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Is Religion, Per Se, "good" Or "bad For Societies?


wenglund

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In the "Death of Religion?" thread, claims were made that religion is a "social ill" and is to considered like a "parasite".

Ignoring the somewhat inflammatory nature of these claims, I would like to have a rational discussion whether or not religion in general, or the LDS faith in particular, may be good for people and societies or not.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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It would seem to me that religion is more for the benefit of the individual than a society. Obviously from history, when religion exerts its control over a society, it does so to the detriment of society. However, when it benefits individual members, it can be an influence for good for a very long time.

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Because it is so powerful, religion brings out both the best and the worst in people. In religious societies, you will find both the best and the worst.

Those who are critical of religion will emphasize the worst.

Those who are empowered by religion will have a far different experience.

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Religion is generally positive, and the LDS faith has a very beneficial effect on society.

Religion that influences families staying together give children many advantages over children from broken families. These children will more likely grow to be self supporting and productive members of the society.

Religion that promotes honesty will help develop a more honest citizenry. Greater honesty within a population makes life better for all.

Religion that promotes chastity make for a healthier more stable society.

Religion that promotes personal charity within itâ??s members benefits all members within the society.

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I have enjoyed the comments thus far, and I look forward to increased participation--particularly from those who may feel that religion is "bad" for individuals and societies.

I would think, though, that in order to effectively answer the question of this thread there would first be required that we come up with a mutually agreeable standard(s), and second that we come up with mutually agreeable ways to measure using that/those standard(s), by which to assess what is "good" or "bad" for us individually and collectively.

One might think that with such diverse points of view in the world, it might be virtually impossible to come up with mutually acceptible standards.

However, economist would suggest that ultimately we are driven by a desire to be happy. Educators all over the world would suggest that most people have an inate motive to grow in knowledge and abilities--i.e. we are inclined towards maturation. Medical practicioners would suggest that, for the most part, we desire to be healthy. And, the very social nature of societies would suggest that, by and large, we desire to have fufilling interpersonal relationships, or in other words we desire to love and be loved.

Granted, these four things may mean somewhat different things to different people. In certain cases, what may make one person "happy", may not make another person "happy". What may be considered "mature" to one person, may not be "mature" to another, and so on and so forth.

Even still, I think there is enough in common in what these things mean to us so as to still make them useful as mutually acceptable standards. Agreed?

Also, I would suggest that these four things are interdependant. Happiness is to some degree contingient upon one's maturation, health, and the love one experiences. Likewise, one's maturation is contingient upon one's happiness, health, and loving relationships, and so on and so forth. Agreed.

If so, then I would submit these four thing combined might be our mutually acceptible standard. Agreed?

The question then remains: how do we measure the happiness, maturation, health, and love, of individuals and societies?

Well, since economist are the ones suggesting that we are universally driven by the desire to be "happy", then wouldn't it make at least some sense to use economic measurements of "happiness"--i.e. at a macro level measure happiness via the strength of the respective economies? Likewise, wouldn't it make some sense to measure "maturation" in terms of growth in knowledge and abilities? Wouldn't it make sense to measure health by looking at a variety of medical measurements--such as longevity, physical and mental wellness, etc.? Wouldn't is make some sense to measure "love" by looking at the strength of interpersonal relationships, particular in terms of families?

What do you think?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I can't think of a single society in which economics does not play a pivotal role in our happiness, whether it be small scale hunter gatherer of giant economies like the US. All of us of course need a certain amount of money to ensure our own survival, along with that of our families. But beyond that level I think it is more a matter the pursuit of happiness than actual happiness itself.

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In the "Death of Religion?" thread, claims were made that religion is a "social ill" and is to considered like a "parasite".

Since all religions except for one are false, one would be tempted to think that way. However false they may be, they are useful catalysts for finding truth or providing the necessary opposition (2 Nephi 2, Luke 13 etc.) and even the one true religion.

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In the "Death of Religion?" thread, claims were made that religion is a "social ill" and is to considered like a "parasite".

Ignoring the somewhat inflammatory nature of these claims, I would like to have a rational discussion whether or not religion in general, or the LDS faith in particular, may be good for people and societies or not.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Religion is one of the many mechanism which has been used to detach humans from the instincts necessary to survival in a resource competitive, alpha-male society to developing instincts necessary in a resource producing, parental, symbiotic society. Some groups of humans have made that transition with less dependence on religion such as China or Japan, while others have relied heavily on religion, such as Europe.

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Luigi:

western Europe developed what we know as modern day Christianity, but Japan and China were every bit as religious but in a non Christan way.

Asia has certainly been religious, no doubt about it, I guess I just see the religion of that area playing less of a role in how those cultures developed than in Europe, but I am in no way an expert, just a casual observation. Regardless I think that religion has played a role to one degree or another in accomplishing the evolutionary change I mentioned in the earlier post in every society.

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If I were to take the atheist point of view wouldn't I believe that Religion was formed to keep the society under control? That a primitive society used religion to keep its members from killing, stealing, ext. The question at hand is whether religion is bad for society or good, but if religion was created in the beginning to keep society from falling apart, wouldn't that make it a positive, no, crucial tenet of society. Maybe in a more enlightened modern age some people can find meaning in life and fulfillment without religion and thus make a good society, but the overall population may not be that way. Most people are not philosophers. I dare say if you remove religion from society and people only start living for today, society would crumble into nothingness. There would be no leaders because people could just kill their leaders. They would forget society ever existed and roam the land in small groups and thus begin to evolve back into society by first establishing a religion. And the cycle would start again.

Now to approach a view I agree with. A view presented by Manly P Hall.

We must some day face the truth that man is inevitably and incurably an idealist; for this is the truth that will set us free. Man's need is for the idealistic content of his nature to be properly nourished; then his whole consciousness will impel him to a right action and then no more will our laws fail, treaties be broken, and the rights of man stand violated.

The physical conditions of human existence are not the whole of the human problem. We could adjust all material considerations to the point of the supremest equity, and yet accomplish virtually nothing solutional. The greatest of the known problems is the human problem. And not until an all embracing examination is made into every phase of human needs can there be an adequate policy for a post war world. That man is physical is obvious; but that he is also mental, and emotional; he is spiritual, and he has a soul. These factors are not so obvious. What to do about them is not so easy; for they are difficult to understand, and even more difficult to classify and reduce to a working pattern. We the builders of civilization will have to learn that only when equal consideration is given to each of these elements of man's nature will we arrive at the solutions for the disaster into which men and nations precipitate themselves.

The American nation desperately needs a vision of its own purpose. It must conceive it in a generous idealism, great and strong enough to bind thoughtless and selfish persons to something bigger than themselves.

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In the "Death of Religion?" thread, claims were made that religion is a "social ill" and is to considered like a "parasite".

Ignoring the somewhat inflammatory nature of these claims, I would like to have a rational discussion whether or not religion in general, or the LDS faith in particular, may be good for people and societies or not.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

That is a very hard question. Religions are way too diverse to lump them all together like that. Then is the problem of finding societies with absolutely no religion whatsoever to compare them to. The minicule number of completely non religious societies in human history (at least prior to the 20th century) kind of points to the possiblity that human beings are religious by nature. In modern societies where religious thought has been systematically removed, maybe we could look at the quality of their lives and compare them to the lives of people who are religious. I know that doesn't answer the question, but the question itself raises more questions.

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However, economist would suggest that ultimately we are driven by a desire to be happy.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

I agree with that. Human beings are extremely intelligent and curious. Religion has always provided answers to people about the "why" s of life. Whether the answers are correct or not is, of course, a matter of faith, but religion can answer certain questions about our ultimate purpose that secular life doesn't.

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If I were to take the atheist point of view wouldn't I believe that Religion was formed to keep the society under control? That a primitive society used religion to keep its members from killing, stealing, ext. The question at hand is whether religion is bad for society or good, but if religion was created in the beginning to keep society from falling apart, wouldn't that make it a positive, no, crucial tenet of society. Maybe in a more enlightened modern age some people can find meaning in life and fulfillment without religion and thus make a good society, but the overall population may not be that way. Most people are not philosophers. I dare say if you remove religion from society and people only start living for today, society would crumble into nothingness. There would be no leaders because people could just kill their leaders. They would forget society ever existed and roam the land in small groups and thus begin to evolve back into society by first establishing a religion. And the cycle would start again.

I think that humans have over the ages internalized many positive attributes that would not just vanish in the absense of religion. But there are probably those humans that without the fear and social pressure which religion carries with it would go around doing terrible things but it would, I think, be a minority of people. We all need meaning and purpose, as you have aptly pointed out (great post by the way). I guess the question is what is the best way for people to find meaning and purpose-and is organized religion necessarily a part of that. And what other roles does religion play that perhaps could be better served by other means?

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Way back when I was in grad school, I started to work on the question of defining religion. It turns out to be remarkably difficult to do. We all know that Buddhism is a religion, except that it expressly conceives of itself as a philosophy and does not deal with supernatural beings. Jainism, as I remember, is much more interested in life forces in all of nature than specific gods.

If you try to come up with a definition of religion that fits all times and cultures, you are left with something that defines what you perceive as reality. Your definition of reality determines how you interact with that reality. That was the best I could come up with. Behaviorally, science functions just like religion (and is often accepted just as blindly and professed as dogmatically, although most scientists will understand how frequently understanding changes).

Under that definition, it is impossible to not have religion. You call it one thing or another, and you may not like someone else's flavor - but for all of us we absolutely must have some way to cope with the world. Religion puts the world in its place and helps us understand how we react to it.

Most modern Christians have a relgious worldview that is a combination of the "science religion" worldview and an added layer that "explains" what science does not.

To answer the question that started the thread, religion is imperative for any society. There is less social unrest when everyone shares the same religion. When most people at least significantly overlap, there is social cohesion. We also have the problem of seeing a culture from the outside. When their "religion" is different from ours, we can see the "bad" it does for their people, where the people inside might not agree.

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Without the true religion then this world would be "ripe for destruction" and we would end up like the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. They were destroyed not because they could not defend themselves from their enemies the Lamanites, but they had forsaken the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. As in the following:

(Mormon 5:16-24) "For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind. They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father. But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they. And behold, the Lord hath reserved their blessings, which they might have received in the land, for the Gentiles who shall possess the land. But behold, it shall come to pass that they shall be driven and scattered by the Gentiles; and after they have been driven and scattered by the Gentiles, behold, then will the Lord remember the covenant which he made unto Abraham and unto all the house of Israel. And also the Lord will remember the prayers of the righteous, which have been put up unto him for them. And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways? Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll? Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against youâ??lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver."
As far as other religions are concerned I believe they have a dual purpose, on the plus side they tend to show people a portion of light that they are willing to receive and inasmuch as they prepare people to receive the fullness of the Gospel they serve a prepartory function, a way to soften their hearts until they are ready for the greater portion of the Lord's word. The other purpose is the opposite, the Prophet said that any time the Lord established His Kingdom on earth that Satan also set up his church and kingdom as well in opposition to the truth. For example the Chief Priests and Pharasees fought against Christ and His Apostles and tried to destroy the Church. In that respect they were serving Satan and were in opposition to God. The agency we are given determines what we use religion for, to try to follow God or to serve Satan. The following is very revealing:
(Moroni 9:3-23) "And now behold, my son, I fear lest the Lamanites shall destroy this people; for they do not repent, and Satan stirreth them up continually to anger one with another. Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them. For so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually. And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God. And now I write somewhat concerning the sufferings of this people. For according to the knowledge which I have received from Amoron, behold, the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children. And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them. And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtueâ?? And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most acruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery. O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilizationâ?? (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people) But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abominationâ?? How can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us? Behold, my heart cries: Wo unto this people. Come out in judgment, O God, and hide their sins, and wickedness, and abominations from before thy face! And again, my son, there are many widows and their daughters who remain in Sherrizah; and that part of the provisions which the Lamanites did not carry away, behold, the army of Zenephi has carried away, and left them to wander whithersoever they can for food; and many old women do faint by the way and die. And the army which is with me is weak; and the armies of the Lamanites are betwixt Sherrizah and me; and as many as have fled to the army of Aaron have fallen victims to their awful brutality. O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy. Behold, I am but a man, and I have but the strength of a man, and I cannot any longer enforce my commands. And they have become strong in their perversion; and they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good; and the suffering of our women and our children upon all the face of this land doth exceed everything; yea, tongue cannot tell, neither can it be written. And now, my son, I dwell no longer upon this horrible scene. Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites. Behold, my son, I cannot recommend them unto God lest he should smite me. But behold, my son, I recommend thee unto God, and I trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved; and I pray unto God that he will spare thy life, to witness the return of his people unto him, or their utter destruction; for I know that they must perish except they repent and return unto him. And if they perish it will be like unto the Jaredites, because of the wilfulness of their hearts, seeking for blood and revenge."
That is the end result of rejecting the true and living God, so yes I would say religion especially true religion is of great benifit to the world. People have used religion as an excuse for evil and brutality but they pervert the teachings of most religions to excuse their own abominations. The truth of the matter is it is not in the religions where the evil and brutal works come from, instead it is in the wickedness of the people because of their own agency. Thus without the social restraint that religion brings then there must be an external totalitarian rule to keep order or anarchy will result. That was the reason the Communist governments had to rule with an "iron fist" because religion was cosidered an "opate of the masses" and was frowned upon, then they needed a strong and oppressive government just to keep the peace. Although this is really not entirely true because these brutal governments did not stamp out religion entirely, so some were still guided by the "light of Christ" even if they could not worship God openly. Our govenment (USA) was founded on the principles of the rule of law and freedom of religion. But I submit that all laws (of this land) stem back to and have their roots in religion (the Ten Commandments, etc) and without that basis then how do you make the "rules" that people are willing to obey? Religion, and especially true religion is what keeps the world from slipping into a Nephite-Lamanite global armageddon.
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Maybe in a more enlightened modern age some people can find meaning in life and fulfillment without religion and thus make a good society, but the overall population may not be that way. Most people are not philosophers.

People don't need religion to give their life meaning and fulfillment. There are plenty of depressed Mormons whose lives feel empty and without meaning, even though their religion ostensibly grants purpose to their life, and there are admitted nihilists who will outright tell you their life has no meaning, yet they continue to derive satisfaction from daily life. That's because meaning is an emotion, and the experience of meaning is independent of philosophical/religious beliefs. A properly functioning, balanced mind experiences meaning, fulfillment, or satisfaction in the mundane, day to day existence of mortal life. And in certain circumstances--schizophrenia, intoxication, non-drug induced meditation, for example--a person's sense of meaning can be expanded to include virtually everything; you can "tickle" your meaning gland, as it were.

Persons raised in religious institutions that indoctrinate members with the notion that life without said religion is meaningless are often surprised to find that their subjective experiences of meaning and fulfillment remain unchanged after abandoning their faith. That is because, again, meaning is an emotion that occurs spontaneously, irrespective of your conscious philosophical vanities.

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I think Katherine and Brant make a good point about the diversity of religious beliefs. So, if you don't mind, let me rephrease the question to: Is Modern Christianity "good" or "bad" for individuals and societies?

Also, what do you think about the standard and means I posited from determining whether Christianity is "good" or "bad" for society?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Well, since economist are the ones suggesting that we are universally driven by the desire to be "happy", then wouldn't it make at least some sense to use economic measurements of "happiness"--i.e. at a macro level measure happiness via the strength of the respective economies? Likewise, wouldn't it make some sense to measure "maturation" in terms of growth in knowledge and abilities? Wouldn't it make sense to measure health by looking at a variety of medical measurements--such as longevity, physical and mental wellness, etc.? Wouldn't is make some sense to measure "love" by looking at the strength of interpersonal relationships, particular in terms of families?

If you want to make the strong case for this sort of thing I think you would need to show how these characteristics are unique to religion, or that religion is uniquely able to bring about success in the areas of measure, otherwise religion is just one social actor among others. Also it seems that what societies and historical periods one looks at matter a great deal.

Finally, isn't it quite possible that religion is both good and bad for society? If we look at the level of how religious actors address social issues, we often see religious people in opposition to one another. For example, when the Quakers were running the underground railroad, other religious thinkers where trying to defend and strengthen slavery, I was at the Huntington Library this weekend and saw a book titled "Slavery a Divine Institution" a pro slavery book written by a theologian as a defense of slavery. So if we consider the happiness, economic strength, knowledge, and longevity of slaves or former slaves, in this instance it may be the case that the Quaker religion was good for society while other forms of Christianity were not.

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People don't need religion to give their life meaning and fulfillment. There are plenty of depressed Mormons whose lives feel empty and without meaning, even though their religion ostensibly grants purpose to their life, and there are admitted nihilists who will outright tell you their life has no meaning, yet they continue to derive satisfaction from daily life. That's because meaning is an emotion, and the experience of meaning is independent of philosophical/religious beliefs. A properly functioning, balanced mind experiences meaning, fulfillment, or satisfaction in the mundane, day to day existence of mortal life. And in certain circumstances--schizophrenia, intoxication, non-drug induced meditation, for example--a person's sense of meaning can be expanded to include virtually everything; you can "tickle" your meaning gland, as it were.

Persons raised in religious institutions that indoctrinate members with the notion that life without said religion is meaningless are often surprised to find that their subjective experiences of meaning and fulfillment remain unchanged after abandoning their faith. That is because, again, meaning is an emotion that occurs spontaneously, irrespective of your conscious philosophical vanities.

Without wishing to get into a debate over the meaning of the word "meaning", and bringing things back on topic, you mentioned "depression", which relates to the "health" portion of the standard for determining "good" and "bad" previously mentioned. The question, though, is whether modern Christianity in general, or Mormonism in particular, is somewhat causal or curative of depression?

Would it surprise you to learn that according to studies I have seen, while the causes of depression appear to be more chemical and biological in nature, that active religious affiliation is one of the top four impediments or relieving factors of depression? ...which, would suggest that Christianity and Mormonism, on that basis, is a "good" thing, right?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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People don't need religion to give their life meaning and fulfillment. There are plenty of depressed Mormons whose lives feel empty and without meaning, even though their religion ostensibly grants purpose to their life, and there are admitted nihilists who will outright tell you their life has no meaning, yet they continue to derive satisfaction from daily life. That's because meaning is an emotion, and the experience of meaning is independent of philosophical/religious beliefs. A properly functioning, balanced mind experiences meaning, fulfillment, or satisfaction in the mundane, day to day existence of mortal life. And in certain circumstances--schizophrenia, intoxication, non-drug induced meditation, for example--a person's sense of meaning can be expanded to include virtually everything; you can "tickle" your meaning gland, as it were.

Persons raised in religious institutions that indoctrinate members with the notion that life without said religion is meaningless are often surprised to find that their subjective experiences of meaning and fulfillment remain unchanged after abandoning their faith. That is because, again, meaning is an emotion that occurs spontaneously, irrespective of your conscious philosophical vanities.

Well I think you are wrong. Yes we can all find happiness in the mundane, but that does not sustain one through their entire life. You are on a Apologetics forum so I am going to presume you philosophize more than the average person. I believe there is a difference between one who reasons there way into atheism and one who is born and raised with no concept of God.

As for the depressed Mormons comment, I am going to exclude chemical imbalance depression and address depression connected with oneâ??s environment and own conscious and subconscious mind. When you live in a world that is so set on enjoying the mundane and only leaves the mundane in loosing their sobriety, then yes I would say it is hard to not be depressed being surrounded by such a culture. I get depressed thinking about what people have settled for all around me. It saddens me to see the rock star culture our world embraces. By rock star culture I mean looking up to people who are selected by the greater encompassing popular culture for emulation and adulation. The rock star culture of this world only embraces the carnal pleasures and mundane. This is very pervasive and is even in our network news. They are not happy, and it makes me sad to see that. I think many are unhappy when they strive after the rock star culture. When some are eventually selected to be rock stars they become extremely unhappy because they have met the end of their goal and it was a goal that never had a chance of giving happiness in the first place, (insert rock star suicide here -------, insert actress rehab here -------, insert rich personâ??s ruined marriage here -----). It saddens me to see how things are measured in how much "happiness" you can buy and when. These thoughts are in my conscious mind, but I would be willing to bet that many Mormons and others have these same feelings I do, but trapped in their subconscious. When living in a culture of commodity fetish I think many people feel depressed driving past the billboards on the freeway and donâ??t know why. If you are LDS you have the knowledge wired deep in your mind that such things have no eternal purpose. I think some people try to go with the mainstream and find happiness from drinking a refreshing soda because it is presented to us as "refreshing". But when they do not feel refreshed they start to feel unhappy. "Why is it that people are so refreshed by soda and I am not". Because you know what real refreshment is and it has nothing to do with soda. Living in the world is very saddening at times. What raises me out of this sadness is creativity, helping others and showing love to others, being close to God and his natural creations, and recognizing that the conditions of happiness presented by Babylon have no validity in my life.

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Written by Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening

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So, if you don't mind, let me rephrease the question to: Is Modern Christianity "good" or "bad" for individuals and societies?

Since Modern Christianity has been declawed and neutered by humanism, most of what is left are sensible, common sense values (don't steal, don't murder, don't lie, etc) combined with a social infrastructure useful for providing aid to the less fortunate. No more stoning adulterers; no more burning witches. Christian values have aligned almost directly with secular values, with several notable but relatively minor exceptions (homosexuality and abortion, for instance). So, with most of the bad purged from modern Christianity, and the positive social/welfare aspects intact, Christianity could probably be said to be an overall positive in a utilitarian analysis.

Islam, on the other hand, is another story.

Also, what do you think about the standard and means I posited from determining whether Christianity is "good" or "bad" for society?

(Well, since economist are the ones suggesting that we are universally driven by the desire to be "happy", then wouldn't it make at least some sense to use economic measurements of "happiness"--i.e. at a macro level measure happiness via the strength of the respective economies?)

I don't agree with that at all. The mindless consumerism and abject materialism that are great for economies are not so great for the soul. Nor is the sense of dog-eat-dog competition inherent in capitalism. Polls consistently show levels of self identified "happiness" are greater in countries that temper capitalism with aspects of socialism. You might be richer in America, but you'd be happier in France or the Netherlands. (Both of which also happen to be less religious than America.)

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If you want to make the strong case for this sort of thing I think you would need to show how these characteristics are unique to religion, or that religion is uniquely able to bring about success in the areas of measure, otherwise religion is just one social actor among others. Also it seems that what societies and historical periods one looks at matter a great deal.

Finally, isn't it quite possible that religion is both good and bad for society? If we look at the level of how religious actors address social issues, we often see religious people in opposition to one another. For example, when the Quakers were running the underground railroad, other religious thinkers where trying to defend and strengthen slavery, I was at the Huntington Library this weekend and saw a book titled "Slavery a Divine Institution" a pro slavery book written by a theologian as a defense of slavery. So if we consider the happiness, economic strength, knowledge, and longevity of slaves or former slaves, in this instance it may be the case that the Quaker religion was good for society while other forms of Christianity were not.

Those are some excellent points for serious consideration, which gain in importance the more precise and strong one wishes to make their case. However, in an informal discussion such as this, I think it sufficient to make inductive observations, and on balance, if not appeal to formal studies that control for the issues you raise. Don't you?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I think one way to judge the way modern Christianity effects society is to look inside and reflect how your own Christian walk has affected you and those around you. Has it helped you to be more patient with your family and fellows? Does it influence you to be more charitable, honest, forgiving? Has it influenced you to feel a greater since of peace, or personal fulfillment? Are you healthier as a result of your religious beliefs and practice? If the answer is afirmative to the above questions. then religion in your case has been benificial to society.

Objectivity may be more challenging to accomplish the closer one is to the subject one is judging, and it's harder to get closer than this, but I still think the above sheds light on the subject.

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