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Religion in modern world
#1
Religion in modern world

The debate about religion developed on another thread as off-the-topic parallel debate. Since there was quite some interest in debating different aspects of religion, I moved the relevant comments to this new thread.
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#2
(10-05-19, 03:24 PM)CaroleG Wrote: You are entirely right... my response was intemperate and my interpretation too narrow, and biased.  I apologise for the offence caused.

Hi Carol, and thank you. Water under the bridge.

(10-05-19, 03:24 PM)CaroleG Wrote: As an explanation, not an excuse, this does reflect some exasperation on my part at what I perceive as the (sometimes inadvertent) caricaturing of British (and Americans)
Your frustation is a sentiment I can relate to. I am a Muslim in a Western European country. Need I say more? You learn to live with it. I try to change the misconceptions when and where I can do so, and ignore those I can't do anything about.

(10-05-19, 03:24 PM)CaroleG Wrote:  As I mentioned, the Tories in the UK never win a majority of the popular vote (i.e. the total number of votes cast for each party).  From which one can conclude fairly easily that the majority of British voters reject this extreme neo-liberal Anglo-Saxon model.  Indeed some Tory supporters do also.  The FPTP voting system ensures that governmental ideology almost never reflects the "collective will" of the voters.

In the UK voting is not compulsory. Same goes for the US.

The voter turn out for the US election was around 50% (I'd have to look up the exact figure). Slighly less then half of them voted for Trump, so he became president with about 25% of the votes of the electorate. This in itself raises serious questions about the legitiimacy of leadership. Legally it is perfectly legitmate. But something is not quite right when 25% of the electorate suffices to put a country on a radically different course. Mind you, it also tells a story about alienation of the electorate and the lack of health of the democatic model e if half of them can't even be bothered to show up to help shape their own future or are not capable of doing so, sometimes because of deliberate hurdles thrown on their path.

Ideologically the only thing we can derive from such a figure is that somewhat less than half of the electorate that showed up, did not vote for Trump. It is not possible to derive any conclusions from that about the 50% that did not show up to vote. They may or may not be Trump supporters.  There is no way of knowing since the didn't cast their vote.

The same goes for the UK. The voter turn-out for the referendum was 72%.  52% of those voted Leave - that's 37.4% of the total electorate. It however is not possible to derive from those figures what those who did not vote (28%) think about the matter. Research showed that somewhat more than half of them were inclinded more favourably towards Remain, but apparenly not sufficiently so to actually weigh in on the decision.

I think the Belgian system is much better. Voting is compulsory here and we have proportial representation. So the election result reflects what the electorate thinks. We also have exit interviews - ie there are interviewers at poll stations who ask people  who already cast their vote (on a voluntary basis) who they voted for last time, who they voted for this time, and why. This makes it possible to draw conclusions about shifts in votes from one party to the other and about their motives for having done so.

(10-05-19, 03:24 PM)CaroleG Wrote: And from which I suggest the ideological divide between the UK and the EU27 isn't quite as straightforward as all that.  When one goes to the UK and you see the crappy, ridiculously expensive rail system, run by multiple operators, with trains that are decades behind mainland systems, one might be justified in thinking that British people are fanatical about neo-liberal economics!  Most are not so stupid.  They have been saddled with this nonsense largely because of a deficient, malfunctioning quasi-democracy.

I think there are problems with our democratic models all over the world. We have become far too complacent. Many people take the rights we enjoy for granted and do not even see the dangers posed by authoritiarian populists. When challenged, they reply: if we don't like what he does, we will vote for somebody else next time. The thing is that once in power, populists begin changing the model itself and start eroding or even throwing out democratic rights. Suffice it to look at what has been happening in Orban's Hungary, of which a EU parliamentary report said it has been found guity of
- undermining the functioning of the constitution and of the electoral system
- undermining the independence of the judiciary
- violating privacy and data protection
- violating freedom of expression
- violating freedom of religion
- violating freedom of association
- violating the right of equal treatment
- violating economic and social rights of the people
- violating the rights of minorities
- conducting an anti-semitic campaign vilifying Jews
- opposing to allow refugees in Hungary (in spite of UN obligations) while at the same time blocking EU initiatives to strenghten the EU's external borders.

At some point, the right of people to elect another party, may be so eroded that it will no longer be possible to simply elect someone else.

A democracy is not just a matter of organising elections either. The US department of State used to have a page where it defined a demcoracy - the page has been removed, but a copy of it can still be consulted in the Wayback machine (internet arctive). It defined a democracy with the following pillars:
  • Sovereignty of the people.
  • Government based upon consent of the governed.
  • Majority rule.
  • Minority rights.
  • Guarantee of basic human rights.
  • Free and fair elections.
  • Equality before the law.
  • Due process of law.
  • Constitutional limits on government.
  • Social, economic, and political pluralism.
  • Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.
Wayback machine link: https://web-archive-2017.ait.org.tw/info...hatdm2.htm

That is what we are at risk of losing. And it's happening before our eyes.

I have this theory about all this. I should first state quite clearly that I think people are free to adhere to a religion or not to do so or be an atheist or whatever and I am not proposing nor defending that religion should have a formal role in the democratic institutions; very far from it. I'm a secularist.

But the thing is that until a few decades ago, most Belgians identified as Christian and many were practising. This saw to a feeling of shared norms and values. And these values were intertwinted with political structures as well.  There was a higher good that structured society and helped to keep the peace in society (I am not implying that these norms were good or better than anything else - but there was a common and shared norms and values basis).

Then secularisation kicked in - which is a good thing. But the bad things is that nothing took its place. Instead of classes about Christianity at school, they should have taught the UN Declaration of Human Rights as a secular moral compass so that there would be a common ground . They didn't.

The result was: God was declared dead, and everybody become god himself. And social encounters quickly turned into a trial of strength: who is the biggest god, you or I. And the norms of the one who was found to be the bigger god, governed the encounter.

It destablised society itself. Everybody defined what was good and bad, what was permissible and what wasn't. The result was moral and social chaos with increasing levels of hostility, where eventually many people began longing for a strong, authoritarian figure to reinstall "law and order".

Again: I am a secularist. But I think secularisation of society was handled very badly. And I think the wave of growing populism we see today, can be traced back, at least in part, to this badly handled transition.

Combine it with the growing complexities of societies, internationalisation, globalism and the drama of social media and its unchallenegd propagation of fake news as well it being used to deliberately micro target subgroups with different political  messages so that society as a whole cannot even challenge what is being said anymore, and you get a mixture that is underming the very structure of our democracies and where all certainties are gone. Many people can live without a need for certainties, but many can't and need structures to have something to hold on to. And they are much more prone to fall for the narrative of populists.

The past days the comments section of DE has been alarming. Farage's Brexit Party is being praised into heaven. It is absolutely shocking how many have thrown overboard all sense of citical thinking and blindly follow whatever Farage says.  Anyone who challenges the narrative is discarded. What you can read there is very similar to when Trump said he could shoot someone in plain sight and would get away with it.

The similarities with cults are rife. It acually is frightening. It is scary how easily they reject notions that go straight to the very heart of our democracries. The laguage Farage uses is shocking.

I think we may get a no deal Brexit after all (which is what I thought when Ajda asked our predictions at the start of this process).  I cannot see how the Witdhrawal Agreement can still be voted over the line in parliament.
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#3
(12-05-19, 06:32 PM)Real European Wrote: I am a Muslim in a Western European country. Need I say more? 

hi.
can i ask you an unrealated question? do you believe in god? any god?
thanks
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#4
(13-05-19, 04:12 AM)mentolis Wrote: hi.
can i ask you an unrealated question? do you believe in god? any god?
thanks


And what is the gender? I mean, should god ought to have gender? General question.
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#5
(13-05-19, 04:12 AM)mentolis Wrote: hi.
can i ask you an unrealated question? do you believe in god? any god?
thanks

(13-05-19, 12:03 PM)Ravi Iyer Wrote: And what is the gender? I mean, should god ought to have gender? General question.

I am not a cultural Muslim, I'm a religious Muslim, so yes, I believe in God - all monotheists believe there is only One God, and since they all believe there is only One God, it's all the same God. Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc all worship the same God. God is neither male nor female. It's reductionist to think of God in terms of human physiology. Interestingly, Allah (the Arabic word for God) is the only Arabic word that is neither feminine nor masculine.

Perhaps one way to think of who or what God is, is that when we look through a microscope we see this whole micro universe unfold itself. Likewise, to God we are these microscopic creatures seen through a microscope from a much higher perspective.

As for different faiths, imagine you are out in the hills with some friends, going for a walk at night. You see a house on a hilltop emanating a warm orange glow. You all decide to go and have a look, and as you approach the house you see it has different windows. Each of you glances inside through a different window. What each sees will be slightly different, but the orange glow is caused by the same fireplace. We will learn more about God by sharing what we each see, than by confining ourselves to looking through or own little window.

So, where does this leave atheists, you may wonder. Well, if you believe in God and God's uniqueness, God is so very much beyond our comprehension that we can only try to understand a bit of God via different paths and in various ways. You can only reject what you know.  But it is impossible to say that you know with certainty what God wants or says or means - short of setting yourself up as God's equal, which would defeat monotheism. Consequently, it is not possible to fully know God. Therefore, if you reject God, what you reject is not God but your understanding (which may be a misunderstanding) of God. If for instance a person rejects God based on a misunderstanding about what God is, then this person would be entirely right to reject his or her understanding of God.

Muslims believe that we are all born in perfect harmony, free from sin, with intellect, feelings, and with a basic ethical understanding of the difference between right and wrong because the soul, before it descends in a fetus, recognised God and pledged allegiance to God.

We also believe that as you go through life, you stray from this harmony by doing many small (and some times big) things that aren't right. This covers up the initial state of pure harmony and your soul becomes restless.

Prophets did not tell people anything new. They just reminded people of what they already know in their souls - they uncovered the knowledge that got snowed under by our own misbehaviour to help us find our way back to this primordial state of pure bliss and harmony.

Consequently those who do not believe in God can find their best way through life as well, as long as they look within and stay loyal to what they know deep down in their heart and soul to be right and wrong.

Humanity is a big brotherhood of equals (this egalitarianism probably is one of the reasons why the far right hates Islam so much). Nobody can judge what somebody else believes. Nobody can look into the hearts and souls of others, only God can. God will judge. Awaiting that final judgment when all wrongs will be judged, and right will be rewarded, the Quran instructs the whole of humanity to compete with each other in good deeds, each from their own perspective and their own faith and leave judgement up to God. I think that's good advice.

That said, obviously you can criticise behaviour when for instance people commit a criminal act. But not people.
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#6
(13-05-19, 02:03 PM)Real European Wrote: Consequently those who do not believe in God can find their best way through life as well, as long as they look within and stay loyal to what they know deep down in their heart and soul to be right and wrong.

well bad people do bad things but you need religion for good people to do bad things.

i reject any god if there is no evidence.
let's get back to brexit! Smile

thanks RealEuropean.
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#7
(13-05-19, 12:03 PM)Ravi Iyer Wrote: And what is the gender? I mean, should god ought to have gender? General question.

When god created man she was only kidding. Wink   

(I used to have a mug with this quote - in English - back in the 1980s.)
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#8
(13-05-19, 03:01 PM)mentolis Wrote: well bad people do bad things but you need religion for good people to do bad things.

I would change that into

"well bad people do bad things but you need ideology for good people to do bad things."

By far most wars and even by far most terror attacks, by far most crimes, are secular in nature.

(13-05-19, 03:01 PM)mentolis Wrote: i reject any god if there is no evidence.

Fair enough.

There is this story about Al Ghazali, a Muslim philosopher of the 11th century. One day he was walking through time followed by many people.

Along the roadside was an old woman who was not impressed. She asked someone who this man was. The person replied: "Don't you know him? He is the man who knows a thousand proofs for the existence of God". 

The old lady replied. "And? Had he not had a thousands doubts he would not have needed a thousand proofs".


Moral of the story is that every person determines for himself or herself what level of proof he or she needs. And that's just as it should be because without freedom, there can be no faith. It's a matter of to each his/her own.


(13-05-19, 03:01 PM)mentolis Wrote: let's get back to brexit! Smile

thanks RealEuropean.

Quite. And you're welcome.
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#9
(13-05-19, 02:03 PM)Real European Wrote: So, where does this leave atheists, you may wonder. Well, if you believe in God and God's uniqueness, God is so very much beyond our comprehension that we can only try to understand a bit of God via different paths and in various ways. You can only reject what you know.  But it is impossible to say that you know with certainty what God wants or says or means - short of setting yourself up as God's equal, which would defeat monotheism. Consequently, it is not possible to fully know God.


I was brought up completely godless and remain so.  This sort of statement puzzles me: why give such a loaded, emotive, specific name to something which is so abstract as to be unidentifiable? "God" means something far more tangible to most believers, I think.  From your talk of "judgement" of God, it appears that you are a theist rather than a deist.  This pretty much totally unknowable God knows you, and does and will judge you...  But how do you know that?

The other problem is that Islam as practised in a country like Pakistan, and probably by the majority of the 1.5 Bn people who call themselves "Muslim", consists in large part of a large dose of superstition and bigotry: e.g. all this nonsense about Asia Bibi and her supposed blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed.  When we all know that the threat of such accusations is routinely used by vindictive neighbours, and when the sentence of death for such misdemeanours is just primitive, and not in a good way.

Having said that, since reading "Learning How To Learn" (fantastic title) by Idries Shah many decades ago, I have a lot of time for the more intellectual, Sufi traditions in Islam.  But am no expert.


Quote:Humanity is a big brotherhood of equals (this egalitarianism probably is one of the reasons why the far right hates Islam so much).

Hmmm... really?  The main reason is surely that they just see Muslim values (or the mainstream Muslim consensus on what these are) as incompatible with European post-Christian values, whatever these may be perceived to be, including the right for women to dress how and go where they like, and for people to drink lots of alcohol, to have casual sex and never to pray, if they so choose.


Quote:Nobody can judge what somebody else believes. Nobody can look into the hearts and souls of others, only God can. God will judge. Awaiting that final judgment when all wrongs will be judged, and right will be rewarded, the Quran instructs the whole of humanity to compete with each other in good deeds, each from their own perspective and their own faith and leave judgement up to God. I think that's good advice.

That said, obviously you can criticise behaviour when for instance people commit a criminal act. But not people.

Would you not admit that The Recital (Al-Qur'an) is actually one of the most incoherent books of all time? It also appears that the Al-Qur'an as it appears today may bear very little relationship to the one first transcribed by the Prophet Muhammed.  According to the admittedly provocative book by Tom Holland, "In the Shadow of the Sword", the two centuries following the death of Muhammed are pretty much shrouded in mystery, and it appears that what emerged as the tradition thereafter may have been written and/or heavily edited by the military conquerors of the expanding Islamic Empire.

Actually what I got from that book is the idea that Muhammed may have been a rather decent sort of person, who wished to improve life for all people, and particuarly for women, in the pagan societies of the Arab-speaking lands, by sketching a design for an ideal community, rather than wishing that everyone be forced to "sign up for the whole package". 

Holland suggests that his statement that he was the "last prophet" can be interpreted as saying that people won't need prophets any more, and should instead be guided henceforth by reason.  If at all true, it would then be ironic that the cult of the person Muhammed should have "reified" into such severely protected superstitious shibboleths.
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#10
(13-05-19, 03:21 PM)Ajda Slovenia Wrote: When god created man she was only kidding. Wink   

(I used to have a mug with this quote - in English - back in the 1980s.)

I used to have a fridge magnet where you saw a young man and a young woman in a field, with him offering her a bouquet of flowers.

The words then said "Better to have loved and lost than to live with the psycho for the rest of your life".

This made me laugh... it was only much later that I realised that I had assumed the "psycho" was the male.  Every person, including all men who saw the magnet, made the same assumption.
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