Jamie Hankins (wight1984) wrote in poly_atheism,
Jamie Hankins
wight1984
poly_atheism

Judging religious people

One of the main complaints about atheists is that they are intolerant of religious people.

And from rather recent drama we know that is certainly sometimes the case. There are a number of (unfortunately rather loud and noticeable) atheists that vehemently dislike and hate religion and religious people.

I'm sure we can all agree that attitude is very silly.

However...

I personally do not believe in God and I believe that people that do not agree are wrong as a logical consequence of that belief. I also believe that some varieties of religious belief are more sensible, more rational or less absurd than others.

I also believe that the more intelligent a person is the more likely they are to believe correct things. Hence I expect more intelligent people to tend towards certain kinds of belief, including atheism.

Naturally I won't dismiss someone as 'stupid', 'insane', or 'subjectivist' just because they aren't atheist, but more specific religious beliefs may make me lose respect for people.

So, I ask the members of this community; Are there any religious beliefs that you find off-putting? Are there any varsities of religious belief that would stop you from wanting to date someone? Are there any varieties of religious belief that would make you think someone is stupid or less worthy of 'respect'?
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I don't find any particular religious beliefs to be off-putting. However, if I person can't intelligently defend their position, they definitely lose my respect quickly. "Because the bible says so" and 'It's the word of god" and other such phrases are not adequate arguments.

Another thing is people who quote their religious text without having read them or without any understanding of the cultural environments in which they were created. We can't know exactly what it was like when the bible was assembled, but people often only know a few passages and no history.
I don't find any particular religious beliefs to be off-putting. However, if I person can't intelligently defend their position, they definitely lose my respect quickly.

No religious beliefs that you think are rationally indefensible?

I always found this forum a bit odd :oP

Mind you, I'm not sure that it always bothers me if a person can't rationally justify their beliefs as long as they are intellectually honest by it.

A person that answers 'Faith' to 'Why do you believe this' often strikes means more respectable than someone that tries to create a rational justification when that's not the real reason for their belief anyway.
Yeah, I suppose I was limiting my thoughts to more mainstream ones. I'm sure there are certain ones, like the flat earth thing or religions that are inherently violent that I would find indefensible.

I would consider a true honest statement of "It gives me comfort" or anything along a similar vein to be a very honest and acceptable answer. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that though. "Faith" doesn't seem to be an answer at all to me. However, I might be being too harsh there. I have had excellent conversations with believers about why they have faith and in what exactly they have faith in, but left by itself it doesn't seem to me to be a justification for anything.

All I really meant was that I expect people to be able to discuss their beliefs in an intelligent way. If you start telling me the earth is flat, you've stopped speaking in an intelligent manner.
Yeah, I suppose I was limiting my thoughts to more mainstream ones. I'm sure there are certain ones, like the flat earth thing or religions that are inherently violent that I would find indefensible.

I'd probably include people who deny evolution in the mix as well, which includes a lot more people (though not so many over here in the UK).

Moral issues are also very significant as well to me (like violence as you say) though that's true with both the religious and the non-religious :o)

I suppose technically it might be possible for an atheist to doubt evolution, or to claim the Earth is flat (or possibly flat), but I can't quite imagine it.
"I would consider a true honest statement of "It gives me comfort" or anything along a similar vein to be a very honest and acceptable answer. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that though. "Faith" doesn't seem to be an answer at all to me. However, I might be being too harsh there. I have had excellent conversations with believers about why they have faith and in what exactly they have faith in, but left by itself it doesn't seem to me to be a justification for anything."

'It gives me comfort' makes me feel uncomfortable personally. It sounds too much like intellectually deluding yourself for the sake of pyschological comfort. Not sure how much I respect that.

I think there is a place for leaps of faith however, even for atheists. You may be right that it probably should have a bit more thought behind it :o)

William James makes a brilliant defence of faith in his article "The Will to Believe"

He describes it as akin to that leap of faith we have to make in people in order to trust them, and how friendship would never be possible without a little bit of 'good faith' in one another :o)

I quite like that, although I think a lot of religious faith goes well beyond that.
Hmm.. I can't really think of any reason why people would be religious, although I'm open to suggestions.

The comfort of religion can be manifest in many ways, from the idea of an afterlife meaning you won't have to die to not having to admit you're wrong or go through the effort of changing how you think. Sometimes I've seen it be the simple comfort of being accepted into a community. I don't really fault people for this, most people are brought up in a religion and it can be very hard to change your basic assumptions about the way the world works.

It's true that a human can't function without making assumptions, which is what I would call your 'leaps of faith'. Most of the leaps of faith I have are places where I could comfortably substitute in the word 'assume' for the phrase 'have faith'.

I assume that most people are well meaning, I assume my partner isn't going to kill me in my sleep. I wouldn't be comfortable saying I assume there's a god for many reasons.
Those reasons are the most obvious, and possibly the most true more often, I'm just not sure they're entirely respectable. Believing something just for the sake of community or to avert fear?

It's also theologically problematic for some religions. Pascal's Wager was always about encouraging people to become Christian through fear, but it's entirely the wrong motivation from a Christian perspective.

Believing or doing good things from fear is to do them from self-interest after all; doesn't mesh well with Christian ethics.

I'm not sure that I can put my finger one what would be a better reason. I suspect there's something in the idea of a religious paradigm 'making sense' to some people that goes beyond psychological comfort but something a bit more profound.

I might be wrong though.

After all, at the end of the day I'm not religious myself so I've never quite felt the motivation for religious conversion.

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"I find literal belief in things like the threefold law or karma somewhat less off-putting, but often naive and sometimes passive-aggressive."

That's an interesting one, and somewhat controversial within the polyamorous community given how many Pagans there are about. Do you ever find that it causes any frictions with other poly people?

I do agree that if feels 'naive'. I suspect the reality is that sometimes bad people lead good lives and good people lead bad lives, and there's nothing to equal that out apart from our own actions; no three-fold law to do it for us.

And I suppose it's as aggressive as any spiritual threat telling us off to be naughty; although at least it's supposed to be just.

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"It is also nice that for many people belief in either of those forms of divine or universal justice goes hand-in-hand with thinking minding other people's business is obnoxious & unnecessary..... although that's not always the case."

That's an interesting point.

If justice is handed out from high anyway then it's less of a pressing concern for us to sort it out :o)

The moral responsibility is lifted away from us, we only have to worry about it in regards to practical concerns.

That ought to lend itself to a liberal outlook in personal life and in politics.

Of course, that applies as much to a heaven and hell system as it does to karma and three-fold law, shame that doesn't always sink in with all religious people! :oP

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I personally, to quote Spider Jerusalem, don't give two tugs of a dead dog's cock about what another person's religious beliefs are. Unless and until I'm considering entering into a relationship with them (and yes, that means if I'm only interested in a quick shag, they can be Branch Davidian for all I care, as long as they're not a crap lay).

That said, Scientologists are the exception. Not because their "religion" is so silly (it's still an imaginary friend), but because of the tactics they use to go after critics. I *might* turn down a meaningless roll in the hay if the person were a scientologist. Unless they were really hot. Then I'd just make them call me "Xenu" during the sex.
I find a lack of self-awareness, smugness or superiority, an inability to admit that one might be incorrect or to respect other views, and ugliness of spirit to be off-putting. That's most of it.

I do find the following beliefs I have encountered (especially during my youth) particularly repellant:

-that there is an afterlife of torment and damnation that is waiting for everyone who does not follow a strict set of beliefs and behaviours

-that people who are suffering in this life are doing so because they have 'chosen to learn' from this experience, or that suffering is a lesson from some Divinity meant as a 'gift' to those persons, and that alleviating suffering may actually be detrimental to their spiritual well-being

-alternately, that people who are suffering in this life deserve to do so for past wrong-doings and that alleviating suffering may be detrimental to their spiritual well-being

-or that people who are suffering in this life are only suffering because they are 'unenlightened' or 'unevolved' and that alleviating suffering may prevent them from having the opportunity to become 'enlightened'

-finally, that people who are suffering in this life are only suffering because of their unwillingness to acknowledge or submit to a higher power

-also, for the last three reasons, that people who suffer are somehow inferior to those who do not,

-or for any reason that suffering is somehow a blessing and makes a person pure or exalted

-that women are inferior to men, or men inferior to women, or any person inferior or less 'human' according to some divine design

-that one does not have to take personal responsibility for the future consequences of one's actions (like having a child knowing that one carries severely compromised genetic code) on the grounds that '$DEITY's Will Be Done'

-that the promise of an afterlife renders this world irrelevant and therefore our actions here -- with regard to our impact on the environment and future generations -- are irrelevant

-that 'stewardship over all the Earth' means that one may do what one pleases without regard for the consequence, because the Earth belongs to mankind

-that a relationship with the Divine requires a human intercessor to be valid

-that science and medicine should not be considered as valid options for the betterment of life on the grounds that they are contrary to the will or design of some Divine being

-that ill-fortune is the consequence of sin and that the less-fortunate are somehow inferior, or that one should be ashamed of hard times

-that prayer to invoke the will of the Divine to solve a problem is substitute for or preferable to positive human action

-that the human soul is inherently corrupt and that the discipline (read: abuse) and brainwashing of children is justified by the need to save and preserve their immortal souls

...I could well keep going but I have to make dinner. Praying isn't going to get it on the table...
There are many beliefs and attitudes, religious and otherwise, that I find off-putting and that would damage my respect for the person to the point where I would not want to date them.

My point is that whether the belief or attitude is "religious" in character has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with whether the person is open to the possibility that their experience of life and therefore their favorite ideas about what it all means might be incomplete.

In my experience, intelligence does not correspond with correctness, because a person can only be intelligent about what they have encountered (what they have seen, read about, experienced, and what they have extrapolated from those). And a lot of people haven't encountered much of anything.

I'm far less interested in the exact content of religious belief than in the experiences people have that are sometimes interpreted using religious frameworks. What do those experiences come from, and why is it so compelling to interpret them using religious frameworks? If belief in a god is delusional, why is such a huge portion of the human race sometimes delusional? Is this something that directly benefits our survival or is it a side effect of some other evolved system?
I've known perfectly intelligent people who've gone off the deep end with religion for reasons that don't have anything to do with reason but rather with emotional needs that don't respond to logic. it's not uncommon, for instance, for a survivor of childhood trauma to end up believing in a heavenly father who will take care of them because at a very deep level they need such a thing. the mind is quite powerful in what sorts of things it can make seem completely real if the emotional need is there--witness psychosis and the vast variety of irrational beliefs that supposedly non-psychotic people hold.

but unlike many atheists, I don't place a supreme value on human reason either, because I think we are just getting started thinking about things and that the universe is far more complex than most of us will allow. simply adding another dimension to the Western dialectic, for instance, throws logic itself into a complex tangle that I would imagine would take a sophisticated mathematics to keep up with. (incidentally I haven't read extensively on 'fuzzy logic' and don't know exactly where it stands as far as specifiable results go, but I think it is probably just the beginning of our realizing that logic itself needs to move beyond thesis/antithesis/synthesis).

in any case, "reasonable" arguments don't necessarily sway me more than "emotional" ones, but I do harbor a great skepticism as to whether myth comes close to "objective truth." it never has in the past; I can't imagine why it would now. the metaphysical stories people tell themselves seem far more simplistic than even our logical systems, and those themselves have many orders of magnitude ahead of them in which to grow.

thus I'm skeptical about both faith and reason. but I do understand why intelligent people are sometimes believers of one kind or another. that said, I wouldn't get into a close relationship with anyone who was a fundamentalist of any stripe, and I especially will not put up with evangelism, from any quarter--even from atheists! generally if someone is religious I can deal with them just fine as long as they value diversity and don't try to convert me in any way.