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Old 18th November 2012, 02:03 AM   #1
Soapy Sam
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What actually do JREF religious believers believe?

This is a spin off from the thread about the woman who died in Eire because doctors would not perform an abortion which was necessary to save her life.
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.p...05#post8778805
In that thread, Rolfe refers to the difference between "genuine religion" and tribal prejudices.

This led me to ask her what is the difference, in her view, and what her actual beliefs are. I want to take my question to this new thread as it risks taking that one off topic.

Rolfe is someone we know to be a pretty hardline sceptic on most issues we think of as "woo", yet who at the same time describes herself as Christian.

Rolfe and I grew up near one another. We had similar schooling for a time, read the same (SF) novels in our town library. Our parents actually knew one another, although we ourselves never met until after we had both started posting at JREF and I became curious at the coincidences of style and background mindset that cropped up in Rolfe's posts and mine. Only when I PM'd her did I learn she came from damn nearly the same street!

Our upbringing was far from identical, but there are many similarities and while we can and do disagree on many things, there are clearly similarities of mindset that relate to that shared background.

Yet Rolfe is happy to call herself a Christian, whereas I was an atheist before I had even heard the word and don't recall ever believing in gods at all.(Though I recall thinking about it a lot as a child, which I assumed everyone did, but maybe they didn't).

One difference (I can't help seeing as critical) is that Rolfe's father was a minister, so assumptions may well have been absorbed early at a subconscious level. But I'm asking, not assuming.

My parents were regular churchgoers and I went every Sunday as I had no choice. I was into my mid teens before I managed to get out of it.

My mother was interested in biblical history and for years attended evening classes taken (initially) by the late and lamented Rev. William Barclay, one of the great Scottish theologians of the post war period. She would often talk about his explanations of biblical stories and miracles. His versions impressed me in two ways- first they demystified (Christ didn't calm the sea- he calmed the men. The miracle of loaves and fishes was that some folk had no food, some had plenty and Christ got them to willingly share, so everybody ate.) If you don't see either of these as miraculous, try it sometime.
This sort of explanation made sense to me. I was impressed by the personality of the man Christ - assuming the tales to be true at all- but even if they were true, and Robin Hood wasn't though 1200 years less garbled by time, so what were the chances? - even if they were true, they spoke of a charismatic man, not a divine being, which fitted my childhood suspicions.
So I went straight from naive innocent to naive atheist, without anyone indoctrinating me. Quite the opposite in fact, it was my experience of church and of actual theology that pointed me straight down the road to atheism.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, one of the smartest people I know was taking the opposite path.

I want to know why.

What do sceptic believers actually believe? Are they lying to themselves and aware of it? Is there just that one relict of their fairy tale and storybook childhood, hanging onto some brainspace when the dragons and unicorns have gone?

I can understand how religion grabs the minds of simple souls. But Rolfe?
Kittynh? And others on this forum. Famous scientists. Tony Blair and his wierd wife- clearly far from fools, yet still in the grip of this one odd irrationality.

Can any of our believers explain what it is they actually believe - and why?

Last edited by Soapy Sam; 18th November 2012 at 02:13 AM. Reason: Link added.
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Old 18th November 2012, 03:32 AM   #2
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If I may be so bold, even if your topic is other people's beliefs, I think you underestimate how interesting your own testimony is.

Quote:
Rolfe is someone we know to be a pretty hardline sceptic on most issues we think of as "woo", yet who at the same time describes herself as Christian.
Why is that situation even remarkable, much less the occasion to launch a thread with a (pleasingly) lengthy and carefully crafted OP?

Somebody agrees with you about many matters of personal opinion, and disgrees with you about some other matter of personal opinion. How can this be surprising, if you are both critical thinkers and have any independence of one another at all? Wouldn't it be more remarkable if you both agreed on each and every thing that comes up around here?

(There's a current topic over in the paranormal section which asks "What woo do you believe?" In other words, it's this topic, but with a wider net for the matter of personal opinion about which a disagreement might arise among sceptical people.)

I also wondered about this,

Quote:
One difference (I can't help seeing as critical) is that Rolfe's father was a minister, so assumptions may well have been absorbed early at a subconscious level. But I'm asking, not assuming.
Kudos for not assuming, but you also mention only one possibility, and an odd one to be the only one mentioned, I thought. Why would her learning the details of at least one Protestant perspective have turned on something unconscious, when her father was an overt and professional promoter of that point of view? Why is not the leading hypothesis that she came to understand one particular religious stance in depth, in full consciousness, and having done so, rationally, reasonably and, I think, fairly routinely found that something like it made sense to her to serve as her personal opinion in the matter? Especially this matter, where a personal opinion is all anybody has anyway.

This is not a "rebuttal" post. My questions are questions, and my expression of interest is based on finding your own self-revelation just as interesting as the self-revelations you solicit. Maybe you would be inclined to discuss your perspective on agreeing only partially as a complement to your announced topic.
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Old 18th November 2012, 03:53 AM   #3
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Ultimately, I suspect that faith is not something you can arrive at logically or through reasoned discussion. Otherwise, there would be no religion left today at all.
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Old 18th November 2012, 04:58 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Ultimately, I suspect that faith is not something you can arrive at logically or through reasoned discussion. Otherwise, there would be no religion left today at all.
You can arrive at a faith position thru logic and reasonned discussion. That position is agnostic atheism. If you use pure logic, and "non personal anecdotial" and a good standard of evidence, with what we have right now, this is the only position you can arrive to as far as I can see. In other word "I dunno but so far I have seen no evidence of existence of any gods whatsoever, I am still open to it though as a possibility".

The reason religion exists is that only a crushing minority use logic and rationality for a religious position, and that's not even counting the childhood indoctrination which is difficult to get ride of, maybe impossible for some people.

In fact I contend that if forbid people to teach kids religion and allow it only when people have rational "shield" or when they are adults, I would betcha my weigh in gold against a speck of dust that religion would mostly disappear in a generation and only be practised by a minority.
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Old 18th November 2012, 05:05 AM   #5
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psionI0

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Ultimately, I suspect that faith is not something you can arrive at logically or through reasoned discussion.
Really? I assume by faith you mean something that involves personal acceptance of an uncertain contingent proposition. If so, then all logic can accomplish for contingent questions is to monitor the consistency of commitments.

Logic cannot determine the choice of the premises and assumptions with which a person is consistent. So, it is unremarkable that people don't arrive at premises about one subject by means which don't deliver premises about any subject.

Anecdotally, it would seem that reasoned discussion generally is a channel for arrival at personal opinions about uncertain contingencies. It is not obvious why religious subject matter would differ from other areas of contingent concern.
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Old 18th November 2012, 05:19 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by eight bits View Post

Somebody agrees with you about many matters of personal opinion, and disgrees with you about some other matter of personal opinion.

Especially this matter, where a personal opinion is all anybody has anyway.
The veracity of claims made by religion or other forms of woo are not matters of personal opinion. They are claims of fact and as such are either true or false.

Either homeopathy heals the sick or it doesn't
Either psychics talk to the dead or they don't
Either an omnipotent being created the universe and watches over it or it didn't and doesn't

I think Soapy Sam is right to point out that there is something interesting about being quite clearly able to see that 'there is no evidence this is true' for homeopathy and psychics but not being able or willing to say the same about God.

If it truly was a matter of opinion - such as what music they enjoy or their view on the Lord of the Rings movies then you might have a point.
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Old 18th November 2012, 08:01 AM   #7
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I think the difference between, say homeopathy and belief in God is that, although there's no direct evidence either is true, there is good experiential evidence that homeopathy is false. Science and rational thought have left homeopathy in the dust. But on the deepest levels of ontology, there remains an area of the unknown and inconceivable which makes some people too uncomfortable without faith. It's not for me, but I can sort of understand it. You can be a good person and do no harm while being a Christian. Not so if you're a psychic or a homeopathist.

For myself, I was brought up more or less as a Christian though my parents were not very church-oriented. I went to Sunday school, joined a church and so forth in my youth. I had some really smart and interesting teachers, who were not friends of blind faith, and wanted us to think our way to the truth, whatever it might be. I found the liberal Christian position rather comfortable, but when it came to real faith I just couldn't seem to make that leap. I could never, for example, take prayer seriously. For some time I just set it aside as something I need not address immediately, perhaps a fault of mine. Further thought of course pushed me the other way, and I have become more of an atheist and less of an agnostic as I age. I have always felt, deep inside, that there is no overarching purpose to existence, and it has never bothered me. But I remain more "Christian friendly" than many here, because I think I have seen more of the positive side of non-fundie, non-creedal faith in people's lives than some have.

My official position, so to speak, is that there's no particular evidence of any supernatural agency in the world, but that there certainly are some things we cannot really grasp even if we can find words that sort of explain them. The universe is what it is, without requiring a guide, a purpose or a plan. The reality of what lies beyond it in time or space is outside my comprehension, and I'll die without knowing it. If I end up wrong, it won't make a difference because it's pretty clear that if there were a thing you might call God such a thing would have to be beyond our ability to understand too, and would not care what we think. If we see God before we die, all we'll get, maybe, is the last piece of the puzzle to put in before we go blank. Most of the gods of religion are human imaginations of "what I'd be like if I were god," and a laughable insult to anything that could merit the designation.
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Old 18th November 2012, 09:26 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by eight bits View Post
...
Why is that situation even remarkable, much less the occasion to launch a thread with a (pleasingly) lengthy and carefully crafted OP?
Because it's hard to reconcile belief in god(s) with critical thinking.

Originally Posted by eight bits View Post
...Somebody agrees with you about many matters of personal opinion, and disgrees with you about some other matter of personal opinion. How can this be surprising, if you are both critical thinkers and have any independence of one another at all? Wouldn't it be more remarkable if you both agreed on each and every thing that comes up around here?
It's not the personal opinion aspect, it's evidence based vs faith based beliefs and some of us find faith based beliefs to be no different be it homeopathy or gods.
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Old 18th November 2012, 09:39 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
In fact I contend that if forbid people to teach kids religion and allow it only when people have rational "shield" or when they are adults, I would betcha my weigh in gold against a speck of dust that religion would mostly disappear in a generation and only be practised by a minority.
Didn't the Soviet Union try something like this without much success?
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Old 18th November 2012, 10:06 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by eight bits View Post

Somebody agrees with you about many matters of personal opinion, and disgrees with you about some other matter of personal opinion. How can this be surprising, if you are both critical thinkers and have any independence of one another at all? Wouldn't it be more remarkable if you both agreed on each and every thing that comes up around here?
It would. But this is a sceptic forum. Most people here do not accept the reality of the paranormal. Yet Christianity is expressly about belief in the literal existence of a triune entity for which there appears to be no evidence at all. What I'm curious about is why religion is such obvious nonsense to some of us, but to others is a special case of paranormality- one which cannot be airily dismissed.
Quote:
Kudos for not assuming, but you also mention only one possibility, and an odd one to be the only one mentioned, I thought. Why would her learning the details of at least one Protestant perspective have turned on something unconscious, when her father was an overt and professional promoter of that point of view?
Young children accept what adults do as "normal". If one's parents act as though god (or Santa) is real, most children will simply accept this without much conscious thought, in the same way they accept the reality of equally invisible entities like the Inland Revenue.
Quote:
Why is not the leading hypothesis that she came to understand one particular religious stance in depth, in full consciousness, and having done so, rationally, reasonably and, I think, fairly routinely found that something like it made sense to her to serve as her personal opinion in the matter?
Perfectly possible, but if so I'm curious about what specifically made sense which I failed to see.
Quote:
Especially this matter, where a personal opinion is all anybody has anyway.
Well that's the biggie, right there.
Quote:
This is not a "rebuttal" post. My questions are questions, and my expression of interest is based on finding your own self-revelation just as interesting as the self-revelations you solicit. Maybe you would be inclined to discuss your perspective on agreeing only partially as a complement to your announced topic.
The thing is that to my POV, there is nothing interesting about my POV. Nobody prodded me hard to accept the reality of religious doctrine. I had schoolteachers who were keen to provide answers to questions. I found Sunday school teachers tended to dodge the issue. I saw no sign of gods in everyday life , and so put church in a separate box- similar to Santa Claus and Fairy Tales- one people pretended to believe but did not act upon.

To me this was so obvious I could never understand why anyone saw it differently. I still don't.
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Old 18th November 2012, 11:23 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Soapy Sam View Post
Young children accept what adults do as "normal". If one's parents act as though god (or Santa) is real, most children will simply accept this without much conscious thought, in the same way they accept the reality of equally invisible entities like the Inland Revenue.
One must also take into account how the human brain functions. We all like to think we have thought through and given weighty consideration to all subjects but in truth we seldom do. What tends to happen is that we hear a statement, true or false, we decide very quickly whether we believe it or not, and then we create our own narrative to support this new "truth."

So, believers have simply created their own narrative for why they believe and non-believers have created their own narrative as for why they don't. Most really haven't given it a whole lot of thought although to hear us talk, it is all we have done our entire lives. Each believes equally that their narrative is the truth because each freely accepts the information supporting their narrative and discard that which doesn't so we feel we have overwhelming evidence.

Our brains make up stories to fill in the blanks of the world around us. It works pretty well for allowing us to survive but not so well when we get down to the hard details of the real truth.
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Old 18th November 2012, 11:31 AM   #12
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Well, I wonder if I qualify - I'm a member of the Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Pietist Association, call myself a Pietist-agnostic, or Christian-agnostic, and I believe that it is exceedingly unlikely that there would be a god (or gods) in existence in the universe, and that it's not healthy to believe so. But I also believe that some interpretations of religion are very serious and very meaningful speech about the human condition, like the best art and best philosophy. Natural science after all is a pretty mundane affair: measuring and analyzing things that exist and establishing trustworthy, evidenced accounts of them. That's all fine and good as far as it goes, but it doesn't really say much anything about how we should react to this wild experience and those accounts.
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Old 18th November 2012, 11:53 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by llwyd View Post
I also believe that some interpretations of religion are very serious and very meaningful speech about the human condition
Religion has provided sets of rules that can improve the human condition when followed. However, following seems to be the hard part.
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Old 18th November 2012, 11:56 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by EdG View Post
Religion has provided sets of rules that can improve the human condition when followed. However, following seems to be the hard part.
That's crap. There are so many inconsistencies in the Bible, in the Koran, and in how people interpret these texts. I'm guessing it is the same for most religions.
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Old 18th November 2012, 12:14 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by EdG View Post
Religion has provided sets of rules that can improve the human condition when followed. However, following seems to be the hard part.
Which religions do you have in mind?
I am not convinced that the human condition of certain people was improved by the Aztec priests following their set of rules.
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Old 18th November 2012, 12:18 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by EdG View Post
Didn't the Soviet Union try something like this without much success?
Kind of, they expropriated the churches belonging and murdered the priest, but in the privacy of their home people still indoctrinated the kids.

I am speaking of an idealistic case , utopian, never to happen, where even the parents voluntary don't teach anybody but 18+ adults.

Yeah I know totatly fantasy, but I can dream, right ?
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Old 18th November 2012, 12:32 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by EdG View Post
Religion has provided sets of rules that can improve the human condition when followed. However, following seems to be the hard part.
One can cherry pick passages from the Bible, the Koran or the Gitas to construct a decent code of conduct (while leaving out a lot of abhorant behavior). One can do the same (with less editing) from the stories of Arthur, Robin Hood or Harry Potter.

The trouble is that you first must have a concept of what is right and wrong, and then pick the bits that agree.

Not really a useful set of rules.
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Old 18th November 2012, 12:52 PM   #18
Last of the Fraggles
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Originally Posted by EdG View Post
Religion has provided sets of rules that can improve the human condition when followed. However, following seems to be the hard part.
Religion provides a pretty terrible basis for improving the human condition. I'd much rather people were taught to think for themselves than defer to any book, priest or deity.
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Old 18th November 2012, 01:00 PM   #19
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"has" "can"

Modifiers, people. They serve a useful purpose.

Last edited by EdG; 18th November 2012 at 01:02 PM.
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Old 18th November 2012, 01:09 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
That's crap.
How so? Did not Jewish dietary laws protect against food-borne illness? Weren't the 10 Commandments an early codification of rules for civil society?
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Old 18th November 2012, 01:22 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by llwyd View Post
Well, I wonder if I qualify - I'm a member of the Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Pietist Association, call myself a Pietist-agnostic, or Christian-agnostic, and I believe that it is exceedingly unlikely that there would be a god (or gods) in existence in the universe, and that it's not healthy to believe so. But I also believe that some interpretations of religion are very serious and very meaningful speech about the human condition, like the best art and best philosophy. Natural science after all is a pretty mundane affair: measuring and analyzing things that exist and establishing trustworthy, evidenced accounts of them. That's all fine and good as far as it goes, but it doesn't really say much anything about how we should react to this wild experience and those accounts.
Certainly you qualify- though I'd hardly describe you as " a believer".

I am aware that religion has at least two very different aspects; the spiritual and the social. I know several social Christians- people who use a church the way others use a camera club, a gym or an internet forum- as a social focus of their life, a place to meet and socialise with other folk.

This is not, to my mind, religious behaviour. It's social behaviour and extremely "normal" for humans.

It's the spiritual part that I fail to grasp. Spiritual is not emotional. I can get as emotional as anyone, whether about the sheer beauty of a night sky, the heart rending notes of "The Last Post" on remembrance day, or the sorty of gibbering hilarious pleasure I got when "Curiosity" pulled off it's skyhook manoeuvre to land on Mars.
But that's not spiritual. It's a sense of awe and a sense of sadness and a sense of fun and excitement. Nothing there of the numinous.

Science isn't dry at all so far as I'm concerned. Of course much research is a methodical hunt for data, but the results still amaze and excite me, whether it's new materials like graphene, or flat, glassless lenses or neutrino photos of the sun, taken through the Earth...How can anyone think this dull?

But gods? Meh.

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Old 18th November 2012, 01:49 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by EdG View Post
How so? Did not Jewish dietary laws protect against food-borne illness?
Complete myth, made up by Bible apologists. In truth, hand washing would have done wonders to decrease the spread of disease (nowhere to be found in JudeoChristian traditions though they care to wash feet) and all the pork needed was thorough cooking, not banning. There were no doubt many other illnesses spread in meat that would have been a more useful food to ban.

It's my understanding that food taboos merely serve to identify the group. "We don't eat pork, they do. We are better than them."


Originally Posted by EdG View Post
Weren't the 10 Commandments an early codification of rules for civil society?
1 through 4 of the commandments are useless rules to worship a particular god myth. And I'm pretty sure the other six were the cultural norm without the list.

Are you under the false impression societies didn't already have structure including rules? One need merely look at primitive tribal societies that still exist today to see adding something like the 10 Commandments would just be superfluous.
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Old 18th November 2012, 01:59 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
Religion provides a pretty terrible basis for improving the human condition.
Hmmm, the course of human history seems to be in opposition to your opinion.

An example was the utility of religion in Europe between the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire and the eventual rise of the HRE, massively influenced the shape of Europe for the next millenium. Granted, there was a pretty profound mix of religion and politics.

You can argue that as a cohesive force or institution that it was imperfect, and make a good case. But it was useful and up to the challenge.

For Soapy Sam: I don't see any merit in the position that being Christian, druid, Hindu, wiccan, or Jew by necessity precludes the use of skepticism as a tool.
Neither did Hal Bidlack, in his appeal for big tent skepticism.

Just as there are varying degrees of religious practice and depth of belief, I suspect there are varying degrees of practice and application of skepticism.

I don't subscribe to the all or nothing model your OP seems to appeal to.

Hell, if I did, I'd never have posted here in the first place.
(Good Lord, look at my post count. Had I not started posting, think of the bandwidth that would have been saved!)
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Old 18th November 2012, 03:13 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Darth Rotor View Post

For Soapy Sam: I don't see any merit in the position that being Christian, druid, Hindu, wiccan, or Jew by necessity precludes the use of skepticism as a tool.
Neither did Hal Bidlack, in his appeal for big tent skepticism.
Nor do I. I didn't intend to suggest I do. Did you read me that way?
Indeed that's precisely my question. People like Rolfe, Kittynh, Hal, yourself are sceptical rationalists and in no sense stupid. I'm asking what they see in religion that I don't.
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Just as there are varying degrees of religious practice and depth of belief, I suspect there are varying degrees of practice and application of skepticism.

I don't subscribe to the all or nothing model your OP seems to appeal to.

Hell, if I did, I'd never have posted here in the first place.
(Good Lord, look at my post count. Had I not started posting, think of the bandwidth that would have been saved!)
I have clearly mis represented my case somewhere. I totally agree that we all exercise different degrees of scepticism. I would expect though that we all are pretty much in agreement about some things- Homoeopathy can't work. Poltergeists are examples of misreporting of events, not violations of TLOP, and so on.
If we are to disagree, I'd expect it to be on matters of detail:- Maybe belief in an afterlife really is good for some people. Maybe chiropractic works for a specific range of conditions. Maybe there is some sort of high altitude squirrel that leaves yeti tracks. Edge stuff.

But religious belief is emphatically not an edge detail. It's central to much of human society. It dominates politics in many nations. And yet, to my eye, it's obviously as false as a brass transistor- pure, meaningless nonsense.

Now I can't prove that, but I can't prove there are no flying saucers either.

What I want to know is what is different about religion from other "woo" that lets it past the filters of some of the smartest and most rational individuals I know, while I dismiss it all, tens of thousands of years of historical belief and certainty, without a qualm.

I know it's not my towering intellect.

I know you ain't dim.

This cannot be a matter of intelligence. So what is it?
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Old 18th November 2012, 03:27 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Darth Rotor View Post
Hmmm, the course of human history seems to be in opposition to your opinion.
Well I suppose that might depend on what you class as 'improving the human condition'. I wouldn't include 'blind obedience to a set of rules written by people who knew less about the world than you do' as any kind of improvement.
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Old 18th November 2012, 03:30 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
One must also take into account how the human brain functions. We all like to think we have thought through and given weighty consideration to all subjects but in truth we seldom do. What tends to happen is that we hear a statement, true or false, we decide very quickly whether we believe it or not, and then we create our own narrative to support this new "truth."

So, believers have simply created their own narrative for why they believe and non-believers have created their own narrative as for why they don't. Most really haven't given it a whole lot of thought although to hear us talk, it is all we have done our entire lives. Each believes equally that their narrative is the truth because each freely accepts the information supporting their narrative and discard that which doesn't so we feel we have overwhelming evidence.

Our brains make up stories to fill in the blanks of the world around us. It works pretty well for allowing us to survive but not so well when we get down to the hard details of the real truth.
Oh aye. We all tell ourselves stories. One reason I have a fairly clear memory of my story on this subject is that I really wanted to be a minister, when I was about five. The Batman robes; the hushed reverence of the adult congregation; he even had a man who opened his book for him!. It all looked great to me.
But the stories he told just didn't ring true. The whole place reeked of hypocrisy, people going through a show for each others' benefit. It just felt downright weird. Not like the real world at all.

Concluding it was all daft was the earliest independent decision I ever made- and possibly still the best.

Much later of course, I realise that being an innate and instinctual atheist is no obstacle to rising in the hierarchy of the Kirk. Maybe I should have gone for it after all.

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Old 18th November 2012, 03:34 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Soapy Sam View Post
This cannot be a matter of intelligence. So what is it?
I hung on to religion for quite a while (years) after I really realised it was nonsense. I think its more a matter of an emotional/community connection than anything to do with reasoning.
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Old 18th November 2012, 03:47 PM   #28
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Prof. , that's the most honest and best answer yet and IMO the only one that makes much sense.
I find it hard to believe that I missed something fundamental about Christianity that would make me a believer if I had seen it.

I honestly find it hard to believe anyone else has either, though I'd be happy to hear about it if they have.

The overwhelming majority of people I know who claim to be religious appear to me to be social adherents of the type you describe. Of those who claim actual belief, I have yet to meet one who made or was even capable of making a coherent case for it. That's why I hope for better here, from people I know are able to clearly express a coherent argument.

There may be a kind of revelation or understanding of which I just am not capable. Any mathematics thread reveals that such exist. But I know some absolute numpties who claim religious conviction. I really don't think I'm incapable of those levels of understanding. But it's certainly possible.
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Old 18th November 2012, 05:38 PM   #29
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Sam

Thank you for the additional details about your thinking. Whatever beliefs people have about uncertain contingencies (that is, about pretty much any subject other than mathematics) reflect some mixture of what makes sense to them in general, and what evidence they know of that might bear on the particular contingency.

Some of the questions that have come up in the thread enjoy massive bodies of evidence which would swamp any estimate about whether or not some other answer would make sense. Santa and homeopathy were mentioned. For other questions, there is almost no bearing evidence. Supernatural ontology would be typical of that kind, as are many future contingencies. Who will win the 2013 NBA Championships? Is Goldbach's conjecture true? Do people have opinions about such things? Of course. Why shouldn't they?

People answer such questions, if they do, based on what fits best with other beliefs they hold, as they determine what "best fit" means. There is nothing else, or almost nothing else, upon which to base an answer.

It would be unreasonable to suppose that because somebody agrees with you about homeopathy or Santa Claus that they should also agree with you about the next basketball championship. They are different kinds of questions, not just in subject matter but also based upon the amount and unanimity of the available evidence in the Santa-homeopathy cases compared with the future contingency-supernatural ontology cases.

To some others who commented on my earlier post, apart from the above:


Last of the Fraggles

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If it truly was a matter of opinion - such as what music they enjoy or their view on the Lord of the Rings movies then you might have a point.
Those are aesthetic preferences. Both preferences and also uncertain contingent findings may be described as matters of opinion. So I did.

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I think Soapy Sam is right to point out that there is something interesting about being quite clearly able to see that 'there is no evidence this is true' for homeopathy and psychics but not being able or willing to say the same about God.
You and I agree about that. The OP is interesting. I suspect where we part company is that you find that circumstance surprising, while I find it routine, and would expect to find such disagreements wherever independent thought is allowed expression.

Ginger

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Because it's hard to reconcile belief in god(s) with critical thinking.
It is often difficult to reconcile someone else's constellation of beliefs, and so maybe the thread will help. Deists believe in their idea of God, and they seem to arrive at their views by that very route you propose, thinking critically. "Thinking critically" in the absence of clear evidence is compatible with a wide variety of findings.

I didn't borrow your belief about homeopathy, I simply share your view, which I arrived at for reasons that have nothing to do with it being your view. In the absence of something external to both of us that bears on some question, in other words, with no evidence to coordinate our belief formation and modification, then why would any agreement between us be anything except fortuitous? Why would any disagreement be surprising?
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Old 18th November 2012, 05:55 PM   #30
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I would have thought agnosticism was the most rational viewpoint. Atheism a religion both make a claim that they know for definite a deity exists or doesn't exist. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that without evidence this is just a belief, not a fact.

I've never understood how people can demand evidence to back up a claim but then turn around and blindly insist that religion is fact or fiction. If I was asked for citation and told people to take a leap of faith my argument would be considered lost.

I remember being asked when I was younger if I believed in god and my response was something along the lines of "I won't know until I'm dead, will I? Why spend a life I definitely have worried about a life I might have later?"

The minister visiting our primary school wasn't impressed

One of my friends is considering returning to church. But just for the sense of community. If they asked her if she believed in god she would probably say that anything was possible then change the subject.

So while community explains people going to church, it doesn't explain why people believe in religion. They could just hang out and talk or start a book club.

It might be that people crave acceptance. There is nothing better than being in a group that agrees with you all the time and tells you're right. We can see that in religion, football, politics and many other things. Posting on forums too, probably.

Again this doesn't explain believing in the unknowable but quite frankly I've confused myself at this point.
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:02 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Soapy Sam View Post
Oh aye. We all tell ourselves stories. One reason I have a fairly clear memory of my story on this subject is that I really wanted to be a minister, when I was about five. The Batman robes; the hushed reverence of the adult congregation; he even had a man who opened his book for him!. It all looked great to me.
But the stories he told just didn't ring true. The whole place reeked of hypocrisy, people going through a show for each others' benefit. It just felt downright weird. Not like the real world at all.

Concluding it was all daft was the earliest independent decision I ever made- and possibly still the best.

Much later of course, I realise that being an innate and instinctual atheist is no obstacle to rising in the hierarchy of the Kirk. Maybe I should have gone for it after all.


My ex-wife told me that when she was a little kid her grandmother took her to a very conservative church for her first ever service. Apparently, when the dude walked in in his robes she leap up onto the pew and began singing the Batman theme at the top of her lungs which didn't endear her to the rest of the congregation, or her grandmother, who never took her to church again.

She dodged a bullet there.
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:15 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by eight bits View Post
...
Ginger

It is often difficult to reconcile someone else's constellation of beliefs, and so maybe the thread will help. Deists believe in their idea of God, and they seem to arrive at their views by that very route you propose, thinking critically. "Thinking critically" in the absence of clear evidence is compatible with a wide variety of findings.

I didn't borrow your belief about homeopathy, I simply share your view, which I arrived at for reasons that have nothing to do with it being your view. In the absence of something external to both of us that bears on some question, in other words, with no evidence to coordinate our belief formation and modification, then why would any agreement between us be anything except fortuitous? Why would any disagreement be surprising?
The evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion gods are mythical beings humans invented. There is no evidence otherwise. So when people say they believe and come up with apologies like NOMa and Deism, that may be their prerogative, but that doesn't shake my conclusion about what the evidence supports. Show me contradictory evidence and I'll consider it. Claim you don't need any, fine, but I'm not wavering in my level of confidence just to be PC.

Deism is no more than trying to have a definition of god that is outside the natural universe. A Deist god is essentially irrelevant, and in addition, how would people be aware of said god if said god doesn't interact with the Universe?
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:16 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by DreamingNaiad View Post
I would have thought agnosticism was the most rational viewpoint. Atheism a religion both make a claim that they know for definite a deity exists or doesn't exist.
No, agnostics are just weak and/or lazy. They believe everything is equally possible when it comes to the question of god. The evidence for the Tooth Fairy, or Santa, is much more compelling than the evidence for god but agnostics reject the first two all the while claiming the last is "possible."
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:18 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by DreamingNaiad View Post
I would have thought agnosticism was the most rational viewpoint. Atheism a religion both make a claim that they know for definite a deity exists or doesn't exist. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that without evidence this is just a belief, not a fact.
Sure, except you ignore the evidence we do have that gods are works of fiction. There is plenty of evidence people make god myths up. Why do you then need evidence against non-existent gods when you know the gods people do believe in are all fiction?


And what qayak said about being agnostic about Santa and the ToothFairy. You learn that both are fiction. Ergo....
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:27 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Sure, except you ignore the evidence we do have that gods are works of fiction. There is plenty of evidence people make god myths up. Why do you then need evidence against non-existent gods when you know the gods people do believe in are all fiction?


And what qayak said about being agnostic about Santa and the ToothFairy. You learn that both are fiction. Ergo....
What evidence is there against a god-like being? I didn't say the bible was fact just that we can't know what's out there. So why decide one way or the other?
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:31 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
No, agnostics are just weak and/or lazy. They believe everything is equally possible when it comes to the question of god. The evidence for the Tooth Fairy, or Santa, is much more compelling than the evidence for god but agnostics reject the first two all the while claiming the last is "possible."
There's evidence for Santa or the Tooth Fairy!?

Also, you can say something is possible but not probable. So while I could agree that a god might possibly exist, I could still see it as unlikely.
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:34 PM   #37
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Until there is definitive evidence either way you can't say for certain whether a deity exist. You only believe they do or don't.
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:48 PM   #38
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For most of us most of the time, the phrase "it is scientifically proven" represents the entire justification for the things that we hold true. (Can you explain the general theory or relativity)? We go along quietly confident that we can drag up a scientific proof when necessary but the truth is that in our threescore and ten years, few of us will personally test more than a handful of the things we believe and even then, we will not prove anything to a mathematical certainty.

In light of this, it is not wise to rule anybody's beliefs a delusion just because they don't coincide with our own.
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:49 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by DreamingNaiad View Post
There's evidence for Santa or the Tooth Fairy!?

Also, you can say something is possible but not probable. So while I could agree that a god might possibly exist, I could still see it as unlikely.
By the same reasoning, fairies and fire breathing dragons exist, too. Do you live your life like they do?

You only see it as a reasonable argument when it applies to god because we have a cultural bias toward believing in gods. Apply the same reasoning to anything else and the absurdity becomes obvious.

Millions of kids all over the world get presents from Santa every christmas and mllions get money under their pillow, for teeth they have lost, from the tooth fairy.

Pretty shoddy evidence I admit but far better than the evidence for god.
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Old 18th November 2012, 06:53 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by DreamingNaiad View Post
Until there is definitive evidence either way you can't say for certain whether a deity exist. You only believe they do or don't.
You do realize that you have to apply this to all unknowable things right? So, we can safely say that you also believe in fairies, Santa, flying teapots, ghosts, pink elephants. . . ad infinitum?
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