Kwame Anthony Appiah: Is religion good or bad? (This is a trick question)


People say things about religion all the time. (Laughter) The late, great Christopher Hitchens wrote a book called “God Is Not Great” whose subtitle was, “Religion Poisons Everything.” (Laughter) But last month, in Time magazine, Rabbi David Wolpe, who I gather
is referred to as America’s rabbi, said, to balance that against
that negative characterization, that no important form of social change can be brought about except through organized religion. Now, remarks of this sort on the negative and the positive side are very old. I have one in my pocket here from the first century BCE by Lucretius, the author of “On the Nature of Things,” who said, “Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum” — I should have been able to learn that by heart — which is, that’s how much religion is able to persuade people to do evil, and he was talking about the fact of Agamemnon’s decision to place his daughter Iphigenia on an altar of sacrifice in order to preserve the prospects of his army. So there have been these long debates over the centuries, in that case, actually, we can say over the millennia, about religion. People have talked about it a lot, and they’ve said good and bad and indifferent things about it. What I want to persuade you of today is of a very simple claim, which is that these debates are in a certain sense preposterous, because there is no such thing as religion about which to make these claims. There isn’t a thing called religion, and so it can’t be good or bad. It can’t even be indifferent. And if you think about claims about the nonexistence of things, one obvious way to try and establish the nonexistence of a purported thing would be to offer a definition of that thing and then to see whether anything satisfied it. I’m going to start out on that little route to begin with. So if you look in the dictionaries and if you think about it, one very natural definition of religion is that it involves belief in gods or in spiritual beings. As I say, this is in many dictionaries, but you’ll also find it actually in the work of Sir Edward Tylor, who was the first professor
of anthropology at Oxford, one of the first modern anthropologists. In his book on primitive culture, he says the heart of religion
is what he called animism, that is, the belief in spiritual agency, belief in spirits. The first problem for that definition is from a recent novel by Paul Beatty called “Tuff.” There’s a guy talking to a rabbi. The rabbi says he doesn’t believe in God. The guy says, “You’re a rabbi,
how can you not believe in God?” And the reply is, “It’s what’s
so great about being Jewish. You don’t have to believe in a God per se, just in being Jewish.” (Laughter) So if this guy is a rabbi, and a Jewish rabbi, and if you have to believe in
God in order to be religious, then we have the rather counterintuitive conclusion that since it’s possible to be a Jewish rabbi without believing in God, Judaism isn’t a religion. That seems like a pretty counterintuitive thought. Here’s another argument against this view. A friend of mine, an Indian friend of mine, went to his grandfather when he was very young, a child, and said to him, “I want to talk to you about religion,” and his grandfather said, “You’re too young. Come back when you’re a teenager.” So he came back when he was a teenager, and he said to his grandfather, “It may be a bit late now because I’ve discovered that
I don’t believe in the gods.” And his grandfather, who was a wise man, said, “Oh, so you belong to the atheist branch of the Hindu tradition.” (Laughter) And finally, there’s this guy, who famously doesn’t believe in God. His name is the Dalai Lama. He often jokes that he’s one
of the world’s leading atheists. But it’s true, because the Dalai Lama’s religion does not involve belief in God. Now you might think this just shows that I’ve given you the wrong definition and that I should come up with some other definition and test it against these cases and try and find something that captures atheistic Judaism, atheistic Hinduism, and atheistic Buddhism as forms of religiosity, but I actually think that that’s a bad idea, and the reason I think it’s a bad idea is that I don’t think that’s how our concept of religion works. I think the way our concept of religion works is that we actually have, we have a list of paradigm religions and their sub-parts, right, and if something new comes along that purports to be a religion, what we ask is, “Well, is it like one of these?” Right? And I think that’s not only
how we think about religion, and that’s, as it were, so from our point of view, anything on that list had better be a religion, which is why I don’t think an account of religion that excludes Buddhism and Judaism has a chance of being a good starter, because they’re on our list. But why do we have such a list? What’s going on? How did it come about that we have this list? I think the answer is a pretty simple one and therefore crude and contentious. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with it, but here’s my story, and true or not, it’s a story that I think gives you a good sense of how the list might have come about, and therefore helps you to think about what use the list might be. I think the answer is, European travelers, starting roughly about the time of Columbus, started going around the world. They came from a Christian culture, and when they arrived in a new place, they noticed that some people
didn’t have Christianity, and so they asked themselves
the following question: what have they got instead of Christianity? And that list was essentially constructed. It consists of the things that other people had instead of Christianity. Now there’s a difficulty with proceeding in that way, which is that Christianity is extremely, even on that list, it’s an extremely specific tradition. It has all kinds of things in it that are very, very particular that are the results of the specifics of Christian history, and one thing that’s at the heart of it, one thing that’s at the heart of
most understandings of Christianity, which is the result of the
specific history of Christianity, is that it’s an extremely creedal religion. It’s a religion in which people are really concerned about whether you believe the right things. The history of Christianity, the
internal history of Christianity, is largely the history of people killing each other because they believed the wrong thing, and it’s also involved in struggles with other religions, obviously starting in the Middle Ages, a struggle with Islam, in which, again, it was the infidelity, the fact that they didn’t believe the right things, that seemed so offensive to the Christian world. Now that’s a very specific and particular history that Christianity has, and not everywhere is everything that has ever been put on this sort of list like it. Here’s another problem, I think. A very specific thing happened. It was actually adverted to earlier, but a very specific thing happened in the history of the kind of Christianity that we see around us mostly in the United States today, and it happened in the late 19th century, and that specific thing that happened in the late 19th century was a kind of deal that was cut between science, this new way of organizing intellectual authority, and religion. If you think about the 18th century, say, if you think about intellectual life before the late 19th century, anything you did, anything you thought about, whether it was the physical world, the human world, the natural world apart from the human world, or morality, anything you did would have been framed against the background of a set of assumptions that were religious, Christian assumptions. You couldn’t give an account of the natural world that didn’t say something about its relationship, for example, to the creation story in the Abrahamic tradition, the creation story in the first book of the Torah. So everything was framed in that way. But this changes in the late 19th century, and for the first time, it’s possible for people to develop serious intellectual careers as natural historians like Darwin. Darwin worried about the relationship between what he said and the truths of religion, but he could proceed, he could write books about his subject without having to say what the relationship was to the religious claims, and similarly, geologists
increasingly could talk about it. In the early 19th century, if you were a geologist and made a claim about the age of the Earth, you had to explain whether that was consistent or how it was or wasn’t consistent with the age of the Earth implied by the account in Genesis. By the end of the 19th century, you can just write a geology textbook in which you make arguments
about how old the Earth is. So there’s a big change, and that division, that intellectual division of
labor occurs as I say, I think, and it sort of solidifies so that by the end of the 19th century in Europe, there’s a real intellectual division of labor, and you can do all sorts of serious things, including, increasingly, even philosophy, without being constrained by the thought, “Well, what I have to say has to be consistent with the deep truths that are given to me by our religious tradition.” So imagine someone who’s coming out of that world, that late-19th-century world, coming into the country that I grew up in, Ghana, the society that I grew up in, Asante, coming into that world at the turn of the 20th century with this question that made the list: what have they got instead of Christianity? Well, here’s one thing he would have noticed, and by the way, there was a
person who actually did this. His name was Captain Rattray, he was sent as the British
government anthropologist, and he wrote a book about Asante religion. This is a soul disc. There are many of them in the British Museum. I could give you an interesting, different history of how it comes about that many of the things from my society ended up in the British Museum, but we don’t have time for that. So this object is a soul disc. What is a soul disc? It was worn around the necks of the soul-washers of the Asante king. What was their job? To wash the king’s soul. It would take a long while to explain how a soul could be the kind of thing that could be washed, but Rattray knew that this was religion because souls were in play. And similarly, there were many other things, many other practices. For example, every time anybody
had a drink, more or less, they poured a little bit on the ground in what’s called the libation, and they gave some to the ancestors. My father did this. Every time
he opened a bottle of whiskey, which I’m glad to say was very often, he would take the top off and
pour off just a little on the ground, and he would talk to, he would say to Akroma-Ampim, the founder of our line, or Yao Antony, my great uncle, he would talk to them, offer them a little bit of this. And finally, there were these
huge public ceremonials. This is an early-19th-century drawing by another British military officer of such a ceremonial, where the king was involved, and the king’s job, one of the large parts of his job, apart from organizing warfare and things like that, was to look after the tombs of his ancestors, and when a king died, the stool that he sat on was blackened and put in the royal ancestral temple, and every 40 days, the King of Asante has to go and do cult for his ancestors. That’s a large part of his job, and people think that if he doesn’t do it, things will fall apart. So he’s a religious figure, as Rattray would have said, as well as a political figure. So all this would count as religion for Rattray, but my point is that when you look into the lives of those people, you also find that every time they do anything, they’re conscious of the ancestors. Every morning at breakfast, you can go outside the front of the house and make an offering to the god tree, the nyame dua outside your house, and again, you’ll talk to the gods and the high gods and the low gods and the ancestors and so on. This is not a world in which the separation between religion and science has occurred. Religion has not being separated from any other areas of life, and in particular, what’s crucial to understand about this world is that it’s a world in which the job that science does for us is done by what Rattray is going to call religion, because if they want an explanation of something, if they want to know why the crop just failed, if they want to know why it’s raining or not raining, if they need rain, if they want to know why their grandfather has died, they are going to appeal to the very same entities, the very same language, talk to the very same gods about that. This great separation, in other words, between religion and science hasn’t happened. Now, this would be a mere historical curiosity, except that in large parts of the world, this is still the truth. I had the privilege of going to a wedding the other day in northern Namibia, 20 miles or so south of the Angolan border in a village of 200 people. These were modern people. We had with us Oona Chaplin, who some of you may have heard of, and one of the people from
this village came up to her, and said, “I’ve seen you in ‘Game of Thrones.'” So these were not people who
were isolated from our world, but nevertheless, for them, the gods and the spirits are still very much there, and when we were on the bus going back and forth to the various parts of the [ceremony], they prayed not just in a generic way but for the safety of the journey, and they meant it, and when they said to me that my mother, the bridegroom’s [grandmother], was with us, they didn’t mean it figuratively. They meant, even though she was a dead person, they meant that she was still around. So in large parts of the world today, that separation between science and religion hasn’t occurred in large parts of the world today, and as I say, these are not — This guy used to work for Chase and at the World Bank. These are fellow citizens of the world with you, but they come from a place in which religion is occupying a very different role. So what I want you to think about
next time somebody wants to make some vast generalization about religion is that maybe there isn’t such a thing as a religion, such a thing as religion, and that therefore what they say cannot possibly be true. (Applause)




Comments
  1. just something to add to the discussion: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n03/richard-lloydparry/ghosts-of-the-tsunami

  2. I liked what he had to say. There is no definition for religion but it is more objective. I don't believe in God but I have my own belief system based on principals I've created from my own experience, so in a way I have my own religion. 

  3. So basically, what he is saying is : there's still a lot of superstitious people in the world.. and I believe that is right — and a lot of those superstitious people are leading countries — which is a VERY scary realisation.

  4. Interesting, although functionally we find that virtually anything that can be labeled as religion (however loosely) is not found on the "better" side of the spectrum: if it involves a deity, you are surrendering your intellect; if it involves an attempt at a positive aspect of life, such as community or morality – it is usually xenophobic or generally harmful, and one can find better substitutes.

  5. Religion is a collection of ideas combined with a level of conviction that will hold up despite evidence contrary to the ideas' factuality relative to the observable world.

    Wordy I know, but this allows you to put every single world "religion" into the same category as well as state religions, sport religions, cults, and even some fanbases.

  6. Appiah is explaining that "religion" was contrived by westerners themselves. All cultures have practices that we would consider "spiritual" or "supernatural". However, because Christians were so obsessed with the orthodoxy of their own dogma, they inappropriately prioritized these beliefs. Fundamentalists made the conversation about trivial "religious" beliefs the primary lense through which we see alien cultures.

    If you talk to a Hindu about Jesus, they'll say, "Oh, you mean Vishnu." They won't deny Christ's existence, they will simply make a connection to a symbol they already understand. Christian fundamentalists refuse to accept this, and force a false contrast between cultures when it comes to the "supernatural". These same fundamentalists even did this to scientists before they accepted the divide between the supernatural and natural (as pointed out in the video).

    Don't let the fundamentalists win by talking about people's "religions" rather than their actual cultural traditions and values. Appiah's argument is solid and the fedora enthusiasts disliking this video are embarrassing.

  7. 10 min in and he still hasn't offered a clear definition of what he thinks religion is, and in the end he denies such a concept. I wonder what the Jihad would say about that. lol, smh. smells like money making B.S. 

  8. So the video goes nowhere in answering the question in the title and just sort of mills around a different, wholly uninteresting point for the sake of pedanticism. It's not even remotely enlightening about that point and it goes on for 15 minutes.

  9. All good things can be done without religion.
    Many bad things are done in the name of religion which would not gain support otherwise.

  10. Is satanist religious? If yes, then you can be religious without believing in god.

    His arguments are not compelling to anyone who thinks it through. 
    If you pray or believe in super natural beings then you're religious.

  11. I found this to be very reductive. So there are fringe exceptions to definitions of 'religion'… so there are societies where religion is less rigidly defined… so what? Wittgenstein's family resemblance theory demonstrates that exceptions do not automatically invalidate broadly defined concepts, especially with something so vast as religion. Nor do exceptions to general global religious norms suggest that that religion 'doesn't exist'. It's like saying art doesn't exist because some examples of artistic endeavours blur the line between art and other concepts, like machinery or games.

    Generalisations are just that – a claim about the nature of something in general. It is possible to talk about something with reference to how it generally exists, and critiques of religion don't automatically disintegrate just because they don't apply to every conceivable case.

    Perhaps I'm misunderstanding Appiah's point, but all I got from this was 'religion isn't just one thing'…

    …well duhhhh.

  12. This is just a continuum fallacy.
    From Wikipedia: The fallacy appears to demonstrate that two states or conditions cannot be considered distinct (or do not exist at all) because between them there exists a continuum of states. According to the fallacy, differences in quality cannot result from differences in quantity.
    There are clearly reasonable and clearly unreasonable cases in which objects either belong or do not belong to a particular group of objects based on their properties. We are able to take them case by case and designate them as such even in the case of properties which may be vaguely defined. The existence of hard or controversial cases does not preclude our ability to designate members of particular kinds of groups.

  13. I have difficulty finding out exactly what the point is with this talk. Is mr. Appiah making an agument that we call the phenomenon something else?

    Organized religion – whether it exists or not – stil ahs plenty of both good and bad to it. Both stems from how the organization-part focuses a lot of power in the hands of very few people, and how the religion-part gives these people control of both lifes and minds of the religion's followers.

    If the term religion isn't valid anymore, the language is lacking a word for a very real phenomenon.

  14. Religion is a tool of rhetoric – nothing more or less.

    How long it continues w/ any credence is anyone's guess.  Hopefully someday man will outgrow it but I wouldn't bet on it. 

  15. Religion is bad, because as has been stated before men, really sincerely trying to make peace with whatever they term as god or gods. It strikes me that words and ideas are many, we are living in an information overload age, and consequently people really are getting mixed up. Is Mohamed good? Is or was Buddha good? is  or was Jesus good? Religion at its heart is an exploration and straining towards ideas, history, folk law and other forms of the past in which people try to find meaning for today.

  16. What a weak argument. It is the equivalent of me saying that culture is relative, ergo, culture as "a thing" does not exist.

  17. What a waste of time. This talk incredibly grabbed a atopic with so much to say, and rambled on for almost 15 minutes without saying one meaningful thing.

    If someone is going to stand up for religion at least they shouldn't be wishy-washy about it….

  18. My philosophy professor gave a similar argument about why he thought there was no such thing as culture. Just because the most simplistic definition doesn't work, doesn't mean that finding a new one is forbidden. 

  19. "Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man… living in the sky.. who watches everything you do, every minute, of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke, and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry for ever and ever until the end of time….

    ..but he loves you."          – George Carlin

    Religion is bad.

  20. We all know that there's no such thing as religion as things in the bible for example doesn't make sense. But having religion provides them satisfaction, reassurance, happiness that there's an afterlife. Even though it does not exist, at least having religion will keep them mentally healthy

  21. After watching the video from start to finish.

    I have come to the conclusion that philosophical mudslinging is still rather vitriolic from both sides of the debate.

    From the perspective of known human history, the answer to the question in the title of this video appears to be quite straightforward.

  22. Far in the future, our Science will be called a Religion.

    It is inevitable that the current yet-to-be worked out inaccuracies in Science will eventually be seen as so primitive that those inaccuracies–and even the frame work around them–will be seen as a silly superstition.  Either that, or we'll send ourselves back to the stone age with the crap that we're doing to ourselves and the planet.

  23. my definition of religion… Religion: A person or people groups specific worldview as it pertains to the supernatural. (that includes atheism)  

  24. I didnt understand what the point was..was he trying to say religion is so diverse and much of it dont make sense..and most of us live in beliefs and doubts that we really don't wish to encounter or question may that be in religion or science..yes thats a true state of human society..and every scientist whether it was Einstein or Darwin, they had a a specific beleif that led them to interpret the observations they saw according to their visions..which to a great extend was right and to some extend led to flawed interpretation..but it was compensated by opposing opinions by other scientists ..so all we need is an open society with out taboos ..where opinions can flaw freely..and in that way an open religion where with out inhibition we can discuss the philosophical part of our existence will also strengthen humanity

  25. I did not get it… He was trying to prove we have wrong definition, so there might be no religion? We do not know something, does not mean it does not exist. Also it does not prove it exist. That is why religion is standing on believe. We all can define a simple object in different definition, we can use the object for different reason. All of those can contradict, it does not mean the object does not exist.
    So, to prove there is no religion he needs to define the true definition of religion (which is not possible). So anyway,if we want to prove something does not exist, we need to define the character and prove that is not present. To disprove religion actually someone has to find the religion. and then prove its not present. 
    Its beyond our limit. either believe or discard… Please do not try to prove or disprove it… 

  26. Religion is an inaccurate representation of reality while science, although not entire accurate, doesn't pretend to be otherwise.

  27. Think of it like sitting on a street corner and watching 6 cars go by.  The first 2 white, the 3rd red, the 2nd two white, and the 6th red.  People who see this pattern and believe in it will have faith that the next 2 cars will be white.  They will tell others about their discovery, and construct organizations to send out missionaries to preach of the coming of the next 2 white cars.  They will wage war against those who were on a different street corner and saw a different set of cars and consequently claim that the next 2 cars will be different than white.

    The scientist will construct a model stating that the natural progression of traffic at this corner has been 2 white cars followed by a red, repeating, but will not work it into a theory until he can explain the phenomenon, and it will be critiqued by other scientists who repeat the experiment upon their own street corners to see if their observed pattern matches. 

    When the 7th car comes by, and it is green, the religious-minded will cry vindication or re-interpret the ambiguous ancient texts which poorly described the hues and timings of each car, splitting into several sects for each diverging opinion and claiming all members of opposing thought will be tortured for all eternity for their hubris and sacrilege, whereas the scientist will add this new data to his black board and calmly work out an updated model which makes his future predictions more accurate and useful for society.

  28. Your life is lived between nothing and nothing. The human mind can't cope with it and that's we believe in something more or have a religion. 
    One day science will prove the world isn't flat again and we'll get rid of all these ridiculous beliefs.

  29. Most TED Talks are amazing, and only a handful have been truly subpar, but I think this guy has made a TED Talk first by saying something factually inaccurate by the second sentence of his talk: The title of Christopher Hitchens book is "God is NOT Great: HOW Religion Poisons Everything." The "not" and the "how" that slipped Appiah's mind are important, just like all the other key points that must have slipped his mind throughout this talk. Essentially, this guy presents his audience with his definition of religion (or a dictionary definition), then illustrates that his definition does not cover all types of religious tradition and experience around the world, then concludes that therefore religion as a thing must not exist, and further, that anything that people say about religion (the thing that doesn't exist, mind you) can't possibly be true. What? Is he serious? Did he think this talk up over breakfast one morning and hit the TED stage by afternoon?

    Some people who are "religious," such as Buddhists, are not "theists" (theist meaning they believe in a God who created the universe and God, or Gods/spiritual beings/agents that can't be observed with the 5 senses, etc., intervenes in the universe on behalf of his/her followers, etc.). This simply means they are participating in a "non-theistic religion." Or you can call "religion" a particular kind of philosophy, combined with social interaction, and a few traditional beliefs that are unsubstantiated (Also Taoism, Confusionism, Zen). This can also be said for the Asanti people he was talking about with the "soul disks" of the soul washers who believe that their ancestors are always with them. He argues that religion and science hasn't been divided in this culture, and if the people want to know why crops are failing or why it isn't raining, they ask (if you prefer) "pray to" their ancestors. But there's no evidence their ancestors are still there, and there's no evidence for a "soul" that exists apart from the body. Meanwhile, science can tell them exactly why their crops are failing (perhaps El Nino that year, a beetle that's eating all the crops, mono-cropping, global warming or drought due to it, etc., etc.). Rather than appealing to research and empirical methods, they are seeking out tradition and superstitious beliefs for answers. That's exactly the stuff of religion. And in this sense, how does dead ancestors (i.e. "ghosts" or invisible people) not constitute as spiritual beings in his starting definition of religion? He also talks about how the king has to look after his ancestors' tombs or supposedly bad things will happen, and that the king is both a religious and political figure. Tell me how this is different than evangelicals trying to vote for the candidate they feel is most "godly" and believing that bad things are happening to our culture because we took prayer out of schools? It's religion, ok?

    Appiah's greatest mistake is his logical fallacy that because religion isn't ONE thing to everyone the world over, than it can't be any "thing," and therefore no accurate or truthful generalizations can be made about it. Nice try. Words like culture, community, art, and so many other words that describe human experiences mean many things to many people, but that doesn't mean we can't classify them and talk about them as actual things that exist. This is often why critics of religion talk about specific religious beliefs they think are harmful, rather than try to tackle "religion" as a whole. His whole talk is a tap-dance to let religion off the hook from its detractors, who often make very valid points as to some of the harms religion causes alongside all of the benefits that are often touted…

  30. Tried watching this 3 times, but my mind strayed each time as it was so boring. To be honest, I don't care what his argument is at this point… This is just a really boring Ted Talk. LOL

  31. What a load of horse excrement !!!!   Religion(s) unfortunately still exist and are being followed by the gullible and ignorant masses.

    Having faith in supernatural entities is NOT a virtue as most religious leaders want you to believe. Now, is religion still useful?  That would have been a more interesting question.

  32. Is there any point in arguing against religion? Eventually we will evolve away from it, it's inevitable, as we get smarter everyone will realize that religion is a waste of there time. I mean that's if we get smarter, I feel like sometimes we are going backwards.

  33. All religions were created by men.Contary to many beleifs,none are devine.
    Therefore,it is understandable why religions are the cause of hate,seperation,war,and death.

  34. Is religion a good or bad thing?

    I'd like to say good but the evidence around the world shows otherwise.

  35. Nice dodging of the question…Except that the "replacement of scientific explanation" is abhorent, so what shall we say it is ? Ideology ? Delusion ?

  36. Oh look yet another philosopher playing yet another word game. Make a starting assumption, reason from there. Your assumption, everyone claiming to be an X must agree exactly what X is, they don't,  so therefore there is no X. YAWN. 

    You chose a starting assumption that gave you the result you wanted. Your argument is intellectually dishonest. 

    I could easily do the same thing from an atheist position, but I'm not intellectually dishonest, so I'm not going to. 

    My definition of religion is based of the core idea of all them. Do they make extra-ordinary claims for which there is no evidence. In fact, in the spirit of honesty, I can generalise even further and replace religion with dogma, so I can then include say Marxism, or free market capitalism. 

    So 0/10, see me, try again.

  37. Oh look yet another philosopher playing yet another word game. Make a starting assumption, reason from there. Your assumption, everyone claiming to be an X must agree exactly what X is, they don't,  so therefore there is no X. YAWN. 

    You chose a starting assumption that gave you the result you wanted. Your argument is intellectually dishonest. 

    I could easily do the same thing from an atheist position, but I'm not intellectually dishonest, so I'm not going to. 

    My definition of religion is based of the core idea of all them. Do they make extra-ordinary claims for which there is no evidence. In fact, in the spirit of honesty, I can generalise even further and replace religion with dogma, so I can then include say Marxism, or free market capitalism. 

    So 0/10, see me, try again.

  38. The American Astronomical Society just gave their Carl Sagan Medal to a Jesuit Brother named Guy Consolmagno who works at the Vatican.

  39. Religion is inherently good but subject to manipulation.
    I am not out to destroy anyones beliefs but i believe the world would be better without organized religion its jus another thing for people to kill for n it shouldn't have a place in the modern world.
    Its long past for everyone to realize higher power or none the only thing playing a role in human events is humans.

  40. Nationalism is far worse than religion.
    Without nationalism there would be no armies in the world, no holocaust, no rwandan genocide, no 9/11, no 3/11, no invasion of Afghanistan, no IS, etc.

  41. Right. I'm sure Northern Namibia is the shining beacon of progress that it is to the world, because they haven't given up magical thinking. And I'm sure the lions share of scientific discoveries in the world also come out of the highly religious parts of Africa and the Middle East. And, female genital mutilation (or any genital mutilation, for that matter) is a highly civilised way of dealing with disease, that Western science hasn't yet grasped the importance of.

    This man, who lives in a civilised Western country, reaping all the benefits that such a civilisation offers, deigns to tell us that things are really better off in the more superstitious parts of the world.

    "Men will never be truly free until the last apologist for religion is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."

  42. If I had to make a definition for religion, it would be a set of beliefs pertaining to the non-physical.  By this definition, I would consider anti-theism, strong-atheism, or whatever you want to call it, to be a religion like any other.  I just think of "religion" as another vital statistic, like height, weight, race or nationality.

    As for whether it has done more good or harm for the world, I'm in the indifferent category, because if a religious belief system deals ONLY with the immaterial (as deism or pantheism), then it would not affect behavior in any significant way, and any beliefs which include moral or historical elements is only going to reinforce existing moral or historical beliefs.  (Example:  A person who is opposed to violence would interpret the Bible as telling him to not be violent, while a person who is violent by nature, would interpret exactly the opposite.  Remove the Bible from the equation, and both parties remain exactly the same.)

  43. Okay it get that Stalin(Atheist) did kill 20 million people. Okay now lets do the body count of how many people religious people killed.

  44. I don't understand why people never seem to understand the truth behind the morality of religion.
    Humans are the committers, religion is the excuse/outlet.
    You could take a religion that condones slavery, racism, sexism, rape, violence, child molestation, and every horrible thing you can think of and someone, somewhere, will use that religion to do something good. When asked why they did this deed, they refer to the religion as the source of their goodness. If someone of that same religion does something bad, they will refer to their religious text as an excuse for them to be a murderous, sadistic rapist.

    Religion is the excuse for behavior. The behaviors themselves are to be blamed on the human.
    Blaming religion for the actions of others is like blaming the knife for a murder instead of the murderer or thanking the money for saving the lives of sick children instead of the donator.

  45. all us are different  people and  we have diffrent religions and we believe these  but it is important that we must be respect to one another and we have to be understanding the other's views. 🙂

  46. There's nothing in his argument which proves that there is no such thing as religion. The first part related to the monotheistic god argument and that part is true. There are religions like buddhism which don't believe in a separate one god entity. However religion is this: its an institution based on faith in something divine, transcendental, or animist through which mores, norms and morals are justified and enforced and very often there are sanctions for not following them ranging from a personal disapproval to physical punishment. This is the nature of allll religion. And even this presentation admits it. Contrary to his portrayal it's rare that families who believe in a religion tolerate questioning rejection or alternatives that well. South Asia has witnessed many violent incidents because of these differences home to Hinduism and buddhism. In buddhism also even though the philosophy doesn't compel anyone to believe a particular thing, the Institutions often are much less tolerant than projected and even there animist philosophy is there in practice and a faith in some divine moralistic order is also present. Hinduism is a theist religion or a rather mixture of many religions. Unlike Christianity it doesn't compel anyone to believe in one entity but in its philosophy the concept of paramatma, the universal divine soul is there. So no you cant be atheist and hindu. Hinduism is used as a term according to their convenience to describe the region or south Asian culture. Charkvak was an atheist materialist and rejected the vedas.he was shunned by whole hindu creeds. This man is so narrow and selective in his analysis that its funny. Religion always has an element of mystical faith. That there are somethings beyond our world or our grasp which will necessarily direct our life however there are scriptures rituals or practices which will give us a solution. Thus this moral order first invents a problem then invents a solution. There is no proof of existence of either.

  47. Religion is believing things without evidence. It may not be a proper noun but it is a gerund and it certainly exists. People obviously behave better when their actions are based on reality than fantasy.

  48. Exactly what is his point here? Someone help me. I got lost somewhere. Forgive my ignorance. Btw, I'm a non-believer.

  49. 'All religions are poison.' is to general of a statement to have meaning. It allows you to group politically motivated wars as religious in nature because some person is recorded as saying, 'God is with us.' or 'God commands it.'. Some of these claims are real, & some are lies. The latter are motivated by the secular desire to keep land, money, to capture new lands, legitimize a uprising, discredit an opposing party, or to maintain a power structure. God or religion has nothing to do with it. It is like saying all philosophies are poison.

    Such a broad definition simply lacks definition, & hamstrings discussion. He has a good point.

  50. Religion – A philosophy where people believe the tenets in order not to be ostracized rather than evidence.

    The most dangerous religions are "militaristic nationalism", "communism", "capitalism", "rightism", "leftism", "racism".

  51. Good theme. "Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine." ~Baha'i Faith

  52. This mans grandfather gave India independence.the english aristocracy has been hard at work preserving their power.

  53. The title of the late and great Christopher Hitchens book is: god is Not Great How religion poisons everything. For sale at fine bookstores everywhere. Terrible way to begin and Ted speech.

  54. This was disappointing to say the least. He provided a skeptical argument about the definition of religion and walked off. !?!?!

  55. The point of this video is not about religion itself ( because it's hard to break religion since it's so immense). It focused on life-with-religion and life-without-religion, and came to the conclusion that there are just different lifestyles. So as for one person to say "I believe in some religion" is the same as "I believe in some lifestyle", so there's no religion.

    Actually it's true that one of the fastest way for a person to take on a brand-new lifestyle and keep it is to become "a convert (of some religion)". So it's just about different lifestyles.

    13:58 What he tried to emphasize with the man with strong belief and working in the World Bank is, for achieving mundane success, although religion will not help you much ( ppl with same religion as him are just dwell in a small village for a lifetime ), it won't stop you as well. —- Geez, he could have been just a happy devoted villager but he somehow made it to work in the World Bank. Glad he didn't go too much and too deep into the religion and his life didn't "fall apart" because of it: he survived the old lifestyle and took on a new one.

  56. I was waiting for him to make his point, and he just didn't, and finished? I think I'm missing the point… Or the talk is just really badly constructed.

  57. Mr. Appiah flubs his opening statement by not knowing the actual title of Hitchen's book. That said, I'm reminded of Aquinas' comment: "Unbelievers are in ignorance of things that are of faith, for neither
    do they see or know them in themselves, nor do they know them to
    be credible. The faithful, on the other hand, know them, not as by
    demonstration, but by the light of faith, which makes them see that
    they ought to believe them
    ." There is a certain irrationality in Mr. Appiah's attempt to rationally deny the idea of an incorporeal realm.

  58. I get the point that religion is inextricably interwoven into culture (for some cultures more than others) such that they can't be understood without each other.

    But going that extra step and saying that therefore religion doesnt really exist was just a fallacious argument in my view.

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