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China cracks down on religion, crosses burned at Christian churches (abc.net.au)
126 points by gscott 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments

It's simple. They cannot allow any ideology to subvert the party (CCP) ideology. They don't hate religion for the sake of hating religion. They don't hate FG/FD, Christians or Muslims (or Buddhists for that matter) for being who they are. They do hate and will remove anything which may subvert the supremacy of the state. Simple as that.

Yeah this is pretty on point. They don’t hate the religions, they just want to minimize any gatherings that could potentially set off a movement to up-end the current rule.

Funny thing is, a lot of students that I teach here talk about how they feel like they will have more freedoms in twenty years than they do now.

I’m doubtful. People are happy where they’re at right now. As long as that continues, China will do what China does.

I’m actually more surprised nothing has happened back in the States yet

>People are happy where they’re at right now.

Are they though?

They have experienced unrelenting growth for over 30 years and counting. Greatly improving their lives along the way. They are in a better place than ever before. Of course they are happy. More than anything, Chinese are pragmatic. will that continue into the future as the population ages? Remains to be seen.

My anecdotal experience talking with Chinese nationals is that they basically approve of the government and would not choose to switch to democracy.

For what it's worth my anecdotal experience is exactly the opposite. Sample size = 4 people.

GDP annual growth rate in China averaged 9.6% for the last 30 years. So I guess they have a reason to be happy.

I am not trying to convince anybody to be unhappy, but I have my doubts that GDP really has a lot to do with it one way or the other.

GDP is not just a number you know. If one were previously hungry and cold and are now well fed and comfortable, of course that affects happiness. Why do you doubt that?

The U.S. GDP has increased greatly since 2008, and yet there is widespread discontent in America.

Wealth only really matters to the point where you can support a good living. That "good" will vary but beyond that increases in wealth bring diminished returns. Think about a salary: if it's below a threshold you are unhappy no matter what. Above that any raise brings more marginal increases in satisfaction, you start looking at other things for that.

The US is past that point so now it needs more than wealth.

GDP can be one marker for 'things are improving'. Of course it isn't the full picture - when you are living in increasingly restrictive state monitoring you against your own will, you feel the government is bunch of idiots, jobs have been shifting away and so on and on, people are not that happy. Rich are getting richer, poor poorer. If you are 2 joints away from serving prison sentence and having your life ruined for good (maybe less relevant these days).

Losing 'friends' around the world - 30 years ago, americans were heroes, WW2 saviors of the europe and the world, America was land of endless opportunities and most importantly - freedom. Now its the opposite - unlawful killing of somebody with tons of civilians with drones wherever they want, and in the same time being very friendly with horrible regimes like the one in Saudi Arabia because oil and money. Freedom and US ain't the same thing after 9/11.

Plus on top of that workaholic US mindset, that weird attitude that your job defines who you are and whats your position in society. None of this can make masses happy, in contrary.

.. that statement doesn't really have a lot to do with how things are/were in China.

Americans don't even know what real poverty looks like.

As Bill Clinton strategist Jim Carville once said, "it's the economy, [----]".

What's the relationship between wealth and happiness? Is it linear?

Probably impossible to say, but I'd guess you'd have diminishing returns. So economic growth in a poor country will have much greater benefit than the same level of growth in a rich country.

There is a significant positive correlation, up to about 70k USD/year. After that (at higher incomes) there is no reliable correlation.

That magical $70k figure has been bandied about for the better part of a decade, yet nobody ever seems to adjust it either for locality or inflation.

Well, you are correct. GDP alone isn’t going to make people happy. Different policies, etc help.

America has so much discontent because of certain policies that have made our country worse over time. Health care, world view, etc.

Increase in GDP also brings very tangible improvements in income, life standards, modernization of cities, new technologies and a lot more to be happy with.

Tangible improvements for people who already have money.

GDP doesn't tell you where the money is going, and who benefits from it.

GDP may as well be a measure of how well the rich are doing because it tells you next to nothing about how the most disadvantaged in society are doing.

I figure that is intentional though.

Tangible improvements for almost everybody. The poorest people in China probably have seen biggest improvements. It’s not a capitalist government

Yes they are. Especially younger generations in China nowadays are much more likely to be pro-Chinese government and less agreeing to western values. Plenty of young students who came to study in America for a few years also have a tendency now to become more agreeable with Chinese government

People who have never seen the grass on the other side can't make a judgement as to whether it is greener.

I have visited countries where personal freedoms are curtailed but the general population had food, water, shelter and luxuries so they were content. It is only the moment they realize that those things are in danger or they covet what other nations have that problems arise.

You can't miss what you never lost.

Does this view have to be contrasted as being primarily about persistence of the state? Consider social media for a minute as an increasingly appropriate metaphor for religion. Instead of uniting people, social media has mostly driven people into various ideological echo chambers. And these echo chambers tend to engage in typical cult-like in-group out-group behavior behavior, aggression towards perceived ideological enemies, ousting of followers whose faith wains, etc. And as these groups begin to interweave with politics, it's driving a major wedge in society.

The point of this is that since we live in a society that values freedom above all, it makes sense that we allow these sort of organizations and associations. At the same time, I think it's increasingly difficult to argue that things from religion to facebook to twitter are having a net positive impact on society. In times when we were more homogeneous, this was different. When most of everybody holds a common and shared identity, there is no real out-group, and the identity can help create unity and unitedness. But as we become more diverse, the lack of a shared identity means we end up splintering off into a variety of large ideological cliques which view themselves as mutually incompatible (even if that's not necessarily entirely true). And that causes a lot of problems.

And so if we had a governmental system that was based more about utilitarianism, rather than ours which is based more on the fundamental value of freedom, it seems to be logical to work to prohibit these sort of things - even with 0 consideration given to the fate of the state itself.

We're not becoming more diverse, what is largely happening is that communications and transport technologies have made geography irrelevant. Now your cultural opposite may live next door, rather than in another city or country.

This has led to the degradation of real community; you could equally argue that transport is the issue. The point is that if you enable people to maintain cultural identies across geographical boundaries, you will cause the breakdown of local solidarity.

To argue that we must therefore develop some sort of bland global monoculture is as terrifying as it is depressing.

They want the communist party to be the primarly religion. Just like in the Soviet states where religion were systematically eliminated in favor of state religion[1]:

> USSR became the first state to have as one objective of its official ideology the elimination of existing religion, and the prevention of future implanting of religious belief, with the goal of establishing state atheism (gosateizm).

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Soviet_Union

> They want the communist party to be the primarly religion.

They are quite satisfied with religion that supports the Communist Party; like earlier Communists they see religion subservient to the elite as the opiate of the masses in capitalist society, and have very much included that among the elements of capitalism that they have reintroduced.

OTOH, they are extremely concerned that the churches remain subservient to the existing elite, reinforcing its rule, since otherwise they would simply by existing challenge it.

Seems very similar to the reign of terror during the French Revolution though?

Whats your point?

The might underestimate the backlash of 4 billion Muslims and Christians being unitedly antagonized by such transgressions.

They dealt with the "cultural revolution". I don't think they are currently afraid of losing control to religion.

If they weren't afraid of exactly that, there would be no reason for the crackdown.

4 billion muslims and christians don't live in China.

they can still be antagonized and act on that

Yep. For example see what they have done to the peaceful Falun Dafa practitioners after they showed up in large numbers. This almost makes me think of mind viruses duking it out using expendable hosts - and studying it epidemiologically.

funny, recently in hk i saw an anti-flg next to a flg advocate.

I think its also partly to take the attention away from their Uighur camps, and to paint the idea that they are 'anti-religion', rather than explicitly seeking to rid Uighur culture and religion from China.

yes, the ccp does not discriminate.

It appears that China's government doesn't like organized Christianity, or any organized religion. It doesn't really matter what you personally believe. What matters though is anything that can influence people emotionally and philosophically, which basically means having control (thus power) over peoples' emotional and rational states of mind. Any place of congregation is potentially doing just that.

It's worrisome to see though that China has decided to go that extremely rigorous way, like burning crosses publicly and the like. Wow.

China in particular has a good reason to be weary of organized Christianity ever since a guy claiming to be the younger brother of Jesus started a civil war that killed at least 20-30 million people: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion

Yet China had good reason to be impressed by Marxism, also a Western import, because it killed 45 million. In that sense, I understand why Marxism would be more impressive than Christianity to a people who never had freedom. It won and killed more people.

zokula 6 months ago [flagged]

That's funny since China has never been Marxist in it history.

mieses 6 months ago [flagged]

no true scotsman?

perhaps another 45 million would have done it.

Please stop using HN primarily for ideological battle. This is in the site guidelines, and we ban accounts that do it.


Besides, other sources say that the Pope and China have made a deal that bilaterally acknowledges both sides with compromises. China has a say in confirmation of bishops and China acknowledges the Pope as the head of church in China. So, "burning crosses" is a crackdown on independent or illegal churches and sects. The deal is not even a bad thing, it's revolutionary, in fact. (sauce: https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/09/26/pope-says-vatican-chi...)

Believe me, it's a huge betrayal of the faithful underground Catholics (speaking as a Catholic), who have been suffering persecution for decades.

It's a way of asserting government control over the Church in China, which is antithetical to freedom of religion.

For the Vatican to agree is a watershed moment in the history of the Church, and not in a good way.

Communist party of China used to be an organized religion, and quite a fanaticized one during the Cultural Revolution, that believed in a portfolio of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism ideologies and worshipped Mao personally. Religions and other old-school organizations were infiltrated and cracked down according to Leninism after the regime was set up in 1950s.

In 1538, the chief minister Thomas Cromwell pursued an extensive campaign against what was termed "idolatry" by the followers of the old religion, culminating in September with the dismantling of the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury. As a consequence, the king was excommunicated by Pope Paul III on 17 December of the same year.[84] In 1540, Henry sanctioned the complete destruction of shrines to saints. In 1542, England's remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown. Abbots and priors lost their seats in the House of Lords; only archbishops and bishops remained. Consequently, the Lords Spiritual—as members of the clergy with seats in the House of Lords were known—were for the first time outnumbered by the Lords Temporal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_VIII_of_England#Shrines_...

I sometimes wonder why do they want to protect the state by cracking down churches instead of using religion, a powerful tool of control, to their advantage. It would take more time to build a Chinese branch of Christianity (and others) but be a lot more efficient.

There are 3 state sponsored churches in China. The trouble is they don't experience much growth compared to the underground churches.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Self_Patriotic_Movement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Christian_Council https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Patriotic_Catholic_Ass...

Like those purchased-startup-turned-department in big corporations.

I assume that's it's harder to create a religion for a billion people. Christianity ranks in at #1 and Islam is #2, the new religion if followed by all would be #3. I would love to hear what they could come up with tho.

The ideology of the Party has been corrupted to the core, and what’s left is mere Machiavellianism. Choosing a wrong alternative ideology is too big a mistake that nobody dare to take the risk.

Within China there are approved churches of various denominations. For whatever reason that is apparently no longer sufficient.

The last time someone tried to build a "Chinese branch of Christianity", it resulted in the Taiping rebellion [1] trying to turn China into a theocracy and millions died.

The Communist party definitely doesn't want any parallel hierarchies outside their own ranks. Where religious imagery could benefit them, it has already been incorporated into party worship/Chinese nationalism. Propping up minority religions would not be an efficient way to exert control they already have.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion

They do, actually, goverent propaganda explicitly uses Taoist and Buddhist imagery.

It's a different sort of religion than Western religions, so westerners don't get it and spout off the leninist silliness you see in this thread.

Do we have any other sources for this? The article seems quite inflammatory.

For a counter point, I saw a huge group of people happily doing yoga out in a square the other day. Also this was shared in the open across domestic electronic media. This would have been unthinkable around the Fulun Gong period. It looks to me like things are opening up slowly but surely. What was the quote? "Religion is poison". Well, yeah. I'll take yoga over millenial cultists any day. But it'd be nice to see something like Taipei's desperately underappreciated Museum of World Religions[0] here in the mainland, to celebrate the human journey and common perspective rather than denominational religion per se.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_World_Religions

I think it's one thing to remove the religious symbol, and a complete other thing to burn it publicly before removing it.

The later seems to indicate that this symbol is "hated" by the people who are removing it (government in this case).

I can "kinda" understand that they don't want religious symbols in public.

But the fact that they shame and uses fear against the people is what shock me the most about this.

Christianity in China has always been under threat. The Eastern Church in China thrived upon arrival for awhile until the 9th/10th centuries when it died out publicly. It became underground, now trying to resurface it seems like history is repeating itself.

Group of politicians fighting other politicians reported by website aligned with a third batch of politicians.

Being critiqued without much rigour by the otherwise logical community here.

It's like reading a netmums forum debating p2p file sharing architecture based on a story about pornography they heard.

That's possible, because it's not a topic the majority of this community has detailed knowledge or personal experience of. Still, it would be better to provide substantive correction than to post a shallow dismissal, which the site guidelines ask you not to do.


Yeah your right, sorry Dang. As you mention in the other comment, pftburger's response was the right way to go about it.

Shallow article, shallow dismissal.

The forum you moderate has been teetering towards nationalist "othering" of China ever since the Google thing was floated. 90% of the people hurling invective clearly know nothing about the country.

It's not "boo China" vs "yay China", it's "boo China" vs "try to understand China".

You're talking about a macro social/political trend. Obviously HN can't be immune from those. Perhaps you've noticed us trying to moderate it—in the literal sense of that word—as best we can. That's hard to do and we have few resources to do it with. So if you care about HN, could you please avoid harming it further by kicking at a situation that's fragile and getting worse? Instead, assuming you know more, you could contribute some of what you know. If you'd do that in a scrupulously non-inflammatory way, it could be helpful. Calling names just strengthens the ignorance you're complaining about, which makes you partly responsible for it. (Not to pick on you personally; we all do this.)

Even if you don't care, we need you to follow the site guidelines if you want to keep commenting here. They say: "Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive." (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html) This comment and others haven't been meeting that bar, so please do better.

I would not call this article shallow. It's full of details. Better questions to raise would be whether it has been corroborated (as pftburger did: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18227679), and what relevant information it may omit. It also seems legit to wonder why so many such articles have been appearing lately, though because there isn't much evidence one can point to, there probably isn't a non-flamey discussion to be had there.

Even when an article is shallow, a shallow dismissal still breaks the guidelines. Commenters owe better not to the article, but to the community they're participating in.

p.s. You've mischaracterized my line about boo vs. yay by misquoting it (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18214633). Those phrases are not objective descriptions—they're how each side feels to the opposite side (hence the 'fuck you' bit), which explains why they react so badly to each other.

Thanks for the response.

If I misremembered your exact quote, please consider it a charitable misquote.


I'd be happy if in the west we just stopped the state from financially subsidising religions - though I could imagine the uproar against any formal proposal to do so.

Even though sponsoring still happens (think: renovating buildings; assisting communities to build their own churches/temples/whatever), State and Church are seperated in France: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1905_French_law_on_the_Separat...

That's really interesting, thank you.

Property taxes - along with local council rates - are an area that religions obtain significant financial benefit from the state (definitely in AU, and I believe UK and US also).

It seems to be one of those things that fits the category 'this is how it's always been done', so it's tremendously difficult to initiate any policy change.

One important thing is that the state in France owns most/all the churches built before 1905, so they end up paying a lot for renovation. Also keep in mind that the Alsace-Lorraine was not part of France in 1905 (part of the German empire), so the separation was never applied there.

I cannot believe this is happening in todays China. Even if the gov doesnt like the christianity how is it significant that they cant just ignore it?

The Romans ignored, ridiculed and fought Christianity and then they converted to it.

After killing martyr after martyr after martyr, the Romans saw in this belief something useful that they could control.

Before converting to it, they standardized it and shaped it to their convenience in the First Council of Nicaea. They also decided which books made it into the bible, and which ones were "apocryphal".

The Bishop of Rome became the Pope, and after the fall of the Roman empire, the Vatican still exerted a tremendous control: the pope could excommunicate anyone, including kings.

We still have records of what happened at Nicaea. Basically they standardised the date of Easter and condemned Arianism (against the will of Constantine who wanted a compromise position).

The Council of Nicaea actually didn't have anything to do with the Bible, despite what a lot of people say. By that point the Church had more or less reached a consensus on the canon after a couple hundred years of debate.

"They also decided which books made it into the bible, and which ones were "apocryphal"

That's a bit far fetched claim. Apocryphal books are apocryphal for a reason, they didn't make into the canon as they couldn't have been written by witnesses of what happened at the beginning of our era - mentioned geographical places are wrong, mentioned historical events and people are messed up, language is wrong, etc.

You're not actually discrediting the claim that they 'decided which books made it into the bible, and which ones were "apocryphal"', only offering a rationale for doing so.

It remains true that they decided which parts of existing and accepted Christian doctrine were true and which parts were no longer true.

They created it

Like the Chinese created Islam.

It's been happening for year this isn't new. Todays china hasn't changed much in terms of squashing subversion

It's just more honest than the stuff nations in the west do. Look at Mexican people in the USA or Muslim people in Germany.

It's not subversion but difference they fear / hate / fight against.

Attitudes like that come from strong nationalism and not enough education.

This seems off-topic, but I don't have the ability to flag.


It's not unusual for news about these kinds of issues make it to HN. (be it Maynmar, Khashoggy, etc.)

It seems quite obviously political to me.

Communism countries always fear relegion 'cause want only 'clean hands' of his citizens for their shitty ideology.

Please keep generic ideological flamewar off HN. It never goes anywhere new, and it always goes somewhere nasty. And this comment gets it off to a really bad start.



Religious flamewar is not welcome here. Please don't post like this again.


China's Orwellian social credit system is among the most evil and insidious things I've ever seen. It's mental slavery.

Exactly the same as most religions, fear of punishment if you don't obey and behave according to the rules of the government/book, one delivers punishment here and now and the other delivers eternal pain in hell. Both are mental slavery. Both are used to control the population by the powerful.

Was tempted to flag you or downvote you, but even if you present it in a very one sided way you have a good point, so have I'll instead just add some nuance:

Yes. Religion has been used to control populations, but for me and many others they've been a tool for empowering individuals and for many it has also been a uniting force to stand up to oppressive regimes.

It has also been a powerful tool to unite and bring peace.

I'd be happy if we as a community of what I think of as mostly reasonable people could manage to be a little bit nuanced.

I think that's a stretch. That's not the teachings of Christianity, for example, where "sins are forgiven". Yeah there's fire and brimstone types but it's not typical. And no one compels you to continue going to the same church. There may be social pressure to, but people switch churches as often as people switch relationships.

They just replace it with state ideology though.

Another kind of religion. No god but the same message , the rulers/bishops order and you obey.

lerie 6 months ago [flagged]

a little extreme but they are moving in the right direction. religion restricts the growth of knowledge.

Please read https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18227674 and don't do this here.

Yes because burning religious icons and replacing them with nationalist icons is a step forward with respect to freedom of knowledge.

On the other hand, CCP/PLA ideology stifles the growth of knowledge as well. All you have to do is look at the work of the Red Defense Soldiers[1] (Red Guards). Communist ideology does not ensure that knowledge seeking will not be stifled, as amenable to the science as they may be.


The are not moving against them because of "religion restricts the growth of knowledge".

mieses 6 months ago [flagged]

wow. the chinese internet propaganda warriors are all over this thread.

This breaks the site guidelines, and we ban accounts that do it repeatedly, so please don't do it again. Specifically: "Please don't impute astroturfing or shillage. That degrades discussion and is usually mistaken. If you're worried about it, email us and we'll look at the data." https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

The comment was also lazy, since a glance at the history of the account refutes it. Not that they've been great comments, but someone who has been posting about Python, web apps, organic batteries, web assembly, and carbonated soda for over a year is obviously a regular Hacker News user.

Edit: it looks like you've been using primarily for ideological battle. That's also a bannable abuse of the site, stated in the guidelines as explained by https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20primarily%20line&sor.... So please stop doing that.

Tell that to the religious monks who during the Dark Ages help preserve and spread knowledge during the Dark Ages

At a recent funeral I was shocked and disgusted at how the preist manipulated the emotions of my relatives. That a nation state shares my suspicion is something positive in my view.

I am not opposed to spirituality. I think organized religion subverts people from their own quest.

Please keep generic religious flamewars off HN. Long experience shows that such threads never lead to anything new, and get nastier and nastier as they go along. Moreover, any topic so generic can't be discussed substantively—it would take a book to do so, or at least an essay, not an internet comment. Therefore, it's off topic here.


That is an objection to the entire topic. Why did you pick me to reply yo?

Your comment crossed over into a generic flamewar topic, untethered from the substance of the article. That's where things start to go really bad.

It's possible that others did that too, and I missed them. People are welcome to email us at hn@ycombinator.com in such cases, especially when a flamewar starts to spread.

I'd be careful with quick assumptions. Not all priests are master manipulators, and it's not always a bad thing. Grieving people often need to be manipulated to help them out of a state of mind that seems unbearable and unsolvable. That's what priests are supposed to do. Grieving people are most vulnerable, because they don't have their emotional shields up. Some priests have the importance of their institution in mind and try to maneuver their flock to the church. Whether with good or bad intentions, e.g. helping people to have hope and high spirits, or just pretending to be helpful for plentiful donations (televangelists in the US).

In any way there is always some emotional manipulation, and people who depend on that are also vulnerable to rational manipulation. Sometimes it's helpful, sometimes it's dangerous. How you respond to that depends on you. You saying words like "shocked, disgusted, suspicion, subverts" concerning faith and church reveals more about you than it says about your opinion.

'The road to hell is paved with good intentions.'

This is far from a quick assumption and my response here is what I am doing about steering people away from dangerous delusions. Religion is superstition, not at all unlike believing you can get rid of AIDS by raping someone.

Preventing people from doing some of what they want is actually an important function of society. I made my peace with religions after reading Darwin's Cathedral by David Sloan Wilson. To me it explained very well how religions were a tool for organizing ever larger societies. We wouldn't be where we are as humanity if we hadn't had the power of religion.

There is no society without religion. That is, every society needs tenets that all members share.

Now we should ask ourselves what religion is adequate for today's world.

The same argument is (facially, at least) the conclusion of Plato's Laws. Atheism is briefly discussed as something young people espouse only to reject with age and wisdom, and which notably is one of the earliest references to atheism I've found in the literature.

There is one defining characteristic of religion: The acceptance of unsubstantiated claims as actual fact, i.e., faith. Please explain how that is something that society needs.

Redefining religion to encompass any kind of shared values is a cheap trick to legitimize the destructive nature of dogma and of teaching people that accepting nonsense as fact is a virtue by pretending that a secular state is a religion--which is just absurd.

Every society needs common beliefs to function. These beliefs are arbitrary in the sense that there are other beliefs that would work just as well.

All secular states have a flag used for ceremonial purposes for example. It's supposed to create a feeling of unity. Just like religious symbols do. Sure we can talk about matters of degree. Not all societies have an all-seeing god, for example.

> Every society needs common beliefs to function. These beliefs are arbitrary in the sense that there are other beliefs that would work just as well.

First of all, you are confusing two very distinct concepts here under the label "belief", just as religions usually do. One is "stuff you think you know about how the world works", the other is "how you think certain things should be done".

Your "beliefs" as to how certain things should be done are arbitrary to a degree.

If your "beliefs" about how the world works are arbitrary, then your epistemology is heavily broken, in particular it is probably lacking falsifiability. Things you let go close to the surface of the earth either fall down or they don't. If you believe the latter, you are just wrong. This is the concept of "belief" that I was talking about above: Religions make unsubstantiated claims about how the world works and indoctrinate people into accepting that nonsense as factual knowledge about the world, claiming that doing so (what they then call "faith", another such misleading equivocation) is a virtue.

Now, you need common beliefs about how the world works for the simple reason that if two people have contradicting beliefs about how the world works, at least one of them is wrong, and being wrong about how the world works is not conducive to controlling your environment. In that sense, it is much less confusing to simply say that a society needs accurate beliefs about how the world works--which necessarily will be common.

As for common beliefs about how certain things should be done: Well, yes, you need that, too, and while those can be arbitrary to a degree, it isn't all that much of a degree, because most of how things should be done is a consequence of how the world works, and if it isn't, you are, again, wrong.

> All secular states have a flag used for ceremonial purposes for example. It's supposed to create a feeling of unity. Just like religious symbols do.

So? Are there any unsubstantiated claims in the existence of a national flag? Why do you mention this?!

Religions do lots of stuff that non-religions do, which is exactly why those things are not defining characteristics of religions.

> Not all societies have an all-seeing god, for example.

Which is indeed an example of an unsubstantiated claim that religions sell as factual. And a claim that secular states do very well without. Which is precisely why it is absurd to pretend that secular states are religions.

While I can agree that my definition of religion is very broad, I have trouble to see where to draw the line. I'd say this is an unsubstantiated claim:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Does that sentence define how the world works? Or does it define how we want to live? Or does it kinda both? The point I'm trying to make here is that religion should be understood as a system of government. And that we would do well to understand even secular governments under the same terms. Not as a guide, but for clarity.

I don't pretend secular governments to be religions. I simply define them as such and then see what fits and what doesn't. It's very illuminating to me. The superstitions are not very interesting in that regard. I think they get too much credit.

Insisting that religions are defined by their superstitions misses a large part of what they are and why they exist.

> "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

> Does that sentence define how the world works? Or does it define how we want to live? Or does it kinda both?

Well, the part about being created by a creator is an unsubstantiated claim about how the world works--and also completely unnecessary. That is, unless you want to appeal to people who have already been indoctrinated into thinking bad of you if you don't accept such unsubstantiated claims.

The function of that sentence otherwise is simply to declare how the signatories think their state(s) should be governed.

> The point I'm trying to make here is that religion should be understood as a system of government.

Well, but if you understand religion as a system of government, that doesn't make all systems of government religions, does it? Otherwise, you are just using "religion" as a synonym for "system of government", which is at best pointless (because we already have the term "system of government") and at worst extremely confusing (because most people will understand "religion" to mean something very different than "system of government").

> And that we would do well to understand even secular governments under the same terms. Not as a guide, but for clarity.

Aren't you just saying that it is insightful to compare religions to other systems of government? Well, yeah, sure. But in order to make an insightful comparison between trains and planes you don't have to define trains to be a "kind of plane, just without flight".

> I don't pretend secular governments to be religions. I simply define them as such and then see what fits and what doesn't.

But that is how you do pretend they are religions. While you are free to define terms however you want, if you just implicitly use definitions that deviate from common understanding, you are misleading your audience.

> The superstitions are not very interesting in that regard. I think they get too much credit.

Are you saying that superstitions (and the epistemology that supports them) have no significant influence on how religious people behave as compared to non-religous people?

> Insisting that religions are defined by their superstitions misses a large part of what they are and why they exist.

So, what would be an example of what religions are and why they exist that is not superstition and also doesn't apply to non-religions (because, if it applies to non-religions, it's not a defining characteristic specific to religions)?

Don't forget that religions kept people from doing what they want for centuries. They also can be tools of oppression and terror. Christianity did all that and beyond. Societal value systems don't need any religion at their base, but obviously people have need for faith and belief for emotional support which is not a given in any society. Let's not mix all that up.

But it is already mixed up! Trying to disentangle society from religion will leave you with a poor understanding of either. Common beliefs prop up societies. And as I said before, preventing people from doing some of what they want is a prerequisite for any society.

In the end I think our main disagreement here is how broadly we define religion. To me, if you take take the narrow view of religion, you're leaving huge human catastrophies to be explained outside religion. What do you think of the Stalinists' belief system, for example? Their terror wasn't justified by a god but still by rules they demanded blind acceptance of. And they had ceremonies and rituals.

To me, it is easier to understand the Stars and Stripes behind every politician's head in the U.S. as a religious symbol than to invent a whole new category over it. But I see how people could be irritated by that.

That religion perhaps helped to bootstrap early societies doesn't mean that it continues to be useful after that job is done - once the BIOS hands over to a proper OS, we don't need to call into the BIOS to do I/O anymore, since the OS does a much better job.

That analogy doesn't work for me. If anything, we'd have to look at every individual human as a system to be "booted" with the same OS. So they have a common API. But that's not an area where you'd want to use technical metaphors.

I think what you're trying to say is that we've got better tools than religion now. My approach here is to broaden the meaning of religion. As I said before every society needs common beliefs to function. I refer to those beliefs as religion. But I can accept if this is too broad for some people.

organized religion keeps the organized state that you worship from organizing us to death.

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