tail in front of his face, he continues with this habit. Perhaps he thinks it's "right" to do it.

Human morals are the same, I believe. I had no morals when I was born. They were programmed into me. If I was brought up to believe (in isolation), killing other humans is a good thing, and I was given a sophisticated enough reasoning behind this, I'm not sure I wouldn't now be a murderer.

This is why people can behave to very different sets of morals, both thinking they are "in the right".

So when you say you choose to remain Jewish, that choice is only made under the influence of heavy "programming".

Do I chose not to murder? Or is it that I have been programmed to believe murder is wrong?

Culture is basically programming. And people become very attached to their culture - like my cat is to chewing the end of his tail.

At 3/07/2006 4:12 PM, Blogger Enil Edam said...

Then what is choice or free will?

That's a whole other topic in itself.

(A good post)

At 3/08/2006 9:05 AM, Blogger Simon said...

I think choice or freewill is our human ability to reprogam ourselves, which comes from our great ability to adapt.

However, I don't think reprogramming is easy and sometimes requires a desperate situation to drive us to rethink or reinvent ourselves. In the same way that a dramatic change in our environment (pre-civilisation) would force us to change our habits and invent a new way of surviving.

As a screenwriter, I know a common structure for a drama is to have a character (hero) who starts with one set of values, who is then forced to re-examine those values by a dramatic event, leading him to change (usually for the better), whereby he can overcome the enemy/obstacle.

Everytime we go to the movies, we're watching people reprogram themselves - often with the help of others who can show the hero another way of thinking.

Imagine you're born - Enil Adam 1.0. Nature's pre-programming encourages you to cry when you're hungry, tired or uncomfortable.

This version of your human software is very very basic.

Rapidly, updates are added and we learn to walk, connect spoken sounds to objects, know shapes and colours as things, hold things, manipulate things...

So now you're Enil Adam 1,089,657.98 (updates arrive somewhat quicker than with Windows XP).

But you're still only at basic operating level.

You learn hurting other things is not always a good idea when 1) big people shout or smack you or 2) they hurt you back.

And on and on as gradually our whole value system is built with new patches to our programming added every day.

The human mind starts off very easy to program and gradually becomes less easy as it approaches adulthood, at which point it becomes virtually fixed.

This makes sense - if our operating sytem on our computers changed dramatically every day, they'd be virtually useless.

So... freewill, to a certain extent, is an illusion - because our desires and emotions are effected by our programming.

But there are other forces at work too - our natural instincts (the pre-programmed stuff), a sub-group of which is our ability to adapt to overcome a threat.

I imagine our minds not as one computer, but as many hundreds of computers, each designed to deal with different areas of living, talking to each other and controlling each other.

eg: if someone were to attack your child, the part of your mind which has been programmed to believe its wrong to hurt another will probably be over-ridden by the part which contains the natural instinct to protect your off-spring.

The combined effect of the parts of our brain in constant communication and negotiation is what I think consciousness, or our feeling of freewill, may be.

At 3/10/2006 6:30 AM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

I wasn't gonna read any comments before commentin', but Francois' just busted me up! LMAO! DOH!

But seriously Enil, I completely agree with your sentiment and statements.

Theism is a belief in gods. Regardless of that particular belief, anyone can believe something religiously, fervently and with an ardor that is scary in its ability to obscure non-supportive information.

While I know from personal experience that one can certainly be too wishywashy in acting on their ideas, I also know that it makes more sense to give serious consideration to any major decisions before you make them. After a lot of practice doing so, the decision making process does speed up quite a bit.


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