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ShakaUVM's Journal: Usefulness of Philosophy and Religion

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>>God, I hate philosophy. The problem with so many of you people is that you talk yourself out of knowledge, and into ignorance.

Philosophy and logic are interesting in that you can study what *must* be true, regardless of, well, anything. Even in a whacky world with 23 dimensions and no light, a circle is still a circle.

>>The "realness" of reality is irrelevant; regardless of the reality of Reality, the Reality that we perceive is the "only context in which anything is meaningful."

Except our *understanding* of reality is critically important. The basic questions about life (you know, stuff like What is the Meaning of Life) have different answers for different people, and essentially shape the entire direction of a person's life. A person who says that the Meaning is to spread the Word of God will live a very different life than the person who says that it is to enjoy life as much as we can, and then get out while the getting is good. Philosophy can help differentiate these stances, and reveal problems and contradictions in them.

>>The problem with religion is that it gets people to believe things that are demonstratively false - "abstinence-only education prevents pregnancy and STD's" - on the basis of no good evidence.

Atheism gets people to believe things that are patently false, like Hutchens saying that religion is irrational and bad (for some definition of bad in a world that doesn't involve a moral law, naturally), or Dawkins claiming that religion doesn't change how people act, or, hey, your statements implying that religious people must be blind to the real world in order to believe in God. Which is not at all the case. There is no contradiction between saying, I am a Scientist and a Man of God.

Gould's NOM model is primitive... while I think there is quite a very large lesson people should learn that religion teaches religious matters and science teaches scientific matters, there is a non-negligible area that overlaps between the two. Buddhism claims that the world is without end, and has lessons which rely on this key point (be nice to everyone you meet, because since the world is infinitely old, everyone has probably been your mother and your child at some point). Christianity claims that the world was created. If science can conclusively rule one way or another, that would make a tremendous difference for religion. Christians don't claim primacy of religion over scientific matters -- if the Bible says Pi is 3, well, that's because it was rounded off to one digit, not because it was 3. When a Christian scientist learns more about God's creation, that is an act of worship, not an attack on religion.

Islam has a different approach to science, though. The great Islamic scholar Averroes pointed out in the 1100s that there is only one truth -- there cannot be a contradiction between religious truth and scientific truth (such as it is). In later years, though, Sufi mysticism has sort of permeated Islamic culture, and so claim that every electron only moves because the Will of God commands it to be so, and thus it is pointless to study things scientifically, since it is impossible (and incredibly hubristic) to predict the Will of God. Even more recently, there has been a resurgence in scientific thought in Islamic worlds, but in my opinion, that was one of the major reasons Islamic scientific progress stalled after the 1100s or so.

On the other hand, religion can and should inform scientific decisions when it comes to making certain decisions. This probably horrifies you to no end, but science in the absence of all morality and ethics leads to much worse tragedies and horrors than religion ever created.

>>Which is a pretty good indication that those books have little that is useful to a rational society.

Whether or not you believe in God, which it's pretty (adamantly) clear that you don't, it should be rather obvious that religion is the only thing that lets mankind transcend the real world as we know it, and achieve those Herculean heights of greatness that would never happen if we were all just concerned with the real world. Where is the Mother Theresa of the atheists?

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Usefulness of Philosophy and Religion

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