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Old 01 May 2017, 02:14 PM   #670240 / #1
lpetrich
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Default Decline of Religion in the West: Irreversible?

Why there is no way back for religion in the West | David Voas | TEDxUniversityofEssex - YouTube

David Voas has an interesting argument. He proposes that if one has become detached from organized religion, it can seem weird and scary. He used Hinduism as an example of how some other religion might seem like that.

He noted that the formally nonreligious are not necessarily atheists or metaphysical naturalists. Many of them have various sorts of theological or woo-woo beliefs. But what's important here is their detachment from organized religion.

He notes that this detachment has been continually progressing in the Western world, and that the US is following those trends. When people become detached, they usually stay detached for the rest of their lives. Detached people often do not bring their children up in a religion, thus starting off their next generation as detached.

He proposes that the reversals that have recently happened, like in some ex-Communist countries, have been a result of their inadequate development. Whatever might be said about that, that goes to show that top-down and botton-up lack of religion behave rather differently.
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Old 01 May 2017, 03:04 PM   #670242 / #2
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I am encouraged by his views, but I question his statement that "There is no way back for religion in the West." There have been Great Awakenings in the US and in many other nations.

As George H. Smith put it,
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The spectacular success of Christianity has been a topic of heated debate among scholars, and it is certainly true that definite historical factors influenced that success. I suggest, however, that much of Christianity's success can be accounted for in another way: Christianity, perhaps more than any religion before or since, capitalized on human suffering; and it was enormously successful in insuring its own existence through the perpetuation of human suffering.
Let something happen which really messes up our civilization- even without destroying it- and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Christianity, and religion in general, rebound in a major way.
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Old 01 May 2017, 04:26 PM   #670251 / #3
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I think a lot depends on the type of society. It's not just a question of modernisation but on how much individual freedom there is in the society. I would say that we're all aware of certain trends towards authoritarianism. Democracy is simply not a given. A democratic society can move in the direction of an authoritarian one. Think of what happened in Germany in the 1930s.

Germany didn't simply evolve back towards democracy; it was imposed by the victors of WW2. If we look at what is happening in Turkey today, where a majority seem to have voted against democracy and for an authoritarian dictatorship, we can see how personal freedom can be reduced.

Looking at the history of Christianity or Islam, it is fairly clear that in many past times religion was imposed on the population. It wasn't a straightforward choice. That is still true of modern Islam in many countries, where attendance at mosques and observance of Ramadan may still be imposed and apostasy and blasphemy are capital crimes.

When religion is imposed by the state, it may at first be resisted, but over time a great deal can be achieved by indoctrination of younger age groups. How else can one explain the changes in religious affiliation from Christian to Muslim, from Muslim or Jewish to Christian, from Catholic to Protestant or vice versa that happened over centuries in parts of Europe? And after all, much the same can happen with non-religious political indoctrination.

As long as democracy holds sway, I think Voas's idea is likely to work. But not everyone wants democracy. It's an evil concept for those who think that everything should be decided by the word of God.

Another factor is how much transmission there is of ideas from one culture to another. Religions have historically flourished in pre-modern societies with predominantly mono-cultural organisation, and that will be the goal of any authoritarian ruler: reduce the chance to see alternatives. Soviet communism collapsed in eastern Europe because people under its rule were able to see through various kinds of modern communication that a better life could be lived in the west. Now with the internet there is even more exposure to other cultures.

The internet functions as a mode of transmission, but it's not all in one direction. Look at how it has been used by ISIS to enthuse and recruit young people in the west who voluntarily give up their freedoms in order to obey a religious call that may well lead to death. Western propaganda is apparently insufficient to win this struggle; military intervention is also necessary.

I hope very much that democracy will win. If it does, then Voas will probably be right about religion. But how sure can we be?
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Old 01 May 2017, 10:58 PM   #670301 / #4
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Originally Posted by Jobar View Post
I am encouraged by his views, but I question his statement that "There is no way back for religion in the West." There have been Great Awakenings in the US and in many other nations.

As George H. Smith put it,
Quote:
The spectacular success of Christianity has been a topic of heated debate among scholars, and it is certainly true that definite historical factors influenced that success. I suggest, however, that much of Christianity's success can be accounted for in another way: Christianity, perhaps more than any religion before or since, capitalized on human suffering; and it was enormously successful in insuring its own existence through the perpetuation of human suffering.
Let something happen which really messes up our civilization- even without destroying it- and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Christianity, and religion in general, rebound in a major way.
Yup.

Personally, I consider atheism to be a fragile thing, socially, in the world, and in need of being valued and carefully protected.
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Old 02 May 2017, 12:10 AM   #670309 / #5
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The most significant factor in the decline of religion would have to be education. God is retreating into ever smaller gaps. His relevance in the real world fades as we discover what is actually happening. To put it crudely, we no longer find the explanation for the rainbow being created by god as a symbolic indication of his covenant with Moses all that convincing.

In a post-catastrophic world, say after we have exhausted our natural resources, after a massive war, a collapse of the ecosystem, disintegration of the global economy, meteor strike or somesuch event, education will be a luxury we won't be able to afford. We'll be in desperate survival mode. Those of us who have survived the immediate effects of the catastrophe anyway, which may be 1, 10, 25%, or whatever. Superstition will sprout again like weeds after a summer rain, followed by ritual and new leaders who will exploit and perpetuate all that for their own gain.
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Old 02 May 2017, 07:24 AM   #670329 / #6
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Superstition will sprout again like weeds after a summer rain, followed by ritual and new leaders who will exploit and perpetuate all that for their own gain.
I picture memory sticks embedded in dust here and there around the world, data intact, but no power grid or understanding of electricity production and transmission to access all that world-rebuilding information sitting there.
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Old 02 May 2017, 08:09 AM   #670332 / #7
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Superstition will sprout again like weeds after a summer rain, followed by ritual and new leaders who will exploit and perpetuate all that for their own gain.
I picture memory sticks embedded in dust here and there around the world, data intact, but no power grid or understanding of electricity production and transmission to access all that world-rebuilding information sitting there.
Yes, and I wonder what'll happen to the knowledge contained in books. There'd still be some substantial libraries around. Their content will probably finish up as heating and cooking fuel out of sheer necessity.
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Old 02 May 2017, 09:40 PM   #670387 / #8
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I've often wondered if it was possible to actually design a religion, a la the Bene Gesserit in Frank Herbert's Dune stories. One done not just as a con, like Scientology, and not just for a joke, like the IPU or the FSM. One which would make holy the love of knowledge, as well as the love of humanity. One with a large dash of the Buddhist acceptance of change and impermanence, and a relativist understanding of morals like the Affirmations of Humanism. Something that made it plain that there are many acceptable paths to wisdom or salvation or satori, like the more tolerant sorts of Hinduism.

Anybody know of a university with a school of Religious Engineering?
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Old 03 May 2017, 12:22 AM   #670398 / #9
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Superstition will sprout again like weeds after a summer rain, followed by ritual and new leaders who will exploit and perpetuate all that for their own gain.
I picture memory sticks embedded in dust here and there around the world, data intact, but no power grid or understanding of electricity production and transmission to access all that world-rebuilding information sitting there.
Yes, and I wonder what'll happen to the knowledge contained in books. There'd still be some substantial libraries around. Their content will probably finish up as heating and cooking fuel out of sheer necessity.
Or they might just crumble due to the acid in their pages.
Remember that scene in The Time Machine?
I don't buy as many physical books now.
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Old 03 May 2017, 01:25 AM   #670405 / #10
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A lot of books, at least since the early 1990s, are printed on low acid paper. If there are eventually (or already) solar powered rechargers e readers could last pretty long, too. In the right climate - especially a specially sealed area - paper books could last maybe thousands of years. Of course with a total collapse of civilization that would be a minor problem. There would be the possibility of after such a collapse finding/making low-tech typewriters/printing presses or even handwriting to copy books so they last - paper or the equivalent can be made at a very low level of technology.
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Old 25 Oct 2017, 12:17 PM   #678774 / #11
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Quote:
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I've often wondered if it was possible to actually design a religion, a la the Bene Gesserit in Frank Herbert's Dune stories. One done not just as a con, like Scientology, and not just for a joke, like the IPU or the FSM. One which would make holy the love of knowledge, as well as the love of humanity. One with a large dash of the Buddhist acceptance of change and impermanence, and a relativist understanding of morals like the Affirmations of Humanism. Something that made it plain that there are many acceptable paths to wisdom or salvation or satori, like the more tolerant sorts of Hinduism.

Anybody know of a university with a school of Religious Engineering?
That sounds intriguing.

Anyway, it seems clear that the internet has been a tool which has been helpful both in spreading religion and spreading its demise. It has bolstered the atheist community by linking together many who thought they were isolated in their lack of belief and given them support and courage to "come out" as non-believers and has begun the process of normalization. We also see more folks, in the US anyway, leaving organized religion, and while, as noted above, this doesn't mean they become atheists, such people are at least more likely to be friendly to keeping church and state separate. Most will likely stay at least general god-believing theists, though a few will eventually loose themselves from the yoke of religion altogether. I'm speaking from experience on this last point. I first gave up organized religion before coming to the conclusion that the supernatural was bunk.
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Old 29 Oct 2017, 03:02 PM   #679048 / #12
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I hear that. During my college years, I referred to myself as a dont-give-a-shitist, i.e. didn't care whether there was a god or not, just ignored the whole topic. It wasn't until later that I identified as atheist. (To other atheists, anyway, have never come out to people in general. Not in the fucking bible belt.)
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Old 30 Oct 2017, 08:31 PM   #679098 / #13
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I've often wondered if it was possible to actually design a religion, a la the Bene Gesserit in Frank Herbert's Dune stories. One done not just as a con, like Scientology, and not just for a joke, like the IPU or the FSM. One which would make holy the love of knowledge, as well as the love of humanity. One with a large dash of the Buddhist acceptance of change and impermanence, and a relativist understanding of morals like the Affirmations of Humanism. Something that made it plain that there are many acceptable paths to wisdom or salvation or satori, like the more tolerant sorts of Hinduism.

Anybody know of a university with a school of Religious Engineering?
A good example of that might be Process Theology. Alfred North Whitehead. An attempt to develop a religion without the problems found in the omni-everything Abrahamic God and not based on some sort of mysticism.

And then some neo-pagans, some of who acknowledge that their paganism is more metaphorical than to be taken literally, God as a pantheistic Universe without the baggage of Abrahamic theology.

Perhaps Spinoza's pantheism. Where Spinoza tried to work out a systematic theology as it were.
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Old 31 Oct 2017, 10:33 AM   #679112 / #14
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Why there is no way back for religion in the West | David Voas | TEDxUniversityofEssex - YouTube

David Voas has an interesting argument. He proposes that if one has become detached from organized religion, it can seem weird and scary. He used Hinduism as an example of how some other religion might seem like that.

He noted that the formally nonreligious are not necessarily atheists or metaphysical naturalists. Many of them have various sorts of theological or woo-woo beliefs. But what's important here is their detachment from organized religion.

He notes that this detachment has been continually progressing in the Western world, and that the US is following those trends. When people become detached, they usually stay detached for the rest of their lives. Detached people often do not bring their children up in a religion, thus starting off their next generation as detached.

He proposes that the reversals that have recently happened, like in some ex-Communist countries, have been a result of their inadequate development. Whatever might be said about that, that goes to show that top-down and botton-up lack of religion behave rather differently.
I don't think religion is dying. Theism is dying. There's a distinction. Religion is just a set of rituals and social institutions in society, that exist in order to bring a society together. Those will never die. As a social species they are central to what it means to be human. We might call them something else than religion. But they are religion.

Theism will die. Because it's dumb-ass.
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Old 31 Oct 2017, 02:18 PM   #679116 / #15
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It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it isn't forced on people.

If not for bathroom bills, interference with birth control, and many other problems, religion could just be considered comedy and otherwise ignored.
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Old 01 Nov 2017, 12:36 AM   #679147 / #16
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"Religion always leads to rhetorical despotism... It leads to self-fulfilling prophecy and justifications for all manner of obscenities... It shields evil behind walls of self-righteousness which are proof against all arguments against the evil."
-Leto II, from Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune

The trouble is, IMO, that people want their religion to be the TRUTH, unerring and absolute, now and forever amen. I doubt we minute and momentary beings are capable of crafting anything that will last forever; all the truths we can manage are relative and tentative. So until we can make that 'acceptance of change and impermanence' acceptable to all, or at least figure out how to keep the ones who want permanence and absolutes out of any position of religious authority, I fear that Herbert's observation will always apply.
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Old 01 Nov 2017, 09:34 AM   #679161 / #17
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"Religion always leads to rhetorical despotism... It leads to self-fulfilling prophecy and justifications for all manner of obscenities... It shields evil behind walls of self-righteousness which are proof against all arguments against the evil."
-Leto II, from Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune

The trouble is, IMO, that people want their religion to be the TRUTH, unerring and absolute, now and forever amen. I doubt we minute and momentary beings are capable of crafting anything that will last forever; all the truths we can manage are relative and tentative. So until we can make that 'acceptance of change and impermanence' acceptable to all, or at least figure out how to keep the ones who want permanence and absolutes out of any position of religious authority, I fear that Herbert's observation will always apply.
Now you are equating Christianity/Islam with all religion. Those two really are very special. All other big religions are a lot more sensible IMHO. But even Christianity acknowledges that God is ineffable. Which to me is admittance of that Christianity isn't the TRUTH. So a Christian thinking that they know the TRUTH, hasn't read the Bible carefully.

I think Dune is about Christianity specifically. In that quote Herbert does equate religion with Christianity. Or empire. Herbert believed was the reason the Roman empire fell was the rise of Christianity. I think it's pretty obvious that Dune is an allegory of western history.

He juxtaposes it with Islam, (ie the "religion" of the Fremen) which he thinks is a much purer, better and more heroic religion. His clues aren't exactly subtle. Christians are greedy and self aggrandizing. Muslims (Fremen) are self sacrificing and put community above selfish pleasure. I think the Harkonnen is súposed to represent the Roman emperor. And the Emperor represents the Pope. Paul Atreidis, Lawrence of Arabia?

I think Dune is a very much leftist liberal, white guilt product of the 60'ies. I still love it. But the history he bases it on is largely gone, and historians no longer believe Christianity was the downfall of Rome.
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