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Review:Virtual Faith 208

Jon Katz, known to everyone here, has sent us a review of Tom Beaudoin's book Virtual Faith, a book that explores the issue of the Internet, the Web, and Faith. Interestings stuff for the philosphical amongst us.
"Losing my religion..."
"Trying to keep up with you"
--- REM

When you think about it, and despite the boom in spiritual websites and mailing lists, the Net is organized religion's worst nightmare, a true dogma-killer and heresy-spreader. Before new technologies like the Net, John and Jane's view of the world was pretty much limited to what their parents told them, and what they picked up in the school yard. Religious instruction was rarely voluntary for most kids, and religious institutions usually went to great pains to make sure that dogma and faith was deeply embedded before kids grew up and got out into the world, where they might encounter all alien faiths and points-of-view and make up their own minds.

The Net makes that a lot tougher, one of the reasons blocking software sells so well, and why so much of it is programmed to block out religious discussion.

Still, some people have always seen a strong connection between the Net and spirituality.

Are notoriously irrevent, skeptical and prickly young nerds and geeks pulled towards higher powers? Is their new and raucous liturgy the sometimes vulgar and provocative language, symbolism, imagery of computer language, programming and popular culture? Can institutionalized religion get off its high and preachy horses, embrace interactivity and minister to the cyber-young on completely different, new terms?

In "Virtual Faith", Tom Beaudoin makes a thoughtful case that Americans, especially those younger ones online -- unfortunately, he calls them Generation X, but he was a divinity student -- are up to their servers, TV shows, movies, keyboards, and Mp3's in spiritual quests. And that stuffy, top-down Churches will have to change radically to reach them. Beaudoin is a former altar boy, raised on television and video games, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School two years ago, is a bass player in a Boston area rock band, and survived Woodstock '94. His book "Virtual Faith" (Jossey-Bass Publishers, $US 22) is just the sort of book about religion we never get to see in the age of the sound-bite spouting, scolding and pious Moral Guardian, a time when people like William Bennett, ex-Education and Drug Czar, are labeled "Morals Czars" by the media and get to go on CNN twice a week to tell us how vulgar and faithless we all are.

"Virtual Faith" argues that the popular culture so celebrated by the young -- from movies and music to TV shows and the Net -- is actually suffused with spirituality and religious iconography.

Writing about REM's "Losing My Religion," for example, a hit song and video from the group's blockbuster l991 album, Beaudoin sees clear intimations of Jesus in the old man resting against an angel, both of them seated on a tree limb. Grey-haired and bearded, the old man is fitted with a pair of angelic wings and clothed in orange robes; then he is stoned to death.

"The ambiguity of the final Jesus scene is disturbing," writes Beaudoin, "in a brief shot, his associates work with rope that is wrapped around Jesus' body. Are they releasing him, or are they binding him to the beam, hoping to get him up on the cross so that he might really be the messiah they are hoping for in the end?"

Beaudoin further cites Madonna, Soundgarden, various TV shows and movies as pop culture sources brimming with spirituality, even as the citizens of cyberspace are participants in a subtle attack on rigid institutions.

"The environment of cyberspace provides resources that are ripe for upsetting hierarchies," he says. The Net and the Web is a natural leveler of powerful institutions as so many individuals get their hands on the machinery of communications, and get to make and disseminate their own personal theologies.

In the digital world, individuals don't have to accept official dogma, but are free to seek and find their own, to join virtual communities with fresh ideas about spirituality.

Cyberspace and institutional churches thus exist in constant conflict, Beaudoin writes.

This is a pretty sharp observation, obvious but rarely spoken, especially from religious quarters. Organized religions resent popular culture in general and the Net in particular, sounding alarms about addiction, the exposure of the young to so much unfiltered, uncensored information, and to pornography and violence, while the ascending geek culture is viscerally hostile to powerful institutions that tell its members what to believe.

In the same way many journalists have been almost bitterly reluctant to relinquish any part of their role as the sole purveyor of news and opinion to the raucous and individualistic voices on the Net, it's difficult to imagine religious organizations like Judaism, Islam, Christianity becoming more interactivity when their mission is to spread the word of God as revealed in sacred text.

But this doesn't mean netizens aren't spiritual, Beaudoin claims.

This isn't all that surprising an argument to anybody who's been on the Net and the Web: religion and so-called spirituality thrive here. There are tens of thousands of mailing lists, websites and newsgroups devoted to religious expression.

Moreover, Beaudoin argues in "Virtual Faith"that the provocative, irrevent, even heretical images of the age group he calls Generation X -- tattoos, body piercing, grunge, crucifixes as fashion accessories, music lyrics and videos with religious and sexual imagery -- are not rejections of religion but serious expressions of a new generation's need for a faith they can believe in, rather than one thrust upon them. He might also have included various computer language and Web imagery, from terms like Daemon to the whole idea of messaging across space and time.

Beaudoin argues that four themes underlie the new theology of his young digital contemporaries: * All institutions -- religious, political, media -- are suspect. * Personal experience is critical. Religious belief must thus also be experienced, not taught or mandated. *Suffering is spiritual. * Ambiguity and doubt aren't retreats from faith, but a new kind of faith.

In the l980's, writes Beaudoin, he began to notice the way popular culture was filled with religious references. In popular songs, music videos and movies, references to sin, salvation and redemption abounded.

"I started to suspect that popular culture increasingly trumped institutional religion in attracting Xers; we dedicated much more time to pop culture, and it had vastly more religious content that was relevant to our generation. Could it be that popular culture was our religious arena?"

Beaudoin is onto something important. Popular culture is the faith and ideology of the young (that popular culture's embrace and experience of pop culture borders on the spiritual and comprises a common language and a faith.) The failure of journalism and politics to grasp this central tenet of the young has marginalized both institutions for people under 50, along with organized religion.

Religious leaders have for years joined with newspaper editorial writers and block-headed politicians to portray the young as dumb and de-sensitized by pop culture, too wanton and weak-minded to resist its sometimes vulgar and violent imagery. Technologies like the Net are seen as gateways to Hell, doorways through which all sorts of vile and vulgar, even heretic imagery can flow.

That there is virtually no evidence to support this pervasive and oft-repeated belief suggests that these continuing alarms have much more to do with preserving the power of the institutions spreading them than they do with any heartfelt concern for the young.

Since so many younger people watch TV, go to the movies and surf the Web without becoming stupid or murdering their neighbors, many have come to view these institutions appeared dishonest as well as clueless.

"During our lifetimes, especially during the critical period of the l980's, pop culture was the amniotic fluid that sustained us," Beaudoin says. "For a generation of kids who had a fragmented or completely broken relationship to 'formal' or 'institutional' religion, pop culture filled the spiritual gaps." It was the young's surrogate clergy, usurping the role institutional clergy played for previous generations.

In fact, this embrace has gone even farther than Beaudoin suggests. Popular culture is the universal reference point of the young, a new measure of community. People understand one another by the music they like or loathe, by the movies they embrace and the TV shows that mirror or reflect their lives. "X-Files" fans share one set of values, while "Allie McBeal" lovers treasure another. "Dawson's Creek," "Felicity," "South Park," "The Simpsons" all take themes, values and attitudes of kids and mirror, re-cycle and re-work them.

It's dangerous to generalize about TV shows or their viewers, but anyone who works around younger people understands that on Monday mornings, what nearly everyone is talking about the second he or she gets to work isn't the latest news from Washington or a sermon they heard at Church but the weirdest indie film of the weekend or the gruesome battle scenes in "Private Ryan," or, in a couple of months, "Star Wars." Younger Americans might not really care to watch the impeachment proceedings, but almost all of them will know who won the Oscar for Best Picture the day after its awarded.

This passion is often cited as a prime example of how apathetic and de-civilized the young are. Look how much they care about stupid music, TV movies when there are so many serious issues, books and other things to consider?

Mostly, what's clear is that the young are creating a different kind of culture. Narrative and creativity thrive in programming, Web design and develop, online gaming, and the language and stories in chat rooms. Whether it's better or worse is for historians to sort out. Beaudoin seems to understand that institutions like journalism and religion have a fairly narrow range of choices. They can change or they can die.

"Far from residing in a cultural wasteland devoid of spiritual symbols, Generation X matured in a culture of complex and contradictory signs, some of them religious," Beaudoin claims. "Some currents within that GenX pop cultural stream carry more than mere microboes of an inchaote GenX spirituality. They are sufficient to begin funding a new theology by, for, and about a generation."

But the ferociously independent culture of the geeks challenges churches to preach and practice not from a position of power and righteousness, but from a sense of humility and weakness in the world -- a radical departure from the pious and hectoring stance taken by most religious leaders. When religious or political elders reach out to "young people," it is often in the most unbearably patronizing and ineffective of ways. Beaudoin is suggesting something much more radical and difficult.

His charge:

"By shunning the trappings or privileged social status and seeking to serve, not be served, churches will respond faithfully not only to the prophetic change brought by GenX but,more important, to the example of Jesus."

Although Beaudoin rarely uses the term, he seems in "Virtual Faith" to be advancing a new kind of spiritual interactivity.

Interactivity is very spiritual, and it's both leveling and humbling, for the columnist, the politician, the pundit or the priest. It alters the relationship between dispensers and receivers of information. It does, as Beaudoin suggests, demand a different way of thinking, a rejection of the unbalanced power relationships between so many institutions and individual human beings. If journalism considers interactivity a bitter pill, and resists it nearly to its own extinction, imagine how churches will respond.

"Being willing to sacrifice power and status for the sake of service to the gospel will do more for the Church's message about Jesus than any amount of rhetoric from pulpits," Beaudoin says. "It will also go far in addresing Xers' suspicion of religious institutions."

He's right. He understands the culture he grew up in, and its many problems with dogma and elitist institutions. It will take a lot more than humility to spread the Word in cyberspace. Even younger netizens have experienced unprecedented freedom of expression and access to diverse points of view. Why should they give that up to embrace dogma and somebody else's revealed words?

Still, real interactivity -- a realignment of the relationship between the dispensers and receivers of dogma -- would offer Christian churches (and other faiths) a radical opportunity to re-invigorate themselves and minister to netizens rather than simply wag their fingers at their naughty and irreverent ways.

The Web is, at its heart, a rationalist culture. The people in it reject fixed dogmas like conservatism or liberalism, and labels like Republican or Democrat. They have access to too much of the information in the world to take religious or political faith at its word, without question or discussiion. It's hard to imagine how fixed theologies like those of most organized religions could survive intact the online scrutiny given to ideas, opinions and proclamations online.

Religious interactivity would alter the Church, just as it would probably alter the attitudes of many netizens. And Beaudoin seems to grasp that while the young resist the proclamations, they do instinctively embrace spiritual imagery all the time, from the "the X-Files" to the poverty invoked by grunge. Spirituality seems to thrive and grow even when dogma fades. E-mail, the idea of human beings connecting powerfully to one another out in the ether, is inherently spiritual.

Beaudoin's issuing a challenge to ecclesiastical authority by asking religious institutions, moral guardians and political elders to stop fearing the irreverence of pop culture. And to listen, rather than lecture.

"The more popular culture is explored," he writes, "and the more irreverence is viewed as a legitimate mode of religiousity (in all its illegitimacy), the more Generation X will be shown as having a real religious contribution to make. GenX can also make great strides not only toward fostering its own spirituality but also toward reinvigorating religious institutions and challenging the faith of older generations."

If there is a weakness in many of Beaudoin's arguments, it is the presumption that, approached in a different, humbler and more modern way, the younger builders of the Internet will choose to make a conventional religious contribution at all. This is far from clear. If anything, this is a generation that makes up its own mind on its own terms at its own pace. Armed with new information, with the new power to communicate with one another at will all over the world, and to see and hear every imaginable point of view, Beaudoin may not grasp just how independent and different the group of people he calls Generation X really is.

But then, as a graduate of the Harvard University School of Divinity, he's supposed to have faith.

Still, he sounds like a natural heretic to me, a geek waiting to be sucked in by the lures of Half Life or Lego's Mindstsorm. If he isn't already, he'll soon be sniffing around Linux. The history of religious leaders is grim, openness wise. It's hard to imagine too many religious figures getting off their duffs and coming online to minister to the digital young. Still, Beaudoin has written a smart, provocative and compelling book. He makes much sense, and writes about his generation's culture knowingly.

At the same time, it's hard to read his very rational views and feel too optimistic about any urgent convergence of religion and the people patching together the Net and the Web. It's almost inconceivable that religion will respond to this vibrant new culture any more thoughtfully than politics or media have.

The Digital Age suggests powerful institutions would rather die than change, or voluntarily loosen their iron grip on ideas and influence. And that the young people Beaudoin is so eager for religion to reach will end up shaping new kinds of institutions rather than accepting or embracing the ones we already have, most of which have served them so poorly.

You can buy ths book here.

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Review:Virtual Faith

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  • by pohl ( 872 )
    (closing tags are good)

    Whether or not Atheism is a religion in a question that probably cannot be answered in the abstract. Rather, it depends upon the characteristics of the atheism meme-complex [] in the mind of the person who holds those views.

    When you say that "there is no dogma of atheism", you are incorrect. It is possible for atheism to be held and propagated based upon shallow dogma. I know this to be true because I've met dogmatic atheists before.

    On the other hand, there are atheists who, rather than being dogmatic, have a policy of not entertaining nondisprovable hypotheses, which means that the god-question doesn't pass muster for consideration. The link in the above paragraph asks, at the end, whether or not science is a virus of the mind. I think that's the real question one needs to ask about atheism: while it's possible to be an atheist based upon the policy of the selective-system of the scientific method, it's also possible to blindly propagate atheism as a mental virus. And that, to me, is the real defining characteristic of "religion".

  • Poor John and Jane! Before the 'net they had no exposure to radio, television, comic books, or movies. Yeah, right.
    Actually there's precious little new here. Teens and twenty-somethings have been preoccupied with the latest in pop culture since at least the days of Glenn Miller, the Dorsey brothers, et cetera, and probably a lot further back than that.
    As for the spirituality angle, change the names and the references ("Godspell", "Jesus Christ, Superstar", and just to be obscure, "Mass in F Minor" by The Electric Prune )and this could have been written about the baby boomers back in the sixties. And probably was.

  • I'm amazed that we take religion so seriously.

    What other *irrational* idea do we spend more than 5 minutes on.

    What a waste of time and energy.

    One nation under God ->>>> Iran
  • There is no point to debate without the concept of win/loose.

    What's so pointless about trying to understand one another? Duh.

  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    How can people watch this drivel? It is almost as bad as party of 5. Every week, another tearful and shallow crisis always ended by either a comforting speech by a friend to the tune of easy listening music, or a commercial break.
  • My feeling is that religion has been mostly a "do-it-yourself" proposition ever since the late 50's. At that time, most organized religions, even everyone's favorite whipping boy, the Catholics, were trying valiantly to deal with the modern age.
    (Anyone remember Vatican II? Come on, someone's grandparents could tell you...) Folk-rock services, the reintroduction of sacred dance, updated sermons, all of these were tried. And failed.

    Real religion was to be found in a pill.

    LSD, mushrooms, or even just plain old grass was more "meaningful" than any number of Sundays spent in the newly remodeled burnt-orange and walnut pew of the local Reformed Congregational Lutheran Episcopalian Universalist House of Worship, so most contemporary thinkers decreed. Drop some acid, meditate, eat only organic food for a year or two and you'll find a faith many times more in tune with your life than anything taught at a stuffy seminary.

    Unfortunately, DYI religion lacks rootedness. It's one thing to claim that your personal rituals are rooted in ancient practices (as almost anything is, or could be) and yet another thing to be practising something that you knew from childhood, that binds you to your parents and your parents' parents, and is relevant to the reason why you live where you do. Evangelical Christianity is as au courant as it is mostly because everyone who lives in America has heard of the Bible, everyone knows about Jesus (right or wrong), and everyone "knows" that they have done "wrong" at one time or another.

    Madonna is irrelevant: all she's ever been able to do is to act "naughty", meaning that she understands that there is a *borderline* to be crossed, and in doing so, she's somehow putting herself above people who don't dare (or care) to do so. Modern tribalism is a joke: take a little from one tribe, a little from another, mix with a bit of fashionable cynicism, and you're communing with Nature. Right. Most parents these days never had anything more binding on their belief system than a vague idea that there is right and wrong: most kids never spent enough time off from soccer practise to learn that there's anything more to mainstream liberal Christianity than a set of rules that keep them from wanking off to porno magazines and fucking their girlfriends.

    Naturally their own efforts towards faith are going to be mix and match -- a little Goddess worship, so they can wear starshaped silver rings, a little shamanism, so they can whine to their parents that they really *need* $200 so they can get tattooed, pierced or whatever, some Hinduism, so that they can sit and sing to themselves while attempting to pretzel, and a good deal of Christianity, because, right or wrong, they *know* that Armeggedon is gonna kill all the uncool people.

    Someone ask Donald E. Knuth?

    The web is irrelevant. People will believe what they want for awhile. Then it will all settle down to two sects, which will each consider each other puritanical. Then maybe, someone will come up with a *really* relevant faith.
  • I don't think that there is any absolute morality.
    Is religion your crutch to let you have one?
    In other words, something isn't true just b/c
    it has useful results.
  • "Dogma" is a set of rules of a faith. Atheism has no rules.

    I realize that is the traditional definition of dogma, and I have been using the word in a sense that differs slightly. While I do view dogma as a set of rules of a faith, I think that the set can (and usually does) include rules that are tacit: not explicitly codified. As a biologist, one gets nowhere by prescribing a definition of a species. The science works much better on a descriptive level, through observation of instances. It would be foolish to claim first that all frogs are spotless, because one must then try to eschew the new discovery of a spotted frog by saying "ah, it's not a frog. It has spots."

    Meme-complexes should be studied in the same way.

    I also think that your focus of a meme's effect on birthrate is dubious. A meme can be virulent without having any such effect.

  • I never said I didn't think the Internet will be good for meme transmission. I just don't think that atheism is a good meme for transmission.

    You seem to have missed my acknowledgement that the atheism meme, by itself, is not particularly effective in terms of raw survival-value. But the loosely-aggregated complex of memes that form the meme-colony in the mind of actual atheists, does have a collective structure that aids in the propagation of said meme. This is nothing new: the belief that jesus is the son of god, by itself, has no particular survival-value either. But bundled with the threat of hellfire, and the promise of eternal life it sure spreads like wildfire!

  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    Heisenbergs uncertainty principle does not imply things can't be proven. It itself can be proven based on the axioms of quantum mechanics. Speaking of bad science, this post is one of the worst collections of crap disguised as science I've seen yet. What exactly the fuck is the quantum wave potential of space supposed to be?

    Why don't you actually try to understand the quantum mechanics if you want to make arguments based on them, rather than just fabricating an argument around something you obviously have no clue about.
  • I agree that science admits nothing can
    be proved, but a rational outlook is not
    to accept things into your worldview until
    you have strong evidence, and then if you
    come across evidence that points the other
    way, either correct or toss out your idea.

    I must admit to not understanding how statistics
    point to very little science going on --
    while that may be collection of data, and
    indeed faulty at that, I don't quite understand
    how most surveys are at all related to science.
  • by jerodd ( 13818 ) on Friday February 26, 1999 @11:17AM (#2002988) Homepage
    Does anyone besides me see a certain animosity towards religion in this review? As a nerd/geek/hacker/&c. I find that my faith is completely compatible with what I do—indeed, I consider it part of my higher calling. Working on free software is a way I have found I can show my love for mankind. (I know, it sounds weird. Get over it.)

    Nerds/geeks/hackers in general show a fair amount of tolerance towards different religions; I've run into athiests, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims (rare), and Christians. I personally am a Christian (but please don't let your personal bias against Christianity color your view of what I am saying). Why is it people constantly feel a need to denigrate organised religion? Yes, it has committed some abuses; that doesn't mean those of us who believe in God (or whatever) want to support that organisation.

    Rather, we have learned to meet God personally rather than as a facet of some large organisation (such as church). I do not attend a traditional church, but I consider myself a strong, fundamental Christian.

    Many who call themselves hackers are not. Many who call themselves ``Christians'' are not. Let us not confuse the real with the false; a Christian does not commit violent acts, and a hacker does not destroy other people's filesystems.
    I do not like it when the media misrepresent the hacker as a person who likes to % rm -rf /*&*. Let's not do the same towards religion.

    We can all get along!


  • On USENET, there's a rule that as soon as someone mentions Hitler or calls someone a Nazi, the thread is dead. In discussions like this one, the equivalent is bringing up the subject of slavery. So here goes:

    Assume it's 1859 and I'm a slaveholder. I presume you disapprove of my enslaving my fellow man. Why? What gives you the right to object? By your lights, we all get to form our own opinions about morality without any reference to quaint notions of absolute right and wrong. It is all merely a matter of opinion, so my opinion in favor of slavery is just as good as your opinion against it.

    And so it goes on issue after issue. Theft? What is property but a social convention anyway? Rape? Why not, you might enjoy it! Lying? If there is no Truth, how can you call anything a lie? And so on. If morality is just a matter of opinion, than anything I can get away with is OK.

    It is one thing to say that we are not always sure that we know what is right in a given situation. It is another thing entirely to say that nothing is really right or wrong. The first is consistent with the Platonic idealism, i.e., the belief that ideas are real things that we can discover. The second leads to nilhilism.

  • So.. you believe in a god because the idea of
    morality being subjective repulses you?
  • Posted by Ice_Spirit:

    Karl Marx put it the way it is: Religion is the opium for the people.
    While this is true, science and a whole lot of other things stand as the opium for others, who have looked away from religion, usually because it does not yield any answers to them.
    Free thinking is what the net is about, if you don't like it, look away from it :)
    Books on this theme is futile to read if you ask me, if you do not read a lot of them to compare, and you better have your own strong opinions to compare against if you should have any value from this at all.
    But fun to read if you enjoy this stuff I suppose
  • I wonder whether a lot of the people posting about this book have actually read it (or the review). I got this book as a christmas present from my pastor, and as a bass-player/geek/christian, i think i fit right into this guy's description. admittedly, some of this book was just plain over my head, but the author makes a great point about the institutionalism of modern christianity in society, and it's definitely worth reading. I prefer the bible, tho. =)
  • Posted by Taverner:

    The denial of the existance of deity (singular or plural) is as much an article of faith as the worship of such entities or forces.

    There is no proof either way, yet I have had atheists hound me for ages trying to make me see that they are "right" and I am "wrong". The way I see it, if you can have "Fundy atheists" pushing their kind of religious dogma and philosophy, they might as well have their own church! :-)

    Let's face it; some people NEED to believe in something greater, and some people NEED to believe that it is all random.


    (If you take this too seriously, you need a long walk and a visit to the "Atheists Church of Nobody"!)

  • When you say thta "there is no dogma of atheism", you are incorrect. It is possible for atheism to be held
    and propagated based upon shallow dogma. I know this to be true because I've met dogmatic atheists

    Yeah, there are atheists who are quite religious; but that does'nt make atheism any more of a religion. Like, there are atheists who have a job, but that does not make atheism a job description either.

  • More like, "my life sucks and I don't know why, but god sure isn't the source of it, because god doesn't exist.

    How did you come to the conclusion that God doesn't exist?


  • How does a way of thought get to be old, i.e., traditional, in the first place? Usually it is because it seems valid to a lot of people over a long period of time. This is not something to be dismissed lightly. It's a lot like music. Sure, there was a lot of bad popular music made decades ago, but the old music that still gets played is likely to be pretty good stuff.
  • I'm glad. I don't have any hard feelings. I found this discussion to be fascinating. As for the validity of what you said: When you said that I am my own "god", were you using the dictionary definition? 8^)
  • I agree with most of what he said... one thing that particularly hit me was HOW the religious community presents their views to the people -- by preaching and holding church on Sundays (for the Christians and Catholics, etc) and the fact that they are expecting us to believe what they are saying on blind faith.

    The internet is about information and information tends to make all things equal, level things out, and with this in mind it is only logical to consider that there will be opposing and supporting voices for any issue, and religion does not like being opposed.

    Therefore, they must change or die out.
  • I know of at least one person who does "channelling" onto ICQ chats...
  • The WWW is a vat of sludge, with pearls of wisdom and usefulness floating within it. So the Web itself as a source of any sort of enlightenment seems a bit of wishful thinking; there's still a need for traditional churches (I say this from my Christian bias) to provide the kernel to any cybercommunity of faith. Yes, one can find spiritual signage in popular culture (the modern opiate of the masses), but that's because any narrative can be edifyingly framed within a religious context; everything is "brimming with spirituality". It doesn't mean that the signage will actually be used as food for spiritual thought. Religions themselves are rife with people who don't quite grasp the spirituality inherent in their own Holy Books (Jerry Falwell and J Random Hizbollah-Leader, for instance, not to mention the rank-and-file), why should some plot line in Ally McBeal be any more useful? As an ex-punk, I've often felt (culturally/politically) like a gatecrasher in many of the churches I've been in (in the US and Canada), so I'd welcome any change in that culture, whether it's brought on by the internet or just by ordinary demographic change. I haven't read Beaudoin's book (yet; though I've heard him speak before), but it may not be until several books from now that he fully digests his divinity-school education. I don't think he's quite there yet, and I doubt that this book will be The Important One in his oeuvre. Time will tell. The first "born-again Christian" I ever met was a cool, longhaired Jesus Freak cabbie, back around 1970. He would be a forerunner of these mythical Gen X seekers Katz and Beaudoin seem to be talking about. Seeing as those Jesus Freaks seem to have morphed into the staid, middle-class (and often right-wing) evangelicals of today, I wouldn't be too optimistic about the long-term results of any change the Gen X'ers bring to the scene. Culture changes, technology changes; spirit just is. So to just fixate on external trappings may be counterproductive.

    I dunno. It's Friday. My mind's elsewhere. Thanks again, Katz - I guess this goes on the "to read" list :)


  • Actually, I thought I saw Michael S. talking about the song in an interview, and it actually was about "having a crush". It *does* make sense.
  • I refer not to your spiritual beliefs, but to your attitude. To Joe Six-Pack, the difference between you and them, based on your hateful response, is negilgible.

    BTW, doesn't tolerance mean being tolerant of people who aren't tolerant?

    :-) Lighten Up!
  • Bub, I don't know where you get your ideas, but anybody with that much piss, vinegar, bile and stink for a single subject needs counselling, bad.

    Lighten up a little, lest you become what you despite.

  • Posted by mnowak65:

    Ah, didn't Jesus say that not one of the iota of the law is to be changed? Jesus was a jew and for him, the law still held true. Christians theoretically would be following the Old Testament as well, except that Paul came along and threw it all out.
  • I just gotta' say for the record, I for one don't know who the hell John Katz is. I've seen that he's posted a few stories here on slashdot, but other than that, I'm clueless.

  • Fine then. Name one (1) way that the atheist meme or how the idea of atheism is in anyway exclusive to a group increases the groups survival rate and increases propogation of the meme.

    It doesn't have to effect the survival of the population in order to propagate. Take, for example, the meme of wearing your baseball cap backwards. It doesn't help the survival rate of the infected. It's just a matter of "monkey see, monkey do", and the meme propagates ruthlessly without aiding in the monkey's survival.

  • Further, your definition of an atheist is wrong.

    I disagree with rightness/wrongness of definitions. I am using a definition with which you disagree, but am capable of entertaining any that you wish to propose. (In the interest of not falling prey to the One True(tm) mentality.) Let me entertain yours.

    By your definition, a person who holds the statement "there is no god" to be true is not an atheist. Conversely, a person who refuses to believe the statement "god exists" is an atheist. I'm one of this latter category, so obviously I would agree that it is possible to adopt atheism areligiously.

    My claim is that both of the following statements are untrue: 1) Atheism is a religion. 2) Atheism is not a religion.

    To elaborate, my claim is that the mechanism by which one comes to hold statements to be true is what defines the nature of religion. Religion is a property of how memes are adopted, not a property of the memes themselves.

  • Quite the opposite. You have to take what works and trash what doesn't work. That's how Darwinian Evolution functions, and Religion has been out of that dynamic for too long.

    "The dust of exploded beliefs would make a fine sunset" - Charles Fort.
  • What you fail to understand is that a meme without positive/negative feedback to the survival of the monkey can still have shitloads of positive/negative feedback towards the survival of the meme itself. You really should read some of Dawkins original stuff. Start with "The Selfish Gene".
  • I don't know if religion is hurt or helped by the
    internet, but it seems more likely that it would
    be helped, as the internet is a place where people
    can easily get together and share information, and
    presumably encourages science. Religion and
    Science are incompatible. Why? Well, for starters,
    the existance of a deity or set thereof hasn't
    been proved, and it's irrational to accept things
    into your worldview that are both unproven and
    make big changes. In other words, the onus of
    proof is on the proponent of a suggested model,
    and I claim that they don't have any proof at all.
    Why must the onus of proof be there? Consider the

    People can propose as many things as they like,
    and you need to either believe them on every
    proposal or prove them wrong. This poses problems
    if they propose something not falsifiable, such
    as the proposal "everyone has an indetectable
    cat that follows them around for their whole life"
    . It also poses problems if you arn't keen on
    spending your whole life trying to falsify things.
    Thus, it's rational to insist on evidence for
    an assertion, and at least so far, I haven't seen
    a convincing case for god, allah, zeus, or any
    other deities' existance.
  • All definitions are made up by someone at some time. It is no crime to introduce new useage, although it obviously can be a source of irritation for some.
  • And just to clarify ... I'm criticizing religious
    arrogance because it is based on NOTHING. No
    facts of any kind. Fairy tales handed down from
    generation to generation.

    I've got viewpoints based on facts... you say
    arrogance, I say simple truth.

    What would be arrogant is if I was a Christian
    arguing with a Muslim over my religion being the
    "right one" because "god told me so in the bible."
    Neither religion is based on anything but faith.
  • ...always reminds me of a quote from Dave Barry Turns 50: "People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them." -cfw
  • Actually, I am having a cup of tea right now.
    Twining's English Breakfast. Damn those limeys
    make a good cup of tea... maybe I won't kill so
    many next time...

    Seriously though, I'm not an "angry young man"
    except when it comes to religion. Just think what
    we humans could accomplish if people would throw
    down their crutches and THINK FOR THEMSELVES.

    I know, I know... it's hard to do when most of
    the world is under an oppressive government.
  • I'm not particularly religious, but I am just wondering what the religion-is-for-users people are going to do when your computer skills/interests become out-dated. Sure, the earth has been around for millions of years, and organized religions are barely a blip on the screen of Time (whoa, how stale and convoluted a metaphor was that?:). But if time is the test of authenticity, how valid is computer/cyber culture? One day this is all going to be old and outdated and we'll be videoconferencing with our supersmart grandkids, boring them with stories about how spiritual the opensource movement was. And as for this-is-our-club-you-can't-join snobbiness and we-own-the-earth arrogance, I've noticed that a lot of Linux'ers are as prone to that as Christians! :)
  • If you're going to set arbitrary thresholds, you should justify them. Why >50%, and not >49%. What's not "prevalent" about a meme that lives in a mere 49% of the brains in a localized geographic region?
  • I think he's right in that just because people don't attend churces and sing hymns they aren't religious.

    He's also right in that religious symbols, even when worn/used in other contexts (fashion, teenage rebellion, etc) almost always betray a more serious religious interest beneath the surface.

    However, I take issue with the tired old idea that somehow 'The Church' needs to constantly change and adapt to keep 'in tune with' the youth (which means, generally, 'the journalistic generalisation of youth').

    I like the book of Common Prayer, and Cathedrals, and candles, and requiems by Faure and Mozart. I like Latin, and I like the fact that I can go to a church and hear the same words that people 15 generations ago were hearing. And I like them all the more because it is a rebellion against the modern notion that what is new is good and what is old is bad.

    Sure, institutionalised religion may not be for everyone, but the Net doesn't undermine it. It provides a voice for those who _seek_ to undermine the institutional religions, but equally it provides a forum for those institutions.

    "protect me O Lord, from the changes and chances of this fleeting world, in Thine eternal changelessness" (from the service of Compline)

  • What do you do with people who drag others behind cars?

    Be a good Christian and love them.

    If you don't like the core messages of Jesus (love your enemies, don't judge, forgive, live poor, turn the other cheek etc.) you can of course always pick some other religion.


  • you'll be trying to tell me that science is not a religion! Sheesh!
  • No, there's not; grassroots religion can have the same problem. The key is people understanding the teachings of Christ and actually following them. It means being a good person.

    I like reading the Bible and other ancient literature; I don't like ``youth culture'' (which is just a commercialisation of the rebellion of the 60s— you know, ``Be different&mdashDrink Pepsi.'') What I want is for each person to realise who they are in God, and to begin loving who they are, to love God, and love everyone else!
    Gee, I'm starting to agree with Katz (somewhat). Scary.

    Joshua. (It's so fun to have Lynx up one machine while you're hacking code on another...)

  • I just want to remind everyone that people who call themselves ``Christians'' but do not follow the teachings of Christ (i.e., don't kill people, show love to everyone, even your worst enemy, work actively to do good, &c.) ARE NOT CHRISTIANS.

    On the topic of faith, I want to restate that it is just that: faith. It doesn't need to be corroborated[sp?] by observation (observation is generally wrong; determinism seems so valid, but a deeper scientific observation shows it is just one opinion of many). I believe in God because I've come to know him personally, and I want to follow his teachings. Maybe you don't. I wish you would, but I'm not going to force it on you; I want you to meed God for yourself.

    But please don't turn on that broken record about ``look at the christians in the crusades, christians are all so unscientific!'' Of course I won't stand in your way of saying that...


  • Does anyone besides me see a certain animosity towards religion in this review?

    I think it's more of a case of animosity toward God.

    The reasoning seems to be: "My life sucks and I don't know why, and I don't have anyone to blame for it, so I guess I'll blame God, since He's ultimately responsible for everything."

    Is that right, or did I just make that up?


    PS. If there's anything better than Linux, it's gotta be preachin on the net! :-)

  • I think the golden rule is a fine measure for morality for the majority of people in the world. Why don't I kill people? Because I wouldn't like it if someone else killed me. This has nothing to do with god. Do you believe it is wrong to kill under any circumstances? Would you let someone else kill you or your loved ones if the only way you could prevent it would be to kill that person instead? If you say no, then your "ultimate morality" is now gone with reference to the statement that it is wrong to kill. If there are circumstances that justify killing, who decides what they are? God certainly hasn't given us any help in the gray areas.
  • I don't think the author demonstrate any particular animosity against organized religion. His point seems rather to be that in our era our generation has the right and the power to choose to follow any of the organized religions or to follow his own kind of religion. The whole book seems to be (I must admit that I havn't read it... yet...) about freedom of speech/thoughts and about being able to determine by ourself if what is good/bad rather. Being free to explore spirituality the way we want.
  • If God or the Universe enforces morality with punishment, then morality is entirely utilitarian - i.e., I will do good to avoid hellfire/to avoid reincarnating as a banana slug.

    If universal morality is not enforced by cosmic punishment, then there's the extra-moral question of "why should we follow this moral rule?"

    Ironically, the only truly moral behavior comes out of moral intuition, which I think of as emerging from the social instinct of compassion, which is part of our biological legacy. It's neither universal nor "subjective," since it relies on subconcious, rather than conscious, aspects of the psyche.
  • You win the argument. Clearly atheists are religious people and atheism is a religion, because you define it to be.

    I did not engage in this debate with the expectation of win or loss, nor do I have any emotional attatchment to any particular set of semantic bindings. I think that improving sets of semantic bindings is a noble quest. I won't debate your proposed binding for the word "you", as that pronoun is relative to the user, meaning that I'm not the only one who must suffer the pejorative intent. :-)

  • Posted by Nino the Mind Boggler:

    If I'm crippled, I'm happy to use a crutch.
  • Can you give a specific number for the minimum requirements for being "prevalent"? Apparently common-use isn't enough. So what, then, is the requirement? Must it be as pervasive as the meme "my set of semantic bindings are right and yours are wrong"?
  • The real problem is that god didn't say anything in the bible. God didn't write a single word of it. Not once did god lay pen to paper and give us the wisdom of his omniscience. Where as you recommend reading the bible, I would recommend also reading the koran, the tao te ching, the bhagavad gita, the book of mormon, dianetics, the many sutras of the buddhists, the eddas, and many other religious texts and trying to find out which one of them had god in it. My opinion is that they all do or none of them do, that is for you to decide.
  • Joshua brings up a good point. I am a Christian (Episcopalian with strong Roman Catholic leanings) and I see nothing incompatible with my faith and hacking/programming/net-srufing or even science in general.

    Religion is a way to live your life and a way to believe in something larger than ourselves. Attacks on "the institutions" and organized religion are getting out of control. The Net is no more a "threat" to organized religion than was the printing press. If anything, it allows religions to get their message out to more people because they are no longer restricted to personal contact to broadcast their messages.

    I have some friends who are as much a hacker as myself who have strong personal faiths. That the recent movements towards a personal faith that each person decides individually is the best way to go. Organized religion provides a greater "community" of believers to interact, especially when they belive similarly.

    I can't say it better than Joshua:
    Many who call themselves hackers are not. Many who call themselves ``Christians'' are not. Let us not confuse the real with the false; a Christian does not commit violent acts, and a hacker does not destroy other people's filesystems. I do not like it when the media misrepresent the hacker as a person who likes to % rm -rf /*&*. Let's not do the same towards religion.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I for one am a very spiritual, very ANTI-religious hacker/geek.

    In general, I have noticed that many otherwise very intelligent people absolutely refuse to acknowledge a higher power than ourselves. Many geek types can handle the notion of a great power that created the universe, but balk at the notion that there is anything "spiritual" about life.

    Isn't it just possible that we (as a people) have some connection with each other -- other than just the physical? Haven't a lot of you felt an awareness that something was going to happen, then it does? I am sure this happens a lot to the people on here, since most of the people that read slashdot are rather intelligent ... and I think intelligence sparks spirituality.

    I understand that there is a lot of un-scientific stuff that people will scream and flame about whenever you deal with sprituality. I'd just say remember this, science is not god -- science is just our way of analysing the universe around us.

    God is just a word we have assigned to those things we don't understand. I would make the argument that science is what we use to gain a greater understanding of god, not that science dis-proves the existance of a "god"...

  • I thin that it is good to see that there is a healthy discussion going on about this article, as opposed to the typical attack of the moronic A.C. posts. Kudos to all of the /. commununity to their efforts to keep this peacefull.
    I for one think that some religions will change an others will not when looking at the net's influence. The traditional religions have not changed over the last hundreds or thousands of years. The media used to announce and even evangelize has changed, but the religions have not... and those that have should be examined as being religions...
    I am a Christian and go to a Christian college where we are taught what the forefathers of our faith taught (Calvin, Wesely, Luther, Augustine, Paul) and strangely enough, after all this time, it is what we are still being taught, which I think emphaisises how the truth in a reigion is based upon an ultimate truth.
    To be fair, there have been some slight swayings in teaching, but it is only in the minor things.
    The net will and can not change a true religion.

    Tim Toll

    sed s/sins/blood/g ~ttoll/ > ~ttoll/
    rm -r old.*
    chown -R jesus:wheel ~ttoll/*
  • Because if they are invented by man, there's no reason anyone should feel bound by them. As men, we are all moral equals, so who among us has the stature to say what is moral and what isn't? Who gave other men the right to tell me what is right and wrong?

    To say that morality exists is to say that there is something higher than yourself to which you owe allegiance. This something cannot be of your own invention, because if you invented it, you can change it whenever you feel like it. If so, it doesn't really constrain you at all and the term morality becomes meaningless.
  • I have been noticing the level of tension surrounding religion has been swelling over the past few years. It seems as though the wealth of ideas expressed on the net has forced the issue in a lot of peoples heads. Were as before the net became so highly popularized, there was a pervasive trend of apathy and cluelessness toward religion. People just weren't thinking about it so much. Now with so much exposure on the net, the big question has made people either embrace it or reject it, but every one has an opinion.

    This debate has sprawled out on the streets where people sport cars with decals of "Jesus" written in a fish, or "Darwin" written in a fish with leggs, or even a really big "Jesus" fish eating the little "Darwin" legged fish.

    When Katz says that he's not sure weather Beudoin is right in saying that net culture will be more accepting of de-institutionalized religion, I think that many people will, but many people will also be repulsed by it too. But atleast this way, people will be thinking about it and making up their own minds in an informed manner, rather than having the dogma of the closest temple rammed down their throat.


  • The definition of Christian constantly changes, but for purely political reasons.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "purely political reasons". Most politics are pretty unclear/impure, involving as they do so many people, and some political results are good.

    It is irresponsible and cowardly to claim that the Inquisition wasn't a Christian and purely Christian movement.

    It was impurely political. Christianity was an important but not decisive concern. Look at what had just happened in Spain -- the Moslems had just left. The inquisition was a political defense. So was the Spanish conquest of the New World. Both emanated from the same basic root -- oppression under the occupation.

    Even then, nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.

    Every organization makes serious mistakes, don't deny Christianity is unique among them.

    You're 100 percent right.


  • that taking your example of the chicken and the egg, nobody has ever seen the chicken or the egg. They do not exist outside of your personal belief, and you cannot show them to anybody. The problem with religion is that it is anti-logical at it's very core. If I were a religious person, I would ask god why he punished with the curse of intelligence, since it causes me to question his works and puts me surely on the road to damnation.

  • Yes, I still think it's dubious, and this brings us full-circle back to the context of the book review: that the pervasiveness of the internet will have a significant impact on meme-transmission. I think we'll see the internet mitigate the effects of parental-transmission of memes. Time will tell.
  • My personal belief is that someone can be just as much a Christian without any of the "Religion". Christianity does not have to be a long set of rules you have to follow. Christianity is a relationship with your creator that is very personal, and very special. How you demonstrate that faith is also very personal. For some people it may be attending structured religious institutions. For others it may be coding. (Hackers for Jesus?!?) I don't think that there is any contradiction between the net, 'cyber-culture' and Christianity or many other religions for that matter.
    I do think that the net could pose a problem to structured religious institutions. If that is true then maybe these need to change. Christianity is flexible enough to cross cultural lines, even going into this new culture.
    True faith can stand the test of being questioned.
  • That "Ally McBeal"! Not "Allie McBeal"! May Tracy Ullman turn out to be your next therapist!

    Heh, talk about religion... DEK takes a few "swats" at it every now and then...

  • The world as we know it is coming to an end. In the beginning of the 21st century a new age will begin. One of the characteristics of this new age will be change from collective to private spirituality. Which is what is happening and thereis not much we can do about it. :)
  • Actually, I can restate my claim without using the word dogma, but you'll have to hold, for argument's sake, my definition of atheism. When I use the word, I mean that person P is an atheist if P holds the statement "god does not exist" to be true. I will impose no other qualifications for person P. If P also believes that there is no gravity, and that the moon is held in orbit by an invisible pegasus tethered to said orb, then P is still an atheist. Yes, it's absurd, but if you're going to be so rigid about the definition of "dogma", it's fair play to be as rigid about the definition of "atheist". As you're fond of saying, "look it up".

    Atheism, as defined above, is a meme that is transmittable by mere, mindless parental-programming. Never mind that it's unlikely. Never mind if one ought/ought-not do it. It simply can happen. I call such mindless-transmission "dogma". You don't, but the use of that particular word is irrelevant.


  • by Dast ( 10275 )
    Go for it. As long as you're not really hurting anyone, it is up to you what you do. (It is the definition of "hurt" you have to be careful with in this situation.)

    I was mearly pointing out some of the benefits one might get from playing by the rules. That is not to say there isn't *any* benefits by not. It doesn't have to be either-or.
  • Personally I think the review created rather a straw man of one view of the Church, then then criticised that. Harmless enough, and actually irrelevant for the vast majority of people - people will make their own minds up based on the information they have, and the net increases the availability of that information.

    This so-called 'traditional church' which is supposed to be so inflexible (but inexplicably has survived 2000 years of social change) if it existed would deserve to die out. However in the real world the structures, traditions, etc. are merely a means to an end (leading people to God) - if the traditions fail to do that then forget them, and do something different. That is what appears to be happening - people creating their own 'church' based on their own experiences, needs, etc.

    For myself, If Christianity[1] didn't embrace the things that make up my life (including things like the net, nightclubs, etc.) it could never be real. However it proves to be remarkably resilient. This is enough for me.


    [1] In my case. I can only speak for my own experience, but I also believe the same is essentially true for any other expression of faith.
  • Umm, I have to say that using quotes saying Buddhism is 'better' than other religions is not a particularly good way to make your point. Frankly, I found your post quite offensive in that regard, and I like to think of myself as a Buddhist.

    The Buddha said emphatically, repeatedly, that Buddhism is not the One True Way, and that in fact there is no One True Way. Anyone who says or implies otherwise fails to understand his message, and IMHO fatally undermines their own arguments. He also said that mere appeals to authority (including his own) have no credibility, which makes the one sentence quote from Einstein somewhat pointless. Anyway, aside from these quibbles I do agree that some of the other quotes had relevancy, and I would certainly agree that Buddhism can fit in very well with the spirituality described and discussed in the review.
  • Even though it's a bit presumptuous to make any comment about a book from a mere review, I got the impression that pop vs. established culture is at bottom here, with an emphasis on religion. Well, as a child of the sixties - wtf is Woodstock '94, some kinda soft drink? I've read/heard similar arguements about an earlier generation. Guess this just means that there is nothing really new, we just think so.
  • I don't think the article ?animos? to religion. As you pointed out "Many who call themselves hackers are not. Many who call themselves 'Christians' are not." I gathered that this article had a fair amount of animosity towards those who call themselves 'Christians' but are not. Though it wasn't mentioned in the article I would assume that the author would hold the same animosity for Budhists who are not, or Jews, or Janists, or anyone else who talks about some religion without following it. I think he was realy trying to say that religion can be found in many forms. He objects to people trying to force their view of relgion on other people, and to those who denegrate other religions because they're not their own religion.
    I can't tell you what religion I am because I'm too imperfect an example of it.
  • that most of the christians posting here are the kind that I would consider christian, but that most churches would not. This is refreshing and an entirely good thing, as I have met too many of the other kind.
  • The point is that the crusaders believed they were Christians and believed that they were doing the work of God as much as you believe that you "know" God. That belief is what led to their various murderous crusades.

    Also, it's not hard to see how they got their ideas. Have you read the entire Bible? Not just the New Testament and its turn the other cheek business, but the whole thing. Notice the part where God commands people to kill blasphemers? It's not too hard to see how that could provide a bit of inspiration to crusaders. Not to mention the part where an Angel murders the innocent first-born children of all the houses that didn't have (lamb's?) blood on their doors (since the Christians put blood on their doors to let the angel know not to kill their children).
  • What I'm saying is that meme-complexes are very loosely-defined entities with an almost organic quality,
    and trying to say, definitively, what one is or is not is a losing endeavor. It really does depend upon the
    specific subspecies of meme, and the generalization which you are advocating does not hold for all

    The use of Gen-X techno-jumbo does not make your point any more relevant.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ok, quoting REM "Losing my religion" discussing religion? someone needs to research their REM :-)

    Losing My religion is actually an expression for losing ones patience. Listen to the song with that in mind, it makes a ton more sense.

    and it actually becomes meaningless whenever used like this was. ya need to read more into stuff, its just like with their other song, The one i love. people make out and fuck to that song... LISTEN TO THE WORDS, its anti love! he says one line, a simple prop, to occupy my time.

    sorry. this isnt really relevant, im just a big rem fan, and *sigh* i couldnt help myself.
  • No, I'm talking about a very real and documented strain of thought at the time. In the late '50's, it was thought that religion = visionary experience = some kind of physiochemical imbalance brought on by chanting, fasting, drugs, or what have you. I'm not talking here about the class of drugs usually considered addictive, I tried to make it clear that LSD and the other psychedelics were meant. And what is religion but "following"?
    I'm not advocating religious fundamentalism here, nor do I believe that so-called "changeless" faiths are the answer. Judaism in particular has changed greatly over the years, Islam less so, but still has had to adapt to the wide variety of peoples it's attracted throughout the globe. I hope this will clear things up.
  • I see no need to believe in anything other than what I can see, touch, hear, or extrapolate through reason. I also see no need to tell other people how they should believe. I don't believe in happy ever after stories, but I respect those who do. In my humble opinion, you are born, you live, you die. What you do is not important at all. We are fleas on a dog in this massive universe. I personally think that any religion is tied to mankinds inherent ego. We think that we are so important that a God would spend his time and energy trying to save us. That this whole Universe is here just for us. Sorry, I just don't think mankind is that important. Anyway, that is my humble opinion. I would make no presumptions to force it upon you, only to share it with you. For I am just a mere human, who am I to say I am right.
  • I hope you got your catharsis.
  • I say no, because I have a distaste for killing
    people and because I don't want to think of
    myself as someone who would do things like that.
    It's true that with clever enough
    reasoning you can justify anything. However,
    society will do its best to protect itself,
    and you need to live with yourself even if you
    arn't caught.

    Besides, if there's an absolute morality, how can
    you claim that we've found it? There's lots of
    other cultures with different associated
    moralities. What's your yardstick for finding
    which is "truer"?
  • Wrongness is a subjective quality. Why can
    I still object to it? Well, it's harmful to
    society to allow people to kill others without
    a good reason, and so it's rational for a
    society to protect its members from each other
    in this manner.

    When it comes to literacy on moral philosophy,
    I *have* read quite a lot. Plato, Hegel, Hume,
    Marx, C.S. Lewis, etc. They arn't particularly
    convincing. I would suspect that the loss of
    influence of philosophy is probably a result of
    people finding the idea of an absolute morality
    less appealing. This in itself doesn't mean that
    it isn't valid, or at least it isn't sufficient,
    but the existance of a practice doesn't validate
    it automatically. There were once lots of
    astrologers and alchemists, and those are now
    pretty much dead pursuits.
  • There is animosity towards religion on the internet,
    because the internet attracts thinking, intelligent
    people who do not believe everything everyone
    tells them. People who are used to researching things
    for themselves, gathering actual FACTS, and taking
    very little "on faith."

    Maybe they're also sick of how much death and
    destruction can lay it's blame on religion. How
    many people have died for "religious" reasons. How
    many scientists have been tortured by close-minded
    churches? (Catholics come to mind here.)

    Mostly I'm turned off by the arrogance of 99% of
    the religions that somehow think THEY are the
    chosen ones.

    Here's a factoid for you -- the earth's been here
    for 4.5 BILLION years, and Christians (a piddly
    2000 years old) think they are all that and a
    bottle of wine.

    How anything that is 2.25 MILLION YEARS YOUNGER
    than the planet it lives on can feel anything but
    small and unimportant is beyond me. But most
    religions fall into this category.

    It seems to me that religion is for the weak. People
    that need something to help them when they can't
    think of any reason to get off their ass and do
    what is "right" (however you define that).

    I mean, you must be a weak minded person (or
    one brainwashed by years of listening to your
    relatives) to believe something some man in a
    funny outfit tells you every week. And don't you
    christians get me started on the bible -- a book
    so filled with inconsistencies it should be classified
    as FANTASY in your local library.

    I read an article in the LA Times that reported on
    research into a so-called "god lobe" in the brain.
    They noticed that people with larger and/or more
    active "god lobes" were more likely to be moved
    by spiritual/mystical experiences.

    So ya see folks, this religion crap is just a
    chemical imbalance.

    OK I'll let you off the hook now... go read a
    book that doesn't have BIBLE stamped on the front...
    all 12 of you reading this. Try picking up Carl
    Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World." If you read
    and digest this book, you'll be much more likely
    to use your brain, keep a healthy level of
    skepticism, and perhaps not believe EVERYTHING
    EVERYONE tells you.

  • How is it to my benefit to restrain myself when I could gain an advantage by acting immorally?

    There is benefit by playing by the rules. By playing by the rules, you don't suffer the consequences that society imposes for those who don't play by the rules (jail, death, whatever).

    Take the law that makes it illegal to kill. It doesn't exist because of some absolute morality. It exists because people, in general, don't want to die. (Why don't they want to die? That's probably an evolutionary advantage a few living organisms picked up a long time ago. Those who didn't mind dying, for the most part, died off.) In light of this, society (by consensus usually) makes rules against it. It isn't that they are moral, but they decide that in order to save themselves, they make it illegal to kill. By coming to a consensus, more people are likely play by this rule, and you are less likely to be killed. Hence the benefit to you.

    Unless that don't mind dying. Then by all means, go break the rules.

  • I don't know what conditions are like elsewhere, but the church I went to was very responsive to feedback.

    I knew all the speakers (yes, more than one; If I'd put together a decent message, I could have preached for a day myself -- even if it conflicted with the elders' non-core beliefs). If I had something to say to them, I said it. These weren't folks to be treated gingerly and addressed as "Father" when we met them but the teachers, managers and laborors from around the community.

    We needed no additional communications medium. We answered to no larger organization but rather to our members. If someone disagreed with a message, they discussed it with the speaker afterwards, in a meeting or (if their disagreement continued) during the service.

    Frankly, I think this is The Right Way to run a church. Any need for additional feedback being filled by some new medium shows inadiquate mechanisms presently in place.
  • I for one am glad someone is finally willing to face up to the fact that today's prevelant religious streotypes don't apply to the modern digitized world. Christian society, which has opressed Jews, Muslems, Pagans and even fellow Christians, are finally losing the power that they hold over the masses. The "alternative" religous groups like the Wicca and Athiests (yes athiesm is a religion) are able to adapt better without the underlying dogma to hold them back. Let the digital age begin without having to worry if "god" is going to disapprove of my actions.
  • If religion was so unimportant, why did you go to such lengths to decry it?

    What a specious argument. You religious fanatics are trying to impose your views on us -- on abortion, on politics, and even on science (creationism!)

    Some of you comments are foolish, and others are wrong but understandable.

    I pee on Jesus. BTW "Jesus" sounds a bit like "I suck" (je suce) in French.

    People talk of the harm done by religion, but I think it is small compared with the good. Some thousands
    have been killed in religious wars, but many, many more have lived suffering from incurable disease,
    poverty, and oppression, and found religion their source of hope and solace.

    A good joint or Prozac can achieve the same ends, yunno.

    It is the nature of people to war over strongly held beliefs that conflict, whether or not those beliefs are

    No one ever die of a KDE vs. Gnome flame war AFAIK.

    Blasphemy is fun.

    Burning a church a day keeps the drooling macaques away.

  • George Carlin says a lot of things, mostly centered around vulgarities and four-lettered words. Some of his stuff would actually be funny if he didn't try to be kewl by using the F word as punctuation. I wouldn't credit him with any great insight about religion, though...

  • I fail to understand how dragging Creationism (or Scientific Creationism, pick your strawman) and the skewing of data used to support it lends credence to your assertion that there is no God. This is on the same level as outright rejecting that eggs come from chickens because you've never seen one laid.

    Also, while I respect and defend your right to criticize Roman Catholicism for its excesses and dogmatism, I must disagree that because it may have been wrong in one thing that it is wrong all through. (BTW, I am not Catholic, nor have I ever been.) To paste some salve on that raw wound you harbor called "Creationism", I would like to point out that even Pope John Paul II acknowledged last year that the theory of evolution may have something to it, but that even if it were true, it does not impact the central message of Christianity: A just God providing redeption for a rebellious and self-absorbed race.

    Since others have said it better, I'll invoke their voices. C.S. Lewis summed the existance of God question and the truthfulness of religious systems up thus: "When I was an athiest, I believed that all religions were dangerous because their basic premise (an unseen Deity) was wrong all through. When I became a Christian, I was able to take a more liberal view [of other religions].

    Robert Heinlein (who was ever an old rational-anarchist-atheist) admitted that atheism was merely "god-ism" turned on its head. It offered no more answers than its progenitor.

  • Geek : 4 (0.15%)

    Regards, Ralph.
  • 1. Did I say religion is unimportant?

    2. "Some of my comments are foolish, and others
    are wrong but understandable." Which ones and how?

    3. Not thousands... try millions.

    4. Religion is THE number one cause of death in
    the world. Do some research.

  • Ok, I have to learn to preview my posts. This is an exciting discussion. I apologize for my careless typing. Here's a corrected version...

    ...which is precisely why atheism isn't a religion. Every religion in the world has the "One True(TM)" theme, except atheism.

    I offer this very discussion as evidence to the contrary!

    Let's fix an abstract individual, J. Random Atheist, who believes that there is no god as a mere article of faith. Let's assume that J holds this belief because his parents told him that this was the case, and that J has no other thoughts on the matter. (In J's defense, let's assume that the subject merely never comes up.) It appears, to me, that people are saying that J is not a true atheist, because he holds the view dogmatically. That's a pointlessly divisive way to cleave the category, IMO.

  • by Dast ( 10275 )
    I responded to the statement:

    If civilization and life are merely a game, why should I play by the rules? How is it to my benefit to restrain myself when I could gain an advantage by acting immorally?

    No where in there did it say killing someone (that was in a previous post). AndI will admit, I repsonded to that in a more general sense than just killing someone. I used the example of killing someone in my post because it was handy. So there is one thing we need to clear up before continuing, are we talking about just killing someone, or doing someone someone deems "immoral?" So I appologize. When you said "acting immorally," I took it to mean more than what you did.

    I don't mean you shouldn't kill someone *period*. I mean you shouldn't kill someone because there *are* consequences. If you are *sure* you can get away with it, there is no *absolute* reason you should not. This is why society imposes the rules it does. Because, by consesus, the people who impose these rules, don't want to be killed, and by imposing them on *everyone*, they better the chances that they won't be killed. Now if your problem is that you don't want these rules imposed upon you, go move away from society.

    My point is, there is no reason you should care beyond the consequences and personal preference. (If you choose to care, that is your business, not mine. But you cant say that belief has is, in any way, absolute). Society knows this, and to protect itself, it imposes rules.

  • If someone _claims_ they are a Christian, or Nazi, or Neo-Pagan and shows by example their interpretation of said religion (organized or otherwise) then we must accept that individual as a member of the greater religious community they claim membership in. If a weenie file leach claims to be a hacker, God forbid ;), then he/she/it is a hacker.

    Who sets definitions? Is it the elite? The people? Who are the people? The prolitariate? Only those educated enough to make an informed decision?

    Right now most Protestant churches bear little resemblance to the original _cults_ of Christ that existed 1500-1900 years ago. Hell, I'm a Christian cultist myself. (As well as Linux preselyte, heh heh.)

    The thing is, the churches (lets say ROs / religious organizations so we're not so narrow of scope) will change and either betray their beliefs to suit potential members or find means to rationalize popular, humanist thought with the RO's traditional idea of the divine. Now is that coming to new revelations about truth or is it spin doctoring old dogma.

    And as far as I know, dogma is only dogma if you don't want to listen and noone takes the time to explain it.

    if there's only one window,
    you can't see the whole world
    knock down the walls
    open source

  • I agree with the premise that today's tech-savvy in no way endangers current religions. However, I think this dispute has helped some people's quickness to judge rise to the surface and make their righteous exteriors ugly. Who are you, out there, to assume what my beliefs are? Who truly is a 'vanilla believer'? It is sad to see, in such an informed group, that ignorance still pervades.
    No one can say, "Christians do this:... and dont to this:..." Christians thought they were doing the right thing in The Crusades, and militant pro-life activists think they are doing the right thing by killing doctors. My point is 'picking, choosing, and changing' keeps popping up in religion, and it's not going away just 'cause a person prints in this forum:"this group does this... and that's it." Think you're safe? Priests rape, people lie under oath (so help you God), Christians kill, hackers crack, and everyone lies, cheats, and steals. Earth isnt friendly to absolutes.
    At the core, religion is a personal belief to place faith in irrational things. No religion can point a mocking finger to another, saying, "I told you so!"
    If we were to look at 'The Bible' as the definitive source of what God wants, which bible should we look at? Which translation? Which interpretation? When you hide behind scripture, you dont have God in your corner, you have a bound hunk of wood pulp. The Bible, taken word for word, is against homosexuality, masturbation, menstration, physical activity on one day out of seven... still Christian? 'Thou shall not covet'... "hey, stop checking out my K7!!!" Still Christian?
    I secretly believe that hackers who want to have some fun at someone else's expense, do so, then blame a mysterious group of hooligans who are nothing but trouble called 'crackers'. Still 3733T3? Be realistic and dont dictate rules to people who believe in an imaginary force controlling everything. I do, and, darn it... got mad at my phone, threw it across the room. Violence. Uh-oh, better shop for another religion.

    While were on the subject... take a peek at the website of a man who swears he is doing God's work. The idiot's name is Reverend Phelps. He doesnt exactly enhance my Christian pride, but goes to show people think and believe in what they darn well please.
  • Whoa there! Jeld didnt say the world was ending, just the world as we know it. In past recorded history, when the calendar of the time (remember they changed from Julian to Gregorian on 10-15-1582) people *always* start wigging out right before the nigh time. Then when everyone sees nothing bad happened, a renaissance emerges.
    "What do you or anyone else know about the next great paradigm shift?" Well, who the hell determines what the 'in' colors for next fall will be? All of business is either predicting what the consumer will want in the future or supporting those businesses that do the predicting. With so much effort put into finding out what will happen down the road, dont you think discovering personalized beliefs will be 'in' is just another forcast?
    By the way, are you the same person who was so sick of people picking and choosing what they want to believe in? humph... I'm a nihilist, and i dont believe you. :)
  • The OT is universally accepted by all Christian groups as the word of God, and thus fit for publication within the Bible.

    Does that mean they (all) still consider it applicable? No.
  • Because a more recent word of god explicitly overrides it.
  • Religion would help nerds cope with their lack of sexual life -- by making it appear as a choice instead as of a fatality.
    Huh, ain't I so rude?
    I just *hate* religion.
    It's just part of my genetic programming. I started coding around 10 y.o., but I *knew* I hated religion (as well as the militaries) when I was around 8 y.o. I was kicked out of sunday school because I told them it was "bullshit" (des conneries, in French).
    Religion is about manipulating people. Get to realize that. Stand up!
  • by cduffy ( 652 )
    Most of the Christian churches I know hold views quite compatible with each other. The Baptists, the Prespeterians and the Unitarians (for example) all believe each others' followers to be saved.

    Any Christian church that does not accept this, IMHO, becomes a cult.
  • So? Is person P religious? No. Atheism isn't a religion. Nothing you have said shows that atheism is a religion. In case you've forgotten this is the argument.

    It is I who have been bringing us back to this point: the defining characteristic of "religion" is the uncritical transmission of articles of faith. I would say that, yes, P is accepting the statement religiously.

  • I've been thinking all day that the "fine example of religious zealotry" post was directed at me. Now I see that I've misread it. I feel somewhat uplifted now that I know that I'm not my own god. 8^)

    On a different note, I looked up dogma in an unabridged dictionary, and there is, indeed, an alternate semantic binding: a statement taken to be true a priori. I've met such atheists, but I guess they're not really atheists because they merely believe there is no god, rather than failing to believe there is one. It's now much more clear to me. Hurray!

  •, as you pointed out, OT.

    And it says pretty dang explicitly in the New Testament that OT law no longer applies. Most of the people and organizations I've seen that rely heavily on OT law do so to justify their own hate.

    One who follows the New Testament is a Christian.
    One who follows the Old Testament is a Jew.
    One who follows whatever the hell is most convenient at the moment is... what?

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.