Irrational Arguments About God and Religion
The Purpose of (most) Religions
At the foundation of most religions, within the principles of living, according to most religious denominations there are ideas of kindness, togetherness, sharing, selflessness, community-minded spirit and benevolence.
Why, then...have so many battles been fought, lives lost, so many atrocities committed in the world by those claiming a religious purpose?
It's not a question I'm sure will be answered here to most peoples' satisfaction - but this major question is one I'm sure it won't hurt to think about more often than we do - for most of the world's wars and battles are fought over religious principles. Or, religion is something that comes up eventually in many discussions on heavy, controversial topics where the question "Why?" is asked in almost any serious capacity...
Various Religious Symbols
Religion and Emotions
Religion affects our emotions. We "feel" strongly this way or that way about our religious beliefs. Most people can agree upon this but little else. This is part of the problem between religion and reasoning...it's hard to "reason" when the emotions are involved. Yet, for the most part, one shouldn't stop "feeling" attached to, closely aligned with, or "moved by" adherence to their religious principles, others in the community who share the same principles, etc.
Obviously...a near paradox is present here.
When we have discussions, we're supposed to use our intellectual capacities and skills, our reasoning...but when we get on religious topics, there are feelings - often extremely STRONG and powerful feelings - involved and added to discussions.
Reasoning is controlled by a different area in the brain than emotions. Science and the various fields of medicine attest to this fact. Our communication capabilities, however, do not shut off when we are 'thinking from the emotional part' of our brains. Perhaps this is part of the problem. Emotional thinking with a high rate of verbal skills still engaged.
If so, we're really in a big pickle then, aren't we?
What if a great many people are thinking about God while their emotional center is more active than is their reasoning center? And if the emotional part of the brain is basically turned on, open or active while they want to have a lengthy discussion about how they feel about their religious convictions? What then? More talk with impassioned ideas running alongside, minus a few pertinent reasoned details - that's my best guess...and, again, this creates quite a problem.
What if we need our frontal cortex - the thinking part of our brain - to be most turned on, active and open in order to process discussions in a rational manner? The frontal cortex part of our brains doesn't do so well with emotions, but is the part of our brains that best deals with rational thinking...how do we make sure this frontal cortext WORKS when processing feeling-based discussions, discussions most likely to activate the other, emotional part of our brain?
Answer: Awareness of when our arguments might be heavily influenced by emotions rather than reason...and PRACTICE in switching back and forth between impassioned thinking and speaking versus reasoned thinking and speaking.
I'm not sure it is possible for everyone, at all times, to just come from the reasoning part of the brain when in conversation about religion or religious topics, so the best that can be done is to understand when you are speaking from emotions or speaking with a mix of rational thought and emotional feeling - or even when you're solidly grounded with processing occurring in the frontal lobe.
Obviously, we can't all get hooked up to monitors or something to detect our actual brain activity, so there has to be a different way to go about things.
For some reason, people are mostly separate in their beliefs. A huge variety of religious denominations and several forms of anti-deity principle sets or non-religious groups exist, each and all with definite belief systems...and they're separate.
And they argue against each others' existence, against each others' principles, and so forth. Not all, but most do attempt to eliminate the ideas or disprove the ideas of another differing sect/group, which causes further separation.
One singular idea that is very dangerous: The idea that, if there's a One-God ultimate deity at work in the world, that God has choosen "a people" who are more special in this God's eyes than all the other people...
Items Related To Discourse
Learning The Difference Between "Argument" and "Fighting"
Although I cannot say if this is possible with most people, I do know people who stick with small networks of people they trust - who are capable of "agreeing to disagree" in smaller "test" conversations and debates. The important point here is that the individuals i know who stick to small groups of "open-minded" people manage to engage in DISCOURSE with them often for short bursts - to test out ideas and discussion while engaged in emotional thinking...it's sort of like good friends, agreeing to "run ideas by" each other before engaging in more serious discourse outside of the network. I know it sounds complicated, but for the people I know who take the time to do this, their approach and discourse is very "hearable" almost everywhere else. They DISCUSS topics elsewhere - without overly impassioned or unreasonable arguments during discussions in the general public, in educational facilities, churches, meetings of any sort. It's sort of like they have a network of like-minded friends who realize the value of both emotional thinking and reasoned thinking and so they "practice" doing the one type of communicating that can cause the most trouble - in their safe group.
In essence, and related to the paragraph above, I know people who effectively belong to a sort of "support group" for learning to have discussions in a reasonable way (this does NOT mean "learning to never disagree with anyone" or "learning to always be emotion-less while speaking" by the way), much like there are support groups for disaster survivors, gender groups, survivors of certain illnesses and events, etc.
I, myself, have participated in public speaking courses, community discussion "round table" meetings and such - and I find that more and more, these sorts of things help a person to learn how to discuss topics instead of arguing unreasonably with people. I can only judge that I'm not as successful with objective discourse as I'd like to be by the fact that I allow trusted peers to evaluate my "arguments" when in certain situations...and I still get some 'tips for improvement' notes from trusted peers.
Although I'm getting closer to understanding "Argument" versus "Fighting," and am learning to be able to stay in "emotional thinking" enough to put a passionate point across, it usually comes down to knowing sources, citations, and reasons for my arguments...hence, the idiom "know thyself" becomes more and more important with each discussion I observe or participate in. WIthout self-knowledge (that is, understanding WHY I believe in the things I do, why I feel strongly about certain matters - not just knowing that I do have strong feelings about certain topics), arguments easily become "fights," and power struggles, at least for me or those I observe who don't seem to be able to point back to "sources" on important points.
Back to "God" and Religious Principles and Beliefs
It becomes increasingly more important in our peace-bereft, violent world - to know where beliefs and statements come from. At least, for a great number of people, this is so. For others, however, citing the text from ancient documents (ie: The BIble, Quran, I-Ching, Guru Granth Sahib, etc) seems to be enough, in their viewpoint, to seal an argument up tight.
I'm often wary of those who often cite without explaining the source, traditional standpoint or viewpoint that cited words come from because, to me, citation without explanation often indicates that a person doesn't fully understand the context of verse, document, or source.
For instance...many who cite the following short passage/phrase from the Christian canon known as the Bible often cannot explain what it actually MEANS:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1. Now most people take this to mean that we are never supposed to judge people. In studying this phrase, I feel I have found the "most common" argument to be untrue and inconclusive regarding who the 'judged' might be and who is or is not supposed to 'judge.'
In context, the prescriptive might mean something other than "we are never supposed to judge people." I'm not sure it's a blanket, universal statement since it supposedly refers to a people (humanitarians - let's not call them Christians yet because they were never called "christians" until later generations gave that name to them - who were trying to live reasonably and peaceably with other cultures) who have been oppressed under the (self-)righteous but oppressive Pharisees who, in this era of time, lacked compassion for other cultures and peoples, who hoarded arcane knowledge away from the common people and other cultures, who were a very unfairly judgmental group...
It could be that, in context, "do not judge others" very probably means, "do not behave like the Pharisees do or take on the same superior attitude against others as the Pharisees have been doing."
I hold the above to be true. I hold the above to be true because I've gone and looked at the historical context of that passage in scriptures. I felt that since this phrase is one of the most oft-quoted bits in The Bible, people must feel the words here are extremely important. So I attempted to discover what the words really mean - from what viewpoint they were said - to whom the words were directed. After some research, I've found these words to be very particular in their purpose, direction, and in what group issued the statement and to whom. The "prescriptive statement" is not a general statement to be used universally all over the place by just any person.
Is my argument completely sound?
Well - no...probably not according to certain people from particular traditions (ie: fundamentalists? maybe? evangelists, maybe?) or beliefs...but my argument at this point is as sound as I can make it - without leaving it full of holes, either. And I do have full reasoning (provided just a moment ago, above) behind why I believe that Matthew 7:1 is too often quoted out of context today - and with too general an argument by many people who use Matthew 7:1 as a convenient "catch phrase."
Am I being reasonable?
I certainly have intended to be...
Additionally, since the statement is about a certain group - by a certain group, I've had to go look up what groups are intended here...to learn that it's not just a blanket prescriptive that we do not judge others, it's a more complex instruction:
"Do not act like the Pharisees have acted/do not just as the Pharisees have done." Therefore, there's a lot going on in this condensed instruction. To me, it means "do not be self-righteous, do not oppress others, do not be without compassion and kindness as the Pharisees have been, do not set yourself above and apart from another group of human beings and also turn around and judge them unfairly...." Well, there are probably a few other things involved, but so far, my understanding that this is a complex prescriptive for living decently among other people and cultures...seems to allow me to not judge others as often as I used to - or to continue to try and be responsive and accepting of other cultures and people groups...
What Happens When Someone Challenges?
I've thought about what happens in my thinking when someone challenges the points I've made about the Matthew 7:1 phrase. It's a really good example, in my opinion, of the way a person FEELS when "thinking" is passing between portions of the brain which deal in reasoned thinking and emotional thinking.
At first...since my BELIEFS are challenged, and beliefs make up part of my identity, I feel a little bit uncomfortable when my arguments and explanation of Matthew 7:1 come under examination...
If I review my bits and points of research I'm pretty good, however, if someone brings up a point I haven't researched on, I have two choices:
1) Freak out and fight back - ensuring that I push different beliefs away from me, thus, ensuring the wholeness of my current belief system...
2) Assume that the challenger has additional information to tell me about (which might enhance or strengthen my belief system if I am open to this) and listen intently, listen for "reasoned explanation," and find out if I can learn more about something someone else can tell me.
Unfortunately, #1 is the "emotional brain" reaction and IT HAPPENS FIRST almost every time something in our belief system is challenged.
Very rarely does anyone's mind work the other way around - with the total reasoning portion reacting first to challenges in belief systems...
I spend most of my time trying to desensitize just slightly - from my "feelings" during discussion, debate, arguments, discourse, etc...but when I am able to, invariably I learn much more than when I fall victim to feeling-reaction of my own mind...
The feeling part of the brain is somewhere really important to go into, however, is NOT the very best place to be stuck of 'inside the head' when important discussion and arguments are taking place.
TIMING is everything!!!
I've learned to SHUT OFF the feeling-thinking at some opportune moments - in order to hear someone else's logic or at least to hear about the way in which they experience the world - including, very often, RELIGION and beliefs of another sort than I am accustomed to. I wish I could perfectly do this at will but it only happens from time to time...or, if I've been particularly mindful of where my thoughts are at before a 'disagreement' or 'new viewpoint' starts, then I can consciously "Suspend my beliefs" in order to listen empathetically and attentively to someone else, another's viewpoints...
It's hard work tho'...and not the natural way in which our "reactions" of the brain seem to work.
This hub is entitled, "Irrational Arguments About God and Religion," and I started out with "the irrational," including some reasons why many of us become irrational and sensitive when first approaching topics concerning "God," religion and things which challenge our belief systems. I hope, however, that I've ended with "the rational."