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plasmid

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I'm curious about non-theist opinions on this matter, but theists are of course invited to participate and provide illumination as well. The almost universal development of religion in some form or other across many different cultures seems to indicate that there is a deep underlying drive to have some sort of religious experience which is embedded in many (if not to some degree all) humans. I doubt that it's purely due to primitive attempts to understand the universe before the development of science -- even with modern science and state endorsement of atheism, the Soviet Union still had plenty of believers. If religion as we know it were wiped from the face of the earth, it seems likely that it would simply resprout in some new form.

If this is the case (which is certainly open to argument) then would it not be in our best interest to fill this illogical but evident need with a religion that is as benign and perhaps even beneficial as possible? Most mainstream religions at least preach to love thy neighbor and straighten up and fly right and all that, whether or not it's actually put into practice. Christianity may stand to be improved regarding its opposition to stem cell research and discrimination against homosexuals to name a few issues. However, it was previously opposed to a non-geocentric solar system and abolition of slavery (in areas where it was profitable) and has since mended its ways, not without cost in the meantime, but the point is that it's adaptable.

Is it better to have such a mainstream religion fill the void of the masses who apparently can't do without it, or attempt to eliminate all but reason and leave open the chance for something much more uncontrolled and potentially malignant to take root in the open void (militant jihadists, or another Jonestown)? If something must fill the void but not any currently existing religion, would it be possible to design something better, bearing in mind that you have control only over the text of the holy doctrine but not people's interpretation and implementation of it, and that it must have enough of this intangible spiritualistic property that people crave in order to persist?

And the ultimate question: could you craft a doctrine to fill this need in such a way that its propagation would have an overall positive effect on humanity, and be so convinced in its potential that you would put forth whatever effort and resources were required to make it a reality? I have no intention of converting any nonbelievers into messiahs, I'm just curious what people think. Seeing as how we're on BrainDen, you can consider this a practical riddle.

Edited by plasmid

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When I was answering a post earlier today it occurred to me that the ancient Greeks probably had about as good a religion as you could get. Having multiple gods seems to be a good system because you don't need to exclude anybody else's religion as invalid. Also it seems to encourage people to take a pragmatic rather than dogmatic view of religion, to incorporate all sorts of colourful myths and stories and encourage people not to take it all too seriously. However, memetic selection seems to have worked against polytheism so such a religion is probably more likely to fail.

What I really like about the ancient Greeks was that they saw rationality and spirituality as the same thing. Geometrical forms were considered divine in their unworldly perfection. Rational thought was generally encouraged because they did not consider it a threat to cherished beliefs but a path to understanding truth, which could only be divine. Watching christians cling to ignorance and fallacy in order that their understanding may reconcile with their holy book is a bit sad by comparison.

But where there is religion there is always the potential for being blinkered. I feel as though mathematical and scientific thought was narrow and purist in ancient Greece, because it was pursued as a path to divine understanding rather than a tool for mundane purposes. I'm not a historian though so feel free to correct me if I'm getting it all wrong.

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Interesting, the idea of having many different small religions to prevent one from running amok or oppressing the others. I don't think the specific example of ancient Greece was really so idyllic, though. Socrates was sentenced to death for heresy, Pythagoras ended up being chased out of Croton by Cylon. The worst irony of all is that apparently the Pythagoreans themselves who tried to have a sort of faith based around mathematics were responsible for exiling or executing Hippasus for proposing that the square root of two is an irrational number because they considered the concept heretical. But there definitely was something special about ancient Greece that allowed philosophy to thrive, even if it was at times like grass growing through concrete. I don't know what it is and I would be interested in learning the answer.

Similar but different would be the emergence of all sorts of denominations as Protestantism spread across Europe, and particularly across the United States. These really were more like many little competing religions, rather than one overarching religion that formed from the amalgamation of others. In principle, if one religion were to do something really stupid, then all of its members would just defect and that would be the end of it. That probably does happen to some degree, but it hasn't wiped out practices like Christian Scientists refusing to give their kids medical care or Jehovah's Witnesses doing the same with blood transfusions. And it certainly hasn't prevented characteristically Christian dogma like the denial of evolution from persisting on a very widespread scale for over 150 years. But I might now be digressing from your original point.

Despite their flaws when put into practice to date, polytheism, whether of the Greek variety or modern multi-denominationalism, could be a valuable piece of a solution.

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awesome posts plasmid - first of all, I agree that religion is a necessary ingredient in a good society. I'll assume we're taking the reasons for that for granted in this topic so I won't diverge on that but instead on the point of the topic... your idea to replace modern religions would be a massive undertaking, but I had actually thought about how it would be done a few weeks ago for a tossed-around story idea. Basically it involved prophecying the return of Atlantis, a holy central city to the quasiscientific religion (named after something like 'the Deity', a universal essence or something)... then secretly building said Atlantis under the waves. When it's finally done, some clever mechanism will be triggered to rise it to the surface in its glorious return to the world... such a 'Miracle' may be enough to convince some, but "Atlantean" doctrine will have been spreading for the 30+ years it takes to build Atlantis and then raise it, so it will be a peaceful takeover. It would probably take a century or more to become even semidominant but I think with the proper foreplanning and careful execution, it's actually possible. An immense amount of money, time, leadership, "marketing" and persuasion is necessary of course. Like I said, it'd be a huge undertaking

for a religion to be benign, it would have to be provide comfort to the masses - but not baseless or confusing comfort like many modern religious. Philosophical ideas would be thought about by many philosophers and freethinkers, young and old, and incorporated into several encompassed worldviews (perhaps around 5) that when threaded together in different ratios form the aspects of the master Religion. Thus there's a lot of spiritual freedom, if you will, and a lot of different "theological paths" one can take in their experience, from ones focusing more on Nature to ones centered around Physics to those based on the concept of Mind and Machine, etc.

So anyway, the Religion would be a big proponent of discovering Truth and would donate a lot to science, colleges, etc. One of its ideals would be to NOT mess with politics and NOT mess too much with the lives of its advocates or become too big of a part of their lives. It would be a background thing supporting them, etc, but unless you devote your life to it as a Philosopher or Councillor (or whatever TRANSPARENT system of ruling it has) or whatever, it won't intrude too much or request you to do certain things that aren't beneficial to you or society in general

Edited by unreality

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Holy cow dude, raising Atlantis!? If someone were able to pull that off, I'd sign up for jumping off a cliff if they asked me to. Mostly because anyone with that much power would be able to obliterate me if I refused, but also because it'd be freakin' awesome. (The Atlantis raising, not me jumping off a cliff or being obliterated.)

But how to design something new and better to replace religion as it exists now, or in some other way fill the void that religion seems to sprout in. There are a lot of things that a religion needs to accomplish like you brought up: comforting the masses, providing them with a worldview, giving them a path or a purpose to life, and not meddling where it doesn't belong.

Giving them a worldview seems like it's probably diminishing in importance as time goes by and nature is more completely explained with science, and as cool scientific innovations improve the quality of life and show how important and useful it is. Giving them a worldview without all the old superstitions would help eliminate one of the biggest problems with religion: its obstruction of scientific advancement. Could a set philosophical ideas replace the traditional worldview that an omnipotent God created the universe and has everything under control with a master plan (a falsely comforting thought for those who face an unjust loss) without leaving an opening for other religions to seize on and take root? That will have to be kept in mind when designing the details of the philosophy.

Giving people comfort, especially when they feel powerless or abandoned, is something that they'll always crave. Religions that claim to give people a direct channel through prayer to request intervention from an all-loving God with no effort on their part are definitely offering baseless comfort – it would be much more useful to teach people to be self sufficient whenever possible and turn to their friends whenever necessary. But I think it would be difficult to ask people to give up the opiate of unconditional love from their imaginary omnipotent friend and instead face the harder reality; given human nature, when the going gets tough they would be prone to regress and want to just pray to God to save them. This is probably one of the big things that the human mind craves that drove it to invent religion, and the solution to our riddle will need a mechanism to prevent religions from pouncing on it to get a foothold and expand.

Then there's giving people a sense of purpose in life. It seems like almost anything would be an improvement over a goal of "I want to get into heaven and live forever", and pursuing science in any of its forms, or even the arts, to advance the progress of humanity is probably the most worthwhile goal there is. Again though, one of the problems is that something like Christianity offers a false promise of salvation just for accepting Jesus as your lord (too often left undefined and interpreted as "think good thoughts" or "open your heart" instead of "go help your fellow man"). Really understanding science, and especially discovering or creating something new, is a lot of hard work that most people probably just aren't going to be capable of. And it doesn't even grant you immortality if you succeed. I would like very much to include it in the replacement religion, though. With the multiple paths you were talking about, maybe it could promote advancing scientific understanding as the most venerable path, with other paths like good old fashioned building up karma with good deeds for those who aren't scientifically inclined? And religions have definitely used tales of reaching an idyllic afterlife to take root and spread. This might sound like it's counter to what rational people would want to promote, but would it be safe to have a replacement religion that does have a completely baseless (but comforting) promise of reward in an afterlife-like existence for doing good deeds? Doing this alone would fill one of biggest desires that people have come to expect from religion, and it seems like an innocent enough lie that doesn't in itself cause social problems.

OK, the major differences I see between conventional religions and their new replacement so far would be 1) de-emphasis on calling to God for help, more on being self-sufficient, 2) shifting the goal of life away from developing some sort of state of mind or relationship with God and instead focusing on doing something (anything) to advance humanity or help your fellow humans (still unsure whether a reward after death should be promised), 3) getting rid of the mythology that's becoming obsolete with modern science, 4) having the religion itself promote the idea of separation of church and state like unreality said. All of these seem like admirable goals, how to accomplish them in such a way that we fill the hole in the human psyche that religions have grown in would still need to be fleshed out. Are any other functions that a religion carries out that need to be covered by the replacement? What mechanisms can and should be set in place to prevent the replacement religion from running amok (like the polytheism that I'm keeping in the back of my mind)? And unreality talked about advancing science and education, are there other more positive things that an ideal replacement religion ought to be doing but isn't yet?

But dude, raising Atlantis... if there are other ideas like that on how to win converts then post those too!

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Interesting, the idea of having many different small religions to prevent one from running amok or oppressing the others. I don't think the specific example of ancient Greece was really so idyllic, though. Socrates was sentenced to death for heresy, Pythagoras ended up being chased out of Croton by Cylon. The worst irony of all is that apparently the Pythagoreans themselves who tried to have a sort of faith based around mathematics were responsible for exiling or executing Hippasus for proposing that the square root of two is an irrational number because they considered the concept heretical.
Well I guess I was getting it all wrong! :lol: Mathematics and religion must be uneasy bedfellows, getting killed for proving a heretical result says it all, doesn't it?

Similar but different would be the emergence of all sorts of denominations as Protestantism spread across Europe, and particularly across the United States. These really were more like many little competing religions, rather than one overarching religion that formed from the amalgamation of others. In principle, if one religion were to do something really stupid, then all of its members would just defect and that would be the end of it. That probably does happen to some degree, but it hasn't wiped out practices like Christian Scientists refusing to give their kids medical care or Jehovah's Witnesses doing the same with blood transfusions. And it certainly hasn't prevented characteristically Christian dogma like the denial of evolution from persisting on a very widespread scale for over 150 years. But I might now be digressing from your original point.
I'd say that's very different. Such memetic diversity needn't result in more sensible forms of religion, just more effective at spreading and competing.

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So anyway, the Religion would be a big proponent of discovering Truth and would donate a lot to science, colleges, etc. One of its ideals would be to NOT mess with politics and NOT mess too much with the lives of its advocates or become too big of a part of their lives. It would be a background thing supporting them, etc, but unless you devote your life to it as a Philosopher or Councillor (or whatever TRANSPARENT system of ruling it has) or whatever, it won't intrude too much or request you to do certain things that aren't beneficial to you or society in general
Hmm... I can't help but wonder where the religious part of your religion comes in. Surely the whole point of a religion is to make you believe stuff that probably isn't true (and generally speaking affect your actions in some irrational way accordingly), otherwise it's not so much a religion as... um... reasonism? (a better term than atheism in this context I feel)

For that reason I'm tempted to dismiss this topic as pointless, but the more I think about it the more I can't quite justify that point of view. Actually it's quite intriguing, though only in a hypothetical sense since I very much doubt we could get it off the ground (though if L Ron Hubbard could do it...). To me the question hinges on whether it is beneficial to be deluded. If so, the religion should comprise all delusions which make us better off and back them up with some convincing hocus pocus and a structure that achieves certain practical goals, such as the capability to be updated with new ideas, but with self-management to guard against mutating into a monster or interfering with those who can see through it, and of course a sufficiently compelling nature to wipe out all other religions. It's going to have to be one awesome feat of memetic engineering. Designing the perfect political system would be a doddle by comparison. Still, this is BrainDen so on with solving the problem.

Can delusions make us better off? All in all, I can't help but conclude that they do. Human mentality is deluded in many ways. If we saw the world as it truly is we simply couldn't process all the information, so certain shortcuts are required. Take memory for example. We cobble together stories about the past and consider it reality. Or free will (choice, responsibility, etc). Almost certainly a false concept but great to believe in.

The trouble here is that these delusions are built in, and religious delusions tend to be more optional ones that are dubious in their value. Life after death is a good example. On the one hand it can bring a lot of comfort, but on the other it can cause people to prioritise incorrectly, sacrificing quality of life for quality of afterlife. But I can't justify excluding it simply because it is so compelling. If our über-religion is to succeed it must compete with the likes of christianity, which has taken off mightily on account of combining a modern (by 2000 year ago standards) cuddly ethos of loving thy neighbour, with a hugely compelling notion of everybody having a free pass to heaven simply by signing up (particularly appealing in the context of a lot of existing religions believing in sacrifice appeasing the gods, with christianity doing a clever twist on the theme). So we definitely need an afterlife, and I think we should offer free drinks in the afterlife as well to bring in the punters. We could borrow the automatic afterlife for all believers idea from christianity, and I think we should stress that you'll burn in a particularly nasty version of hell if you're a member of any other religion. Not that we don't love everybody, that's just the way it is. In order for this not to interfere with the beforelife, I suggest we make the criteria for afterlife enhancement based on how fully you live your beforelife. Slob around or kill yourself and you get the cheap seats. Squeeze every last ounce of joy out of your existence and share your fun with those around you, and you get champagne and lapdances in the heavenly VIP lounge.

Then there is "spirituality". Even though I don't think there's anything supernatural going on, there's a lot to be said for meditation, reflection, taking time out and living simply. So I suggest we incorporate a bit of that too.

Next, prayer and trying to get pally with God. I'm with plasmid that this is a terrible idea and it has to go. People need to sort out their own problems instead of waiting for the big guy in the sky to do it. Perhaps we could promote some notion that one of the gods is within us and provides a supercharge of energy to those who want to get up and help themselves. That could work, you could easily take the glow of satisfaction you get from sorting stuff out as being a supernatural boost.

One of the trickiest areas is not interfering with those who don't want to be deluded. Maybe our religion could include a "path to enlightenment" which is a series of tests designed to root out those who wouldn't benefit from all the hocus pocus in the long run, and the enlightenment you get in the end is the knowledge that it's all a big lie, but somehow encoded in a form that you need to be able to pass all these tests to see it that way (you don't want anybody to be able to tell the unenlightened about that, so the form of the "enlightenment" needs to be incomprehensible to them). That's a tough one.

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Then there's giving people a sense of purpose in life. It seems like almost anything would be an improvement over a goal of "I want to get into heaven and live forever", and pursuing science in any of its forms, or even the arts, to advance the progress of humanity is probably the most worthwhile goal there is. Again though, one of the problems is that something like Christianity offers a false promise of salvation just for accepting Jesus as your lord (too often left undefined and interpreted as "think good thoughts" or "open your heart" instead of "go help your fellow man"). Really understanding science, and especially discovering or creating something new, is a lot of hard work that most people probably just aren't going to be capable of. And it doesn't even grant you immortality if you succeed. I would like very much to include it in the replacement religion, though. With the multiple paths you were talking about, maybe it could promote advancing scientific understanding as the most venerable path, with other paths like good old fashioned building up karma with good deeds for those who aren't scientifically inclined?

Yeah I was thinking, for the paths, something like "Nature" (connecting with nature, the universe, the Earth, etc), "Science" (discovering truth and furthering our knowledge of the world around us), "Karma" (doing good to others and investing into the cycle of life and deed), "Mind and Machine" (cognitive and computer sciences, and philosophy), "Humanism" (advancing humanity, its balance with the rest of life, its balance with the rest of the universe, its discover of external intelligence, and its general progress toward a better future humanity), etc

Clearly your own path in this would be something like the Science and Humanism paths, but NONE of the paths would be esteemed as "greater" than the others. For the ultimate experience of the Religion and its Philosophy, each person follows their own worldview along an entwined braide of the paths. Obviously for you, you hold the Science in highest regard but someone else may be really into the Karma path with a little bit of Mind+Machine, etc. It's kind of a personal journey relating to your personality, genetics, interests, influences, ideas, etc.

And religions have definitely used tales of reaching an idyllic afterlife to take root and spread. This might sound like it's counter to what rational people would want to promote, but would it be safe to have a replacement religion that does have a completely baseless (but comforting) promise of reward in an afterlife-like existence for doing good deeds? Doing this alone would fill one of biggest desires that people have come to expect from religion, and it seems like an innocent enough lie that doesn't in itself cause social problems

I disagree here. If you see my 'About Me', this is the afterlife, in a way. and the beforelife, and the middle life, and every other life. This is Life. There is no life after Life, it's here in our universe. If something else exists on some other plane, it's certainly not Life like we have it here in our universe. This is one of those things that starts to disagree scientifically, ie, with studies on the way the brain functions and stuff. I for one are content with death and its role in Life, and heaven just sounds like an easy copout that isn't much better than death anyway.

Though you and octopuppy have a point that an afterlife is a good way to bring people in and keep them, but that's what the Atlantis-like stuff is for ;D If we are going to create an afterlife lie to hold people we might as well just be built on lies. We want to be the seekers of Truth

to what octopuppy said about the special enlightenment path, that's a pretty good idea. Not sure how it'd be incorporated into the more truthful Philosophy that i was building up but maybe it could be worked in :P It's fun designing the ultimate Religion lol

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Though you and octopuppy have a point that an afterlife is a good way to bring people in and keep them, but that's what the Atlantis-like stuff is for ;D If we are going to create an afterlife lie to hold people we might as well just be built on lies. We want to be the seekers of Truth
This is supposed to be a religion you know! :lol:

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Well the goal I had was to come up with something that could supplant the current religions and replace them with something that would at least be benign and at best be beneficial. In a perfect world, you'd have a society where you don't need any religion because people inherently see the solidarity of humanity and are driven to make it something great. But humans don't seem to be built that way. They seem to have some intrinsic need for religion that drove it to proliferate wherever civilization arose. (Maybe a sizable population can exist without religion, but I don't think it's ever been done yet.) That's just the machine we've got to work with, so what's a good way to make it work?

That's a tough question of whether or not there should be an afterlife. The reason not to have an afterlife is because, well it is a lie after all, and it's better to do as little lying as necessary if you want to build a humanity that is going to pursue truth. If you could make a replacement for religion that would work without an afterlife and deal with the world as it really is, then I would prefer to do it that way. But the way I set up the problem is by saying that civilizations can't seem to do without religion. Can the void of religion be filled without some degree of lying about the afterlife or spirits or whatever? Interesting question. The concept of the five paths could provide people with a purpose in life, one of the typically religious tasks, without having to resort to lying. There are of course many other things that people look for in religion, and I'm afraid I can't really put my finger on all of the factors that drive people to spend their Sunday mornings listening to someone rant about spirits and saving your soul, and then try to model their lives around it. A better understanding of what motivates people to follow a religion than what little I have would be very useful in designing a lie-free replacement.

Oh, one observation on not having an afterlife that I just can't resist bringing up. It's funny the reactions I get when someone says “no one knows what happens after we die” and I respond by saying “I do. And so would you if you thought about it. We were both dead for all of eternity until we were born.” Man, human brains just weren't made to deal with that.

The argument for having an afterlife in the uberfaith would be that even if it's a lie, it's something that large numbers of people just can't seem to do without and it could potentially be a useful lie, so we should go ahead and design an afterlife system that will be useful. I like octopuppy's version of heaven much more than the typical Christian one where everyone shares the same heaven. If you just sit there and believe then you get the free version where you have to put up with ads on the sidebar, and if you kick butt in your current life you get the deluxe model. We'll need to spell what sort of criteria people will be judged by. Do you think we'll need to spell out a bunch of laws like Moses with the whole “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal” plus “thou shalt get the good stuff if you follow one of the fivefold paths”, or would it be better to just say something like “the better you (intentionally) make life for the people around you and future generations, the better your afterlife will be”? I'll go ahead and drop the idea of making biophysicists rule the afterlife (way to ruin the party, unreality :P ). And the heathen will burn in hell. We'll just need to a better job than the other religions of stressing that the afterlife is where judgment gets doled out to nonbelievers: we don't want our followers to go around persecuting people, now do we? And that would also allow people who don't need no stinking religion to live their lives without having to deal with this silly (but still awesome) uberfaith.

I like the idea of having a little supercharging adrenaline godling inside you that you can call upon to help you accomplish stuff. It's actually a really good way of giving people something akin to prayer or meditation (it seems like part of the religious experience that people have a hard-wired need for) but which is more likely to drive them to do something useful. I was too hasty to dismiss it earlier.

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That's a tough question of whether or not there should be an afterlife. The reason not to have an afterlife is because, well it is a lie after all, and it's better to do as little lying as necessary if you want to build a humanity that is going to pursue truth. If you could make a replacement for religion that would work without an afterlife and deal with the world as it really is, then I would prefer to do it that way. But the way I set up the problem is by saying that civilizations can't seem to do without religion. Can the void of religion be filled without some degree of lying about the afterlife or spirits or whatever? Interesting question. The concept of the five paths could provide people with a purpose in life, one of the typically religious tasks, without having to resort to lying. There are of course many other things that people look for in religion, and I'm afraid I can't really put my finger on all of the factors that drive people to spend their Sunday mornings listening to someone rant about spirits and saving your soul, and then try to model their lives around it. A better understanding of what motivates people to follow a religion than what little I have would be very useful in designing a lie-free replacement.
Maybe we need to be clear about what we're discussing here. There's two potentially interesting questions:

1) What role does religion play and how can that gap otherwise be filled?

2) Can we design a useful religion?

You and unreality seem to be thinking about both questions simultaneously whereas I have taken the topic title literally and gone straight for the second one. The distinction between the two is very important, and of particular relevance is our desire for humanity to pursue truth. You might think my earlier posts flippant but I mean it when I say that religion is fundamentally incompatible with the pursuit of truth, and that if we are to design a useful religion we may as well admit from the outset that we want to assemble useful delusions.

Maybe other people have a different idea of precisely what a religion is, but I'll support my point of view with an example. A system which promotes these paths of self-fulfillment you talk about, or even thinks in terms of some collective spirit of humankind, isn't necessarily a religion but might rather be a social philosophy. But once you start making unsupported assertions, like suggesting that the spirit of humankind is a real entity rather than a concept, maybe with its own volition, or adding in bits of belief like suggesting that we are all reincarnated or whatever, then you have crossed over the line into religion. Note that the line was crossed precisely at the point where delusion sets in. Not that all delusions are religious, many are not, but all religions are delusional. Exactly what sort of delusion counts as religion is open to debate, but at least an element of the supernatural seems to be required and this may be why there are no non-delusional religions. What really fascinates me about this topic is that even though I have argued very strongly against religion on this forum, I cannot dismiss the idea of a useful religion, at least not without further exploration. While some of us rigorously search for truth, others may just want something to believe, and to say that the pursuit of truth is something we should all aspire to is an assertion I am questioning here.

One might perhaps argue that if those who found and operate the religion don't believe their own BS, then it doesn't count as a religion, but examples like scientology and catholicism would suggest otherwise. Indeed having an realistic, if insincere, perspective may be helpful. Genuinely religious rulers are apt to make terrible mistakes, as recent history illustrates. We should aspire to Seneca's observation:

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful"

If religions are useful, they are not for everybody. If we want to promote the pursuit of truth, and design a useful religion, then it's important that we consider how our religion can be made so as not to get in the way of truth. That is why I proposed an inbuilt exit path for those of a truth-seeking nature.

I like octopuppy's version of heaven much more than the typical Christian one where everyone shares the same heaven. If you just sit there and believe then you get the free version where you have to put up with ads on the sidebar, and if you kick butt in your current life you get the deluxe model. We'll need to spell what sort of criteria people will be judged by. Do you think we'll need to spell out a bunch of laws like Moses with the whole "thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not steal" plus "thou shalt get the good stuff if you follow one of the fivefold paths", or would it be better to just say something like "the better you (intentionally) make life for the people around you and future generations, the better your afterlife will be"?
Yep, I think it pays to keep it vague. Then we can have some sort of a supporting doctrine, like the Bible but with the possibility for revision, so that we can shape our guidance as appropriate. Maybe the core doctrine should include "though shalt check www.überfaith.com for regular doctrine updates, or get the podcast". We cannot presume to have perfect wisdom about everything from the outset so we need to either be vague or revisable, preferably both. Religious people don't seem to mind too much if their holy texts contain glaring contradictions so this might be a way to keep it flexible, and ambiguous language helps too. Maybe we need help from an astrologer, they have a lot of practice in that area. But as far as the core values are concerned, I didn't want to go out on a limb here beyond saying that you need to live your life to the fullest extent, so as to counteract the inbuilt downside of afterlifes. You start getting too specific and this becomes a bit of a danger area.

And the heathen will burn in hell. We'll just need to a better job than the other religions of stressing that the afterlife is where judgment gets doled out to nonbelievers: we don't want our followers to go around persecuting people, now do we?
Oh dear me, no. We must save them from eternal damnation by converting them to our point of view. We don't want anyone to burn in hell, but if they bring it on themselves by not coming over to our side we must accept it as a sad fact.

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i'm saying that a "social philosophy" as you called it, or "collective philosophy" or whatever (as I was putting forth in previous posts) is IMO sufficient to replace religion and fill the religious niche in society. I think any grand philosophy will do, with religions being a subset of grand philosophies (maybe called religion if there's delusion involved)

That's a tough question of whether or not there should be an afterlife. The reason not to have an afterlife is because, well it is a lie after all, and it's better to do as little lying as necessary if you want to build a humanity that is going to pursue truth. If you could make a replacement for religion that would work without an afterlife and deal with the world as it really is, then I would prefer to do it that way. But the way I set up the problem is by saying that civilizations can't seem to do without religion. Can the void of religion be filled without some degree of lying about the afterlife or spirits or whatever? Interesting question. The concept of the five paths could provide people with a purpose in life, one of the typically religious tasks, without having to resort to lying.

yes - I think with enough time for the Philosophy to spread, that's enough and no afterlife needed. Of course if we DO need an afterlife it better be like the Pastafarian one with a beer volcano and stripper factory ;D

There are of course many other things that people look for in religion, and I'm afraid I can't really put my finger on all of the factors that drive people to spend their Sunday mornings listening to someone rant about spirits and saving your soul, and then try to model their lives around it. A better understanding of what motivates people to follow a religion than what little I have would be very useful in designing a lie-free replacement.

I think everyone has a different religious drive, but they probably are parts of these:

* brought up that way

* purpose

* redemption, payback, attempt at justice, atonement for bad things they've done, etc

* probably some more...

anyway a big thing is the justice... people want to feel like there's a Big Brother looking out for them, punishing bad people, etc. We'll have a karma-like concept that addresses this with no need for superhuman entities/judges, nor a need for a "split afterlife" (should have no afterlife at all, as I've said and stick by). The Karma path, of course, focuses mostly on this karma-like aspect of the Philosophy

I like the idea of having a little supercharging adrenaline godling inside you that you can call upon to help you accomplish stuff. It's actually a really good way of giving people something akin to prayer or meditation (it seems like part of the religious experience that people have a hard-wired need for) but which is more likely to drive them to do something useful. I was too hasty to dismiss it earlier.

yes, when a mind evolves to a certain point, it develops a sort of higher-symbol-level connection to the Essence and we can channel the power of our will :P lol

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I'd never heard that quote from Seneca before, I like it!

For the philosophy, not religion, route: I think I'll hold off on saying too much at the moment. It sounds like octopuppy would consider philosophical ideas along the lines of karma to be just as delusional as any concept of an afterlife or spirits or anything else. But I'm running dangerously close to putting words into others' mouths.

Dancing around it as much as I can for now, though: yeah, the paths could give people a sense of purpose in life without really any sort of delusion behind it. It seems ok to say "whether or not there's any inherent purpose or meaning in life, we're establishing a philosophy advocating these paths, because that's the best course that some really smart people could come up with for now and we've got to do something so let's do that". When it comes to suggesting something like karma to bring a sense of justice to the world and an opportunity for absolution, are you suggesting something along the lines of Buddhist ideas which (if I understand correctly) say not so much that God is keeping tally of how much good and evil you did so he can pay you back, but instead that the universe is somehow built in such a way that the laws of nature will end up doing good stuff to good people and bad stuff to the wicked? Or do you have something in mind that would be even less metaphysical and more practical, like "if you're a jackass no one's going to be nice to you"?

For the uberfaith route: I'll definitely accept that introducing unsubstantiated assertions about spirits and such (including any sort of metaphysical spirit of humanity) qualifies as delusional, and is practically a requirement for anything that would be thought of as a religion. Is it fundamentally incompatible with the search of truth?... well, yeah, it would definitely at best be an impediment and could easily be worse. So I agree that we need a way out for freethinkers. And I definitely don't think that everyone needs or even wants to be let out. I don't mind too much if there's a sizable portion of the population that's happily deluded because one of the premises of this riddle is that a bunch of people just can't seem to live without religion.

I guess I can't go with my original idea of just telling everyone to leave nonbelievers alone and let the afterlife sort them out. You're right, the heathen need to be actively converted so the uberfaith can grow; it's whole point is to wipe out all uncontrolled religions and tame stuff down after all. And it would be nice if we could avoid bothering the freethinkers with followers pushing them to convert all the time. It sounds like we need two classes of followers. How about if there are active believers who are really into all the mumbo jumbo and can go to cathedrals and sing hymns and whatever else floats their boats. And there are mediators who seek an inward connection with the spirits or whatever and spend their time in some private place where they are not to be disturbed by the corporeal world and where their actions should not be monitored to make sure that they really are meditating or have tabs kept on how much time they spend meditating or anything because that would be heresy. You get to pick which group you want to be in. Active believers get more glamor, but both are acceptable.

LOL, I'm just imagining what would happen if a hacker got into www.uberfaith.com and had free reign to dictate doctrine. Before you know it, everyone would be wearing a plaid cape and carrying a stapler around at all times just in case the origami attacked. But actually, a governing body would be important to keep up with the times and correct problems as they arise.

As an example, if I were sitting around a table 2000 years ago designing how we would design Christianity to replace all the annoying Jewish rules in Leviticus, I could easily imagine myself going along with most of what they came up with. Stories about a messiah who goes around healing the sick by driving out the demons that cause their disease? Sounds good. Too bad germ theory would then be heresy when it came around. Want to deride the Greek philosophers by condemning homosexuals? Sure, we've got to do something to keep them from getting popular and stepping on our turf. Shows what I would've known.

And in fact probably a majority of the things that (well at least I personally) don't like about Christianity aren't things that are written in the Bible, but are practices that have emerged as time passed, from indulgences in the old days to opposition to stem cell research now. Now this is a tough one, though: How do you design a governing body that has the power to set religious doctrine but won't instantly become corrupt?

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I'd never heard that quote from Seneca before, I like it!

For the philosophy, not religion, route: I think I'll hold off on saying too much at the moment. It sounds like octopuppy would consider philosophical ideas along the lines of karma to be just as delusional as any concept of an afterlife or spirits or anything else. But I'm running dangerously close to putting words into others' mouths.

I think the point of his replies to my ideas were that they weren't delusional enough, ie, they were too realistic. And that's what I was going for... a beneficial religion. Some of my previous post was about how the niche of massive religion can be filled (which is what we're trying to do) with a grand Philosophy that's not as hokey pokey as religion

yeah, the paths could give people a sense of purpose in life without really any sort of delusion behind it. It seems ok to say "whether or not there's any inherent purpose or meaning in life, we're establishing a philosophy advocating these paths, because that's the best course that some really smart people could come up with for now and we've got to do something so let's do that". When it comes to suggesting something like karma to bring a sense of justice to the world and an opportunity for absolution, are you suggesting something along the lines of Buddhist ideas which (if I understand correctly) say not so much that God is keeping tally of how much good and evil you did so he can pay you back, but instead that the universe is somehow built in such a way that the laws of nature will end up doing good stuff to good people and bad stuff to the wicked? Or do you have something in mind that would be even less metaphysical and more practical, like "if you're a jackass no one's going to be nice to you"?

that one, though justified with the last one. The last one is just a metalevel example of the bolded blue one, if you think about it, though the big blue one is the key core of our karma philosophy pretty much... the universe's tendency to disorder (entropy) while at the same time maintaining perfect balance

I guess I can't go with my original idea of just telling everyone to leave nonbelievers alone and let the afterlife sort them out. You're right, the heathen need to be actively converted so the uberfaith can grow; it's whole point is to wipe out all uncontrolled religions and tame stuff down after all. And it would be nice if we could avoid bothering the freethinkers with followers pushing them to convert all the time. It sounds like we need two classes of followers. How about if there are active believers who are really into all the mumbo jumbo and can go to cathedrals and sing hymns and whatever else floats their boats. And there are mediators who seek an inward connection with the spirits or whatever and spend their time in some private place where they are not to be disturbed by the corporeal world and where their actions should not be monitored to make sure that they really are meditating or have tabs kept on how much time they spend meditating or anything because that would be heresy. You get to pick which group you want to be in. Active believers get more glamor, but both are acceptable.

I agree with that idea if you're going with a more delusional religion (as octopuppy was outlining)... except where did the absolute tyranny come from lol? Why monitor the meditators?

LOL, I'm just imagining what would happen if a hacker got into www.uberfaith.com and had free reign to dictate doctrine. Before you know it, everyone would be wearing a plaid cape and carrying a stapler around at all times just in case the origami attacked. But actually, a governing body would be important to keep up with the times and correct problems as they arise.

Side note: As an example, if I were sitting around a table 2000 years ago designing how we would design Christianity to replace all the annoying Jewish rules in Leviticus, I could easily imagine myself going along with most of what they came up with. Stories about a messiah who goes around healing the sick by driving out the demons that cause their disease? Sounds good. Too bad germ theory would then be heresy when it came around. Want to deride the Greek philosophers by condemning homosexuals? Sure, we've got to do something to keep them from getting popular and stepping on our turf. Shows what I would've known.

wow! Your side note opened up a huge deal... WHAT IF the ideas of Christianity were logical enough to our current knowledge at the time. Spirits and stuff didn't really interfere much with scientific knowledge because there wasn't any scientific knowledge, at least not in that part of the world at that time, and all of it that there was (except for some Greek stuff) was more practical.

What I'm going for is, what if, in our design of a religion today that "doesn't conflict", what if, while it's being followed a couple thousand years from now (saying it lasts that long), and science has discovered new things, and our religion/metaphilosopy is now in the way of science/progress/etc? Dun dun dun!

Making the religion evolvable seems more important now. It needs to be able to flow and change with other philosophies and science, so that in all times it's optimal

Now this is a tough one, though: How do you design a governing body that has the power to set religious doctrine but won't instantly become corrupt?

you're right... for the Philosophy i hadn't yet made anything (we'll call the collection of my ideas - entwined "paths", no afterlife, etc - the Philosophy, and octopuppy's the Uberfaith to be official ;D) involving the leadership, but you're right that's an important question. The government would have to:

* adapt and change "the rules" (like the website octopuppy mentioned... building on this I think there should NOT be a "bible" or "master book" of any sort, but maybe pamphlets and websites and instructors explaining and spreading the concepts, but never a central object of dogma that cannot change as much)

* manage the funds to keep the Philosophy going and to support various venues (such as research institutions, schools, whatever)

* work on converting more people from their religions into the Philosophy

* keep the original spirit of us, the original creators, which involves:

** no religious fighting

** no silly or harmful delusions

** no major invasion in people's schedules

** adaptable

** fill the religious niche with something benign and helpful

** support science, the arts and education

there's probably more, so we should add to the list before deciding on how such a government should work

[edit - typo]

Edited by unreality

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For the philosophy, not religion, route: I think I'll hold off on saying too much at the moment. It sounds like octopuppy would consider philosophical ideas along the lines of karma to be just as delusional as any concept of an afterlife or spirits or anything else. But I'm running dangerously close to putting words into others' mouths.
Hey, I won't bite your head off just for promoting delusions (not in this topic anyway :D ). All I'm saying is that you're on a hiding to nothing if you promote a belief system that seeks the pursuit of truth, unless all the beliefs within that system are demonstrably true (or, as I've proposed, keep the beliefs and the truth-seeking at arms length). In the end it will turn on itself.

Now this is a tough one, though: How do you design a governing body that has the power to set religious doctrine but won't instantly become corrupt?
Yes, using a bunch of myths to maintain absolute power over the masses and abusing it to get more money than you know what to do with is all well and good, but we certainly wouldn't want corruption.

Here's another tough one: How to deal with heretics?

I don't mind being nice to the heathen as long as they're not too set in their ways (in which case we may reluctantly have to obliterate them in holy war just so they don't infect future generations with their evil lies), but heretics are a different kettle of fish. You can't have someone trying to fragment your religion by steering it along their own path, especially if we're to have a centralised, managed religion. We need to really come down hard on that sort of thing. I say if anyone suggests there is no afterlife we should burn them at the stake ;) .

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It seems a governing system to keep things running smoothly will be imperative. Power will certainly corrupt, especially after all other competing religions are wiped out. I don't know of any effective way of preventing corruption except by having competition that selects against it. But if there are other approaches that might work, then go ahead and bring them up.

If there were competition between many denominations of either Philosophy or Uberfaith (not between the two, we'll ultimately pick one and then make denominations of it), each with their own leadership and each competing for supremacy... We probably don't want to let just everyone freely move to whichever denomination they want, because the characteristics that would accumulate the most members are not necessarily going to be the characteristics that best promote a benign replacement for religion. Ideally we would want a system of natural selection where the denomination that has the characteristics we're looking for will end up being the one that's best suited to survive.

(This might be easier if they're in geographically different places and behave almost like independent nations.)

So, on to the list of characteristics that unreality mentioned. 1) If a denomination fails to adapt and gets in the way of social or scientific progress then we want it to change quickly or die. We can let scientists switch denominations, that way anyone that imposes oppressive doctrine hampering progress will drive all of their scientists out and will pay a natural selection price for it. 2) Education should be important, so we can give all the smart students scholarships to go to whichever denomination they want (and stay there for at least oh say 10 years or so). They'll probably go to the places with the best schools. But considering how college students are they might just end up going to the ones with the best beaches. I guess that's as good as we can do though. 3) When it comes to gaining members: you convert em, you keep em. Early on, expansion will be important. But if the qualities required for expansion end up being detrimental in the long run, other denominations will overtake once most of the world has been converted. 4) Wars would be detrimental to both sides involved. That should put belligerent types at a serious disadvantage. Of course the denominations that they fight against will also face a disadvantage. I guess that's okay, we don't want to end up with a bunch of members who are just chumps asking to get invaded anyway. 5) We might not need to impose any specific rules for this one. Anyone who shoots themselves in the foot will already put themselves at a disadvantage. 6) If any denominations get too obtrusive, their followers will be less productive because they're wasting all their time with senselessness. 7) Adaptability I guess was covered with the first one. 8) If your denomination has some new pagan religion starting to emerge from within it then it has fundamentally failed in our primary objective and all the others are required by doctrine to band together and trounce it mercilessly. 9) Scientists and students can migrate and I guess artists can too.

Do you think that would be a reasonable way of having a government that can keep everything adaptable and accomplish our goals without becoming corrupt? Scientists, students, and artists can migrate. Others can't migrate because they would probably be migrating for superficial reasons that may or may not be in our real interests. New converts are finders-keepers. Hostility is discouraged, except in the event of a rogue religion in which case it's jihad time. That should take care of the heretics octopuppy mentioned... if people don't want to be bothered with religion then they can claim membership and not really do any worshiping, but there's definitely no room for active troublemakers.

There might be other people who we should allow to migrate too; this idea's pretty new to me so I haven't thought through a bunch of the ramifications yet.

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If there were competition between many denominations of either Philosophy or Uberfaith (not between the two, we'll ultimately pick one and then make denominations of it), each with their own leadership and each competing for supremacy... We probably don't want to let just everyone freely move to whichever denomination they want, because the characteristics that would accumulate the most members are not necessarily going to be the characteristics that best promote a benign replacement for religion. Ideally we would want a system of natural selection where the denomination that has the characteristics we're looking for will end up being the one that's best suited to survive.
That's a tall order. Designing an actual selection process which is rigged to come out in favour of what we want is very risky.

But what you said reminds me of another quote I stumbled across while looking up the Seneca one:

"If you have two religions in your land, the two will cut each other's throats; but if you have thirty religions, they dwell in peace" - Voltaire

Perhaps fragmentation is in some way better. You lose control over the doctrine unless you make adherence to a core source of truth so fundamental that most variations on the religion will hold to it. If it is a doctrine subject to change I can't see that happening*. So we have a choice between corruption or adherence to fixed dogma. It's inevitable that the power to direct the doctrine will corrupt, just as it's inevitable that a fixed doctrine will cause unforseen and undesirable behaviour. I'm inclined to think that where there is choice between many religions there will be a tendency for the majority of people to gravitate toward the more reasonable and life-enhancing ones. But there will also be a lunatic fringe. Another variation is to keep the fixed doctrine down to a few key principles (the ones we identify as necessary to control the memetic development of the religion desirably), and allow the option for doctrinal updates from the high priest of whatever denomination you are in. Kind of like how the US constitution forms a fixed immutable point to build more variable laws on. Then you rely on each denomination to govern themselves sensibly, and try to build into the core doctrine principles which mean that the lunatic ones don't prosper.

*unless the source of change is transparent and something which stands up to examination, like maybe if we believed that there is a god within us all, then changes to doctrine could be brought about by the will of the people. Ugh... sounds a bit like democracy :dry:

3) When it comes to gaining members: you convert em, you keep em. Early on, expansion will be important. But if the qualities required for expansion end up being detrimental in the long run, other denominations will overtake once most of the world has been converted.
I see that as being very difficult to engineer, and one of the fundamental problems with designing a religion. Current religions exist because they have come out on top in a selection process, no other reason. If one variation of our religion is better at converting and keeping followers, it will be that one which persists, regardless of whether it is the most preferable. The best we can do is to dictate within the core doctrine that the religion must retain and respect denominational competition, and like you said with the scientists, try to make it self-select against unreasonable mutations. This takes the problem onto a whole new level, not only do we want something which creates desirable behaviour while appeasing the masses, not only must it be able to compete with existing religions, but it also must develop memetically in a desirable way even though we don't know exactly how we want it to turn out! Phew! :wacko:

Do you think that would be a reasonable way of having a government that can keep everything adaptable and accomplish our goals without becoming corrupt? Scientists, students, and artists can migrate. Others can't migrate because they would probably be migrating for superficial reasons that may or may not be in our real interests.
Any system that classifies people thus is probably shooting itself in the foot. People are more versatile and varied than that. I think people should be classified and controlled only insofar as they choose to be.

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Ahh ... another plot to take over the world, eh? :P

I'm really enjoying this discussion. As a believer in a fallible pantheon vaguely similar to the Greek system, I'm not sure I'm supposed to come in here and comment, but I can't resist any longer.

Just a few comments on things I've read here:

1.) On including an afterlife: Octopuppy and I had an interesting discussion elsewhere about the many-universes idea. Where we left off with it is that I was claiming that we are all embedded observer-participants so we must choose to follow one of the paths. Octopuppy claims this is merely a delusion: voila! Works great here. Tell the masses that if you follow the noble path you steer yourself into a universe of milk and honey. Make bad choices and you'll find yourself in a universe full of sleaze and squalor.

2.) Regarding all religions being delusional. I'd argue that there may be one that is not: Unitarian Universalism. I took the "belief-o-matic" test that you can find at:

http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Qui...liefOMatic.aspx

and came up 100% Unitarian Universalist, 97% Theravada Buddhist, etc. The test asks you 20 questions and allows you to rate the importance of each question as you go. The questions let you freely and honestly describe your beliefs, then you are given a result regarding which religions best fits your philosophical position. If nothing else, it's an interesting exercise.

Unitarian Universalists have a very open doctrine: you are encouraged to "build your own theology" based on a continuous search for truth and meaning. Despite the seeming lack of a cohesive common "creed", the denomination thrives: it meets the needs of people for a "religious" infrastructure while accepting all sorts of individual beliefs. There are a lot of refugees from fundamentalist religious backgrounds there; and there are plenty of atheists!

In general the real world example of memetic evolution of religion is probably one you should study as you structure your uber-religion.

3.) Regarding invoking a metaphysical spirit of humanity. I think it does meet a need. It is likely to be a useful part of your replacement religion. Even if you reject any supernatural element to it, it makes sense to give this spirit a "voice" and give it a "consciousness". People respond better to other people, even imagined ones, than to abstract constructs and inanimate objects. Consider mob psychology: people assembled in a church are praying together, listening to their spiritual guide (the "minister") speaking with the goddess Vesper (VSPr, the Voice of the Shared Presence). There are subliminal messages going on and, in this group setting, some suspension of disbelief. The result is that this prayer can have a real influence on the behavior of the congregants. Remember that many of the world's great religions are based on a founding charismatic individual human being.

4.) And regarding that last thought, as I recently read the Bible objectively, I detected a clear intent on Jesus' part to manipulate his life so that it would appear to fulfill Old Testament prophesy. This was no pastoral innocent, but a scheming manipulative self-promoter with a plan and the charisma to pull it off.

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Ahh ... another plot to take over the world, eh? :P
Dammit, we've been rumbled!

1.) On including an afterlife: Octopuppy and I had an interesting discussion elsewhere about the many-universes idea. Where we left off with it is that I was claiming that we are all embedded observer-participants so we must choose to follow one of the paths. Octopuppy claims this is merely a delusion: voila! Works great here. Tell the masses that if you follow the noble path you steer yourself into a universe of milk and honey. Make bad choices and you'll find yourself in a universe full of sleaze and squalor.
Choice and responsibility definitely comes under what I would term "useful delusions" but not necessarily religious ones. It's that sort of thing that makes me question the principle that we must dismiss all delusions.

2.) Regarding all religions being delusional. I'd argue that there may be one that is not: Unitarian Universalism.
That's one I haven't encountered. From a quick scan of the wikipedia article I couldn't find any reason to call it a religion. Believing that certain things are a good idea without actually making any supernatural assertions doesn't make a religion in my opinion, but that is just my opinion. UU clearly fills the gap for some people, though you might say that rather than replacing religion, it just provides a wrapper for other beliefs. Thanks for the example, seeksit, it's a curious one.

3.) Regarding invoking a metaphysical spirit of humanity. I think it does meet a need. It is likely to be a useful part of your replacement religion. Even if you reject any supernatural element to it, it makes sense to give this spirit a "voice" and give it a "consciousness". People respond better to other people, even imagined ones, than to abstract constructs and inanimate objects. Consider mob psychology: people assembled in a church are praying together, listening to their spiritual guide (the "minister") speaking with the goddess Vesper (VSPr, the Voice of the Shared Presence). There are subliminal messages going on and, in this group setting, some suspension of disbelief. The result is that this prayer can have a real influence on the behavior of the congregants. Remember that many of the world's great religions are based on a founding charismatic individual human being.
Amen to that!

4.) And regarding that last thought, as I recently read the Bible objectively, I detected a clear intent on Jesus' part to manipulate his life so that it would appear to fulfill Old Testament prophesy. This was no pastoral innocent, but a scheming manipulative self-promoter with a plan and the charisma to pull it off.
I'm shocked :o;)

Seriously though, although Jesus probably did play the messiah, I feel as though the prophesy fulfillment is more attributable to the people who made up stories about him after his death. Maybe some of it was encouraged by him during his life, who knows? It was all so very long ago. What actions on Jesus' part do you see as being particularly engineered in that sense?

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What actions on Jesus' part do you see as being particularly engineered in that sense?

Unfortunately I'm away from home for a couple weeks and didn't bring my bible full of marginal scribbles with me. From memory there's a passage where Jesus tells his disciples to go find an a** so he can ride it into Jerusalem because that's what the prophesy says.

OK, here's an internet snippet:

Having traced the prophecies which concern the Messiah quite down to his entrance upon, and discharge of his work and office as a prophet, I cannot proceed any further, without taking notice of a remarkable occurrence, which was to happen towards the close of his ministry, namely, his riding to Jerusalem upon an a**. That Jesus did do so, a little before his death, not only the evangelists assure us, who are to be credited, but even the Jews themselves, the avowed and implacable enemies of Jesus, have acknowledged; now hereby an ancient prophecy was fulfilled, as the evangelists observe, Matthew 21:4, 5, John 12:14-16, the prophecy referred to is Zechariah 9:9, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon an a**, and upon a colt the foal of an a**.

Here's Matthew 21: 1-6, King James version:

1: And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

2: Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an a** tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.

3: And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

4: All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5: Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an a**, and a colt the foal of an a**.

6: And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,

And Here's John 12:14-16

14: And Jesus, when he had found a young a**, sat thereon; as it is written,

15: Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an a**'s colt.

16: These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

Good ol' internet to the rescue :lol:

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It's not all about science or state control, some of it is about being in a comfort zone. Many individuals are actually happy to not be in a group but can't come to terms with the fact that where we are and how we got here is too difficult to understand. To put it another way, they can not believe in science or explanations of non-creationist solutions. Perhaps Atheists too need an understanding as much as others need belief. By that I mean the need to know or understand is part of the wisdom/knowledge that various types of philosophy try to come to terms with. Sure a 'no belief' group may exist - Sweden compared to Italy for instance. Both will have their private needs, an underlying desire to belong or bond with family, tribe or surrounding group.

I don't see the void coming unless there is a near extinction of the human race; in which case the remaining few will likely inflict there ways/beliefs or non-belief on others sooner or later. We are talking about inflicting discomfort or worse on others that may have doubts about there creator but do need that loophole of afterlife.

I'm happy where I am with my beliefs which are more like naturalism bordering Buddhism without the spirits - I believe in the human spirit :) I guess the nearest you are going to get to filling this void is pantheism or something similar to freemasonry. I'm sure a doctrine at least would ensue to fill the void, partly to bring the individuals together. Co-operative 'projects' rarely survive in a mixed culture. I've seen a few first hand and at best it fizzles out and becomes another organisation; housing, community garden, 'watch' type projects etc all fail due to individual needs and no actual common ground other than the project it'self.

another 2cents invoice to follow B))

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Hi seeksit, thanks for the Belief-o-matic link. Octopuppy: your next job is to write an app that lets you fill out a questionnaire and then crunches the results to uniformly reach the conclusion that you belong in Uberfaith :) The Belief-o-matic does seem pretty legit, though, I don't mean to bash it.

The evolution of religions when left to their own devices had left me underwhelmed. That's been going on for the past couple hundred years in the US and has produced less than stellar results. Televangelists can thrive precisely because half of the population is dumber than average. I just saw a documentary that was re-playing the reverend Wright tape, and that's an example of what a generally well respected leader of the free world had selected until it became a political liability.

Unitarian Universalism might have some useful characteristics that should be preserved and adapted if we went the Uberfaith route. But since the goal of this project is to create a religion that fills the void so to speak but prevents spiritual beliefs from becoming detrimental: how much control does UU have over individual beliefs if someone were to come in and say something along the lines of "I come from a long line of Christian Scientists and I definitely think prayer healing is the way to go. No way am I going to let my kids go to a hospital." Even if the UU were to discourage something so blatantly dangerous, I would imagine that more insidious problems like creationism are tolerated. While it may seem harmless, I would suggest that raising new generations to believe in creationism is an impediment to the advancement of biology. That's why I think it would be useful to have doctrine specifying what is and isn't acceptable to keep people in line.

But something UU-ish might have a favorable consequence: If UU were to become widespread and everyone had their own independent beliefs, then people would become less and less able to support completely baseless claims simply because they perceive them to be consequences of their faith. An example of such a thing carried to a ridiculous extreme recently is John Shimkus, a congressman from Illinois, arguing that we don't need to worry about global warming because it's not in keeping with his interpretation of scripture (

). While in this case he's certainly only using it as an excuse to enact policy that would otherwise be indefensible, it illustrates that people can go around using faith as a defense for their actions and expect others to simply accept it. If people are known to be setting their own doctrine, then maybe they would have more responsibility to be able to defend it.

If nothing else, I suppose that UU is one way to have a doctrine evolve over time without having the leadership responsible for setting the doctrine become corrupt: the "leadership" is just one person who's setting their own doctrine and doesn't have any power that would be corrupting. Whether or not memetic selection would behave any differently in a UU setting than it has with a bunch of denominations, I don't know. I think you're the only one here who has access to the experimental data on how belief selection has worked in practice in UU, seeksit.

Interesting, Jesus intentionally making it look like he's fulfilling Old Testament prophesies in order to come to power. Brilliant, seeksit! All right, how about this for starting up Uberfaith: Just to get it off the ground, we fulfill the prophesies in Revelations. Since it's so metaphorical, that will basically involve interpreting the scriptures in such a way that they could be easily fulfilled (we can hone our creative interpretation skills by practicing on Shakeepuddn's riddles). Then we'll need someone charismatic with worldwide appeal to launch the faith. I suggest we recruit Barack Obama after his second term's up. It will start off as the Third Testament of the Bible. Just like the Second Testament, we can have one of the things it does right off the bat be to say that all prior dogma is null and void (even if it was valid previously). Eventually, however, the first two testaments will have to go. We don't want it littered with old fables about serpents handing apples to people or such.

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4: All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5: Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an a**, and a colt the foal of an a**.

OK, that's pretty unambiguous!

The evolution of religions when left to their own devices had left me underwhelmed. That's been going on for the past couple hundred years in the US and has produced less than stellar results. Televangelists can thrive precisely because half of the population is dumber than average. I just saw a documentary that was re-playing the reverend Wright tape, and that's an example of what a generally well respected leader of the free world had selected until it became a political liability.
Maybe you're judging them on the wrong criteria. One thing I've been thoroughly impressed with in my various discussions about religion on this forum is the extent to which religion self-perpetuates in the face of reason. In order to do so it needs a complex web of concepts, including loaded terminology, undermining the value of rationality, promoting fallacious forms of reasoning, advocation of faith, manipulation through fear, dictating core values and presuppositions, the list goes on and on. It really does a very thorough job of hijacking people's minds and gluing itself into the driving seat. A lot of the mechanisms are hard to see because they are woven into our culture, and most of this has come about in the absence of conscious design. A huge proportion of the world's population are in thrall to religion. Furthermore, looking at the things we've been puzzling over in this topic, most of the better solutions have already been found by religions. Dumb behaviour may seem like a symptom of religion being poorly developed, but far from it. The systems of control and the effectiveness of those systems are what matter. In a sense the dumb behaviour is proof of how effective it all is.

Unitarian Universalism might have some useful characteristics that should be preserved and adapted if we went the Uberfaith route. But since the goal of this project is to create a religion that fills the void so to speak but prevents spiritual beliefs from becoming detrimental: how much control does UU have over individual beliefs...While it may seem harmless, I would suggest that raising new generations to believe in creationism is an impediment to the advancement of biology. That's why I think it would be useful to have doctrine specifying what is and isn't acceptable to keep people in line.
Agreed. On the basis of what little I know about it, UU seems too passive for what we've been talking about. But in some ways the fact that it claims to be a religion, looks like one (with the candle thing and church meetings), but actually lacks what I would call the key characteristic of a religion (ie. pushing supernatural myths) is rather clever. It could be quite a subtle antidote to religion, in that it gives religious people a way to expose themselves to other ideas without triggering the defenses.

I suggest we recruit Barack Obama after his second term's up. It will start off as the Third Testament of the Bible.
Whoa. Awesome idea! I'd back Obama for messiah. Get a good illusionist to sort out some miracles, and we're in business! :D:D:D

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Whether or not memetic selection would behave any differently in a UU setting than it has with a bunch of denominations, I don't know. I think you're the only one here who has access to the experimental data on how belief selection has worked in practice in UU, seeksit.

I don't think UU evolution has been any different than other denominations. The cool thing about idea-evolution is that branches can merge as well as diverge. UU is a merger of Unitarians and Universalists. It is basically rooted in Christianity, so some of the UU congregations are more comfortable with talk of Jesus and God than others. From what little I know, each congregation has its own "flavor". I know of one "schism" locally where a church split into two because one branch wanted to adhere more to the traditions and roots of UUism (i.e. they wanted to talk about God and Jesus more). Some denominational splits are more about politics and personality than about beliefs, same as in the rest of the world.

Interesting, Jesus intentionally making it look like he's fulfilling Old Testament prophesies in order to come to power. Brilliant, seeksit! All right, how about this for starting up Uberfaith: Just to get it off the ground, we fulfill the prophesies in Revelations. Since it's so metaphorical, that will basically involve interpreting the scriptures in such a way that they could be easily fulfilled (we can hone our creative interpretation skills by practicing on Shakeepuddn's riddles). Then we'll need someone charismatic with worldwide appeal to launch the faith. I suggest we recruit Barack Obama after his second term's up. It will start off as the Third Testament of the Bible. Just like the Second Testament, we can have one of the things it does right off the bat be to say that all prior dogma is null and void (even if it was valid previously). Eventually, however, the first two testaments will have to go. We don't want it littered with old fables about serpents handing apples to people or such.

Well, if you try to fulfill Revelation, you need an Anti-Christ (any volunteers? B)) ). Then you need a credible rapture. Everybody who's "written in the book" gets lifted up to heaven. (That's how we get rid of all the fundamentalist Christians--so the rest should be a snap :D ). I'm all for Annointing Barack Obama as the second coming.

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would 0mnifaith, using 0(Zero) instead of O maybe? Perhaps that is to similar to Pantheism. - Uberfaith is suggestion there are others but his is larger, Onlyfaith or similar suggests that it is designed to exclude. I am in favor of a faith that only really encompasses the social values and attachments that we all have for each other - thought that is more by design/evolving into a dependence on each other. Thinking about it, is faith the appendage that we need? It amounts to trust.

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octopuppy, I think there may be a slight flaw in your line of thinking regarding free will, choice and responsibility. You still seem to be thinking out-of-the-system from a "soulistic" point of view, in which case your conclusions are correct. But again that's from a "soulistic" point of view. If you think about it on the naturalistic side (the side you and I vouch as correct), in which NOTHING is out of the system, then you realize that your brain does indeed make choices and decisions. From a soulistic POV, you say "oh but that's your BRAIN... that's not YOU"... but (naturalistically speaking) your brain IS you. Your brain - you - is making those decisions. Based on input, yes of course. Every decision is made based on input. It goes on, whiiiiirrr, comes back out. Your brain is making choices - and you are your brain, so you are making choices. Maybe even subconsciously most of the time, which is pretty cool. But on a soulistic POV, you say "well so what, there's nothing FREE about it" but a naturalistic POV would say "sure if you look at it from out of the system, as a soulistic POV does". Inside the system - inside the natural universe - it is free. The brain (you) is(are) making those decisions

that's the best way I can think of explaining it, I'm having trouble putting this into words.

About responsibility, I think what happened in the past doesn't matter as much as what happens in the future, but the past can help us predict the future, and therefore the past is important. Should a proven serial killer go to jail? Yes because we know s/he's likely to kill again.

Again I think you are thinking "soulistically" about the responsibility issue... sure you may not have "out-of-system freedom" regarding your choices, but your brain-computing-organic-machine made those decisions and thus IS responsible for them, from an in-the-system view.

Idk I can't really put this in/out of the system thing into words lol :lol:

edit: also this is kind of unrelated but I think some interesting/unexplainable/etc stuff happens when something refers to itself "within the system", maybe that's "the way out", who knows

Edited by unreality

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