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Is it religion, or just the human species’ inherent traits?
Posted: 08 February 2012 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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saralynn - 06 February 2012 06:57 AM

Dennis: Sorry, Sara, no harm meant. Nor for Answerer.

I didn’t really think you were making such an odious comparison. If you were, you would have used more expletives.

As far as I know, Hitler never used expletives publicly. And certainly not in his broadcast speeches. I have read an account of his recorded ‘table talk’ and nowhere did I read expletives. So, odious comparisons can be made without expletives.

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Posted: 08 February 2012 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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DENNIS: My thesis…theism is something that the majority …expressed throughout history… Since religion is something that the great majority of people endorse…it is inevitable that religion becomes associated with those instances. But there’ve been massive wars and injury visited on each other that has little if anything to do with religion. Communist Russia comes to mind, but there are many other non-religious instances of group violence as well.
(Communism is akin to religion in its utopianism)
…it is not religion that is a primary influence…but more basic human traits to covet someone else’s resources, goods, services, women or sexual access or land, and to seek to secure those by force. Throw in as well the common human disposition to view those perceptively different in terms of skin color, body type,[…] wealth differences etc., as “different” and as “not like us,” and the “we/they” dichotomy arises, and conflict is likely…

…religion… may be epiphenomenal to much more basic traits of the human …our energy could be more usefully directed at measures that constrain the

A truly scientific view recognizes …those behaviors…acknowledges them.

Interesting, Dennis. I don’t think anyone argues that religion per se is always evil. But what you are ignoring is that religion became a way of legitimizing basic impulses to covet and take by force the resources, women and land of others by force of violence and to discriminate and oppress on the basis of race etc. Religion enabled us feel ok about doing all that. Religion became/remains the ultimate rationalization for bad behaviour. We now recognise that and call religion out on it.

If we shed religion, will humanity find other tools that will allow it to be bad? Who knows? Hopefully, having recognised religion for the evil it allowed us to do in good conscience, we will be more alert in future to other ways of convincing ourselves that bad is good.

[ Edited: 08 February 2012 11:13 AM by Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (Rob) ]
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Posted: 08 February 2012 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Interesting, Dennis. But what you are ignoring is that religion became a way of legitimizing basic impulses to covet and take by force the resources, women and land of others by force of violence and to discriminate and oppress on the basis of race etc. Religionb made us feel ok about doing all that. Religion became/remains the ultimate rationalization for bad behaviour. We now recognise that and call religion out on it. If we shed religion, will humanity find other tools that will allow it to be bad? Who knows? Hopefully, having recognised religion for the evil it allowed us to do in good conscience, we will be more alert in future to other ways of convincing ourselves that bad is good.

As said, religion is a very useful rationale for maybe what was there anyway.

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Religion is good for one thing: making you feel better while someone else rules you.  Religion is more a reflection than a cause of conflicts. The causes lie in conflicting cultural mores and traits.

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Posted: 08 February 2012 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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And you are wrong. It has not been ‘useful’ but a very destructive meme in perpetuatuing “what was there” and it continues to be so in so far as it allows people to behave badly and not feel bad about it.

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Posted: 08 February 2012 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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I like the notion Dennis is off on here.  Religion is as aspect of culture and is not really separately distinguishable.  People don’t do things simply because they are religious, just like they don’t do things simply because they are French (for example).  People mostly decide things based on an emotional orientation toward the subject, and then backfill it with some rationale.  Religion is great backfill, particularly because it provides objective, infallible bases for actions born out of human emotions.  That’s precisely why its problematic.  It prevents addressing the underlying motivation for acting.

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Posted: 08 February 2012 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Mike78 - 08 February 2012 11:15 AM

I like the notion Dennis is off on here. Religion is as aspect of culture and is not really separately distinguishable. People don’t do things simply because they are religious, just like they don’t do things simply because they are French (for example). People mostly decide things based on an emotional orientation toward the subject, and then backfill it with some rationale. Religion is great backfill, particularly because it provides objective, infallible bases for actions born out of human emotions. That’s precisely why its problematic. It prevents addressing the underlying motivation for acting.

Exactly! Religion blinds us and prevents us from recognising our destructive and immoral impulses for what they are. And it prevents us from acting rationally to overcome them. Therein lies the evil of religion.

If someone could come up with a rational, woo-free religion that caused us to act kindly towards each other I might join it.

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Posted: 08 February 2012 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (Rob) - 08 February 2012 11:15 AM

And you are wrong. It has not been ‘useful’ but a very destructive meme in perpetuatuing “what was there” and it continues to be so in so far as it allows people to behave badly and not feel bad about it.

“useful” is not an endorsement just a statement of function.

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Religion is good for one thing: making you feel better while someone else rules you.  Religion is more a reflection than a cause of conflicts. The causes lie in conflicting cultural mores and traits.

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Posted: 08 February 2012 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Whatever. Religion sucks!

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Posted: 08 February 2012 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Mike78 - 08 February 2012 11:15 AM

I like the notion Dennis is off on here.  Religion is as aspect of culture and is not really separately distinguishable.  People don’t do things simply because they are religious, just like they don’t do things simply because they are French (for example).  People mostly decide things based on an emotional orientation toward the subject, and then backfill it with some rationale.  Religion is great backfill, particularly because it provides objective, infallible bases for actions born out of human emotions.  That’s precisely why its problematic.  It prevents addressing the underlying motivation for acting.

Not to say you are wrong because I agree to a large extent. But I think that it also works both ways. Religion is also a great rationale for which it is expert at applying emotional back-fill. It may fulfill a particular underlying emotional orientation that snowballs into other unrelated subjects ... it colors my world, so to speak. A person may view homosexuality as a sin not because they are emotionally averse to it and then seek the objective rationale to support it, but because their emotional need for comfort and confirmation from herd conformity is being satisfied which religion supplies. Thus, things are being decided for them based on a particular rationale that they have acquiesced to, then forming an emotional attachment to a particular tenet (God and everyone says homosexuality is a sin therefore, I must feel a certain way about it). So the rationale that gay marriage will lead to marriage with dogs is decided simply because they are religious with its attendant or trailing emotional attachments. At the least, they are limiting their options for a basis of applying objective rationale which could, in effect, determine a particular emotional attachment. Just another way of looking at it, albeit perhaps no more or less credible.

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Posted: 08 February 2012 08:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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GAD - 06 February 2012 08:53 AM

You state the obvious while missing it.

Gods and religions are human inventions, so there is no mystery that gods and religions correlate to human traits.

The problem with gods and religions is that they are regarded as objective, above human subjectivity, and are therefore justified when that is clearly not the case.

Eradicating religion is about removing the magical justifications that keep us from having to address the underlying traits. 

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”
~Steven Weinberg

This sounds great, but none of us are actually in possession of purely objective knowledge. All we can individually achieve is subjective knowledge of something that approaches objectivity. Striving for greater objectivity is a never-ending task.

The larger issue is that humans in conflict with each other will tend to use any means available to gain an advantage. Humans in a group that are in conflict with humans in another group will choose the category or categories of most obvious differences between the groups to define the opposing sides. When no such categories are available, they will invent one (for example, Black Guelphs and White Guelphs). Religion is one such category among several.

Dennis has several good points. One of them is, at least implicitly, that the participants in this forum tend to be locked into a stereotypical set of categories with respect to religion. In particular, the term “religion” as generally used herein is pretty much a Western European stereotype as a category. It would be worthwhile to pull this category apart into more clearly-defined aspects, and compare how it compares to similiar deconstructions of the “same” category from other cultures, past and present.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Poldano: This sounds great, but none of us are actually in possession of purely objective knowledge. All we can individually achieve is subjective knowledge of something that approaches objectivity. Striving for greater objectivity is a never-ending task.

The larger issue is that humans in conflict with each other will tend to use any means available to gain an advantage. Humans in a group that are in conflict with humans in another group will choose the category or categories of most obvious differences between the groups to define the opposing sides. When no such categories are available, they will invent one (for example, Black Guelphs and White Guelphs). Religion is one such category among several.

Dennis has several good points. One of them is, at least implicitly, that the participants in this forum tend to be locked into a stereotypical set of categories with respect to religion. In particular, the term “religion” as generally used herein is pretty much a Western European stereotype as a category. It would be worthwhile to pull this category apart into more clearly-defined aspects, and compare how it compares to similiar deconstructions of the “same” category from other cultures, past and present

Good points, Polano.  I’m so glad you’ve returned!  You are one of my favorite members of PR and I’ve missed you…..

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Posted: 09 February 2012 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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saralynn - 09 February 2012 04:54 AM

In particular, the term “religion” as generally used herein is pretty much a Western European stereotype as a category.

Agreed.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Poldano - 08 February 2012 08:23 PM

This sounds great, but none of us are actually in possession of purely objective knowledge. All we can individually achieve is subjective knowledge of something that approaches objectivity. Striving for greater objectivity is a never-ending task.

Much more important ... or, well, feasible ... is the attitude by which you manage your biases. Some ignore them or are simply unaware of the whole bias schtick on a personal and applied level (though we all tend to be able to recognize the issue for others), some even defend bias when the issue of their own arises, others accept the issue maybe and some or most of the implications when it’s pointed out to them, and still others take the issue seriously and consider the implications proactively. It’s not hard to guess at which tend to be able to think more critically and objectively.

 

Poldano - 08 February 2012 08:23 PM

Dennis has several good points. One of them is, at least implicitly, that the participants in this forum tend to be locked into a stereotypical set of categories with respect to religion. In particular, the term “religion” as generally used herein is pretty much a Western European stereotype as a category.

This is only practical. It would be too cumbersome to deal at all exhaustively or even just in a generally inclusive manner with religion. I think that’s why Harris focuses on faith (I specify religious faith to be more precise and to discourage equivocation). I think it’s a good idea to remain aware of this, though.

 

Poldano - 08 February 2012 08:23 PM

It would be worthwhile to pull this category apart into more clearly-defined aspects, and compare how it compares to similiar deconstructions of the “same” category from other cultures, past and present.

Absolutely, but discussion of “religion” shouldn’t be predicated upon this—we’d never actually get past the whole deconstruction/comparison schtick in order to actually deal with the topic.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Poldano - 08 February 2012 08:23 PM

Dennis has several good points. One of them is, at least implicitly, that the participants in this forum tend to be locked into a stereotypical set of categories with respect to religion. In particular, the term “religion” as generally used herein is pretty much a Western European stereotype as a category. It would be worthwhile to pull this category apart into more clearly-defined aspects, and compare how it compares to similiar deconstructions of the “same” category from other cultures, past and present.

Of course we’re using that category in general when referring to religion. It would be next to impossible to break them all down unless discussing specifics of any one group or individual, otherwise we’d have to do 6.993 billion deconstructions. The western Judeo-Christian and middle-eastern Muslim forms of religion within a certain spectrum broken down into common church and sect categories with their generally commonly held beliefs, practices and God-heads is quite adequate and practical, IMO, and there should be no confusion as to what is being referred to, nor misconception by implication that the participants here are locked into anything that suggests errancy. Also, there is the Bible and the Quran for written text reference. Generally, we’re talking about people that follow them, accept them as literal to a large part, and who exercise to a considerable degree the active proselytization of them which has broad implications nationwide, regionally and globally on culture and law in general. We should be able to say religion and pretty much have a common understanding of what we mean unless specifying something different. When BM says from one corner of his mouth that he is “not a Christian” and from the other that Bruce is “not a Christian” (or real one), everyone here should have a standard enough referrence to be able to understand that they are both religious (ie, follow religion) and Christians, although in very different ways. It’s similar to politics, you can espouse whatever you may, but when you press the (R) lever, you get the whole package with its dominant leanings and policies.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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I see afterwards that I simply reiterated X’s points.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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It is not a matter of “either/or,” expressed religious beliefs relating to personal, social or political issues would not exists absent the underlying human traits consistent with those expressed beliefs.  The people who embraced the tenets of the 3rd Reich re Jewish people, for the most part, were people who’d been biased against and/or less wealthy than Jewish people, and the 3rd Reich’s claims about “inferiority” made a nice fit and rationalization. The 3rd Reich as removed, not so the supporting traits.

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Religion is good for one thing: making you feel better while someone else rules you.  Religion is more a reflection than a cause of conflicts. The causes lie in conflicting cultural mores and traits.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Answerer - 08 February 2012 12:11 PM

Not to say you are wrong because I agree to a large extent. But I think that it also works both ways. Religion is also a great rationale for which it is expert at applying emotional back-fill. It may fulfill a particular underlying emotional orientation that snowballs into other unrelated subjects ... it colors my world, so to speak.

I can see it both ways. 

1.  I am afraid of gay people.  Religion justifies my fear because it tells me that gays are wrong, sinners, evil, bla, bla, bla.

2.  Religion tells me gays are wrong, sinners, evil, bla, bla, bla.  Thus, I fear gay people.

Perhaps, to respond to Dennis’ thought, people need to be taught honest introspection no matter what backfill they’ll be using. 

1.  I feel something.
2.  What do I feel?
3.  Why do I feel it?
4.  Are my reasons grounded in reality?
5.  How good, objective, rational, helpful is my grounding?
6.  Do I want to resolve my feeling in a different way?
7.  How do I resolve my feeling differently?
8.  How does the resolution affect my grounding in reality?
9.  If it’s groovy, shall I boogie?

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Can we agree that it’s their religion that causes millions of Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day and bow towards Mecca?  Or is that just something that a lot of people are drawn to do anyway, and they’re using religion to justify/rationalize it?

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:10 AM

...Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day…

Three?  That would be the slacker-muslims.  True adherents do it 5 times daily.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:10 AM

Can we agree that it’s their religion that causes millions of Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day and bow towards Mecca?  Or is that just something that a lot of people are drawn to do anyway, and they’re using religion to justify/rationalize it?

No, I’m referring to basic human traits as exemplified not learned ritual behaviors.

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Religion is good for one thing: making you feel better while someone else rules you.  Religion is more a reflection than a cause of conflicts. The causes lie in conflicting cultural mores and traits.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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Jefe - 09 February 2012 09:12 AM
Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:10 AM

...Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day…

Three?  That would be the slacker-muslims.  True adherents do it 5 times daily.

(Andrew):  grin  My bad…I’m thinking breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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Dennis Campbell - 09 February 2012 09:13 AM
Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:10 AM

Can we agree that it’s their religion that causes millions of Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day and bow towards Mecca?  Or is that just something that a lot of people are drawn to do anyway, and they’re using religion to justify/rationalize it?

No, I’m referring to basic human traits as exemplified not learned ritual behaviors.

(Andrew):  OK…I’m referring to things that wouldn’t occur absent religion. 
I’m getting the impression from the reading that many here don’t believe that there is anything that we can blame on religion (if it’s bad), or for which we can give religion the credit (if it’s good).  I think that’s a mistake.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:21 AM
Dennis Campbell - 09 February 2012 09:13 AM
Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:10 AM

Can we agree that it’s their religion that causes millions of Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day and bow towards Mecca?  Or is that just something that a lot of people are drawn to do anyway, and they’re using religion to justify/rationalize it?

No, I’m referring to basic human traits as exemplified not learned ritual behaviors.

(Andrew):  OK…I’m referring to things that wouldn’t occur absent religion. 
I’m getting the impression from the reading that many here don’t believe that there is anything that we can blame on religion (if it’s bad), or for which we can give religion the credit (if it’s good).  I think that’s a mistake.

Am not giving “religion” a “pass,” any more than any secular ideology; do think that, while indeed it goes both ways, to an extent religion reflects the believers as much as the reverse.  Met an elderly German, who lived a couple of doors down, who was quite sure the Holocaust was a complete fabrication of the Jews; and he’d hated Jews all his life.

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Religion is good for one thing: making you feel better while someone else rules you.  Religion is more a reflection than a cause of conflicts. The causes lie in conflicting cultural mores and traits.

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Posted: 09 February 2012 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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Dennis Campbell - 09 February 2012 09:28 AM
Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:21 AM
Dennis Campbell - 09 February 2012 09:13 AM
Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:10 AM

Can we agree that it’s their religion that causes millions of Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day and bow towards Mecca?  Or is that just something that a lot of people are drawn to do anyway, and they’re using religion to justify/rationalize it?

No, I’m referring to basic human traits as exemplified not learned ritual behaviors.

(Andrew):  OK…I’m referring to things that wouldn’t occur absent religion. 
I’m getting the impression from the reading that many here don’t believe that there is anything that we can blame on religion (if it’s bad), or for which we can give religion the credit (if it’s good).  I think that’s a mistake.

Am not giving “religion” a “pass,” any more than any secular ideology; do think that, while indeed it goes both ways, to an extent religion reflects the believers as much as the reverse.  Met an elderly German, who lived a couple of doors down, who was quite sure the Holocaust was a complete fabrication of the Jews; and he’d hated Jews all his life.

Did he use unquestionable magic to support his hatred?

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Posted: 09 February 2012 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Dennis Campbell - 09 February 2012 09:28 AM
Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:21 AM
Dennis Campbell - 09 February 2012 09:13 AM
Andrew - 09 February 2012 09:10 AM

Can we agree that it’s their religion that causes millions of Muslims to drop to their knees three times a day and bow towards Mecca?  Or is that just something that a lot of people are drawn to do anyway, and they’re using religion to justify/rationalize it?

No, I’m referring to basic human traits as exemplified not learned ritual behaviors.

(Andrew):  OK…I’m referring to things that wouldn’t occur absent religion. 
I’m getting the impression from the reading that many here don’t believe that there is anything that we can blame on religion (if it’s bad), or for which we can give religion the credit (if it’s good).  I think that’s a mistake.

Am not giving “religion” a “pass,” any more than any secular ideology; do think that, while indeed it goes both ways, to an extent religion reflects the believers as much as the reverse.  Met an elderly German, who lived a couple of doors down, who was quite sure the Holocaust was a complete fabrication of the Jews; and he’d hated Jews all his life.

This is why before we can have an actual discussion on “religion” we have to isolate it from “other shite”. Too often it’s conflated with community and other such Good Things, because that’s the way we’re socialized to conceptualize it—leads too easily/quickly to the “we can’t blame these behaviors on Religion due to other influences” schtick. When we isolate what makes Religion religion, though, what’s unique and definitively religion is all that’s actually on the table (ideally/theoretically, anyway). Still, it’s not all that hard to recognize what religious group behaviors are duplicated in other kinds of groups and which aren’t, and which behaviors aren’t the same in other contexts (amplified, diminished, whatever ... modified—ex. tribalism is focused on ideology rather than ethnicity/culture, and in fundagelical groups, intensified in part by the whole Heaven/Hell schtick). Religious groups share this smaller scale/focused tribalism (in terms of the In group) with business groups and sports groups, but the focus is identifiably different in each case. In business it’s monetary, in sports it’s physical, religion is mostly ideological, but it can also be ethnic/cultural. In sports it’s generally isolated to the field of play and other such specific contexts. In business it’s also somewhat isolated to specific contexts, but they tend to touch on more aspects of life. With religion it’s often applied pretty pervasively, and a lot of things that are considered trivial under other paradigms can be ubiquitous for fundagelical types.

Load next variable, repeat.

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