A Discussion of Religion
This section describes some of my thoughts on religion, especially the literal accuracy of Christian beliefs. I concentrate on Christianity because it is the dominant western religion, not because I necessarily think it is the most important, accurate, or relevant belief system (and, of course, its not even the most widely practiced).
As you will see in this area, I don't have a lot of respect for organised religion. This doesn't mean I don't think people should have religious beliefs if it helps them in some way. I just want to show that there is no way Christian creation stories, etc can be supported by any logical evidence, or even common sense.
First, I have philosophical difficulties with Christianity. There's some fundamental problems with the philosophy that I just haven't heard a reasonable explanation for. Click here for details.
Second, there's often a big gap between the ideals of a religion and the actual practices we see in everyday life. The Christian ideals of helping others, self sacrifice, forgiveness, etc are great and I basically agree with them, but how often do people who call themselves Christians really practice them? Some details on this here.
Finally, I can't believe the Christian stories of creation, the origin of man, the flood, etc. There is no reasonable evidence for any of these. I know the Creationists think there is, but I'll show how they are totally wrong. I'll also show how scientific theories (especially evolution and the big bang) are fundamentally correct. Refutation of Christian beliefs and stories is here, and support for the opposing, scientific view is here.
There are multiple theories which attempt to explain the origin of the world, the origin of species, etc and there are problems with them all. Your objective should be to decide which theory is best and which side of the debate, science or religion, explains the observed facts best. A good theory is one which predicts events correctly and can be verified by observed facts. It should also have confirmation from multiple sources. This isn't just scientific method, its also simple common sense if you really want to know the truth.
I know there are many Christians who quite genuinely believe they are in touch with God and have special abilities, etc. But just because some believe this doesn't mean its true, and it also doesn't mean that others deliberately exploit the beliefs of others in a very cynical way. Remember there are far more non-Christians than Christians, so simply saying there are a lot of people who believe Christianity doesn't make it true.
My religious friends (yes, I do have some) often give me material to read and view which they think might convert me to their way of thinking, but this hasn't happened so far. I am prepared to consider everything because I genuinely want to find the truth. When I do consider this material I usually write notes on it and I have put some of these notes in the form of critiques here.
Well, it sounds like I've set out to solve the deepest mysteries of the world in a few simple pages! Maybe you think that's a bit arrogant. I don't think science has all the answers, but I think its on the right track, all I have done is collect and summarise information available in many other places.
Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear - Thomas Jefferson
Comment by Bryson on 2007-03-27 at 11:07:15: What's is the scientific basis that self sacrifice, helping others etc are good?
Comment by OJB on 2007-03-27 at 14:13:05: Self sacrifice and helping others has been studied by anthropologists and biologists, in fact I've heard several articles about this in recent podcasts (I think form the journal Nature). Basically, it gets back to the fact that humans are cooperative, social animals and there is an evolutionary advantage to cooperating with others of the same species. First, because they might reciprocate when you need help, and second, because within the group there are likely to be many people related to you. There's no real mystery about this process.
Comment by Bryson on 2007-03-28 at 09:02:35: You say that humans are cooperative, social animals. Saying that self-sacrifice etc is good because it gives advantage, seems to be just-so. How does the organism, human or otherwise, know there is an advantage (to itself or its community) to take this or that cooperative action? Cooperation can be seen to be an advantage by reasoned minds, but how does it begin or continue for organisms that have no reasoning minds? (Even among reasoning minds (related or not) cooperation seems difficult!) Also...
Comment by OJB on 2007-03-28 at 09:16:38: There is no way an organism can know for sure ahead of time whether a sacrificial behaviour will result in benefit for itself, but on average it works. As long as the benefit occurs often enough for the individual to gain an advantage, there will be evolutionary selective pressure on that behaviour.
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