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9: The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time.

Posted by on Jul. 11, 2012 at 7:43 AM
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From: "The Top 10 Reasons I Don't Believe in God" by Greta Christina

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9: The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time.

Over the years and decades and centuries, our understanding of the physical world has grown and clarified by a ridiculous amount. We understand things about the Universe that we couldn't have imagined a thousand years ago, or a hundred, or even ten. Things that make your mouth gape with astonishment just to think about.

And the reason for this is that we came up with an incredibly good method for sorting out good ideas from bad ones. We came up with the scientific method, a self-correcting method for understanding the physical world: a method which -- over time, and with the many fits and starts that accompany any human endeavor -- has done an astonishingly good job of helping us perceive and understand the world, predict it and shape it, in ways we couldn't have imagined in decades and centuries past. And the scientific method itself is self-correcting. Not only has our understanding of the natural world improved dramatically: our method for understanding it is improving as well.

Our understanding of the supernatural world? Not so much.

Our understanding of the supernatural world is in the same place it's always been: hundreds and indeed thousands of sects, squabbling over which sacred texts and spiritual intuitions are the right ones. We haven't come to any consensus about which religion best understands the supernatural world. We haven't even come up with a method for making that decision. All anyone can do is point to their own sacred text and their own spiritual intuition. And around in the squabbling circle we go.

All of which points to religion, not as a perception of a real being or substance, but as an idea we made up and are clinging to. If religion were a perception of a real being or substance, our understanding of it would be sharpening, clarifying, being refined. We'd have better prayer techniques, more accurate prophecies, something. Anything but people squabbling with greater or lesser degrees of rancor, and nothing to back up their belief.

by on Jul. 11, 2012 at 7:43 AM
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SWISSuz
by New Member on Jan. 1, 2013 at 6:55 PM

You make a very good point about our understanding of our physical world...the advancements and intracacies of things that are very concrete and tangible.  But those advancements have not been without a lot of mistakes to get to certain conclusions.....and many of those conclusions will be re-written as we continue to advance.  Since the beginning of recorded history......a time when times were simple, people were raised at their parents knee, and rulers and leaders commanded simple and barbaric and inhumane wisdom.  So has the world of religion had it's sects and shoots and branches that some have grown and many have whitered on the vine.  It's your perception that man does not have a clarifying or sharpening understanding.  As in ancient times....physics has not changed, only our understanding of them and their complexities.  As you know....some are simple...gold is still gold and still valued.  With religion, we have the "rock of ages" so to speak.....the principles are basically the same....but we have a much more complex world in which to apply them.  Faith in God is not a piece of matter on this earth that can be continually dissected with volumes of books to increase  one's knowledge.  Faith is the "unseen" that cannot be explained.  Along with learning the physical aspects of this world.....those of faith understand the basics, and spend the rest of their lives following a set of simple rules that we must translate to the modern complexities of our various cultures.  The fact that faith is an individual choice falls in line with free will.....and our understanding that we don't find God in a petri dish or crystal ball.  Religion is not meant to be something "we" as in man, improves upon.  We each are individuals.....not puppets or playthings for God.  We, as individuals must find our own way, understanding that we cannot possibly understand God in a complete and perfectly devine sense, anymore than we expect an infant child to read or write or behave perfectly as we raise them.  As parents, we know their knowledge is limited and they have to grow and seek knowledge.  "We"....are very small and make mistakes......we are flawed.....we are perfectly imperfect.

Meadowchik
by Christian on Jan. 4, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Actually, there is a way to see religion(s) as improving over time. 

They started completely enmeshed with public laws and science.  Slowly, the separation between religion and both science and government has grown, and in much of the world those respective institutions run independently of one another.

And I disagree that philosophically, they haven't become more complex and responsive or effective.  Good grief, the assertion is rather infantile if you look at it objectively!  Do most of today's religions practice human sacrifice?  No. Don't most religions call for peaceful relations between people of differing beliefs? Yes!  That's improvement from the past.

The OP tries to compare the rate of scientific progress to the progress of the efficacity of religious ritual and spiritual practices, but there is certainly a level of intellectual dishonesty going on with such a comparison.  Indeed, scientific breakthroughs can build directly on other breakthroughs, while spiritual maturity does not pass so easily.  For instance, the ability to cease to criticize others while living in complete inner and outer harmony is not something done as easily as it is said.

The rate of progress cannot be fairly expected to compare, but religious "innovation" has and does occur.  You can call it sociological evolution or a result of divine grace, but it is there.  Christianity is an example, as I referred to earlier where blood sacrifice was replaced by the sacrifice of contrition and repentance, or in other words a willingness to change and improve for the better.

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