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 Rationality and Religion

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PostSubject: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:07 pm

I got into a discussion with Riadach on another thread about this. He reckons religion should base itself in objectivity and rationality as much as possible. I disagreed, stating that these are the tools of science and religion is bound to win. It would be the same as validating science with scriptures and the Bible.

Most people are blissfully happy with the mystical nature of religion, even when they live in an objective world. Objectivity and rationality, are to a certain extent, Western ideas and non-Western belief-systems can't be expected to set themselves by them.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:18 pm

It implies that religion and science are two completely separate irreconcilable disciplines. I don't think that can ever be the case. Indeed, one seems to have emanated from the other.

Myself personally, I see science and religion as having similar objectives, and coming from different origins. I see religion focuses of the internal, the consciousness the morality, whereas science focuses on the external reality, explanations for the existence and development of things.

Given that i see god as being both the combination of the external world, with the internal world, then I have no difficulty whatseover in the overlapping of the two disciplines. If one methodology works for one, the surely it can be applied to the other.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:31 pm

It can't. Simple as. Why would Hinduism have anything to do with rationality or objectivity? These are Western ideas.

In the Western world, there is considerable conflict between religion and science, atheism and secularism. I know these three are not the same thing but they use similar arguments.

We might not be back to the good old days of the Victorians but the temperature is rising. Dawkins and Hitchens are pumping out books while the Americans and now Sarkozy and Blair are putting on their armour.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:39 pm

905 wrote:
It can't. Simple as. Why would Hinduism have anything to do with rationality or objectivity? These are Western ideas.

In the Western world, there is considerable conflict between religion and science, atheism and secularism. I know these three are not the same thing but they use similar arguments.

We might not be back to the good old days of the Victorians but the temperature is rising. Dawkins and Hitchens are pumping out books while the Americans and now Sarkozy and Blair are putting on their armour.

Most would argue they are fundamental objective ideas, and not merely that, but they are effective in establishing truth. They have been shown to establish truth, therefore they cannot be deemed to be an idiosyncratic zeitgeist (or maybe platzgeist) of western civilisation.

The conflict between religion and science is not one which is inherent in either organisation. The conflict is between a conservatism within religion and a desire for discovery within science. Some religious believe that by continually revising their beliefs, they are undermining themselves. Science believe that by doing so it perfects itself. In reality, religion should see science as a method to discovery the real face of god, while it should continue to try and understand his mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:42 pm

For anyone who has read the God Delusion - I haven't as I've been very busy lately with trying to learn law! - there is, what I have been told is, a good responsive book by an Irish man called Prof Alister McGrath who has a background in molecular biophysics, but subsequently was the principal of one of the Oxford theological colleges. It is called The Dawkins Delusion?. Click the title to view the wiki page on his book.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:43 pm

riadach wrote:
Some religious believe that by continually revising their beliefs, they are undermining themselves. Science believe that by doing so it perfects itself. In reality, religion should see science as a method to discovery the real face of god, while it should continue to try and understand his mind.

I would agree with that. Thankfully there have been some exceptions - Ernest Walton, one of Ireland's nobel laureate's would be one.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:51 pm

johnfás wrote:
For anyone who has read the God Delusion - I haven't as I've been very busy lately with trying to learn law! - there is, what I have been told is, a good responsive book by an Irish man called Prof Alister McGrath who has a background in molecular biophysics, but subsequently was the principal of one of the Oxford theological colleges. It is called The Dawkins Delusion?. Click the title to view the wiki page on his book.

There are many books in response to Dawkins. Another is God is no Delusion by Fr Thomas Crean. His website describes these as fleas, merely trying to make money from his own success. However, if he is going to start a book-based argument on the existence of God, surely he should expect some responses.

He also got himself into trouble by repeatedly misquoting Richard Swinburne in relation do theodicy. Dawkins clearly doesn't understand many of his arguments, it seems, given Dawkins has little or no grounding in theology which he describes as being 'empty'. When challenged on this weaknes, he rather facetiously replied 'one doesn't need to know leprachaunology to disprove leprachauns'. This I fear, is the measure of the man.

However, I have a strange feeling that many intelligent atheists would find Dawkins aims rather dubious. He seems to be trying to create a group identity of 'brights', with a foundation for the promotion of ethical humanism, and his followers (the posters on his site) seem to be mostly of the opinion that they are much more intelligent than theists on the grounds that they do not believe in god. He may be doing what is anathema to most atheists, founding a new areligion, centred around his own personality cult.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:52 pm

Riadach, I would disagree with you over what science and religion disagree on, though they certainly aren't inherently opposed. New religions are just as frowned upon as old ones. And the God science discovered hasn't really got a mind, or much else, so that's where the conflict might arise.

Science and religion, in the Western tradition, are very absolutist compared to other regions. They are jealous; they have no leeway for other belief-systems. They either try to block out conflicting belief-systems or try to convert them (sound familiar?). Most people live quite happily with the two opposing belief-systems, just as some atheists trust in luck or touch wood.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:57 pm

Brights is not Dawkins own creation, though he certainly endorses it. Much of the moral high ground claimed by atheists is lost with this kind of group though.

It won't take long to read The God Delusion, it's the atheist equivilant of The Da Vinci Code. Preaching to the Converted. Many of the atheist posters on Boards were embarrassed by Dawkins, especially his simplistic attitude to the Troubles and his explosive temperment. He was still described as 'required reading' though.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:58 pm

905 wrote:
Riadach, I would disagree with you over what science and religion disagree on, though they certainly aren't inherently opposed. New religions are just as frowned upon as old ones. And the God science discovered hasn't really got a mind, or much else, so that's where the conflict might arise.

Well I'm not sure science has discovered a god, but if it did, it would not be able to discover a mind. Not as yet anyway. Indeed, science can't properly explain consciousness on any level as yet, so it would be out of it's depth trying to explain it on a universal level. However, given religion focusses on the mind, on the individuality, on the mentality and the consciousness, I feel it is in much better position to evaluate it than science would be. One day, hopefully, both will be drawn back to the exact same starting point. That the universal consciousness and the universe itself are one and the same.

Quote :

Science and religion, in the Western tradition, are very absolutist comparedto other regions. They are jealous; they have no leeway for other belief-systems. They either try to block out conflicting belief-systems or try to convert them (sound familiar?). Most people live quite happily with the two opposing belief-systems, just as some atheists trust in luck or touch wood.

Well as with everything, there is not clear dividing line, and one should not exclude the other.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:59 pm

905 wrote:
Brights is not Dawkins own creation, though he certainly endorses it. Much of the moral high ground claimed by atheists is lost with this kind of group though.

It won't take long to read The God Delusion, it's the atheist equivilant of The Da Vinci Code. Preaching to the Converted. Many of the atheist posters on Boards were embarrassed by Dawkins, especially his simplistic attitude to the Troubles and his explosive temperment. He was still described as 'required reading' though.

In fairness, I'm not in the best position to comment on it, as I have not read it myself :-(
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:06 pm

Absolutely hilarious, he has no concept of science causing evil. A blasphemous idea to him.

I was quite upset though, at one point, where he seemingly perverts a scientific study to prove one of his points. Dissing religion is one thing, but abusing the position you supposedly defend is quite unthinkable. Either I got it wrong (which is possible), he got it wrong (which doesn't say much for his scientific credentials) or he deliberately buggered science to validate his own prejudices. I just hope it's the second one.

Incidentally I read a copy from the library. I have an irrational dread of my money going towards the upkeep of him or his ideas.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:19 pm

905 wrote:
Absolutely hilarious, he has no concept of science causing evil. A blasphemous idea to him.

I was quite upset though, at one point, where he seemingly perverts a scientific study to prove one of his points. Dissing religion is one thing, but abusing the position you supposedly defend is quite unthinkable. Either I got it wrong (which is possible), he got it wrong (which doesn't say much for his scientific credentials) or he deliberately buggered science to validate his own prejudices. I just hope it's the second one.

Incidentally I read a copy from the library. I have an irrational dread of my money going towards the upkeep of him or his ideas.

Well he demands donations on his site for the spread of ethical humanism. Obviously he sees no irony at all in all this. Would you care to outline the science he buggered over?
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:41 pm

Quote :

The Israelites' campaign to carry out their god's commandment to commit genocide against the native inhabitants of Canaan-cum-Palestine took several generations. It began with Joshua's massacre at Jericho. Contrary to the Christian song "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho," according to scripture there was no battle at all. It was a siege, at the end of which all of the city's inhabitants were killed except Rahab the prostitute (she and her family were spared in exchange for helping Joshua plan his strategy, Joshua 6:16-17, 19, 21, 24, RSV):

Joshua said to the people, "Shout; for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction…But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD."…Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword…And they burned the city with fire, and all within it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.

The half-life and penetrance of such cultural legacies are often under-appreciated. Some 3,000 years after the fall of Jericho, Israeli psychologist George Tamarin (1966, 1973) measured the strength of residual in-group morality. He presented Joshua 6:20-21 to 1,066 school children, ages 8-14, in order to test "the effect of uncritical teaching of the Bible on the propensity for forming prejudices (particularly the notion of the 'chosen people,' the superiority of the monotheistic religion, and the study of acts of genocide by biblical heroes)." The children's answers to the question "Do you think Joshua and the Israelites acted rightly or not?," were categorized as follows: "'A' means total approval, 'B' means partial approval or disapproval, and 'C' means total disapproval." Across a broad spectrum of Israeli social and economic classes, 66% of responses were "A," 8% "B," and 26% "C." The "A" answers tended to be as straightforward as they were numerous (Tamarin, 1966):


  • In my opinion Joshua and the Sons of Israel acted well, and here are the reasons: God promised them this land, and gave them permission to conquer. If they would not have acted in this manner or killed anyone, then there would be the danger that the Sons of Israel would have assimilated among the "Goyim."6
  • In my opinion Joshua was right when he did it, one reason being that God commanded him to exterminate the people so that the tribes of Israel will not be able to assimilate amongst them and learn their bad ways.
  • Joshua did good because the people who inhabited the land were of a different religion, and when Joshua killed them he wiped their religion from the earth.

Tamarin (1973) noted that:
"C" classification [total disapproval] was accorded to all answers formally rejecting genocide, either on ethical or utilitarian grounds. This does not mean that all "C" responses reveal non-discriminatory attitudes. For example, one girl criticized Joshua's act, stating that "the Sons of Israel learned many bad things from the Goyim."xAnother extremely racist response is that of a 10 year old girl disapproving the act, stating, "I think it is not good, since the Arabs are impure and if one enters an impure land one will also become impure and share their curse."
Other misgivings included (1966):

  • I think Joshua did not act well, as they could have spared the animals for themselves.
  • I think Joshua did not act well, as he should have left the property of Jericho; if he had not destroyed the property it would have belonged to the Israelites.

In contrast to the established difference between boys and girls in propensity toward violence and approval of violence in general, with regard to biblically commanded genocide Tamarin found that "Contrary to our expectation, there was no difference, concerning this most cruel form of prejudice, between male and female examinees" (1973). Less surprising, but more alarming, nearly half of the children who gave "total approval" to Joshua's behavior also gave "A" responses to the hypothetical question: "Suppose that the Israeli Army conquers an Arab village in battle. Do you think it would be good or bad to act towards the inhabitants as Joshua did towards the people of Jericho?" Tamarin (1966) received such responses as these:

  • In my opinion this behavior was necessary, as the Arabs are our enemies always, and the Jews did not have a country, and it was necessary to behave like that towards the Arabs.
  • It would have been good to treat the Arabs as Joshua and his soldiers did, as they are Arabs; they hate and retaliate against us all the time, and if we exterminate them as Joshua did, they won't be able to show themselves as greater heroes than we.
  • I think it was good because we want our enemies to be conquered, and to widen our frontiers, and we would kill the Arabs as Joshua and the Israelites did.



Some respondents disapproved of Joshua's campaign (answer "C"), but approved of similar acts if committed by Israeli soldiers. One girl disapproved of Joshua "because it is written in the Bible, 'don't kill'," but she approved of the conjectured Israeli Army action, stating "I think it would be good, as we want our enemies to fall into our hands, enlarge our frontiers, and kill the Arabs as Joshua did."

As a control group, Tamarin tested 168 children who were read Joshua 6:20-21 with "General Lin" substituted for Joshua and a "Chinese Kingdom 3000 years ago" substituted for Israel. General Lin got a 7% approval rating, with 18% giving partial approval or disapproval, and 75% disapproving totally.
http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/taboos/ltn01.html
Apologies for the length of this report. Dawkins cites this as evidence that religions pervert children from a very young age. Here we have a bunch of children who are happy to see genocide inflicted in the name of God, not only in the past but in today's world. I have no problem with that; I accept that religion often does such things.

But the above study isn't exclusively about religion. Dawkins attributes it to Judaism, but he omits to mention that Judaism is an ethnic identity as well as a religious one. The children might equally have had nationalistic motivations for supporting genocide.

Indeed this seems more likely to me. The control used, replacing Jewish references with Chinese ones takes Judaism out of the equation but leaves the supposedly monotheistic 'LORD'. Also, the reasons given by the children for supporting such activities against the Palestinians (ignored by Dawkins) were more nationalistic and less religious in nature.

Maybe I'm the one seriously deluded. I hope so. Please, please feel free to point out any faults in my logic. But I think it is Dawkins who is deluded. He often makes the above mistake in his book; pointing out the evils of religion but neglecting the same evils that can arise from nationalism, ethnicity or any group identity (including the Brights).
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:51 pm

Indeed, he did pick rather a hotspot to draw his theories from. I wonder had he done it amongst jews in the west, or even christians, after reading such, would the initial researcher have extracted the same point.

Similarly, I wonder would a chinese child, taught in a chinese atheistic classroom, support such an attack if they thought that mao had once done it.

What mistake they always seem to me making is that they attribute this hatred for the other to religion alone. It is not. It is an underlying tribalism which exploits religion. This is what needs to be eradicated, not religion itself.

He shows his inability to understand this by attributing Northern ireland's troubles to religion. The difficulties in Northern would still have erupted if there was no religious divide. The tribalism, the difference, would have been fulled by different languages, different customs , different politics etc etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 7:10 pm

In fairness it was a more of a Christian-bashing thread he got the study from.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:13 pm

905 wrote:
Brights is not Dawkins own creation, though he certainly endorses it. Much of the moral high ground claimed by atheists is lost with this kind of group though.

It won't take long to read The God Delusion, it's the atheist equivilant of The Da Vinci Code. Preaching to the Converted. Many of the atheist posters on Boards were embarrassed by Dawkins, especially his simplistic attitude to the Troubles and his explosive temperment. He was still described as 'required reading' though.

My problem with Dawkins is that he is not an atheist but an agnostic - God is merely 'not proven' to him. As he can't get even that basic item right, I would not accept him as "spokesperson" for atheists. He neither understands religion or atheism.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:24 pm

cactus flower wrote:


My problem with Dawkins is that he is not an atheist but an agnostic - God is merely 'not proven' to him. As he can't get even that basic item right, I would not accept him as "spokesperson" for atheists. He neither understands religion or atheism.

But if you accept god as anything other than 'not proven', then surely you too are taking a leap of faith?
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:35 pm

riadach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:


My problem with Dawkins is that he is not an atheist but an agnostic - God is merely 'not proven' to him. As he can't get even that basic item right, I would not accept him as "spokesperson" for atheists. He neither understands religion or atheism.

But if you accept god as anything other than 'not proven', then surely you too are taking a leap of faith?

I would see three categories here

1 believing in God (religion)
2 believing God's existence (if God exists) can't be proven or unproven (agnosticism)
3 believing that belief in God is an explicable part of man's historical development, but that God, or gods, do not exist (atheism).

From the occasions I have heard Dawkins speak ( I have not read his book ), he falls into category 2.

Category 2 is a woolly sort of a place to be, but many people find themselves there by default. What is worrying about Dawkins is that he spends a lot of time thinking about religion but still essentially has not been able to draw any conclusions. This I suppose is scepticism, or something similar. I find him irritating.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:49 pm

cactus flower wrote:
riadach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:


My problem with Dawkins is that he is not an atheist but an agnostic - God is merely 'not proven' to him. As he can't get even that basic item right, I would not accept him as "spokesperson" for atheists. He neither understands religion or atheism.

But if you accept god as anything other than 'not proven', then surely you too are taking a leap of faith?

I would see three categories here

1 believing in God (religion)
2 believing God's existence (if God exists) can't be proven or unproven (agnosticism)
3 believing that belief in God is an explicable part of man's historical development, but that God, or gods, do not exist (atheism).

From the occasions I have heard Dawkins speak ( I have not read his book ), he falls into category 2.

Category 2 is a woolly sort of a place to be, but many people find themselves there by default. What is worrying about Dawkins is that he spends a lot of time thinking about religion but still essentially has not been able to draw any conclusions. This I suppose is scepticism, or something similar. I find him irritating.

Except category 2 is the only one not held on the grounds of faith, but rather logic and reason. Through logic, it can never be said for certain that something doesn't exist. One can discuss the likliehoods, but that is all. Indeed, one could argue that chairs disappear when unobserved, and it is neither provable or unprovable.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 11:04 pm

riadach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
riadach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:


My problem with Dawkins is that he is not an atheist but an agnostic - God is merely 'not proven' to him. As he can't get even that basic item right, I would not accept him as "spokesperson" for atheists. He neither understands religion or atheism.

But if you accept god as anything other than 'not proven', then surely you too are taking a leap of faith?

I would see three categories here

1 believing in God (religion)
2 believing God's existence (if God exists) can't be proven or unproven (agnosticism)
3 believing that belief in God is an explicable part of man's historical development, but that God, or gods, do not exist (atheism).

From the occasions I have heard Dawkins speak ( I have not read his book ), he falls into category 2.

Category 2 is a woolly sort of a place to be, but many people find themselves there by default. What is worrying about Dawkins is that he spends a lot of time thinking about religion but still essentially has not been able to draw any conclusions. This I suppose is scepticism, or something similar. I find him irritating.

Except category 2 is the only one not held on the grounds of faith, but rather logic and reason. Through logic, it can never be said for certain that something doesn't exist. One can discuss the likliehoods, but that is all. Indeed, one could argue that chairs disappear when unobserved, and it is neither provable or unprovable.

One could argue it, Riadach, but I wouldn't try sitting on one that isn't there.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Wed Apr 09, 2008 11:07 pm

cactus flower wrote:
riadach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
riadach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:


My problem with Dawkins is that he is not an atheist but an agnostic - God is merely 'not proven' to him. As he can't get even that basic item right, I would not accept him as "spokesperson" for atheists. He neither understands religion or atheism.

But if you accept god as anything other than 'not proven', then surely you too are taking a leap of faith?

I would see three categories here

1 believing in God (religion)
2 believing God's existence (if God exists) can't be proven or unproven (agnosticism)
3 believing that belief in God is an explicable part of man's historical development, but that God, or gods, do not exist (atheism).

From the occasions I have heard Dawkins speak ( I have not read his book ), he falls into category 2.

Category 2 is a woolly sort of a place to be, but many people find themselves there by default. What is worrying about Dawkins is that he spends a lot of time thinking about religion but still essentially has not been able to draw any conclusions. This I suppose is scepticism, or something similar. I find him irritating.

Except category 2 is the only one not held on the grounds of faith, but rather logic and reason. Through logic, it can never be said for certain that something doesn't exist. One can discuss the likliehoods, but that is all. Indeed, one could argue that chairs disappear when unobserved, and it is neither provable or unprovable.

One could argue it, Riadach, but I wouldn't try sitting on one that isn't there.

Ah but if you tries to sit on it, one observes it. Be it by touch, or by sight. It is only when no one observes it, that it disappears.
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:28 am

johnfás wrote:
For anyone who has read the God Delusion - I haven't as I've been very busy lately with trying to learn law! - there is, what I have been told is, a good responsive book by an Irish man called Prof Alister McGrath who has a background in molecular biophysics, but subsequently was the principal of one of the Oxford theological colleges. It is called The Dawkins Delusion?. Click the title to view the wiki page on his book.

every debate he's had with secular atheist they've wiped the floor with him (by all reports)
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:33 am

you can't divorce religion, from the north probs, it just he simplified it
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PostSubject: Re: Rationality and Religion   Fri Apr 11, 2008 11:12 am

It's true that religion causes plenty of trouble up there. The last thing I'd want to do is simplify the problem to suit my argument a lá Dawkins. This report suggests both politics and religion are the problem,ven for kids: Children aware of NI sectarian symbols.
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