Mark Peaty wrote:
> 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. 

They *should* be, but religious dogma of the Abrahamic theisms is, according 
those who believe it, not open to question.  Faith trumps reason.

> 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.

The difficult question seems to be whether all beliefs are to be respected 
equally.  There are religious cultures which make faith, belief without 
evidence,  unquestioning belief, a virtue.  I think this unethical and that is 
not just a matter of opinion - it is a matter of what kind of society is most 
conducive to satisfying the values of it's members.
 
> 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.

Isn't the suffering due to AIDS, tsunamis, drought, leukemia, etc. also evil.  
And isn't it good, the opposite of evil, that we've eliminated smallpox, polio, 
pertussis, etc.

Brent Meeker
“When we come to believe, we have no desire to believe  anything else, for we 
begin by believing that there is nothing else  which we have to believe….  I 
warn people not to seek for anything  beyond what they came to believe, for 
that was all they needed to  seek for. In the last resort,  however, it is 
better for you to remain ignorant, for fear that you  come to know what you 
should not know….  Let curiosity give place to  faith, and glory to salvation.  
Let them at least be no hindrance, or  let them keep quiet.  To know nothing 
against the Rule [of faith] is  to know everything.”
        --- Tertullian

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