Government and Religion

Two hot topics for the price of one

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
User avatar
Purple Knight
Guru
Posts: 2112
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:00 pm
Has thanked: 668 times
Been thanked: 407 times

Government and Religion

Post #1

Post by Purple Knight »

Question for Debate: If there is a good government with good laws that are actually necessary and sufficient for being a good person* is religion needed?

*in other words, if you follow these laws, you at least won't be evil, and either very few or no extra laws after those, and even if some, those extra laws don't create an unreasonable imposition on peoples' freedom

Sub-question 1: If we assume that atheists should ideally at least be able to live in a society and we shouldn't have to drive them out because they can't be good in that society, isn't it also necessary for the government to provide such laws? (For example, let's say a State has no law against stealing, but most people don't steal anyway since they're Christians and it's a Commandment. But atheists are divided because, theft not being against the law, they should be allowed to do it, so many of them steal, and because of this, the society is in a justified frenzy about atheists being thieves and they want to expel them, because they are, in fact, ruining society.)
Sub-question 2: Has government then failed in its duty?

Think about the Bible. It is a book of rules. Do this, don't do that. Religious people see the Bible as a manual for how to be good (at least, I think they do). If the laws of the land were those exact laws, then hypothetically it would function perfectly as that very manual, so you wouldn't need an extra one. (However, there's then the question, because governments do become corrupt, of when the laws are too oppressive and demand excessive and tyrannical things that are irrelevant to being good, or too permissive, and, for example, you have a purge planet where murder is legal sometimes. Perhaps you have a planet where murder is legal all the time.)

Dimmesdale
Sage
Posts: 726
Joined: Mon May 29, 2017 7:19 pm
Location: The Temple of Logic
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 85 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #2

Post by Dimmesdale »

I remember watching a video by Bishop Barron I think it was, who said that religion isn't primarily about being good. Or at least, Christianity. He says that this is a misunderstanding of religion brought upon by Immanuel Kant.

The whole point of Christianity, and many other religions, is that it is about a love relationship. Love is not something primarily rooted in morality, although morality is inseparable from it (if you love the beloved, you will obey him/her). The main focus though is on LIFE, the fullness of life, not mere proscriptions. Proscriptions are, after all, negative; "do not's." The approach of via negativa, or negation, does not do justice to reality. If religion is supposed to have the final say as to what reality is all about, it doesn't say much if it's all about proscriptions.

So we should try to actually imbibe the true essence of religions, and what they are actually trying to give us, rather than rob us of.
Last edited by Dimmesdale on Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Dimmesdale
Sage
Posts: 726
Joined: Mon May 29, 2017 7:19 pm
Location: The Temple of Logic
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 85 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #3

Post by Dimmesdale »

Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 2:31 pm Question for Debate: If there is a good government with good laws that are actually necessary and sufficient for being a good person* is religion needed?

*in other words, if you follow these laws, you at least won't be evil, and either very few or no extra laws after those, and even if some, those extra laws don't create an unreasonable imposition on peoples' freedom
In order to be truly good, you must be changed by grace. You must be free from selfishness, self-seeking. To mechanically follow laws is not something most people can tolerate unless they are cooperating with some other, greater force. Those may be either of two kinds: egotism (a profit incentive of some kind; pleasure, wealth, etc) OR genuine selfless service (you are free of all desires and only wish to serve God and your fellows with no motive - love). If you remove either of those forces, then you can only try to persuade people to be moral deontologically, or according to Kantian ideas that duty is for duty's sake. While that may make sense in a theistic universe, I would argue that that is null and void in a Godless world. Like Dostoyevsky said, "without God, anything is permitted." People may still be selfless in the latter, but a lot more I think would fold to selfishness, human nature being so weak, unenlivened by, again, the necessity of grace.

User avatar
Tcg
Savant
Posts: 7144
Joined: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:01 am
Location: Third Stone
Has thanked: 1274 times
Been thanked: 1504 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #4

Post by Tcg »

Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:46 pm I remember watching a video by Bishop Barron I think it was, who said that religion isn't primarily about being good. Or at least, Christianity.
He is clearly on to something. A study from 2011 reported that 50.6% of inmates in the U.S. identified as Protestant. Another 14.5% identified as Catholic. Clearly being a Christian has nothing to do with being good.

The real question here is how do we help Christians be good given that, "since they're Christians and it's a Commandment", doesn't seem to help at all.


Tcg
To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

- American Atheists


Not believing isn't the same as believing not.

- wiploc


I must assume that knowing is better than not knowing, venturing than not venturing; and that magic and illusion, however rich, however alluring, ultimately weaken the human spirit.

- Irvin D. Yalom

Dimmesdale
Sage
Posts: 726
Joined: Mon May 29, 2017 7:19 pm
Location: The Temple of Logic
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 85 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #5

Post by Dimmesdale »

Tcg wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 5:15 pm
The real question here is how do we help Christians be good given that, "since they're Christians and it's a Commandment", doesn't seem to help at all.

Tcg
Here's my opinion: no one, and I mean NO ONE respects a law, any law, just because it's a law.

If you're going to be a government or a religion or whatever, and expect your followers to obey the law, you're going to have to do a lot more than just formulate it. You have to actually persuade people that it isn't a law worth breaking. That the law, at least, is worthy of respect.

Of course, those truly good souls are already persuaded and need no more persuading. They serve the Good because they see the Good for the Good that he/she IS. Not all of us are so virtuous, however.

User avatar
Purple Knight
Guru
Posts: 2112
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:00 pm
Has thanked: 668 times
Been thanked: 407 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #6

Post by Purple Knight »

Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:57 pmIn order to be truly good, you must be changed by grace.
I actually agree with this. But then, if rules don't help, why is the Bible (and all religion in fact) full of them?
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 5:30 pmHere's my opinion: no one, and I mean NO ONE respects a law, any law, just because it's a law.
I absolutely do but I admit I'm the oddball.
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 5:30 pmIf you're going to be a government or a religion or whatever, and expect your followers to obey the law, you're going to have to do a lot more than just formulate it. You have to actually persuade people that it isn't a law worth breaking. That the law, at least, is worthy of respect.

Of course, those truly good souls are already persuaded and need no more persuading. They serve the Good because they see the Good for the Good that he/she IS. Not all of us are so virtuous, however.
That's also correct. But the question then, is which rules to follow and which ones to ignore.

In modern times, people see how rules are all equally disdained and how breakers of any rule are celebrated as bold, ahead of their time, and geniuses. So in modern times people break rules out of rote instead of following them by rote.

Dimmesdale
Sage
Posts: 726
Joined: Mon May 29, 2017 7:19 pm
Location: The Temple of Logic
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 85 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #7

Post by Dimmesdale »

Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:20 pm
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:57 pmIn order to be truly good, you must be changed by grace.
I actually agree with this. But then, if rules don't help, why is the Bible (and all religion in fact) full of them?
The Law is still the Law, and it is glorious (because its source is in God). Rules also facilitate grace. The more we practice, the higher our spiritual development and standing. Just as by following the rules of tennis, your efficaciousness improves, so too grace grows with added practice.

Take away Law and you become licentious. Take away grace, you become a legalist. Balance is required. Not too hot, not too cold. And the shrub blossoms.

User avatar
Purple Knight
Guru
Posts: 2112
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:00 pm
Has thanked: 668 times
Been thanked: 407 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #8

Post by Purple Knight »

Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:23 pm
Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:20 pm
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:57 pmIn order to be truly good, you must be changed by grace.
I actually agree with this. But then, if rules don't help, why is the Bible (and all religion in fact) full of them?
The Law is still the Law, and it is glorious (because its source is in God). Rules also facilitate grace. The more we practice, the higher our spiritual development and standing. Just as by following the rules of tennis, your efficaciousness improves, so too grace grows with added practice.
Alright, so my question remains the same. If these sorts of rules (emphasis added) are the ones the government happens to have, is religion needed?

Same sub-question: Has the government failed to provide these sorts of rules?
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:23 pmTake away Law and you become licentious. Take away grace, you become a legalist.
I just try not to hurt people. I don't care if it's legal. Not my definition of hurting them; theirs. If someone says, don't do that, I don't like it, I end up trying my best not to do it. I don't question. I don't say, that's not fair nobody ever gives me that consideration... I just try not to hurt people. It's the best I can do without a conscience. If grace exists that's something that's totally out of my reach. There do seem to be people who have achieved grace. They shine with that brightness, and make everyone else look dull and worthless.

Dimmesdale
Sage
Posts: 726
Joined: Mon May 29, 2017 7:19 pm
Location: The Temple of Logic
Has thanked: 26 times
Been thanked: 85 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #9

Post by Dimmesdale »

Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:29 pm
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:23 pm
Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:20 pm
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:57 pmIn order to be truly good, you must be changed by grace.
I actually agree with this. But then, if rules don't help, why is the Bible (and all religion in fact) full of them?
The Law is still the Law, and it is glorious (because its source is in God). Rules also facilitate grace. The more we practice, the higher our spiritual development and standing. Just as by following the rules of tennis, your efficaciousness improves, so too grace grows with added practice.
Alright, so my question remains the same. If these sorts of rules (emphasis added) are the ones the government happens to have, is religion needed?

Same sub-question: Has the government failed to provide these sorts of rules?
Religion is a totality. It isn't just rules, and it isn't just faith. It is a unity of thought and life. Government is not religion (if it is not grounded in religion - and hence a natural extension of it) and so can't provide the function of religion. Government is simply a mundane and artificial set up to simply provide for the material needs of people. How can that sort of construct actually cater to the spiritual needs of people? It can't.
Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:29 pm
Dimmesdale wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:23 pmTake away Law and you become licentious. Take away grace, you become a legalist.
I just try not to hurt people. I don't care if it's legal. Not my definition of hurting them; theirs. If someone says, don't do that, I don't like it, I end up trying my best not to do it. I don't question. I don't say, that's not fair nobody ever gives me that consideration... I just try not to hurt people. It's the best I can do without a conscience. If grace exists that's something that's totally out of my reach. There do seem to be people who have achieved grace. They shine with that brightness, and make everyone else look dull and worthless.
To merely try to be a "nice" person is without any real conviction I think. Sometimes hurting people is necessary, so the principle isn't absolute. I believe in doing the least amount of damage, but unless you are following teachings that are authentic, you aren't getting the full deal ethically. Sometimes you are just making it up as you go along, which is something I do as well, but I try... otherwise.

I believe no one is barred from grace. We are all just walking each other home, to quote a certain philosopher.

bjs1
Sage
Posts: 527
Joined: Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:18 pm
Has thanked: 28 times
Been thanked: 145 times

Re: Government and Religion

Post #10

Post by bjs1 »

Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 2:31 pm Question for Debate: If there is a good government with good laws that are actually necessary and sufficient for being a good person* is religion needed?
Religion – specifically Christianity – is not currently needed. That is, it is not necessary for survival. Religion – specifically Christianity – does extend human lifespan by a few years. However, people are able to survive and reproduce without religion under our current system of government. An improved system of government would, of course, be beneficial, but it would not change the fact that we don’t need religion.

Rather than being needed to live, religion is one of those things that makes living worthwhile. It is like friendship or art. We don’t need them to live, but they make life worth living. Changing governments would not change this fact.

Purple Knight wrote: Tue Mar 23, 2021 2:31 pm Think about the Bible. It is a book of rules. Do this, don't do that. Religious people see the Bible as a manual for how to be good (at least, I think they do). If the laws of the land were those exact laws, then hypothetically it would function perfectly as that very manual, so you wouldn't need an extra one. (However, there's then the question, because governments do become corrupt, of when the laws are too oppressive and demand excessive and tyrannical things that are irrelevant to being good, or too permissive, and, for example, you have a purge planet where murder is legal sometimes. Perhaps you have a planet where murder is legal all the time.)
The first five of the 66 books of the Bible do contain many rules (613 rules, to be precise). To be fair, if we ordered those rules as a list right at the front, they would still take up less than 10% of those five books.

Very little else in the Bible could rightly be considered a “book of rules.” Quite a lot of the Bible is dedicated to the idea that the Christian life is not about following a set of rules and “there is no law which can bring life.”

If you simply mean that “this is my opinion of the Bible” then I strongly recommend reading the Bible. Once you get past the first five books, very little of the Bible will conform to your assumptions about it.
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
-Charles Darwin

Post Reply