The Socratic Society’s Philosophy Discussion Group meets again on Tuesday, September 16th in Morven Brown 308B (this week only) from midday until 2pm. Anyone with an interest in the topic is welcome, and you can come and go at any time; you don’t need to be there for the whole two hours. Light refreshments will be provided.
The topic is: “Religion.”
New location: For this week only the discussion group will meet in Morven Brown 308B.
Possible variation: Prof. James Franklin will be giving a talk titled “Why atheism is irrational?” in Mathews 310 at 1:10pm. The discussion group participants may decide to finish early and head over to hear this talk.
One of the rules for avoiding conflict in conversation is to avoid discussing religion and politics, but the Socratic Society say ‘bah!’ to such pussy-footing. This fortnights discussion topic is Religion.
I think it best that the discussion be as free ranging as possible so anything goes. Is God dead? Is God a useful concept? Is God just a concept? Do some people need to believe in God? Are believers more stupid than non believers? Can one be moral without God? Can life be meaningful without God?
These are some issues that I’m personally interested in with regard to religion:
1. Is there a creator of the universe? Why is there something rather than nothing? Does the fact that there is something mean that a intelligent agent had to do the creating? Are there alternatives?
2. If there is a God, does the Jewish, Christian, Muslim God have anything to do with it? It is my position that the God of the Old and New Testament and the Koran is a human invention in the same way that Batman or Sherlock Holmes is a human invention.
3. Richard Dawkins wants to ‘raise consciousness’ on the issue of labelling children as ‘a Muslim child’ or a ‘Christian girl’. He thinks this is a form of child abuse because they are too young to make rational choices in matters of religion and because they have very impressionable minds vulnerable to indoctrination.
4. Christopher Hitchens believes it is important to separate the supernatural from the numinous (where numinous means something like a sense/experience of reality that transcends the mundane). Do we hunger for the numinous? Is this why despite material prosperity in western countries, many feel unhappy?
5. The Roman Catholic academic scholar of secularism and religion Charles Taylor points out that everyone has a set of values and ideas that give life meaning, and that they will naturally defend those values and ideas if they are attacked. People will defend that which they value, and what gives life meaning they will defend even with their lives. This can explain the conflict between two religious groups (Jews and Muslims for example), but also between secular groups (e.g. the west vs. communism). The danger here is that both sides see the other as a threat to what they value.
6. One of the major problems with religion as I see it is that it encourages division of mankind into subgroups, each of which thinks have the superior in morality, piousness, purity, etc.
7. Dan Dennett thinks rather than attempting to rid ourselves of religion, we should shape the evolution of the various religious communities so they are benign, tame, and useful for society as a whole and for the members of those religious communities. We should ‘breed’ religions just as we breed strains of wheat or breeds of dog.
8. Sam Harris thinks it is a tactical mistake to call oneself an ‘atheist’. People who don’t believe in astrology don’t have a label for themselves, so why should people who don’t believe in theism?
9. Should churches and church owned businesses get tax breaks?
Please feel free to post a comment on any of the above or post your own question concerning religion. See you on Tuesday!