Its possible to think responsibly and be religiously committed, too.
This is a true statement. So I explored a bit to try to get an idea on what causes our menu of choices to shrink (assuming the menu shrinking theory is more or less accurate -- it sounds good, so I'm working with it until I run into, or think of a better model). I tried to take a deeper look into the emotional aspects that drive us. A few sound views arose, but ultimately it just petered out into some wispy circular thinking.
So I'm looking back at Corboy's original statement here. We all know people who are religiously minded who think and act responsibly as well. So we can't deny this. After all, I'm looking for the truth of the matter and not just trying to bolster my opinions.
But if we look closer at this statement, it's not an all or nothing statement like I originally interpreted it as. It's not like an on or off switch -- it's either on, or it's off, no in-between. There's more depth there than that.
One isn't either religiously committed or not. It comes in degrees. Now does the degree of religious commitment play a part in relation to thinking responsibly? I'm thinking yes. It seems that the more one is religiously committed, the more irrational they become.
Now think about this seriously. Aren't all the people we know that hold religious beliefs who are sane, responsible people -- don't they all share one thing in common -- they're relaxed about their beliefs. I'd be tempted to say that they don't take them all too seriously. And those who do take the beliefs seriously, they become irrational, or we could describe it as their menu of choices shrink.
What about the psychotherapy, political, and human potential cults? I don't know why I didn't think about this before, but isn't it religious elements that make these groups cultic as well? Sometimes directly (like when New Age ideas work their way in) and sometimes not. What I mean by not directly, is that religious beliefs themselves is not what's being used, but instead the religious model is. The religious model is that you are lesser than someone or something else, and you must subjugate yourself unto the higher person or ideal to find perfection (or at least significant improvement).
In Eastern religion, you subjugate your ego unto the higher Self or to a more naturalistic model, the Tao. In Western religion you give yourself to a representative of God (such as Jesus) or directly to God. It's all about self-surrender; all religion, in one way or another.
A human potential group becomes cultic when the religious model moves in and we surrender ourselves unto the leader or ideal. The same with psychotherapy and political cults.
But of course the religious cult is by far the most prevalent type of cult because the religious model is already built in, it doesn't have to be imported. It's like a bomb all ready to go, you don't have to built it.
A little off track here, but related. Genital mutilation is a wild, barbaric religious practice that is still used today. Female circumcision in Muslim countries, and male circumcision in Judeo-Christian countries. When the grip of religion is tight on these cultures, the medical establishments support the practices. Where the grip of religion is loosening, the medical community starts to speak against such practices.
In Judeo-Christian culture, the medical establishment would say that circumcision is ok because it helps prevent infection. But this is insane because a little soap and water does the trick just fine -- preventing infection with cutlery is no different than cutting off the external parts of your ear to prevent an ear infection.
Now only religion could lead people so astray as to come to such a conclusion. It was a religious practice, and when a doctor takes his faith seriously, they can't question the practice -- they look for a justification (and that's where we got the whole preventing infection thing).
Today people tend to take religion less seriously, so the medical community is able to question such practices and circumcision is generally no longer encouraged -- although religious parents like to have it done still. (They should make the parents watch though, so that they can see exactly what they're doing.)
Religion is the death of thinking, it's what causes our menu of options to shrink more than any other factor. Just open up any religious text and watch your mind shut down.
If religion is a poison, if it destroys everything it touches, then shouldn't we make little efforts in our own ways to try to loosen its restraints on ourselves and the people around us.
I think religion is hardwired into us (the religious model, not the actual beliefs that take shape) just as aggression is. It's part of our past. Leftover things from the process of evolution. And contrary to creationism, we ARE evolving and we need to throw away the old stuff that just doesn't work anymore.
Right now people from all over the world can exchange ideas across the globe nearly instantly on message boards and such. If you don't think that's evolution, you better think again. Our bodies may have stopped evolving, but not our minds. Look at the world around you -- it's becoming more and more complex, sophisticated, refined. Mental evolution on steroids -- compliments of scientific thought. But the scientific method is an outgrowth of evolution, and not an end in itself. Perhaps in time, a more refined system of thought will come along.
Moral thought evolves as well, believe it or not. Throwing kids into volcanoes used to be fine and swell. Now we just mutilate their genitalia in the name of God. Horrific still, but getting better.
There's no need to self-surrender to anything. That's the religious model, and it doesn't work. The process of evolution says throw out what doesn't work. So let's throw it out and good riddance!
Without religion we're forced to deal with the fact that only WE can make a difference in our lives, not some super-being creator, daddy in the sky. We're all we've got, so naturally we have to be a little nicer to each other. Can't hack your neighbor up with a machete -- you need them because there's no God to take care of you. We have to all depend on each other.
Someone might say here, "well YellowBeard, you're looking at the process of evolution as a type of religion -- sounds like just another belief system".
It's not a belief because not only do I see the effects of evolution, so do you, and so does everyone else, and no one can stop it no matter how hard they want to believe in Creationism. And that how we know if something is real or just a belief -- a faith. If I saw Jesus floating around through the sky, and you saw Jesus, and everyone saw Jesus, then Christianity would be the fact of our existence. And the same goes for anything and everything.
No one believed in evolution several thousands of years ago. Nevertheless it worked all the same -- it worked when there were only animals and lesser life on the planet, it worked when there wasn't even life on the planet as we know it.
That's what a fact is. It exists without any need to be recognized whatsoever. Some readers can believe in Creationism till they turn blue in the face, but evolution will continue all the same regardless.
Some might be tempted to say, "there must be a divine force behind this process of evolution". But when we do that, the idea cuts off all exploratory thought. Like reading Bible passages, it turns the mind to mush.
The universe is the most fascinating thing there is and it's right in front of us to explore. When religious thought is out of the way, we're forced to look at it with an open mind -- then we can truly learn and grow. Reality is so much more fascinating and miraculous than fantasy (aka religion).
Religion wants to package everything into neat little boxes -- it offers explanations for everything, even for all of our actions (with Astrology). But facing reality is expansive -- it opens up the mind, allowing consciousness to flower. And there's no room for little boxes and pseudoscience when that happens.
I'd like to sum up with saying that religion is contractive and stifling, while facing reality directly without holding onto beliefs is expansive and enlivening. So it's up to you as to how you want to live your life, and it's up to you as to what you choose to share with others. Will you offer them the restraints of religious thinking, or will you teach them how to face reality without trying to hold a pattern of beliefs up over it? It's like looking up at the sky. Are you going to hold up some cardboard cutout image of your daddy over that amazing expansive sky, or can you put it down and just look?