The writer and theoretician of, ummm, comparative beliefs and spiritual 
practices, Ken Wilbur wrote a book many years ago titled A Sociable God. 
It was quite a slim book if I remember rightly, in which he examined the 
uses in English or the word 'religion'. He analysed and teased out nine 
(9) distinct usages which I can't remember in any detail now, which was 
interesting at the time. What has stuck with me though is the major 
distinction he exposed between authentication and legitimation.

Authentication is the way in which belief and action in accord with 
one's beliefs affirms one's personal identity and the value of one's 
existence and achievements.

Legitimation is the way in which beliefs bolster the authority and 
socio-political standing of priests and other officials.

What scientific method has brought to the human species is the clear 
demonstration that ALL beliefs and assumptions are open to question. 
Knowledge is only knowledge to the extent that it has not yet been 
falsified. If a belief or customary assumption about the universe cannot 
in principle be falsified then acceptance of that belief is a matter of 
choice and opinion. People who understand the basis of scientific method 
are forced to question their own beliefs in order to retain their 
personal integrity and authenticity. People who have not yet understood 
the full implications of scientific method do not yet know that they are 
living in denial, but the very nature and power of the sceptical method 
is perceived as threatening.** This I believe is one of the major 
motivating influences in the divide between extremism and moderation 
manifesting in just about all traditional social and cultural 
organisations in the world.

I take the ritual murder of Giordano Bruno in Rome in 1600 as emblematic 
of this divide, and personally take that event as the start of the 
modern era.

** I think that by default my view leans more towards Brent's than 
John's here. Possibly the biggest problem is that religious [wide sense] 
believers think they really are going to lose something by relinquishing 
Faith as the basis of thought and action. I respond that the human 
universe is always potentially infinite, so long as it exists and we 
believe it to be so.

And 'Evil'? It is the deliberate treatment of another human as a thing. 
For a 'machine' to act in an evil manner it would have to be capable of 
taking responsibility for its actions otherwise it is only the evil tool 
of an evil person.


Mark Peaty  CDES



Brent Meeker wrote:


I think humans valuing knowledge is as fundamental as their valuing food 
and sex. So there is a recognized epistemological duty. Everyone, in 
every culture, is contemptuous of the fool and a fool is someone who 
readily adopts false beliefs.
> Brent Meeker

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