To be precise, we can most easily *talk about and debate* belief. However, easiness isn't the criterion for what a religion is 'for the most part.' Otherwise wouldn't any system of beliefs, say Special Relativity, be a potential religion? A long interview has just been published of Pope Francis, where he criticizes an overemphasis on talking about beliefs, to the exclusion of how we shall act towards each other. Chris KirkI don't know anybody who expects Special Relativity to lead to a utopian kingdom at the end times, or who prays to Special Relativity for favors. If you don't think there is something out there listening, some energy to tap in to, something beyond the stars to hope for, then you're not religious. I think you mischaracterized the Pope. He was complaining about emphasis on things like abortion and gay marriage, not belief in general. The Pope is not going to suggest we don't worry too much about Jesus existing.
My criticism was only aimed at characterizing a religion as about beliefs ‘for the most part.’ It is of course necessary that I believe in God to act in certain ways. If a friend wants an abortion, my beliefs about abortion are necessary components of how I act toward her - but not sufficient. And in any case, most of us don’t dwell on our beliefs.
Francis has a slightly tart reply for people (reporters, that is) asking him about beliefs. ‘The Church’s teaching is clear.’ But of course it’s natural for atheists to dwell a lot on beliefs, and no deep problem to engage on that level.
But there are difficulties even there. I had an atheist roommate who was lugging The God Delusion around. He began arguing with me (in a friendly way) about God. As things progressed I quickly realized he was much more angry about his own father, who sounded like a tyrant, than some Father in Heaven that he didn’t seem all that interested in anyway. So even there, the reality of our interaction had little to do with beliefs about God, except tangentially (tyrant father who is religious, tyrant God - who needs either?). His belief against God’s existence wasn’t really animating him in that debate. To have continued to hammer at a philosophical argument, however politely, would have been amiss. And I suspect many ostensibly religious debates among private persons have just such a character.
What to do generally about that, I don’t have a single answer, except for a truism: one should be aware of when it’s time for a debate, a dialogue, a change of subject, a little compassion, and a rhubarb.
Lausten, My criticism was only aimed at characterizing a religion as about beliefs 'for the most part.' It is of course necessary that I believe in God to act in certain ways. If a friend wants an abortion, my beliefs about abortion are necessary components of how I act toward her - but not sufficient. And in any case, most of us don't *dwell* on our beliefs. Chris KirkNot sure where we're not connecting here. I mostly look to the variety of religious around me for evidence. Quite a few will use the words God or Jesus on a regular basis and interject it into conversation on a regular basis. It seems to be on the top of their minds at all time. Others, with God less central, will still have a ready answer if I ask just who they think Jesus is or how the universe was created. Even when I was a total heathen, we still would come up with belief systems. So I'm still going with 'for the most part' even for those who say they only go to church for the community. Much of what you said seems more like the definition of "religiously", that is, something done in a ritualistic or well ordered fashion with a passion that may or may not be rooted in logic.