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I agree that religion and science are both methods that human beings use to make sense of what is. Philosophy is a third approach.

When human beings lack a good natural explanation for a phenomenon they often accept a supernatural divine or diabolical explanation. For example if we do not understand this thunder and lightning stuff, it must be something a sky god does when he is angry. The next question is how much do we have to pay the priest to make the god happy.

Scientific method is a good basis for developing our understanding of the natural world. It does not prescribe a final explanation. As more evidence is gathered and new ideas are developed, new questions and approaches arise. It takes time for major changes to be made in mainstream science. Scientists are human too, but in the end the science community follows the evidence.

As science advances the need for supernatural explanations declines. We now know what thunder and lightning are, so we have no need of a god hypothesis to explain them. No doubt the priest is sad that the advance of science has deprived him of a portion of his income.

The sort of interpretation of religion that regards a sacred text created thousands of years ago and an interpretation of it created tens of years ago as the last possible word about what is, so that the evidence of what is must be manipulated to support the prescribed conclusion contained in an interpretation of the sacred text; is the absolute antithesis of science.

The part of religion which probably is valuable, is to meet the needs of some humans for ethical and moral guidance and a sense of comfort.

by Gary J on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 01:33:55 AM EST
Sigh. You can not separate religion from philosophy - at least not honestly. You can certainly have a philosophy that is not religious. You can most likely have a religion that is not philosophical. This does not mean that they are completely separate.

Different religions are more or less philosophical. Some religions are at their very core philosophical. In other words, if you remove the philosophy there is nothing substantive left.

I believe that Buddhism, the Religious Society of Friends, and Unitarian Universalists would fit under this category - amongst others.

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by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 03:49:28 PM EST
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I think there is an implicit "intellectual evolution" theory in this approach whereby religion is seen as a primitive form of culture/understanding based on superstition rather than science, and that it remains a residual mode where Science has failed to come up with a rational explanation.  

As Science progresses , more and more things become rationally explicable, and the scope for religion is reduced.  It used to be called "God of the Gaps" - i.e. residual religion in niche markets not yet explained by science.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 07:07:41 PM EST
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Yes. There are clearly religions that are playing the game. Hence the anti-science backlash that I hear goes way back in Christianity.

A number of groups define religion for propaganda purposes. The thing is not all religions play the game.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Dec 30th, 2007 at 08:13:52 PM EST
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The "God of the Gaps" certainly applies to the supernatural elements of religions like Christianity.

Religions are not wholly composed of appeals to the  supernatural. There are ethical and moral principles, that stand independently of the supernatural. "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is probably quite a good idea, even if you do not believe it should be obeyed because Moses took it down at the dictation of a supernatural entity.

I also suspect that the spirituality humans feel, which is the core around which the superstructure of organised religion developed, is itself not dependent upon supernatural explanations. It is something that has value, in and of itself, whatever the cause of it is.

by Gary J on Sat Jan 5th, 2008 at 12:58:39 AM EST
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