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Old 11-01-2006, 12:58 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by SkinWalker
Private beliefs should have respect. But when people make a public spectacle of their beliefs, criticism is warranted, particularly when these beliefs affect others. At this point, criticism and ridicule of the person should be expected.
Certainly this makes sense to me. Inversely, if public spectacles of belief inspire people to act selflessly, face adversity without fear, and answer questions that science cannot, they are just as likely to warrant praise as other spectacles may warrant criticism. It works both ways. That's what freedom of expression is all about.

Though it may blind some to what science considers fact, religion does have some key advantages. For one, most religions provide a quick moral compass. (eg. WWJD?) A scientific mind may arrive at a social Darwinistic point of view and act purely out of self-interest. Other routes might be to try to maximize hedons and minimize dolors in a society or try to figure out the pertinent Kantian categorical imperative. Oy! That would wear you out trying to figure out how to act.

A second advantage is the ability to dissolve the ego in critical situations. By believing there is something more than meets the eye, mental faculties can relax during times of stress, in some cases allowing the believer to overcome that stress. Some athletes pray before the big game to help them be prepared to go "in the zone". Again, this isn't exclusive to religion and I'm sure atheists could certainly perform such feats. But I do believe that religion provides a predisposition for such mental states. (eg. AUM).

Finally, for the individual, religion can provide hope and relieve fear of death. Maybe in the case of extremists, that's not such a good thing, but for everyday people who lose their loved ones, it is a powerful coping mechanism.

Reality is what is believed. The inner reality of a person cannot be measured by scientific means. It can only be experienced directly by the individual. If the individual believes there is more beyond his senses, then there will always be an element of mystery that keeps people striving to become more than they are. Certainly, this does not preclude atheism but religions often provide a quicker means to that end. This does not mean we should avoid scrutinizing beliefs just because they are of a religious nature. We don't believe the sun revolves around the earth anymore. Beliefs that are scientific in nature get scrutinized, after all. But in areas where there is no observational evidence to invalidate a belief, especially those of an inner nature (eg. morality, sense of self, belief a the greater power, hope), there should be temperance and respect on all sides.

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