Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Are "Religious" People Sincere?

Captain Capitalism put up a very short post the other day saying "Only 2% of Religious People Are Sincere".

This feeds into something I've been wanting to write about for a while, but couldn't put the words together.

We need to add more words to our vocabularies to describe what people call "Religion".

It's a word that means different things to different people at different times even in the same conversation.

In almost any conversation I have with people where the word comes up, it changes meaning frequently, which is why I almost never discuss it. It's impossible to debate with people when pinning down a word is harder than trying to pin a marble with an ice pick.

At one moment, the word typically means Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. But the next moment, it refers to Islam, then it can be referring to Hinduism or Scientology, then any type of religion, then the use of the word comes back to Catholicism. Then it's used to refer to other things like 7th Day Adventism.

As am amateur philosopher, I don't like it. I spend time thinking about the meaning of words and I try to choose the words I use carefully and as free of logical fallacies as I can. At the very least, I want to make sure I'm using the same definition for a word as the person I'm talking to.

When I think of the word "religion", I don't think of a belief in Jesus. I think of it as a man made system of pious behavior, where action is divorced from the heart. And so I don't consider myself "religious", although I would be considered such by the definition many of you use. Although I have no interest in exerting control over anyone.

I think of this as a great example of Orwelian Newspeak, where the vocabulary of the populace begins to shrink. We have may examples of this in society. Rights is one term. A "right" can mean anything these days, from your absolute Declaration of Independence right to life, to the "right" to see a movie or own an Xbox. This dilutes the meaning of the term to the point where it can mean anything or nothing. I once heard a philosopher say that our moral language has become so handicapped we use the word "right" to refer to almost anything. We no longer have the vocabulary to describe anything else.
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