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Tradition and Religion

- most people do as well as convention/tradition. and experience it as easy to do so.

- most people have ideas about how to do things better. some proportion of those ideas seem obvious, easy to implement

- most people consequently think tradition is nice for "most people" who aren't as bright as they are, but clearly they are brighter than it, since they do it easily plus have good ideas for improvements. the people who made the tradition must not have been as bright as them, since they missed the obvious improvements.

- the real fact of the matter is that traditions are wiser than people, and most of the supposed obvious improvements are either bad ideas, or are difficult to implement and the person doesn't actually know how to make it happen

- so the basic issue is taking for granted what we have, and underestimating the difficulty of having more based on the ease of the taken-for-granted stuff

- this is not a mistake *everyone* makes. Edmund Burke emphatically did not make it.

- and there are some people who make the mistake more. for example ivory tower academics are prone to this.

- regardless, 'most people are dumb' is a common sentiment. but this particular reason behind it -- that they are not making the "obvious" improvements on convention that the speaker has thought of -- is a mistake.

- the 'most people are dumb' sentiment often comes up in discussion of religion. in particular it is sometimes suggested that most religious people are dumb. in the ballpark of 90% of Americans are religious, so that's most Americans.

- atheism consists of a number of apparent improvements on religion, most of which consist of throwing stuff out, and most of which seem obvious to the sort of evangelical atheist who says most religious people are dumb. don't pray, don't listen to sermons, don't be involved in church groups, don't believe in God, don't believe in heaven, hell, miracles, don't read the Bible, don't listen to advice just because it's Biblical or Christian, don't respect your local religious leaders, and more. are some of those good ideas? yes in some form. are they actually all obvious and easy to implement? no.

- from the list of things atheism consists of: have most religious people already implemented at least one of these in their life? yes. successfully? beneficially? yes. and what about atheists, they've generally implemented most or all of them. but successfully? beneficially? sometimes yes, sometimes no, frequently unclear.

Elliot Temple on April 17, 2008


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