We Need New Words to Replace "Religion"

Or, at least, to supplement that word.

I find it useful to distinguish between ‘religions’ that make positive statements about facts, eg “Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead thee days later” or “God created the Earth about 6000 years ago”, on the one hand; and those which basically just enunciate warm fuzzy meaningless generalities: “All is One” , “The Universe is a Great Harmony”. The former are, in theory, testable and falsifiable. The latter are not.

A third category is the well-known distinction between “is” and “ought” statements.

If someone’s religion consists only of ‘ought’ statements, we really need a word that distinguishes it from those religions which make falsifiable-in-principle statements about matters of fact.

Someone whose belief system is consists of statements like"We ought to be kind to each other’, or “Don’t do unto others what you would not have done to yourself” is really different from someone whose relgion includes statements like “If you pray for financial success, God will reward you”, or “It once rained for 40 days and 40 nights.”

Now, in reality, many people hold a mix of all three kinds of ‘religious’ beliefs: assertions about the factual state of the world; warm fuzzy generalities; and ethical prescriptions, how we ‘should’ behave (with religious people, the latter are often grounded in an untestable proposition, namely, that God wants us to behave in a certain way – that the ethical impulses we have are not the result of some sort of natural selection (possibly of groups rather than of individuals, and working not on genes but on customs (what I think Dawkins once called ‘memes’).

And the religious testable-statements-of-fact which in reality religious people usually get very angry about if you actually try to suggest testing them, or at least looking at the evidence, or themselves a subset of a broader category: statements of fact which should be in theory testable, but which individuals hold with a powerful emotional grasp and which they actually don’t want to be tested.

These statements of fact are tied up in obscure ways with the person’s moral view. If you appear to be opening up their factual belief to challenge, they see it as your challenging morality itself.

I recall reading an interesting analysis of the Church’s response to Galileo. After all, what did one theory of astronomy as opposed to another matter to the Church? But, according to this analysis, Galileo’s view, if true, removed Man from the center of creation. A step towards outright atheism. And they were right.

So … there are some beliefs which on the surface are simply falsifiable-in-principle beliefs about factual questions, but which in reality are deeply tied to the believers moral beliefs. (To help the confusion, we have the same word, ‘believe/belief’, for ‘I believe that there is life on Mars’ and ‘I believe in helping humanity progress’.)

And … atheists are not immune from this confusion. Probably every one of us has some set of beliefs – especially political ones – which are in theory beliefs about facts, but which are held with the same emotional power that beliefs about what is moral and good are held.

We may in theory be Popperians and admit the possibility of disconfirming evidence for our beliefs, we may in theory agree with Hume that you can’t get from ‘is’ to ‘ought’ …but in practice, that’s a hard ideal to live up to.


Fairy Tales sounds like a better word.

1 Like


I’m ok with just saying “religions that like making positive statements” or “religions that spout the warm and fuzzies,” etc.

I’d rather keep focus on commonalities and argue against religion from there. (Like faith being in conflict with reason, for instance.)

.$02 off the top of my head.


Well, it’s probably my reflex response. Reality is much more complicated than our vocabulary, and I have a hankering for refining our vocabulary to make it a closer fit to reality.

Look at the casual use of ‘Left-winger’ and ‘Right-winger’ in American politics.

It’s religions-which-make-statements-of-fact-which-they-don’t-want-tested which I think we should be aiming at.

Nice hippy-ish New Age types who just want to mumble ‘All is one’ as they take another toke don’t bother me. Nor, to be honest, do those Christians who, when pushed, admit the Bible is a collection of Bronze Age myths, without saying so in so many words.

So long as they don’t try to convert me at the point of a sword, or make me pay taxes to their sect, I’m easy. Too much else to get angry about right now. (Hey, let’s spend another fifty billion dollars on an airplane that can fly at 30 000 meters, upside down and backwards, and shoot down another airplane 500 kilometers away! Why waste money on cancer research, or fixing our highways?)

And, also, I thank God or whatever that I’m living in a Christian country today, instead of a Islamic one. Where I would probably, literally, not be living. (In the other sense besides ‘residing’.)

:grimacing:…depends, eh? There are some wildly Christian Nationalists (fundies) that would make the USA and Canada (or any other “secular” democracy”) NO DIFFERENT than an Islamic Theocracy… wow :open_mouth: and then the “religious wars” begin (fuck resource, corporate wars :wink:).

Now I could check your bio, not sure what country you’re from, but “Christian” countries (or claims thereof) scare the shit out of me.

I prefer secular, “non-religious” humane governance where in “religious” beliefs/freedoms are protected- as are non-religious.

I’ve experienced all three. Full out literal fundy. Then partial literal and symbolic… still bible. Then full out woo-woo mystical stuff (lol - god is all things)… damn.

Now, I just base confidence in evidenced based reality.

Still enjoy :blush: very much, my mind-candy… but Jesus fuckin’Christ, had to anchor myself.

Edited to add: Jesus fuckin’Christ- a godddamn Texan. Fuck me!!! Bad enough we got @Tin-Man running around with his “right” rural red-neck shit… kicks dirt “Me?” (You ask) Albertan red-neck rural leans left (our Conservatives went too far right for my liking).

I’m from Texas, live in England, culturally/psychologically am an American (and a Southerner to boot). Wherever I live I pay the taxes and obey the laws.

Here, I am in no danger at all from Christian or Rightwing extremists, but I might get blown up, shot, or stabbed by adherents of another religion, one which I notice that American atheists are relatively silent about.

As for Christian nationalists in the US. Yes, there are some extreme personalities among any sufficiently large group. The law of large numbers, or something.

But most European and European-derived Christian countries are perfectly fine places to live. Having some loonies around is the price we pay for pluralism. So long as they don’t blow me up or shoot me or cut my head off, personally or via the state, I’m pretty happy.

I’m much more worried about the loony Leftists who are teaching our children that the US is soaked in racism, has always been racist, that all whites are racist. The ones who want to defund the police, not prosecute Black shoplifters, paint over pictures of the Founding Fathers in the schools.

The loonies/extremists on the Right – Christian nationalists and others – are going to quickly learn that they don’t really have much of a base for the crazy stuff. The good conservative folk of Kansas already gave them a lesson. We’ll see another in November, as the Right snatches defeat from the jaws of victory via its extremist candidates, who were funded and supported in their primary bids by Democrats. (Smart move. All’s fair in love and war.)

They should have learned their lesson in 2020 when enough ‘suburban Republicans’ voted for Republican candidates ‘down ticket’, but for Biden, or no one at all, for President, since they were repulsed (as I am) by Mr Trump’s personality.

If these people – Christian nationalists – act crazy, in part it’s because organized religion is dying off. It’s doing so naturally, without anyone’s rational/logical arguments against it. (As entertaining as these are to read.)

There are two dangerous currents which, for the sake of argument, we can stipulate as being ‘on the Right’. One are the genune, self-identified fascists/Nazis. Right now they are tiny, and shunned by most conservatives.

But as the US goes down the tubes, which is happening, they could grow. If they have any base, it’s among young, non-college-educated ‘red-pilled’ white males, few of whom are religious.

And then there are the real nutters – the brooding incels, who play violent video games and watch Hollywood ultra-violence movies (what hypocrites those Hollywood gun-control mavens are, as Maher showed so billiantly!). Most of them are not really ideological, but they are dangerous. But like the astonishingly high rate of Black violent crime, the problem has no practical solution. Put an electrified ten foot fence around the schools, hire armed security guards, run the kiddies through metal detectors … that would probably help but would not eliminate the problem.

Just as many Muslim terrorists turn out not to have a particularly strongly pious background, so these people are not mainly motivated by political beliefs.

And do not forget the killers and would-be killers on the Left. Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn’s followers were trying to blow up a lot of GI’s and their dates at Fort Dix, when they got the red wire and blue wire confused and wiped out some nice real estate in the Village of New York. (If you’re going to be a terrorist, major in chemistry or electrical engineering, not in feminist anthropology.)

And when an Anti-Fa supporter murdered a Trump supporter in cold blood, in Portland, the assembled left wing ranks gave a cheer. Okay, it’s war, we all know that. In war the laws are silent, and human compassion for the enemy is suppressed.

As for ‘ordinary’ financially-motivated violence:
Cut the trigger fingers off anyone who uses a gun to commit a crime (under anesthetic, so it wouldn’t be ‘cruel’, and do it often enough and it wouldn’t be ‘unusual’.)

Ahhhh - well, uh :neutral_face: that’s uh, some interesting views there, uh… yah.

I got a septic tank problem today. Pipe outline has cracked inside the tank, so, I uh :neutral_face: gotta deal with literal shit today.

After reading the above, gotta say, kinda happy to have to clean up the real stuff. It’s easier.

Lol, maybe living in England has mellowed your views a bit; I’ve read worse…and at least you included (sorta) right-wing extremists too. :wink:

Not in agreement with that one.

A fascist is characterized by a leader, centralized autocracy, militarism, forcible suppression of opposition, belief in a natural social hierarchy, subordination of individual interests for the good of the nation and race, and strong regimentation of society and the economy.

That is too close to the current Republican dogma.


I wish to add to the above post. It isn’t just the Republicans. All politicians desire power, and to hang onto it. And if there are not effective checks and balances, they can run out of control, and wreak horrors. The Democrats aren’t much better, the only question on my mind is if the Republicans are pushing them to embrace more radical leftist positions, or it is a natural migration of policy.

Although I do not agree completely, Elon Musk’s diagram on his position provokes thought.

Musk politics

I think it’s a combination of both. I think it’s a natural progression that is accelerated and pushed to the extreme by the sudden shunning of mutually agreed upon issues. Republicans threw a tantrum and grabbed onto wild conspiracy and denial of obvious dangers, accepting dictators as their leaders, ignoring climate change, our lack of energy diversification, letting billionaires put profit before people. It’s a very intricate and complex issue. People naturally feel they need to make up for or correct these things. Often misguidedly going in the opposite extreme thinking that’s how we solve the problem. It’s not 1-1=0 unfortunately, I think it’s a lack of true critical thinking skills that lead to this. Leftists fall for systems similar to religion, bandwagoning on bad “green” tech, or putting all your eggs into solar power, or savior-ism of trying to fix peoples problems by just giving people handouts of some kind. I think volunteerism is plagued by people making it about them. Especially with the rise of internet culture. Blindly accepting technology as “green”

That’s my soap box rant. I feel very much stuck in the middle.

1 Like

Lol :joy: there’s one just like it for those that went more “left” because the right got more extreme. (They stood still, and were “left” behind)

Extremists on both ends aren’t good. Here in Canada, at least the left can go to parties that fit their ideas more accurately (Liberal, NDP or Green).

The right, on the other hand HAVE absorbed so much far-right rhetoric, the United Conservatives (they dropped the Progressive literally about a decade ago) to keep extreme views and Christian Nationals that they are :face_vomiting: . The People’s Party (far right) are the memberships they are currently courting.

Which of these views do you disagree with?

No. ‘Fascism’ is a word that came into being with Mussolini. What was different about him? And later Hitler? What differentiated the one-party authoritarian, aggressively nationalist states that they founded, from traditional rightwing monarchies?
Before the 1920s’ the Right was characterized by reverence for ‘Throne, Altar, Army’. The monarchy, the church, the military. The old Right didn’t want change, period.

Then World War I and Russian Revolution changed everything.
A new tendency emerged on the Right: people who were revolutionaries in their methods, but defenders of the capitalist status quo in their aims.

They didn’t care a fig for the established church, or the monarchy. They did honor the military, but only as a tool for their use. They stole a lot of the clothes of the Left with regard to social program.

Hitler’s Nazis are the best example of this: it was the National Socialist German Workers Party for a reason. Read its program, and you’ll find whole paragraphs that could have been taken from a genuine socialist party.

Their methods were those of the Bolsheviks: a paramiltary ‘combat party’ which saw all other parties – even those on their side of the poltiical divide – as competitors to be eliminated.

But the key to why they were a new phenomenon is their pseudo-left social program, designed to win away a big part of the mass base of the Socialist and Communist Parties.

This has led some people on the Right to call Hitler a Leftist, but that’s silly. However, he was not a traditional ‘rightist’.

Life is complicated:when Franco led a rising against the leftist Republican government in Spain, he was called a ‘fascist’, and in practice,once he won, there was little difference between his regime in power and Hilter or Mussolini’s: a one-party state, and no shyness about imprisoning or even executing his political opponents. But he did not have a pseudo-leftist social program.

I believe that political clarity is more likely to be attained if we reserve the term ‘fascism’ for rightwing paramilitary parties with a fake ‘leftist’ social program. (Note that this would exclude the various military regimes in Latin America over the last sixty years – they were certainly blood-thirsty enough, but they hardly pretended to be ‘leftwing’. And of course although Cuba is a one-party state, which stresses nationalism, and has a ‘left wing’ social program, it would be silly to call it ‘fascist’. The same for Communist China, whose political/economic system is actually very similar to Nazi Germany’s: a one party totalitarian state on top of a capitalist economy.)

Now where does Trump fall in this understanding of ‘fascism’?

There are two important things about Trump: (1) He is remarkable stupid, and ignorant. I don’t understand how he got to where he is – my belief that he is stupid/ignorant would seem to be refuted by the obverse (?) – contra-positive(?) of the famous question, “If you so smart, why ain’t you rich?” but there you are.

(2) What he also is, evidently, is a patriot. He sees what’s happening to America, and wants to reverse it. But this urge doesn’t push his extreme narcissism into second place, unfortunately.

Is he a small-d democrat? A civil-libertarian? No. But then neither are the activists of the Left. (It’s remarkable what an inversion has occured between Left and Right over the last few decades: now the Right defends Free Speech and the Left attacks it, just the opposite of how it used to be. Now the Right woes the non-college-educated, and the Left scorns them, again, a complete switch. Even on foreign policy, the Left is pro-war, while the Right – or many in it – is reluctant to involve the country in yet another foreign war. This change has occured in just the last twenty years.

Has he tried to organize a combat-party? No. He has emerged as the unchallengeable leader of the Republican Party, but has not tried to change the organizational nature of that party.

Now, what about his ‘social program’? Here, there is an analogy, or a valid comparison, to genuine fascism.

The Republican Party was the ‘Chamber of Commerce Party’ before Trump. Whatever the donor class wanted, it got: Open Borders to supply cheap labor to those who used it; free trade, which meant, among other things, American manufacturing jobs going to Mexico or China. That’s how capitalism works. Low taxes, and few environmental restrictions. Some token hollering about cultural issues to satisfy the base. And of course the military-industrial complex got whatever it wanted, after a tense few years following the collapse of the USSR, including outright invasions and occupations.

Then came Trump. He has, so far as I can see, no deep understanding of economics. (Conservatism is best thought of as a disposition, not an ideology; but ideologies are handy, since they greatly simplify having to think about the world, so many self-described conservatives adopt libertarian/minarchist ideas when it comes ot economics and social policy, without really believing in them: none of them want to do away with Social Security or Medicare, for example.)

But Trump’s ‘social program’ is inconsistent and incoherent – ending Free Trade, a gesture towards infrastructure construction … and that’s it. Well, he is a billionaire.

For a good anlysis of what’s happened to America, by a left-leaning professor, see Michael Lind The New Class War – Saving Democracy from the Metropolitan Elite https://www.amazon.com/New-Class-War-Democracy-Metropolitan/dp/1786499576

From a conservative point of view, it’s a good thing that the modern Left despises its own working class, and has gone ‘woke’, which the big corporations can happily accommodate.

Were we facing the old Left – the people who went out and organized the CIO – we might lose a lot of our base to the socialists.

Nor does Trump have a consistent approach to foreign policy. Half non-interventionism, half beligerent sabre-rattling. John Bolton as foreign policy advisor, for cryin’ out loud!

American fascism, should it arise, will almost certainly incorporate white ethnic nationalism as a central component.
But that’s not Trump, nor the great majority of his followers. (I know that Lefties have a deep psychological – dare I say ‘religious’ – need to see their opponents as ‘racists’ and ‘fascists’, but it’s just not true. It might become true, since diversity is not strength. (What an idiotic slogan, refuted by all history and any knowledge of the situation in other countries which are blessed with ethnic diversity.)

But in war, you must demonize your opponents: your enemy is a cruel Jap, or a vicious Nazi, not a frightened teenage conscript. And it’s war. The Right demonizes the Left as paedophilic communists. It’s what you do in war.

However, I don’t think the US will experience straight-out ethnic civil war, a la Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, or various African countries, where each side tries to establish itself on an ethnically-pure homeland, and the sides battle over contested territory.

The whites don’t want it, and the Blacks are not capable of it – too geographically dispersed and too low a cultural level.

Hispanics, if they become entirely dominated by the cartels which are now moving into the US (and which already have great power in Mexico – they can defeat the Mexican army!), might want to do a ‘re-conquista’. If the Right is smart – not guaranteed – they will woe naturally-conservative Hispanics and try to form an alliance with them, should the US begin to disintegrate completely. Or even accept a territorial division, in which the cartels get California and the Southwest.

But no one knows the future. America has lived through a Golden Age. That’s coming to an end. We will soon be Number Two in the world, first economically, and then militarily.

If our ruling class cannot accept this – and many things show that it cannot, from its NATO-expansion policy to Pelosi’s flight to a province of China – then we’re in for interesting times.

None of us have a god to pray to, but if we did, we should be praying to avoid a big stupid war, which will seriously disrupt the astonishing progress our species has made in the last 500 years.

Whoa, a term paper instead of a short snarky reply! But most atheists are readers and won’t be phased by the length.


Interesting. I don’t think the Left has moved ‘further Left’. It has transformed almost entirely what it means to be ‘Left’. I consider myself an FDR/JFK Democrat, in terms of policies. But that’s now ancient history.

Nice. Some thoughtful people here. Maybe we can have some useful discussion about what to do. I’m personally rather pessimistic about the future, but anything can happen.

I read it … very thoughtful and researched. Damn. I’m getting ready for a vacay - and can’t respond thoughtfully.

Mind you, we have many versed in history, Americans with their pov, and international takes. Mine would be from a Canadian perspective.

I will keep an eye on this thread and try to post some thoughts (probably shorter though).

Okay. I look forward to reading them. Canada is an interesting country … sort of like the US, but sane. Okay, that’s overstating it. You didn’t have our slave problem, and you didn’t have to become the world’s policeman. Otherwise, you had our advantages – huge oceans separating you from potentially-nasty neighbors, and a huge chunk of land which was easily taken away from the original inhabitants. And you’re well placed if the globe heats up a lot. (I used to own land near Kirkland Lake, which I am now sorry I sold. Might have been a good refuge.)

Well, I have to admit, you have some pretty good insight there. (Yes, I actually read the whole thing… chuckle…) Typically, I avoid the political discussions on here. And I will not be getting in on this one either, other than to let you know I found your analysis interesting. One, because I absolutely DESPISE politics, and I have ZERO love for either of the two dominate parties currently destroying our country. And, two, because I determined several months ago that keeping everybody bickering back and forth about this party is worse than that party is nothing but one of many massive-scale diversion tactics to keep the masses divided and distracted while the megalomaniacs running the show continue to increase their power and tighten their stranglehold over the general population. Just my personal take on it all.

1 Like

Have you checked?

Canada's Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage - Marcel Trudel.

And painting the enemy in war as demonic? As far as those doing the hands on fighting, yes. Folks back home, ok. The people running the show militarily? Not so much.