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[P]
Spiritual commerce on the web

By mahonri in Culture
Wed Dec 20, 2000 at 05:47:22 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

As we have all seen, the web puts a new twist on social issues. E-commerce is today's buzzword, affecting businesses everywhere, from mom and pop gift and craft shops to multinational corporations. Among Internet active people it has become common wisdom that an Internet presence is key to a businesses future success. True or not, businesses are buying into it like never before. And right along with them are many religious groups.

As webmaster of Mahonri.org I take a great interest in these matters, and I want to share some of my thoughts with you.


E-commerce for the Faithful
The Internet is going through quite a transformation from it's beginnings in government and education, to the current commercialization and e-commerce craze. In fact, if all you knew about the Internet was what you saw on TV, you would think that the Internet was all about buying things. (On the other hand, if you connect to the Internet through AOL, you probably still have that impression.) Many sites espousing faith are going through a similar transition, selling products that are targeted to the faithful or would-be faithful that regularly visit their sites. Even on my site I link to Amazon.com and have put together graphics to sell promotional products at Cafepress.com. How does this affect the purpose of these sites?

Many Christians are familiar with the story of Jesus cleansing the temple in the New Testament. Martin Luther's opposition to the sale of indulgences (amongst other things) was a pivotal step in the Protestant movement. With these standards in mind, is it right to have banner ads on the same page as our heart-felt testimonies?

The business of Belief
As a member of the LDS Church who has been actively involved in missionary efforts for a large portion of my life, I'm very aware of the business-like way that missionary efforts are often evaluated. A superficial look could result in a horrible impression of a zealous group "out to get" their friends and neighbors, speaking of the number of baptisms they planned to perform that month, and pestering members of the church for the names of their friends that could meet with the missionaries. Statistics are used to show the monetary cost per baptism of different proselyting activities. Sounds scary, doesn't it? I'm sure other religious groups do similar things. I've often heard members of other churches talking about how many people got "saved" in a particular meeting. In a business, all of this would be not only accepted, but expected.

There is a real competition for the souls of men. No matter what your personal belief system, you compete to win over the beliefs of those around you. "Wait a second!" you may say, "I don't care what anyone else believes, so long as they don't force their beliefs on me!" So now you want me to change my beliefs, so that you don't have to hear them. You want me to change a portion of my beliefs to agree with yours. Guess what, I want the same from you. I want you to change your beliefs to be more like mine. See? We're not so different, you and I. Most people engage in the business of belief: preaching, explaining, cajoling, arguing and otherwise trying to influence the beliefs of others. It doesn't have to be about Christian or Buhdist, Muslim or Jew. It can be about Mac or PC, Microsoft or Linux. Politics, too, is the business of belief.

Internet Evangelism
The Internet provides a forum like we've never had before. It's the best realization of the American ideal of freedom of speech that I know of. You see, freedom of speech doesn't guarantee an audience (unlike what many today would have you believe). On the Internet, if you don't care what I have to say you just go elsewhere. It's almost a given that somewhere you will find ideas in opposition to mine, if that's what you're looking for. But here I can say what I want, and if it has merit, it will gain an audience. The other side of that is that is that people tend to believe what they want to, so many ideas without merit gain quite large audiences also.

The Internet also provides a more equal forum than other media outlets. People who cannot afford to take out ads in a newspaper or on TV can set up a web page. In fact, there are enough free hosting options that you can now do it for free (if you don't expect freedom from banner ads). My first couple of web pages where free, and other subsequent ones where hosted by my dial-up access provider. Some of the most useful sites I've visited have fallen into this category. Now everyone can have their say, and we can all choose whose say we will listen to. The variety of ideas and beliefs expressed on the web is astounding, and I know I have learned a great deal by being exposed to ideas I never would have heard of without the Internet.

I know I have drifted around a little here. I struggle to express my ideas in words, and I'm sure there are many of you who could say these same things with much more clarity. I'm grateful to live in a time where information flows so freely. Please let me know what you think of these things.

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Spiritual commerce on the web | 68 comments (64 topical, 4 editorial, 1 hidden)
Semi-on-topic (3.27 / 11) (#2)
by ZanThrax on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 05:40:23 PM EST

OK, fall into the segment of people who don't care what others believe, so long as they don't push it on me. While that is somewhat paradoxical considering the number of evangalistic religions like yours, I don't consider myself to be similar to the evangalists, in that I won't do anything to try to make you leave me alone, other than perhaps ignore you, or politely inform you of my disinterest. Not that others aren't inclined to try to stop people from evangalising, I'm just saying that I don't.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.

+1, but I couldn't disagree more (4.09 / 21) (#3)
by maynard on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 05:57:58 PM EST

I'm voting this up because it's well written and thematically follows from beginning to end. This article will promote plenty of discussion, some of it quite good.

I take issue with the notion that those online (or real world for that matter) who practice an evangelism of systems, music, sports, or other cultural phenomena are in any way similar to the practice of evangelizing religious beliefs. Let's be clear, if you're out collecting souls for your particular church this is radically different from letting the world know that Linux is a great OS, Lightning Hopkins a great guitarist, or the Green Bay Packers a great football team (beats me). What's the difference? It's a matter of scale: religious pursuits are meant to be lifelong quests of morality and ethics in one's life. If you believe, you're expected to sacrifice some life today for your soul in the afterlife tomorrow.

Personally, I find such evalgelizing tawdry and unbecoming for any religion. I consider the Quakers, Unitarians, most Buddhist sects, and other's who refuse to evalgelize far more honest about the value of their beliefs than the Baptists and Later Day Saint's (or anyone other sect that heavily evangelizes). Collecting recruits by those means doesn't show faith in the morality of your vision, on the contrary it shows a lack of faith the message itself, instead preferring religious marketing over the substance of your values. Nor does it show much value placed in the ability for one's recruits to determine for themselves whether these moral beliefs are appropriate for their lives. By definition, if one assumes marketing is a prerequisite for finding and saving lost souls, just how can one claim they've been found afterward? Ford Motor company, as an example, has no such illusions about the value of marketing beyond obtaining your dollar today -- tomorrow only matters when you're out shopping for your next car. Do you honestly believe that evangelizing today keeps those souls saved tomorrow?

JMO - though you should take it as from someone who lives a completely secular life.

--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

If he didn't believe it (3.28 / 7) (#4)
by ZanThrax on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 06:25:03 PM EST

then he wouldn't do it. I think you've just demonstrated his point about non-believers trying to convert the evangelisers. I may not agree with evangalism, but its a basic part of many faiths that believers are supposed to show others the light, and I'm not going to tell someone not to practice their faith as they see fit.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

A dialogue (4.75 / 4) (#27)
by 0xdeadbeef on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 09:38:42 AM EST

Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church. Join my church.

Will you leave me alone!

*gasp* You just tried to convert me to your non-belief! You're proselytizing too!

[ Parent ]
the motivation to evangelize (4.33 / 9) (#10)
by mattw on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 07:54:33 PM EST

I also voted +1, and agree this is a fairly interesting topic.

While I don't necessarily concur precisely with the article author, I don't find your viewpoint to be true to reality. People evangelize for a variety of reasons; some because the tenets of their faith require it, some because of inspiration or excitement about their cause (Linux and the Packers?), others still possibly just because they seek refutation for themselves in the guise of the conversion of others.

Still, fundamentally, religious evangelizing is, for many people, the best of causes: they are seeking to save your immortal soul. You can agree or disagree with the beliefs of a system, and you can find evangelizing annoying personally, but fundamentally, it is view by the practitioner of the religion as a selfless and morally upright effort. In many cases, evangelism is simply commanded.

In terms of society, and our interactions as a heterogenous group of people, I believe people have the right to speak their beliefs. Likewise, people who wish to hear no further should have the right to terminate any such evangelical speech directed at them. In public forums, religious people or groups should have the right to express themselves according to the rules afforded all other expression in the same forum.

Personally, I think the most interesting aspect of religion is an analysis about how they hold up to checks of internal and external consistency, and have had the opportunity to study such aspects of many major religions, and find being on the receiving end of evangelism to be an opportunity to request equal time. I won't name the religion, to avoid inflammatory remarks in this forum, but one religion in particular had a bad combination of predicting the end of the world (and being wrong) and strong evangelism. I organized a little packet of the false predictions of the end of the world for those who came to visit.

To some extent, I almost view such interaction as the responsibility of moral citizens. Where beliefs differ, to discuss them, to air them in an atmosphere of openness (usually with skepticism, but being open to listen is not the same as being open to accept), to not only understand one another better, but to air all ideas with the hopes of stepping closer to the truth. And therein lies my principle: the search for truth. Many feel religion serves as a proxy for moral upbringing, but I don't believe in the acceptance of a faith because you like the others of that faith, or their demeanor or attitudes, work ethic, etc. But if there is a truth to be had beyond that which we seek with science and philosophy, some sort of divine providence, then I'm sure anyone would want to know it. Many who seek after a conclusion in this area find it, on one end of the spectrum or the other.


[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
Really sad (2.77 / 9) (#6)
by maketo on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 07:01:21 PM EST

You cannot make someone fall in love with you. You cannot make someone love you. They have to come to you, on their own terms. The same way - you cannot make someone believe something. And you sure should not be outhere to convince them into changing beliefs. While you can talk to me about (to you use your own parallel) MS vs. Linux - I will listen to what you have to say if you present your case with facts. Measurable items. Benchmarks. Configurations. There are ways. But here you are not dealing with physical items - you are dealing with human _beliefs_ that should be based on PREFERENCE. It is really sad what you people are doing, acting like we are all entitled to hear and see what you have to say. While I do believe in something, I do not believe in church or any organized form of worship. Wherever there is a "hierarchy" there is a possibility for abuse of power. It is sad that you are the way you are - in the long run, you are doing a disservice to any cause religion ever had to exist.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Well... (3.80 / 10) (#7)
by pb on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 07:08:23 PM EST

If one of your beliefs is that it's your destiny to bother me, then you're right; I object. But I don't want to change your beliefs; I just don't want to be bothered. I could care less about whatever beliefs spammers may hold, for instance; they all get deleted from my In-box.

That's the other half of "Freedom of Speech": I don't have to listen. I generally *do* listen, because it's much more fun to hold a rational debate, but that's impossible when the other side isn't arguing a position that is based in fact. When it's all based in faith and personal experience, I should just be able to say "I disagree" and win the argument; but what fun is that? :)

It's amazing the logical contortions people can make when they're confined within their own little system; I once had a preacher try to convince me that Atheists "worship a god that says 'There is no God'". I guess he just had to stick a god in there somewhere...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
Freedom of Speech (3.75 / 4) (#18)
by mahonri on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 10:05:10 PM EST

That's the other half of "Freedom of Speech": I don't have to listen.

I agree completely. That's one of the things I pointed out about the Internet, that there is so much available, that you don't have to spend time on things that aren't important or interesting to you. It's a wonderful opportunity for self education in all areas, including religion.
--
Family and Religion based news and discussion
Mahonri.org
[ Parent ]

+1, but I'm not sure why (2.80 / 10) (#8)
by GreenCrackBaby on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 07:15:30 PM EST

No matter what your personal belief system, you compete to win over the beliefs of those around you. "Wait a second!" you may say, "I don't care what anyone else believes, so long as they don't force their beliefs on me!" So now you want me to change my beliefs, so that you don't have to hear them.

I don't know why I voted this story up after reading a line like this.

Do I wish that other people would wake up and realize that the notion of god is nothing more than an ancient way for humans to find answers to things that don't have answers? Sure. Do I go forth trying to make people see this? No. (By posting my beliefs here I am not, in fact, trying to "win some souls". I'm posting it here to avoid a completely useless post by me.)

Asking someone not to barrage you with their religious doctrine isn't an attempt to "change their beliefs." It's a simple request to show some respect.

Changing Beliefs (4.00 / 4) (#14)
by michaela on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 08:40:50 PM EST

What if it is part of the person's belief system that evangelism and proselytizing are required? To request that they refrain from this practice (around you) would involve a change their beliefs, if only temporarily.
--
That is all
[ Parent ]
No. (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by pb on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 10:36:20 PM EST

It would require a change of behavior; they can keep their beliefs. I guess that's what I meant to say the first time.

And it's not a matter of preaching around me; it's a matter of preaching to or at me. :)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
You'd better define "believe" then. (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by marlowe on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 04:18:32 PM EST

How can one believe that he must engage in behavior X, and not make every effort to so?

If someone believes that X is necessary, it logically follows that he will attempt X. Why would he restrain himself? The very notion that X is necessary implies that there is no valid reason not to perform X. That's part of what "necessary" means.



-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
is necessary (3.50 / 2) (#51)
by raelin on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 12:37:17 PM EST

  1. Breathing is necessary.
  2. Submerse your head under water.
  3. Now you have a reason not to breathe.
If converting people is necessary, then persisting in hounding someone that doesn't want to hear it is counterproductive. It's the old story of the sun vs the cloud.
--Wes

1.00 This comment's not going to help.

[ Parent ]
Apples and Oranges (3.50 / 2) (#45)
by GreenCrackBaby on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 11:13:27 AM EST

Asking someone not to barrage you with their religious doctrine isn't an attempt to "change their beliefs." It's a simple request to show some respect.

What if it is part of the person's belief system that evangelism and proselytizing are required? To request that they refrain from this practice (around you) would involve a change their beliefs, if only temporarily.

You are missing my point I think. The original poster was making the arguement that by me asking someone not to try and convert me, I am in fact doing the exact same thing as that person was doing to me (trying to change their belief system to mine). This was his exact line, "There is a real competition for the souls of men. No matter what your personal belief system, you compete to win over the beliefs of those around you. "

There is a world of difference between me asking someone to leave me alone as opposed to me asking someone to change their belief system to match mine.

[ Parent ]

"Show some respect" vs. "changing b (3.50 / 2) (#24)
by jacob on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 12:07:40 AM EST

Asking someone not to barrage you with their religious doctrine isn't an attempt to "change their beliefs." It's a simple request to show some respect.

I'm not a proselytizer myself-- heck, I'm a Unitarian-- but I think you're misunderstanding what the article is saying. Let's say I have a belief system that says that you will be eternally damned if you don't take some particular action and that it's more important to save your soul from eternal damnation than it is to avoid potentially bothering you by informing you about what action that is. If you ask me to avoid potentially bothering you and in so doing allow your soul to be damned eternally, you're asking me to violate my value system (if you say "Don't talk to me right now") or to change it outright (if you say "never try to change my mind").

Remember, asking someone to "show some respect" is just another way of saying "value my interest in not being bothered over your interest in converting me," which is, in fact, asking that person to change his or her value system.



--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
I think you misunderstand (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by GreenCrackBaby on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 02:45:26 AM EST

Remember, asking someone to "show some respect" is just another way of saying "value my interest in not being bothered over your interest in converting me," which is, in fact, asking that person to change his or her value system.

When I ask that jehovah's witnesses bugger off and leave me alone, I am not saying "please change your belief system to mine...ie, there is no god." It's incorrect to say that this is an attempt to change their belief system. I'm not asking them to change their belief that if they don't go door to door, they're going to hell. I'm asking them not to come to my door and bother me. This is a far cry from what they are attempting (ie. total conversion). The original author said this:

No matter what your personal belief system, you compete to win over the beliefs of those around you.

As I've clearly shown, I have no interest what-so-ever in "winning over the beliefs of those around me."



[ Parent ]

hmm... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by jacob on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 09:54:14 PM EST

When I ask that jehovah's witnesses bugger off and leave me alone, I am not saying "please change your belief system to mine...ie, there is no god." It's incorrect to say that this is an attempt to change their belief system ... I have no interest what-so-ever in "winning over the beliefs of those around me."

I think that you do, even if you don't really think of it that way. While you're not asking him to believe there's no God, you ARE asking him to value your convenience over his conviction that he should save your soul, or to behave as though he believed it, which in my mind amounts to the same thing. It's a pretty specious argument to say, as another poster in this thread essentially does, that "you can hold whatever beliefs you want, just as long as you act on mine."

That's not to say that I think asking someone to change his or her beliefs is a bad thing. On the contrary, think changing your beliefs when you find that you must and encouraging others to believe what you believe (if you have good reasons for having those beliefs) is a great thing to do. That's what reasoned discussion is all about.



--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
slippery slopes, and the aryan nation (4.00 / 2) (#41)
by raelin on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 10:24:52 PM EST

It's all about an agreement to rights. The assumption that you have any right or calling to change me, or anyone else is tenuous at best. Rights are inherently an internal thing. Rights exist even if no one is around. Anything that you cannot achieve without anyone else around, or any interference from an outside source is not a right.
There is plenty of precedence on where you draw the distinction of your rights from mine. (Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Your right to shout fire ends where it will cause danger to the public.) Basically, you have the right to say anything you want, but I have the right to walk away, and ignore you totally. Persisting in your "right" to convert me, is an infringement on my right (Not convenience) to not be indoctrinated.
Believing you have the right to convert people to your deity of choice has caused many holy wars. Basically, if your belief system gives you the right to try and indoctrinate me to your God, then in order to be internally consistent, I have to have the right to indoctrinate you to my God. If you don't agree, we can't talk. It's not about trying to convert you to my belief system, it's keeping the same protocol. I could care less if you agree with me on religious matters, but if you don't give me the same rights that you grant yourself, then no civil discourse can happen.
--Wes

[ Parent ]
Re: slippery slopes (4.00 / 1) (#42)
by jacob on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 01:52:12 AM EST

Please don't take this as an insult, but I'm not quite sure how you think your post is a reply to mine. I was arguing about whether or not telling a Jehovah's witness to shut up and go away (possibly with, and possibly without, a contemptuous "How could you dare try to convert me?" attitude) is an attempt to change a person's beliefs.

You seem to be arguing about whether or not you have the right to convert people. If I read you correctly, you're claiming that a person shouldn't believe that it's okay to forcibly (obnoxiously, rudely, etc) convert people to his or her own religion. Okay. That's not what I was arguing about, and in fact, you're simply advocating that I (and everyone else) believe in a particular system that condemns "in your face" proselytizing, which is exactly what I claimed that anybody who expresses disgust with door-to-door proselytizers does, just not as explicitly.

By the way, I get the impression that you think that your discussion of rights makes your argument not about beliefs, and that you're doing something more than advocating a belief. In case my impression is right, I should say that you are indeed "just" advocating a belief- I, for one, do not believe that rights exist*, so your argument about them doesn't do anything for me. You'd have to convince me that rights existed and how they were relevant before I'd believe you, and even if you did, rights would still be a belief system, just one I happened to subscribe to. Similarly, every step of your argument is a separate belief that you're asking me to hold, and which I might or might not even if I believed every other step of your argument (note that it might or might not be reasonable or sane of me to believe every step leading to a given conclusion but not the conclusion itself, but that's not the point. Some beliefs are stupid, others are smart).

(*Not that I don't think there are certain things that ought to be 'inalienable.' It's just that I don't think that 'rights' are any more useful logical tools than 'liberties' and 'privileges,' and they tend to just muddy the water.)



--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
Rights and Beliefs (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by raelin on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 12:17:48 PM EST

Beliefs are emotive things, and at some level I do have a disgust for people who just believe they can force their wills on people. That being said, My belief system isn't about forcing people to change their bad ways, it's about ignoring them. I don't care if you believe all skinny white geeks should not breathe, my continuing to draw breath is not an attempt to change that.
My belief system is non-interference, I guess. I hadn't really thought about it, before though. Now, yes, I am trying to convert you, (;P) but I don't try to convert everyone I meet. I'm doing this specifically for the sake of this discussion, and because I believe you to be a rational, intelligent human. I don't just make a statement and expect you to buy into it, that would be boring. I want you to convince me I'm wrong.
Now, before I go on, I would ask you to define 'rights', 'liberties', 'privileges' and 'beliefs', just so we're on the same page with the definitions. My working definitions, and these are by no means the final word:
right
This is a minimum or guartantee of the ability to do something. Rights would not exist in the perfect world, they'd be taken care of by respect.
From Merriam Webster:
1 : qualities (as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of moral propriety or merit moral approval 2 : something to which one has a just claim: as a : the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled.

liberty
Not sure on this one. I'd have to say the distinction is that this is a grant of power. In other words, the first amendment is actually all about liberties. You are at liberty to speak your mind, just as I am at liberty to walk away from you while you do so.
From Merriam Webster:
1 : the quality or state of being free: a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice.
privilege
This is a benefit granted to you either by society, the government, your wealth, or what-have-you. The difference with this, is that it's granted by someone else, and can just as easily be taken away at their convenience.
From Merriam Webster:
1:a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.
belief
A statement to be taken as true, without being proven, either because it cannot be proven (God exists.) or because it has not yet. Synonymous with opinion or hypothesis. Really, what we're talking about now is differing styles for dealing with people and the world(ergo belief systems). In this case, they're hypotheses.
From Merriam Webster:
2:something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group. 3:conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.

In case my impression is right, I should say that you are indeed "just" advocating a belief- I, for one, do not believe that rights exist*, so your argument about them doesn't do anything for me. You'd have to convince me that rights existed and how they were relevant before I'd believe you, and even if you did, rights would still be a belief system, just one I happened to subscribe to.

I'm not saying you have to subscribe to my belief system. I'm saying that in order to have a conversation we have to agree to some of the same things (be they beliefs, rights, liberties, privileges, or whatever you would call them). Basically, if neither of us agrees on the protocol, we walk away, as no connection can be formed.

Similarly, every step of your argument is a separate belief that you're asking me to hold, and which I might or might not even if I believed every other step of your argument (note that it might or might not be reasonable or sane of me to believe every step leading to a given conclusion but not the conclusion itself, but that's not the point. Some beliefs are stupid, others are smart).

By that take, everything is an arguement. Kuro5hin's existence is a belief we both happen to share. If you are not reasonable, or sane, then there is no point in holding a discussion, other than boiling my blood. Thus, I'm not going to try to convince you of anything, I'm just going to leave you be and ignore you. It's not trying to change you, it's just not bothering with you.
--Wes

[ Parent ]
If someone believes that you should not breathe... (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by marlowe on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 03:31:44 PM EST

it's not a good strategy to ignore him.

Tolerance for other people's beliefs is dangerous stuff. Don't spread it around too liberally.



-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Religious people arriving on memetics? (3.55 / 9) (#9)
by Radagast on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 07:28:46 PM EST

It's interesting that what you're saying here is so close to the theory of memetics, in which ideas are seen as competing genes in an evolutionary race. Of course, while you're just saying that there's a lot of competition for the souls of men, memetics takes it a lot further and states that this competition shapes religious and other ideas, including them splitting up in a form of speciation (much like your own religion split off from other forms of Christianity). It's a surprisingly effective theory of idea history, which explains most events in religious and political history quite well.

Of course, there's a fundamental difference between religious and other ideas, specifically that religious ideas per definition are irrational and based on belief, not on reasoning and/or fact (the Catholic church's long history of debates and rationalization notwithstanding). Thus, it's possible to convince a Windows user that Linux is a good operating system (after all, lots of people switch every day) using reasoning and logic, while making religious people reject their faith is very close to difficult using logic (a few religious people base their beliefs on what they assume are fact, and those are actually possible to convince. I've made a few atheists this way myself.)

I'm happy to hear that you're being exposed to a lot of different points of view on the internet and elsewhere. I hope it'll lead you to greater understanding, and ultimately to a more well-advised world view.

-Joakim

Irrationally begging the question. (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by marlowe on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 12:05:43 PM EST

If you define religion as irrational, then religion is irrational. Proof by tautology.

But if you think the discussion between Windows and Linux is rational, and based on relative merits, you're living in a dream world.

Everybody thinks his own point of view is perfectly rational and based on the facts. And most people think that the other guy's point of view is irrational hooey. All of this doesn't tell us diddly-squat about anything except human arrogance.

If you don't like something, just say so. Just don't go congratulating yourself on your prejudices. It doesn't impress anybody but yourself and those who already agree with you (and are doing likewise.)


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Why is irrational so bad? (2.66 / 3) (#39)
by bjrubble on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 09:46:47 PM EST

I'd say that the earlier poster was painting "irrational" with an unfairly negative brush, but the plain fact is that the majority of religion is *not* rational. It's based on faith. What mystifies me is why religious people are so determined to avoid saying so. All the important things in life -- love, compassion, joy, etc -- are irrational.(1) Why is faith unable to stand on the same ground?

My personal answer is, it can as long as you're dealing with yourself only. And that's why I see proselytizing religions as actually harmful to their practitioners. Rather than embracing spirituality as personal experience of "the numinous" and allowing it to simply express itself as it sees fit, the idea of proselytizing centers around how it can be packaged and distributed. The simplest way to do this is to find a rational basis for it, at which point (IMO) you've lost sight of its essence.

I should probably add that I'm a Buddhist precisely because it embraces the completely irrational (arguably bordering on insane) nature of the "important" parts of human experience.


(1). This brings up another pet peeve of mine. Many people would argue for the "rationality" of these emotions by evolutionary psychology, but if you think about this position it should be clear that it simply drips with teleology. Emotions may work, but that's not "what they're there for."

[ Parent ]
Misusing the word. Irrational != nonrational. (3.50 / 2) (#49)
by marlowe on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 12:11:10 PM EST

Irrational means that which goes against reason. Nonrational simply means apart from reason. You are labellingv things as "irrational" which are not necesarily irrational, though they are nonrational.

Nonrational is not necessarily in conflict with reason. Irrationality is, by definition.


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
What puzzles me... (4.33 / 12) (#12)
by Miniluv on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 08:06:41 PM EST

I try to maintain an impartial view when it comes to the beliefs of others, provided they harm no one. Despite that, I've always cast a rather skeptical eye on the Baptists and LDSs because of just what this story is about. You talk about the price to earnings ratio of proselytizing activities, but you fail to mention the inevitable return on investment discussion.

You compared evangelizing your religion similar to attempting to show people the "One true way of Linux", my quote not yours, without mentioning that most people aren't out to convert anyone to that. The computer industry, where you tried to draw parallels, is a fairly pragmatic group who's most often refrained saying is "the right tool for the job" or the Perl slogan "There's more than one way to do it". Religion is not, typically, like this. Especially not Christian religions like the LDS or Baptist establishments.

I often wonder why you're out to convert people, and I usually come up with more than one reason. First of all, new members mean more contributions when the collection plate is passed around, no? They also mean more people to go out and evangelize their new found faith. Of course, it also means you've "done God's work" and saved their souls, which, if you're right, is of course a good thing.

I guess I just wonder how my first two reasons can be proven not to be the case when you put the sorts of P/E ratio discussions that you did into your story. I also wonder about your own impression of your faith, if you feel it's not attractive enough to bring people in on it's own. Early Christians spread their faith through acting according to their beliefs during their travels around the globe. Only when a person expressed interest would they "evangelize" and explain the tenets of their faith and offer instruction in the worship of God. Islam spread much the same way, faster in fact because it's primary adherents were a maritime trading culture.

In a way, I feel bad for you if you're so uncertain of the attractiveness of your faith. You talk about needing to change your beliefs to match a portion of mine if I don't want to hear about them, but you fail to elaborate on this. Is evangelism a tenet of the Latter Day Saint branch of Christianity? If so, please elaborate, because I was raised Roman Catholic, and thus share the same foundation of religion, and I don't remember God saying anywhere that we should be out proselytizing amongst the unwashed masses.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

I can see the concerns (second try) (3.85 / 7) (#19)
by mahonri on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 10:11:46 PM EST

I have to say, the first thing that submitting a story here will do for you is make you see all the things you missed.
I knew when I posted this that there would be a lot of things brought up that would need a response, if not an explanation.

My analogy to the computer industry is certainly not the best around, but it grew out of too much time spent at that other site. As far as reasons for converting people, this is a place where you might be a little suprised (not at all of it, of course). In the LDS church there is no paid ministry. No one takes the collection home. In fact, we don't even pass a plate. Donations are discretely handed to the leaders or mailed in, with very stringent accounting of where the money goes. As far as the P/E ratios, if you believed that you where literally spending God's money, I think that you might be concerned about how well it was spent.

As far as the reason we go about missionary work the way we do: I can only speak from my personal experience, but our goal is not to convince, but to invite. There are plenty of people searching for more in thier lives. It's a waste of my time, and that of others, to try to bother people who aren't interested, but I don't know who's interested until I ask. Christ said Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Now certainly different Christian groups interpret this differently, but we take it as a charge to share what we have. Yes, evangelism is a tenet of our beliefs. In fact, for anyone who is interested, a pretty good summary of what we believe can be found here.
--
Family and Religion based news and discussion
Mahonri.org
[ Parent ]

From a former insider (4.88 / 18) (#21)
by Wah on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 10:45:44 PM EST

...kinda. This is a bit about the Mormon church, of which I used to be a member (although they think I still am, more on that later). Please don't take this too harshly, anyone. Most of my immediate and extended family are still very active in the Church.

First of all, new members mean more contributions when the collection plate is passed around, no?

To be a full-fledged member of the LDS church you are expected to pay a tithe. This is 10% of your gross earnings. Each year members go to something called "tithing settlement" where your current standing on tithing is discussed with a member of the Bishopric (ranking members in your "ward" or "stake", which consists of the members within a well-defined geographic area). IIRC, you must be current with your tithing to receive a temple "recommend" and participate in the more intense practices that must be done in a temple (baptism for the dead, endowments, marraige). There are a number (100?) of temples located all over the globe.

For a mainstream media researched look at the LDS church, U.S. News and World Report featured them in an issue earlier this year.

The only other form of revenue that is collected from members (again, IIRC) is in the form of "fast offerings." This is done each month on "fast Sunday" where member are supposed to skip two meals and donate to the church the money that would have been spent procuring them. Once a month as a youth aged 12-17, I participated in this practice as a member of the (lesser) Priesthood, with a member of the (major) Priesthood.

What they do with this money is far beyond the realm of this post, but I do remember hearing that they have a policy of never borrowing money for new buildings and temples. All are bought and paid for before they are erected. Food services in 3rd world countries (for members) is something else I recall.

Is evangelism a tenet of the Latter Day Saint branch of Christianity?

Very much so. Males are expected to go on a 2-year "mission" after they have reached their 19th year. This practice is very common and explains all those young men in white shirts with nametags you see walking or riding bikes around your city. The purpose of this mission is very simple, spread the gospel. They are sent out to teach, convert, and baptize as many people as possible. This was where I had to draw the line. My faith in what I had been taught had already suffered a number of blows and the idea of preaching what I didn't believe caused my ultimate disillusion with the church.

I took a bit of social flack for my decision, and still endure some jabs when I attend church with my mother (on those very rare occasion I'm at home, on a Sunday, and don't have a good excuse). My father, mother, and older brother all went on Missions, to Nicarauga, France, and Oregon, respectively.

The idea of spreading the gospel is a foundation of the Faith, which says pretty much straight up "If you don't accept all the principles and ordinances of the gospel, you will burn in hell." Although "Hell" is known as "Outer Darkness" and isn't taught as flames and pain, but as nothingness, sorrow, and regret. So they are teaching you, to save you. This is also the reason for the practice of "baptism for the dead", which is designed so that people who aren't given the chance to accept the gospel on the Earth, will be given a chance to accept it while in a sort of waiting room (kinda like purgatory from Catholicism, but with a different purpose), as they wait for the second coming and the progession to the next level. Those that have "seen the light" and rejected it (like me), are the worst kind of being and can look forward to worst kind of afterlife.

The Church also tried to pracice a bit of censorship a little while back. But the Internet sees that as damage and routes around it.

Ultimately, however, most of the ideals and life practices taught in the LDS Church are very good from a common sense level. It is the extra step that says everyone else is wrong that bothers me (And some of the more obscure beliefs). And I've said as much to both my brother and mother, and they can accept me and what I believe without reservation. I can't say the same for one of my sisters.

As my current sig suggests, I take a rather more pragmatic view of the whole thing. But to answer Mahonri's question, I think you are very wrong to attempt to profit personally and directly from the faith of your brothers. I also think it is wrong for the church to do so. And when a man came to my home this morning, having obtained my address from official church records, I told him simply that I didn't need what he was offering, and we parted ways in good humor.

This got WAY longer than I thought it would be, I hope it adds something to the discussion.
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

One line there struck a chord... (4.18 / 11) (#22)
by kjeldar on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 10:58:52 PM EST

...and that line was:

Early Christians spread their faith through acting according to their beliefs during their travels around the globe. Only when a person expressed interest would they "evangelize" and explain the tenets of their faith and offer instruction in the worship of God.

I live in the mid-South, right in the buckle of the Bible Belt, in the city where the Assemblies of God denomination has its world headquarters. The Assemblies of God, also known as the Pentecostal church, is officially fundamentalist and exclusivist. They're only slightly less conservative than the Southern Baptists, who are actually in the majority in this city despite the fact that the AG is headquartered here.

I also consider myself to be a born-again Christian. Go ahead, stereotype away; ignore the rest of this post, rate the comment a 1, whatever. I don't mind.

I feel no identification whatsoever with the Religious Right. I accept evolution as fact; I believe in equal rights for all minorities; I believe in a woman's right to choose; I believe in tolerance and acceptance of alternative lifestyles; I believe that premarital/extramarital sex is not necessarily a sin; I believe that formal prayer has no place in USian public schools; I believe that God has highly-developed senses of humor and irony.

I have found spiritual truth in the writings of Moses, John the Baptist, Martin Luther, and John Wesley; as well as those of Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Confucious, and Sun-Tzu. I have called myself a Taoist Christian and a Zen Christian, and believe that golf, coding, backpacking, and even Tetris (for example) can be experiences more spiritual than sitting in church.

I also believe in evangelism through example. In my mind, one should keep one's mouth shut about one's religious beliefs or nonbeliefs unless someone expresses interest in hearing one talk about them (or if, as it is now, it is the topic of conversation). Religion, to me, is something that is personal above all; something that is between you and your god, and is nobody else's business. If that someone has NOT expressed interest in hearing one's beliefs, singing Christ's praises or attempting to show them the Tao will do them no good. It's no different from lecturing the guy on the street about Apache's performance or about integration by parts. He could care less.

I'll restate again for emphasis: I consider myself a born-again Christian. You know the Apostle's Creed? "I believe in..."? When I recite it, none of it rings hollow for me. I have a couple friends who find that hard to believe.

Back to my original point: I respect and accept that some beliefs have evangelism central to their theology (hell, the Assemblies of God's parochial university here is named Evangel). However, when I express that I am perfectly happy with my belief system, I expect that sentiment to be equally respected and accepted.



[ Parent ]
Suspected misrepresentations of the methods here. (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by marlowe on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 04:35:53 PM EST

Everything I've seen indicated that the spread of Islam was largely by means of military force, starting almsot from the very beginning.

And the early Christians were outspoken enough that people would kill them just to get them to shut up.

Also, the attractiveness or unattractiveness of an idea has little or nothing to do with its merit. Example: the idea that if you smoke enough crack you can flap your arms and fly is a very attractive one, but has little else to recommend it.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Qualifications please... (3.66 / 3) (#38)
by Miniluv on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 09:18:37 PM EST

Everything I've seen indicated that the spread of Islam was largely by means of military force, starting almsot from the very beginning
Well, your historical perspective differs greatly from what I was taught, and what a semi-cursory inspection of documents available on the web indicates.
This indicates that while that is a popular belief, history does not support it.
Here reference is made to the "rapid and peaceful spread of Islam".

I'm sure more is out there, but I'm not going to dig any further unless necessary. Please feel free to find credible sources which refute that information, as I'm not a historical scholar, and thus quite potentially wrong.

And the early Christians were outspoken enough that people would kill them just to get them to shut up.
Again, please provide information regarding this, as I've never heard early Christianity characterized in that fashion.

Also, the attractiveness or unattractiveness of an idea has little or nothing to do with its merit. Example: the idea that if you smoke enough crack you can flap your arms and fly is a very attractive one, but has little else to recommend it.
Please explain why that remark has any bearing whatsoever on this discussion. Especially that wildly incongrous example. I believe I stated that early Christianity, and Islam as well, spread through observation of the practice of their adherents. Many people saw the lives lead by self-professed Muslim or Christian people and felt intrigued enough to ask for instruction in the faith.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
It's necessary. Dig further. (2.25 / 4) (#48)
by marlowe on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 12:06:58 PM EST

Your first reference is wishy-washy at best, your second has a vested interest. Still, I'll give you credit for posting links. I like links. I'd like better links, of course.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Woah... (2.75 / 4) (#54)
by Miniluv on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 03:41:27 PM EST

You make unsubstantiated claims, yet demand evidence from me? I've given two links, and I refuse to dig further until it becomes apparent my position would require it. Show me evidence, at least as solid as what I posted, to support your point of view and we'll move forward, until then I'm considering you an unsupported contrarian.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
I'll start by borrowing one of your own links. (2.50 / 2) (#57)
by marlowe on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 07:45:21 PM EST

The one that admits "It was only within Arabia, where a crude form of idolatry was rampant, that Islam was propagated by warring against those tribes which did not accept the message of God", namely: http://www.barkati.net/english/

And now for the rest of the story:

http://www.swordoftruth.com/swordoftruth/archives/byauthor/nikhilpatwardhan/tsoiaia.html

Biological warfare against Constantinople:
http://orb.rhodes.edu/textbooks/Nelson/black_death.html
...I suppose this counts as forced mass conversion to a nonbiological state.

Islamic conquest of Spain and forced conversions:
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/conqspain.html
http://www.law.emory.edu/EILR/volumes/win98/lerner.html

India:
http://www.hindunet.org/srh_home/1996_8/msg00001.html

Sudan:
http://www.bsos.umd.edu/cidcm/mar/sudnuba.htm

And this is just what I could find on Google in a few minutes. I could go on endlessly, but I've humored you more than you deserve. Shame on you for denying the abundant and well-known evidence, and then having the gall to demand proof, as if I were the one making the extraordinary claim. Your intellectual dishonesty knows no bounds.



-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
OT: I rated this a 1 -- but I *know* it's unfair! (1.50 / 4) (#15)
by maynard on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 09:16:12 PM EST

Jeesh. this comment doesn't really deserve a 1 rating, but it's a duplicate of another comment. If I had trusted status I might be tempted to rate it below 1.00 so it could disappear and leave the duplicate behind. But if I did that it would damage the author's mojo. There's no real mechanism to remove a comment for valid reasons without hurting the author's mojo... hmmm, that's a problem.

Please don't take this rating personally. It was not meant to show disagreement or dissatisfaction with the content... I rated it such only because I rated the duplicate well and didn't quite know what to do with this first attempt. Sorry.

--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

S'cool man... (none / 0) (#16)
by Miniluv on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 09:29:57 PM EST

I already mentioned it to rusty..hopefully he'll have time soon to get this out of the site. I received an internal server error the first time I hit submit...so I hit back and hit submit again and suddenly there were two. Heh, and don't worry about damaging my mojo...if I could rate it 0 myself I would to get it out of here until rusty deletes it.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
I can see the concerns (4.14 / 7) (#17)
by mahonri on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 09:52:48 PM EST

I have to say, the first thing that submitting a story here will do for you is make you see all the things you missed.
I knew when I posted this that there would be a lot of things brought up that would need a response, if not an explanation.

My analogy to the computer industry is certainly not the best around, but it grew out of too much time spent at that other site. As far as reasons for converting people, this is a place where you might be a little suprised (not at all of it, of course). In the LDS church there is no paid ministry. No one takes the collection home. In fact, we don't even pass a plate. Donations are discretely handed to the leaders or mailed in, with very stringent accounting of where the money goes. As far as the P/E ratios, if you believed that you where literally spending God's money, I think that you might be concerned about how well it was spent.

As far as the reason we go about missionary work the way we do: I can only speak from my personal experience, but our goal is not to convince, but to invite. There are plenty of people searching for more in thier lives. It's a waste of my time, and that of others, to try to bother people who aren't interested, but I don't know who's interested until I ask. Christ said Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Now certainly different Christian groups interpret this differently, but we take it as a charge to share what we have. Yes, evangelism is a tenet of our beliefs. In fact, for anyone who is interested, a pretty good summary of what we believe can be found here.
--
Family and Religion based news and discussion
Mahonri.org

What was the question again? (2.87 / 8) (#23)
by driph on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 11:16:51 PM EST

Well, I really should have voted -1 on this, but, man oh man, there aint nuthin' like a discussion on religion, as I know this will become, since the original thread on "spiritual commerce" died in the first couple paragraphs and most likely will be ignored in the comments.. Perhaps with a more focused rewrite I'd have given it a +1.

Quick comment.

Guess what, I want the same from you. I want you to change your beliefs to be more like mine. See? We're not so different, you and I.

Key difference here, I think, is that I'm not telling anyone that they're gonna burn in hell if they don't agree with me. But I guess you wouldn't be a very good missionary if you didn't believe that.



I don't know what good it will serve for you to ask us our opinions on whether advertising within a spiritual context is a good thing or not. I'd assume that's something that would be handled by your religous beliefs. Now, if you'd rather discuss the particular merits of those beliefs...

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
Freedom of Religion as a Right (4.09 / 11) (#25)
by Maclir on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 12:22:56 AM EST

Many of the comments made here are valid. The Internet is an ideal vehicle for many groups to rationally put their case to all how are interested, without risking being seen as harassing those who are not interested.

I do find it interesting though, that - particularly in the USA, where there is a constutional delineation between Church and State, and the freedom to believe in (almost) any religion, that some religions (the Baptists - particularly the Southern Baptists) have managed to twist this around.

Look at history. Why historically was there this aversion to "state-sponsored" religion? Because in the UK and Europe, the state sponsored religions were the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church (generally), and these establishments did not approve of "non-conformists". Why do you think the Pilgrim Fathers (and successive waves of new settlers) risked a long and dangerous voyage to a new country? Once well established in their "new Jerusalem", these religious groups wanted to ensure their controls over their flocks were not diminished. Many churches opposed further settlement away from established towns and villages, where the church leaders had daily and close monitoring of all the people.

Even today, many churches think the distinction between church and state is only a one way street - the State should not restrict the churches, but they should be able to exercise control by what they view as "moral". Does anyone remember the outcry from the conservative churches urging a boycott of any company that advertised on TV during the "Ellen" lesbian coming-out-of-the-closet?

My point is - the Internet is an ideal vehicle for a church to envangelize - I don't have to listen to you, but I can ignore you. And don't complain when someone else uses just the same vehicle to speak out against you. Freedom cuts both ways.

The Myth of separation of church and state (in US) (4.80 / 5) (#32)
by spraints on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 02:55:36 PM EST

...in the USA, where there is a constutional delineation between Church and State...
Even today, many churches think the distinction between church and state is only a one way street - the State should not restrict the churches, but they should be able to exercise control by what they view as "moral".

I hate to tell you this, but, according to the Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment I,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. [emphasis added]

There is nothing in there that says that religious interests should have no say in government. The constitution does, in fact, set up a one way street.

If this were a two-way blockade, then you might also want to including the press and freedom of speech as two-way blockades, since they are addressed in the same way as religion in this amendment. So that would mean that we would have been free of the ballot counting media frenzy for the last month, and we wouldn't know what the Congress is doing, etc. And people would be allowed to speak about whatever they want, unless it pertains to the government.

Not that I totally disagree with your point... I think that the government has no Constitutional right to impose any sort of religion upon its citizens. State religions seem to be a pretty bad thing.

But until the Constitution reads "No religious institution shall lobby the government or sponsor political candidates," separation of church and state will remain a myth.



[ Parent ]
One way street (2.00 / 1) (#58)
by enterfornone on Wed Dec 20, 2000 at 06:14:19 AM EST

I'm not an American, but I have to disagree here. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" suggests that congress should not make any laws that are simply religious in nature.

For example, the Christian religion prohibits homosexuality. Does a law that prohibits homosexuality establish a state religion. Given that I can think of no other reason for banning homosexuality that isn't religious, I think it does. It's effectively saying "All Americans should be of a religion that prohibits homosexuality".

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Confusion (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by krelar on Wed Dec 20, 2000 at 07:34:09 AM EST

You confuse religion with morality, the two are similar but different.

Religions generally enforce a moral code, a moral code does not constitute a religion.

It is perfectly possible (although not necessarily right) to ban homosexuality on moral grounds without it being a religious issue.

[ Parent ]

Religion and morals (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by enterfornone on Wed Dec 20, 2000 at 07:56:48 AM EST

Many would argue that absolute morals demonstrate the existance of (a) god. I would be inclined to agree, there is nothing in nature that defines good and evil, either morals are defined by individuals (and are therefore relative) or are defined by a higher power (and are absolute).

If you accept this argument and you are claiming that homosexuality is wrong absolutely, then you are supporting that homosexuality is wrong based on a commandment of a god. Therefore it is a religious issue.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Nope. (none / 0) (#64)
by spraints on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 09:00:45 AM EST

I disagree that a claim of absolute morals necessarily demonstrate the existence of God. (On the contrary, I believe that the existence of God demonstrates absolute morality.)

For example, people generally contend that they have the right to life, and that they should not be deprived of that right without their consent. So if I were to kill you, I would be doing something that is morally wrong in many people's eyes, even in the eyes of atheists. Killing is so wrong that, with the approval of most, it is illegal. It's not illegal still just because it is a religious moral issue.

To generalize, there are certain natural rights that people have that should not be deprived, according to what I would contend is the majority of human beings. (The source of "natural" rights is, of course, up for debate. I have my opinion, but won't get into it for now.) So this moral issue (murder) doesn't demonstrate the existence of God.

Let's jump out of the moral realm for another example. If I claim that 2 + 2 = 5, you could disprove my claim by showing my two sticks in one hand, two in the other, and put them together and count out 4. This is the way that respected scientific absolutes are established, with demonstrable facts.

Now let's jump back into the realm of morality. Let's say that sufficient evidence of some sort of natural order is enough to establish an absolute, possibly a moral value, or maybe not, depending on how you see it. So let's cite the complementary physiologies of male and female humans as some evidence that men are not supposed to have sexual relations with other men, and likewise for women, but that it supposed to be one man and one woman because that's what the parts are obviously designed (or evolved, if you buy that bunk) to do. So then I could claim that homosexual acts are wrong. In this argument, I'm not claiming that homosexuality is wrong because of a commandment of a god, I'm claiming that it's wrong because of purely scientific reasons.



[ Parent ]
Evolution (none / 0) (#65)
by enterfornone on Thu Dec 21, 2000 at 07:53:48 PM EST

If on the otherhand there is no god and you do buy evolution you would have to expect that any "natural" rights are not just for humans. If morals are man made then they cannot be absolute. For example I can say homosexuality is OK because I think sex is for fun not just reproduction, Vikings beleived murder was OK etc.

The only way to disprove the above would be to disprove evololution. Since the only other theories people have about how life formed involve god, this means absolute morals are only possible if there is a god.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Evolution needs proof first (none / 0) (#66)
by spraints on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 09:12:56 AM EST

The only way to disprove the above would be to disprove evololution.

What is "the above"? I missed that connection. And since when do unfounded theories have to be disproved? How about the crackpots in the scientific community actually showing some decent evidence of evolution first? Like a large number of intermediate species. And some evidence that organisms could have actually functioned and survived with mutating eyes and hearts and stomachs along the road as they changed from bacteria to humans? Just because life all seems pretty similar doesn't mean that it evolved from primordial muck. That would be like saying that all automobiles evolved from the Model T.



[ Parent ]
it might, but that's not the point (none / 0) (#67)
by enterfornone on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 09:37:23 AM EST

The above is
If on the otherhand there is no god and you do buy evolution you would have to expect that any "natural" rights are not just for humans. If morals are man made then they cannot be absolute. For example I can say homosexuality is OK because I think sex is for fun not just reproduction, Vikings beleived murder was OK etc.
OK, you don't have to disprove evolution. Just give me a better theory. If your theory involves religion, then that means morals are absolute due to religion. Therefore any legislation based on morals is legislation based on religion. Going back to the original argument, this means making laws soley on moral grounds is agaist the US constituation.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
What justification is there for any law? (none / 0) (#68)
by spraints on Fri Dec 22, 2000 at 01:47:20 PM EST

If morals are not allowed as the basis for laws, then what laws would stand? Murder would be legal. Driving as fast as you want through a school parking lot would be legal. All sorts of prohibitions would fall apart. The police wouldn't have anything to do and so they'd be out of a job. There wouldn't be any responsibility for providing shelter for people without it. And so on. Bye-bye government, hello anarchy, the very thing that governments are formed to prevent (or at least stifle).

If your theory involves religion...

Which theory? I'm not sure which one of my theories has any stated religious affiliation.

My theory that homosexual activity is wrong and should be illegal? So far my stated theory rests only upon human anatomy. It seems to be at least as solid an argument as "sex if just for fun." Yes, I could bring religion into the mix, but it seems that any religious argument would not be taken seriously in this thread.

My theory that the presence of absolute morals do not necessarily demonstrate the existence of God? I'm not sure what to say here. Without bringing God into the picture for a minute, let's suppose that there is no natural order. That everything just kinda is. This would really neatly flow into a claim that no moral value can be absolute. Now let's put a natural order in place (either evolved or created, it doesn't really matter), and say that there are some absolute moral values that exist just because. Kinda like gravity. At this point, you could claim either that these morals apply also to animals, or that there is a distinction between various levels of life, at the apex of which are humans, being (in most cases) fully conscious. So now, without having any sort of religious relation, we've got a set of absolute moral values. Believing in God, I claim that there is no doubt that absolute morals exist. But I do not claim that because absolute morals exist I believe in God.

Getting back to the US Constitution.... "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof." One definition of establishment is "a permanent civil or military organization". Let's just say "a permanent organization" for simplicity. So Congress shall make no law respecting a permanent organization of religion. So what exactly does that mean? So I can't make any law that has anything at all to do with any religion. That's pretty broad. I think that the next part helps to clarify the intention of the amendment: "or the free exercise thereof." So Congress shall make no law respecting the free exercise of religion. So, basically, Congress is not allowed to tell you or me what religion we can ascribe to. Congress is not to be in the business of approving or disapproving of religious establishments. A strong motivating factor behind this law was the way that England treated religion. You were Anglican. Period. The people writing the Constitution didn't like that, so they tried to make sure that their new country wouldn't do the same thing. However, they clearly did not say that religion shall stay away from government. This amendment basically leaves the door open for religious establishments to lobby the government just like anybody else.



[ Parent ]
"Ellen" and separation of church and sta (none / 0) (#46)
by jacob on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 11:29:12 AM EST

Even today, many churches think the distinction between church and state is only a one way street - the State should not restrict the churches, but they should be able to exercise control by what they view as "moral". Does anyone remember the outcry from the conservative churches urging a boycott of any company that advertised on TV during the "Ellen" lesbian coming-out-of-the-closet?

I don't see how you think an Ellen advertiser boycott is bringing the state into things. It's perfectly kosher by the constitution for people to get together and pledge not to buy things, and even to try to convince others not to buy those same things, for whatever reasons they choose.

Now, I think that the boycott was stupid and that the people who thought it was a good idea really need to get out more, but that doesn't mean that it violates the spirit or letter of the First Amendment. In fact, I'd say that it's perfectly in keeping with the spirit (though not the letter) of the First Amendment, which also guarantees the rights of people to protest grievances.

Just my two cents.



--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
I like this article, but ... (3.87 / 8) (#29)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 01:59:50 PM EST

I think this bit blurs an important distinction:

There is a real competition for the souls of men. No matter what your personal belief system, you compete to win over the beliefs of those around you. "Wait a second!" you may say, "I don't care what anyone else believes, so long as they don't force their beliefs on me!" So now you want me to change my beliefs, so that you don't have to hear them. You want me to change a portion of my beliefs to agree with yours.

I do care what people believe, just as you do, in spite of the fact I'm an agnostic. For example, if I find someone who believe in young earth creationism, I'll usually try to convince them to think more deeply about their belief. Similarly, if I find someone with an unusual belief system (such as a Latter Day Saint in the USA, or almost any kind of committed Christian in Europe) I'll usually try to find out more about what they believe and why.

However, there's a big difference between caring about people's beliefs and being willing to try to force them to change their minds, and I think this is the dinction thats being blurred. Its OK to give creationism time in public schools, for instance, if the nature of the theory and the evidence for it are clearly presented. Its not OK to cast unreasonable doubt on the theory of evolution or to try to prevent its teaching. Its OK to tell people about your faith. Its not OK to try to threaten them into joining it (and telling kiddies about hellfire gets pretty close to threatening, IMHO).

I think the difference is important but subtle. I'm happy to listen to you, and indeed I'll probably be curious, as long as you are prepared to tolerate my disagreement. There are many atheists who get this just as wrong as many Christians. Its OK to tell someone you think they're wrong. Its when you start to treat them as a lesser form of life because of that, that problems appear. I happen to think Mormonism is one of the sillier religions ever to appear upon the earth (no offence intended), but I'd never treat a Latter Day Saint's beliefs with less respect than an Anglican's or an Atheist's because of this.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate

How can you "force them to change their minds (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by marlowe on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 04:40:48 PM EST

I've never quite understood this superstition that it is possible to coerce belief. At best, you can bully someone into pretending to agree. And I suppose if the bully is also a moron, he may take this for sincere belief. But why do otherwise intelligent people seem to think this is a possibility?

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Well, yeah (4.66 / 3) (#43)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 06:06:53 AM EST

I was in two minds about whether to try to change the words into something more reasonable when I wrote that post, but I wanted to try to be clear about what I was agreeing with and objecting to. The word "force" has a rather funny cluster of meanings, its not at all clear.

You can't force someone to believe, but you can bully them into pretending to believe, which some southern state governments get rather close to doing from time to time. You can also selectively inform people who are insufficiently skeptical - children, for instance. I think these are the behaviours people are bothered about when they talk about being "forced to change their minds".

These are things that have really happened and continue to really happen. There is a genuine line being crossed by religious organisations (and atheists) who engage in them. That line is between treating your belief as the best, which is fine, and treating it as the only one anyone is entitled to hold, which is not.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Coerced 'belief' (none / 0) (#69)
by Bernie Fsckinner on Sun Dec 24, 2000 at 04:32:28 AM EST

In the middle ages, religion _was_ politics, and one's professed belief indicated one's allegiance to a particular alliance of rulers. The Crusades, jihad, the extermination of the Cathars(Albigensians), the Balkans, Ireland, Palestine/Israel....

A man walks into a bar in Belfast.
The bartender asks, "Are you Protestant or Catholic?"
"I'm an atheist."
"But are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?"

[ Parent ]
It was hard, but +1. (3.12 / 8) (#30)
by Captain_Tenille on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 02:08:24 PM EST

Like some other people who've posted here today, I was raised Mormon, and the rest of my immediate family is still active. It's something I'm rather bitter about, and has probably contributed a lot to my heavy drinking and smoking two packs a day.

Nonetheless, this article is well written and nicely thought out, so I overcame my bitterness and voted it up. Maybe I'll have something better to say once my coffee has kicked in.
----
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!

Sigh... (3.42 / 7) (#31)
by Ricdude on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 02:52:16 PM EST

There is a real competition for the souls of men.

sigh... and women, and if you're an animist, dogs, cats, rats, trees, rocks, ...

Any competition for the souls of men are waged by men.

So now you want me to change my beliefs, so that you don't have to hear them.

sigh... I want to be able to eat, drink, partake in social activities of my choosing without being pestered if i've "ever considered my personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Actually, yes, I have, probably more often than those who ask me about it. Having considered my options quite extensively, I'm done considering, and have moved on to the practicing portion of my personal spiritual journey.

I don't want you to "change your beliefs, so that I don't have to hear them." I want you to respect my belief system enough that you don't feel the need to accost me on the street, at my house, in line at the bank, etc. and question me about it. Pick a forum devoted to spiritual discussion, and we may discuss the matter.

Very interesting... (3.50 / 4) (#33)
by 3than on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 03:01:46 PM EST

The internet is a great medium...not just for you Mormons, though...don't forget the Baptists, the Unitarians, Hindus, Muslims, Wiccans, &c.
There's something just a little bit crazy about evangelism. I'm the son of a Baptist preacher, and with the kinds of problems that you can have with a small church, I've always been amazed that people would want more people. Especially people who might have trouble with the faith. Evangelism takes a kind of unquestioning devotion that I simply don't have as a secular-minded thinker.
What makes the internet so great, in my opinion, is that it forces pluralism...and not separate, isolated pluralism, but the kind with active interrelations. I think that the Internet is a very ecumenical place. Everyone is guaranteed a voice; and not just technically, like in the US.
So anybody want to join my cult?

Superb overall, but... (4.12 / 8) (#37)
by Rand Race on Mon Dec 18, 2000 at 05:37:09 PM EST

OK, there has bee a lot of discussion about this passage but no one has quite gotten to what I see as the gist of it:

"I don't care what anyone else believes, so long as they don't force their beliefs on me!" So now you want me to change my beliefs, so that you don't have to hear them.

No. You have every right, under a couple of clauses in the 1st amendment, to proselytize to your heart's content (as long as it does not infringe upon my rights of privacy, association, etc., etc.). What you are specifically forbidden to do is to force me to obey the rules of your religion. Legislation based on religion is forbidden under the establishment clause.

As a mormon you beleive alchohol should not be consumed. Fine. Don't drink. No problem. But I, as an atheist, have no such compunctions and will not abide mormons attempting to force me into their beliefs via prohibition. I don't mind you preaching the evils of alchohol to me, that's your right, but forcing me to obey your religous tenats is forbidden. I imagine that you would feel the same way if I tried to ban you from going to church and thereby forced my irreligion on you.

That said, the bulk of your piece is great. Yes the 'net is an amazing tool for the dissemination of ideas, and I believe that we will all be the better for this intellectual cross-fertilization.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson

A purely personal reaction (4.00 / 6) (#44)
by krelar on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 08:59:39 AM EST

There is a real competition for the souls of men.

The title of this story contained the word spirituality, spirituality has nothing to do with winning souls, it is something that is deeply personal and should be respected as such. Discussion is one thing, winning over and competing for is something entirely different.

I could't disagree more. You seem to deny the existence of acceptance, which is something deeply worrying to me. I can express my beliefs if I desire to (and frankly 99% of the time I wish not to because of this very kind of argument) and listen to others. If they do not match then I accept that and repsect my fellow beings for what they are. Winning does not and should not come into it.

preaching, explaining, cajoling, arguing and otherwise trying to influence the beliefs of others.

You have missed out discussing, pondering, sharing, and accepting - none of which involve trying to convert.

Evangelism and Marriage (4.60 / 5) (#47)
by dennis on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 12:00:49 PM EST

Every time a friend of mine gets married, they end up telling me how wonderful marriage is, and how much more wonderful my life would be if I get married too. I don't resent them for evangelizing marriage. They've experienced something that changed and improved their lives, they're enthusiastic about it, they think it would make me happier too, so they tell me about it. Sincere religious evangelism is no different. (There's also the insincere kind, where people feel an obligation to evangelize, or think they'll get some kind of spiritual credit for it--that kind is pretty irritating.)

Personally I'm very uncomfortable with mixing Christian faith and commerce, given that this is the one thing that Christ actually got violent about.

Sincerity of evangelism (3.00 / 1) (#52)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 02:47:59 PM EST

Most people engage in the business of belief: preaching, explaining, cajoling, arguing and otherwise trying to influence the beliefs of others. It doesn't have to be about Christian or Buhdist, Muslim or Jew. It can be about Mac or PC, Microsoft or Linux. Politics, too, is the business of belief.

There are two kinds of debates. One is the "insincere" kind; you often find this at Slashdot (but not always), where one goes into it with only the thought of changing someone else, without being changed himself. The sincere kind of conversation is about going into something with the focus of being changed, bringing something out into the open so that something more important than your current truth can be found.

If you can not be convinced to believe in someone's Satan, how can you convince her to believe in God? That is why evangelism is commonly judged insincere. You don't give the impression you will go into any discussion sincerely; instead you are an aggressor. Polite, perhaps, but with a definite goal you desire to carry out. But I want your beliefs to be more than commodity; I want you to have meaning in your beliefs. There is a belief out there that I do not fully know, and I do not want it traded and planned how you're going to attack me. Multiplying, evangelizing, modifying peoples' minds.. this sounds more like cancer than Truth. Postmodern Christian hell.

A saying goes, "Never trust anything that hires a PR firm."

But I voted you up +1, fp. I am only writing down a view of evangelism, that not everything is about changing someone else's mind. It is not always a beautiful symmetry, when two people try to change each others' minds. Often they just return empty-handed.

Sincerity in Debates (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by telosphilos on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 04:39:49 PM EST

I must say that I quite agree with you on the topic of sincerity in debates. If the whole purpose of the excersize is solely to "win" in whatever philosophical context, civility and often the very points themselves are lost to the arguement.

Any time a voice is raised or a sentence is interupted something is lost. A sincere debate cannot be heard the next table over in a restaurant (or mess hall or college caffeteria). Personal attacks and insulting behaviours are avoided at all cost and the arguements are refined. An excellent example of what a debate is not would be the talking heads on the news talk shows that are constantly interupting each other and talking over each other's points. I am having a hard time coming up with a good example of a true debate that is completely sincere and widely known.

Just a thought.


-- Peace and quiet is a sleeping baby.
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I understand... (4.25 / 4) (#56)
by trhurler on Tue Dec 19, 2000 at 05:16:27 PM EST

If what you mean is that you are glad that you have the freedom to express yourself, then I'm glad too. If what you mean is that you want to convince me that running a church as though it were a Fortune 500 for profit corporation is a reasonable course of action, you will have no luck whatsoever.

If what you mean is that you honestly think I should approve of specific practices, such as the struggle to convert people to your beliefs, then I must say that I do not, simply because that goal conflicts with my goal of marginalizing organized religion in all forms. Personal spirituality, religion, faith, whatever you call it is all well and good. Organized religion is the single most destructive force in human history. There is no comparison, and there can be no reconciliation.

Saying "But my religion is different" would be a mistake. Partly, this is because it is not at all difficult to find web references full of horror stories about any given organized faith. There is also the fact that you are LDS; of all religions, that's probably the 2nd or 3rd most controversial one in existence in the US that has more than a few dozen members, largely because of the huge number of ex-LDSers and non-LDS Utah residents who regularly and vocally speak up about the psychological abuse and occasional illegal activities carried out by your organization and/or its members.

Saying that the organization is not responsible for the actions of its members, on the other hand, is worse than a mistake - it is an outright lie. This is because you cannot deliberately give people a moral code, a set of absolute beliefs in a certain sort of afterlife and so on, and an abiding sense of purpose and then claim that you had nothing to do with the fact that they acted on that. It doesn't matter if the action in question is the one you believe they should have taken, and it doesn't matter that the individual in question is obviously responsible - you also are responsible.

I don't really want to get into a big argument over the merits of this or that organized religion, though. You probably either have never seen the darker side of what goes on in your organization(if you don't live in Utah, then you almost certainly haven't seen it at its worst,) or else don't care about it because of your faith, and I am not prepared to spend several days reading through all the anti-LDS literature in order to find the worthwhile bits; anyone who searches on LDS can find all he wants and then some, to be sure. My big issue is with organized religion in general. It is evil, always and everywhere. Whatever good it does is easily overshadowed by the harm. This is not to say it should be banned; it clearly should not. However, it should be the bane of thinking people everywhere.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Classic knowledge (none / 0) (#61)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Dec 20, 2000 at 08:25:43 AM EST

I mentioned to a Classics professor I once knew that people in the old Greek times thought similarly to the way we do now, in modern times. I could not quite put my finger on it then, but they had the same kind of humor and metathinking which I don't find in other literature.

He replied very quickly that it was the rise of Christianity that changed things. And every little thing I've seen since then have bourne him out.

[ Parent ]
Spiritual commerce on the web | 68 comments (64 topical, 4 editorial, 1 hidden)
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