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We Need To Clarify The Term 'religion'

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Posted by Paul R. Martin on August 4, 2002 01:51:38 UTC

Hi Luis, Mike, and Mario,

Luis said:

***Religions claim to reveal the truth.***

Mike said:

***IMHO, everyone uses religion...just that some religions are quite worldly and don't mention the names of well-known Deities. Religion is the group mentality on selected issues, which creates a mini-paradigm.***

I think it would help clear things up if we made a distinction between 'religion' and 'religious organizations'. I think the blurring of this distinction leads to more misunderstanding in the subject area of religion/science than any other single cause.

In my humble opinion, I think religious organizations, as characterized by having some leader or founder, a creed, and a following who exhibit a "group mentality on selected issues", cause, and have caused extensive harm in our world.

Religion, on the other hand, is a system of beliefs held by an individual. With this definition, science gets sort of "religified". Whether you accept this terminology or not, the fact is that everyone has some set of beliefs about the world. Some of those beliefs are held to be absolutely true by the believer, and others are held to be only possibilities at varying levels of confidence. Even the most skeptical person does not hold all of their beliefs at a zero level of confidence. Otherwise, getting out of bed would be just too terrifying for fear theat the floor might not hold up.

If we acknowledge that we have no truth for certain, then we will be in step with science, because, as Luis observed "science does not...claim to reveal the truth". If religious organizations would back off from their claims of knowing absolute truth, the world would be much better off.

As for individuals, I think that the ideal situation is for each person to make up their mind as to the probability that each proposition about reality is true, and then act accordingly. In addition, I think everyone should be open to changing their judgement on those probabilities as more information becomes available.

I think this would provide a workable framework for scientists to go about their business pretty much as they do now, for people with deep religious beliefs to remain as devout and devoted as they think they should be, for the crackpots to consider any wild idea they choose with everyone, including themselves, assigning low probability numbers to their guesses, and for anyone to hold any idea they choose.

The important thing is that people are honest in their reasons for assigning the probability numbers to their beliefs and open in their declarations of those numbers. If this attitude were instuted, I think 99.9 percent of all arguments would evaporate.

Just my humble opinion.

Warm regards,

Paul

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