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Customer Discussions > Letter to a Christian Nation forum

Why don't religions die?

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Showing 1-25 of 55 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 15, 2007 10:24:57 AM PST
Gene Craven says:
Of course there are plenty of examples of particular religious beliefs that have died a natural death. My favorite example is of the Shakers, known today for their fine furniture and for a peculiar belief that all sex was wrong. They lived in separate dorms to prevent any hank panky. Needless to say there aren't any real Shakers left today.

Contrast the Shakers with say Catholics or Mormans who promote creating as many offspring as they can. The Catholics are also very good at keeping their flocks in line. My philoshophy prof, who described himself as a recovering Catholic, once came up with any interesting bit of logic. It goes something like this, in order to be a good Catholic you must follow the teachings of the church and not stray anytime during your life. Since there is always a chance that you will stray during you life then it follows that the only real good Catholic is a dead Catholic.

I write this not just to poke fun at Catholics, even through nearly 2000 years of Catholicism has produced a plethory of comical excesses. I am interested in hearing others opinions concerning the durability of some religions over others.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2007 3:53:13 PM PST
D. Westfall says:
Actually Catholicism is closer to 1700 years.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2007 1:39:29 PM PST
Actually, many of the Shakers were wiped out by an organized militia of Movers in the great battle of 1910.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2007 2:11:53 AM PST

For several years, I have referred to Islam and Christianity as "The scourge of the convert seeking faiths." Convert seeking was a new concept when Paul began seeking converts outside of the Jewish world. My cynical mind believes that gentiles were easier marks. Christianity would have died out long ago it it were not for convert consumption. Islam followed christianities' example. Mormonism duplicated this model in America. It's a formula that keeps on working. Trying to understand how Judaism survived for so long is something I have puzzled over for years. They do not seek converts. They openly regard wannabe converts with skepticism.


In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2007 5:18:33 PM PST
Two ancient religions that I can think of off the top of my head, Zoroastrianism (the followers of Zoroaster) and Manicheanism (the followers of Mani)are now dead, I think. And both of them were very popular, with believers in the millions each. I think Zoroastrianism, which was the primary religion of the Persian Empire, died because the empire was conquered. I dunno about Manicheanism. I'm sure some religious historian out there knows the answer. And we haven't even mentioned Greek and Roman paganism, which are both now basically dead religions, although they are still remembered nostalgically.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2007 1:52:40 PM PDT
Gene Craven:

Indeed, why don't religions die out? Since all religions are merely variations of six thousand year-old Babylonian Masonry, the God of the Bible couldn't agree with you more (Isaiah 29:13;Matt.15:7-9).

There has been only one true Bible religion in the history of the world and that was Mosaism and it hasn't existed for two thousand years because the Bible God knew it would fail (Deut.31:16). So why did He allow it? We humans were supposed to have learned from that failure but we never did (Rev.22:18,19).

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2007 5:02:55 PM PDT
There has to be a PhD dissertation in explaining the evolutionary dynamics of religions' survival. All else being equal, high birth rates, high rates of conversion and high penalties for dissention should ensure a religion's survival. I see elements of this in many of today's popular religions. I agree that Judaism is an anomaly that would need to be explained in any such undertaking. Maybe the key is that Judaism is more parts culture than religion? Or perhaps some weaker condition is all that's needed for survival... something like a high penalty for dissention and a birth-rate larger than the rate of mortality?

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2007 7:29:45 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2007 8:44:36 AM PDT
M. schultz says:
"It seems that all religions must have a God". Buddhism, in most of its forms, is a non-theistic religion.

In reply to an earlier post on May 31, 2007 8:41:05 AM PDT
L.B.E says:
It seems to me that the reason you cannot understand why some religions persist is because you have no personal set of religious beliefs (okay, I'm making an assuption based on the title of the post and the book it was found under...but go with me, here).

There are two keys to the lasting power of religion - a diety to which believers feel a personal connection. The reason many polythiestic religions evaporate (such as roman and greek paganism)is that followers don't draw anything from the god - committee's can't win hearts. While one can point to hinduism as an exception to this, many Hindus identifiy with, pray to, and worship one particular diety - not all. Even Buddhists, though they don't worship him in the traditional sense, have one central figure to look to for guidance.

All that is written to say this: Religion will not die because people need to feel they are not alone. For believers, it is incomprehnsible how those with no faith make through an average day, let alone hard times. The knowledge that a supreme deity cares about the concerns of those on earth - the security, the companionship, the love - are what bring people into religions and keeps them there, whether they come as children or adults.

I have known several athists in my life and had many discussions with them. In the end, I felt neither of us understood how the other chose to live the life we did. They could not understand why an intelligent, rational person continued to believe in a fairy tale (their words, not mine) and I could not understand why they worked so hard not to believe in something that brings such joy.

In reply to an earlier post on May 31, 2007 1:36:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 31, 2007 2:57:50 PM PDT
readaholic says:
L. Edwards, You say that atheists have to work hard "not to believe". That is the opposite of the reason for atheism. Atheists do not see or feel evidence that God exists. Their position is very rational and not as you describe it, IMHO. Actually, people who are still struggling with their beliefs would be better described as agnostics, rather than atheists, wouldn't they?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2007 1:43:20 PM PDT
L.B.E says:
I guess what I mean is this: If there is no god (little g here implying of any religion), why do Atheists continue to try and discredit the religious beliefs of others? If there is no god, why does it matter if some people choose to believe the myth? The constant hammering is almost cruel if there's no reason for it - almost like telling kindergartens there is no Santa.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2007 6:02:51 PM PDT
Gene Craven says:
I have heard before, primarily from Christians, that they have a personal relationship with their God. In the case of Christians it's a personal relationship with Jesus. Yes I would have difficulty believing that it is possible to have a personal relationship with someone who died 2000 years ago and can not meet with you, have a discussion with you, or respond directly to anything you say or do. However, even if this is possible why do people who say that they have this personal relationship with God need to be a part of an organized religion?

It seems to me that the opposite is true you do not have a personal relationship but instead a group relationship where the nature or that relationship is defined for you by the hierarchy of that particular religion. My personal opinion is that humans are probably "hard wired" to believe in a spirtual creator because those beliefs have been a required part of our group social behavior since the first human, or prehuman became aware of his own mortality. We are still in many ways tribal animals. Five thousand years or so of what we call modern human development is a sparce amount of time to overcome inherited social and perhaps physical imprinting that goes back perhaps millions of years. The power of the tribe to control our behavior and shape our thoughts and beliefs goes on today. One obvious way that this tribal behavior is manifest is through organized religion.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2007 10:07:24 AM PDT
simple says:
You guys are over thinking this. The simple answer is FEAR. Until people are unafraid they will want something to confort them. Fear and greed are usually the answer to most problems.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2007 12:37:29 AM PDT
Peter Gray says:
I don't know which atheists you're referring to, but most of them I know spend little or no time trying to discredit others' religious beliefs. I rarely do that even when invited because I know from experience how pointless it is to try to reason with people who take certain selected bizarre stories "on faith."

I don't care which myths you believe in, as long as you keep them to yourself and don't promote destructive, backward, or medieval policies. If you fit that description, I'm happy to leave your beliefs alone.

Unfortunately, far too many believers, the fanatical ones who apparently number in the tens of millions in this country alone, do not fit that description, and they are a genuine threat to the health, safety, and well-being of the rest of us. That's when there's not only a reason, but an obligation for "constant hammering."

Sorry if it seems cruel, but it's really self-defense.

Interesting that you compare God to Santa. I agree with that.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2007 7:46:29 AM PDT
L.B.E says:
I figured somebody would say something snide about the Santa comment, evidence that you are taking what I wrote out of context.

I understand that religious beliefs can promote "destructive, backward, or medieval policies." They also bring a lot of good to the world - disaster relief teams, the salvation army, most of the food kitchens and homeless shelters in the country, special programs for the hispanic population, ect. I see how threatening believers are.

It's clear that the only answer is live and let live. Just do me a favor, give believers a little more respect. Some of us are idiots, true, but that goes for any section of the population. We are also educated and rational and genuinely care about the health, safety, and well-being of others.

That's it, gentlemen, I'm done. It was interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2007 7:43:35 PM PDT
Dan Edwards says:
If we look at the scrap-heap of history, we find it littered with the wrecks of many faiths. Nearly all of these are polytheistic religions, with great pantheons of dieties and demigods. Even to current fervent believers, these creeds seem impossibly naive and incredibly ignorant. Of the remaining great faiths today, three are monotheistic (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism)and even claim to worship the same god, one is polytheistic (Hinduism) and one is godless (Buddhism). Slowly but surely, we're eliminating gods, if not religious faith.

Further, I think that by the end of the current millenium all five of today's religious faiths will be looked upon with the same disdain that we today hold for the religions of the past.

What no one today can predict with any certainty is what will replace the present religions. The best option would be rationality, but that may not be the most likely outcome.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2007 9:42:16 AM PDT
A. Ververis says:


That entails dealing with the truth. Most of us simply can't handle the truth. And that's the point where religious faith steps in to anesthetize the troubled mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2007 12:42:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2007 12:44:06 AM PDT
Keith Davis says:
Voltaire said the same thing about religion dying out; I believe he said Christianity would be gone within a hundred years of his death. The press used to print copies of his books ended up churning out thousands of Bibles. Call that what you will. A hundred years after his death, Christian beliefs were still going strong. I guess his faith in people "growing up" was blind. Many will say "yep, people are still ignorant." I say that, at least in this case, it was the scoffer proved ignorant.

To all those professing unbelief, you'd better be right. I would never knowingly bank my whole life on what I knew to be a lie, but in the small chance I have, the worst thing that can happen to me is a life far more meaningful and contented--my God and faith a buffer against fear, stress, chance, and death--than the atheist can hope to attain to. I'm sure I'll be yelled at. The cries will never drown out the unnamed fears in the black of night, and they will never give voice to the soul that sees the sunrise at the end of it and doesn't know who to thank. I welcome the black of night and the sunrise.

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety." --Psalm 4:8

The world may crumble around me; that's life in a natural universe where people have free will. God has my soul covered. As I said before, to all those professing unbelief, you'd better be right. The risks far outweigh the benefit of an illusive autonomy. We are all ineluctably slaves of something. We must choose what.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2007 5:56:04 AM PDT
Gene Craven says:
I agree that we all are in a sense gambling with the beliefs and lifestyle that we choose. I've never had a problem with people of various beliefs in God and an afterlife who kept their beliefs to themselves and tolerated my beliefs and others who see things differently. The problem with religion is that people are taught that their religion is the only correct religion and perhaps the only path to this afterlife.
This basic incompatibility of the worlds religions is the primary cause of much of world's strife.

I would ask you, is there a chance that you may be wrong? And by pursuing a life devoted to your specific religion that you may miss out something? I for one think that there is more beauty and truth to be found in a quiet walk on mountain trail that can be found in all the churches, mosques, temples, whatever in the world.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2007 8:03:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2007 8:13:33 AM PDT
Keith Davis says:
Some people mistakenly think that if something isn't found in the Bible (or their "holy" book, for sake of discussion) that it's not worth knowing or experiencing. I believe the nature of God is such that if it can be known/proven to be true (in the black and white sense of things, not the relativistic, "my truth is different than your truth and even though we contradict each other we're both right"), then it derives from God. In other words: all Truth is God's Truth. So, I'm also extremely fond of the walk down the mountain trail. From the Biblical perspective, humanity is supposed have both dominion AND stewardship over the natural world, and enjoy it as a blessing from, and a reflection of the glory of, God. As far as "life and godliness" are concerned (2nd Peter 1:3), the Bible claims that is all anyone could ever NEED. So I understand, but disagree with, some people's oversimplification.

As for church buildings are concerned, that is another trap religious people have fallen into. There is nothing sacred about a building. The important part is the people and what they bring to it and take away from it. I preach for the Church of Christ. Our building is pretty much four walls, no windows (alas and alack), no decorations, no stained glass, no crosses. The closest thing to aesthetic appeal we have in the building is an engraving in the wood of the communion table saying "In Remembrance of Me"--that and my PowerPoint presentations! The important elements are the mind and heart; no one is enjoined (at least by the Bible) to be concerned with the external. I believe I could show from scripture that all the embellishments of cathedrals and iconography border on the sinful with their poor allocation of resources and the idolatry they may engender.

Thanks for your thoughts!
BTW my name's Keith; my wife is Christie, lol.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 14, 2007 12:02:34 AM PDT
Religions can survive if they:

1) Are increasing the birth rate. This can accomplish this in the following ways:
a) Stressing the importance of fertility (be fruitful and multiple)
b) Reducing female education to keep women at home
c) Encouraging early marriage
d) Prohibiting birth control

2) Get passed from one generation to the next. This can accomplish this in many ways:
a) Early child indoctrination and involvement in the different rights of passage rituals
b) Restricting the interaction with non-believers.

3) Are reducing the defection rate by penalizing defectors. This can accomplish by:
a) Shunning the defectors.
b) Killing the defectors

4) Have high conversion rate. This can accomplish by:
a) Having a religious doctrine that promotes missionary activity
b) Providing help to none-believers when they go though bad times

5) Provide usefulness to the believers. Some of the obvious useful things religions help to deal with are:
a) Fear of death. This is usually addressed by suggesting afterlife or reincarnation.
b) Chance, uncertainty, stress and fear. Why not to pray before a final exam or getting a biopsy report? There is always uncertainty in life and you can always use more luck. Feeing lonely? Why not access your personal God?
c) Justice. People need to know that bad deeds will be punished if not in this life than the next.
d) Social club. Usually religious organizations provide ways for people to meet and help each other. For example, a religious organization may provide babysitter, better school, etc. If somebody cheats you within the "social club" you can be sure that they will be punished.
e) Unknown. People need explanations. Things not explained by science are filled by religious explanations. For example, the phenomenon of human conscienceless in not explained by science, therefore, religions provide a notion of soul.
f) Providing meaningfulness to life. This is something science does not do. Philosophy attempts to do this but is too inaccessible to an average person.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 16, 2007 3:31:43 PM PDT
Gene Craven says:
I would agree with most of the things that you say but you didn't delve very far into some of the negative effects that religion has on people. Take for instance the cover up for hundreds of years by the Catholic church of the known sexual abuse of young children by Catholic priests. I know that there has probably been a drop in contribution to the church, in some instances, but apparently there has not been a large scale drop in people who say that they are Catholic and continue to put their kids in harms way. I could not in good conscience put my children into a situation where I thought that there might be a good chance that they would become victims of sexual predators yet millions of people continue to send their kids to Catholic schools, to participate in priest led events, and be in situations where they might become victims everyday. None of the positive aspects of religion that you site would overcome these fears for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 17, 2007 8:04:12 PM PDT
It seems that most of the arguments for and against the religion are based on the usefulness or harm of the religion. However, I feel that this way of arguing is somewhat flawed. In "Human, All Too Human" (p.227) Friedrich Nietzsche writes:

...every father brings up his son in the same way: "Only believe this," he says, "and you will soon feel the good it does." This implies, however, that the truth of an opinion is proved by its personal utility; the wholesomeness of a doctrine must be a guarantee for its intellectual surety and solidity. It is exactly as if an accused person in a court of law were to say, "My counsel speaks the whole truth, for only see what is the result of his speech: I shall be acquitted."


In the Matrix movie, Morpheus offers Neo blue and red pills. Red pill is to learn the truth and the blue pill to continue to live in the fantasy world. It seems that most people would rather live in the world of useful fiction than in the world of harsh reality.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2007 8:57:07 AM PDT
J. M. Mapes says:
JMM says:

It seems to me that the initial question sparking this discussion is best addressed by Anna Krupitsky's post, whether we might agree with what's in it or not.

My personal experiences with religion began as most people's do; when I was a young child. I was told that faith is a gift given by God; not something I initiated on my own. If this is true then religions do not die out because God Him/Her self perpetuates them.

The second thing that comes to my mind is interpretation of life experiences. Patterns seen in the progress of my life, opportunities at much needed moments, benefits that came about after or as a result of miserable experiences; all this seemed to point to plan for my life with my best interest in mind. If there was a plan, there had to be a plan maker.
Hence my belief in God, again at a young age. Once the belief was in place there became the question of understanding and relating to God, if I wanted or was able to relate at all. That is where religion came into play for me. I chose a religion that helped me make sense of the world, brought me comfort, met my needs, and also challenged me.

As I have evolved, so has my concept of religion, and my choice of religious expression has evolved as well. In my opinion, this is what will happen with humanity as a whole. New religions will arise that allow us to relate to God in a way that is logical for our society, and archaic religions will die out, though hopefully not the lessons learned from them, especially if truth about them is not suppressed. But religion itself will never entirely die.
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Initial post:  Feb 15, 2007
Latest post:  Sep 25, 2013

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Letter to a Christian Nation
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (Hardcover - September 19, 2006)
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