Author Topic: A Preamble to discussion for the religious  (Read 570 times)

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Offline screwtape

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A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« on: September 04, 2012, 12:37:34 PM »
Before we can talk about theology or gods or the bible, I think we need to lay some basic framework about beliefs in general.  Beliefs are the basic components of our internal models of reality.  Each belief is a facet of how we view reality.  It seems obvious to say, but believing what is true is important. Believing things that are not true can be dangerous. 

A good belief is one that best reflects the way reality works.  If you believe gravity does not pull bodies together, you might not know that stepping off a cliff would be dangerous or even deadly.  Believing Newton’s law of gravity is a pretty good belief, and it works for most every day purposes.  But General Relativity is an even better belief, because it is more complete and covers the exceptions that are important.  Without it, telecommunication satellites would not work.

So we all should want to have the best model of reality, the most accurate beliefs.

Because we are trying to make a model of reality, we must check our beliefs against reality.  We cannot simply make arguments and rationalizations for why something is so.  This is what the ancient Greeks did and from it came the idea of the four elements (which persisted for 2000 years).  This is also what most people do with their political beliefs.  “Free markets are good because…”  and then they shout whatever rationalization they have.

But we cannot stop at rationalizing an idea.  We must observe reality and collect data.  We must compare the data to the prediction, and if they do not match, we must discard the belief. Do free markets really provide the best outcome?  What does the data say?

Secondly, no one’s model of reality is perfect.  As such, improvements are possible.  While I believe that 9.81 m/s2 fairly well describes the acceleration due to gravity on earth, it is only two decimal places, and does not account for location.  Improvement on that belief is thus possible. 

Because we all have imperfect models, we have to be open to updating them.  This means we have to be able to change our minds about some big, important, dear beliefs we hold.  I understand that is difficult to do.  Once upon a time men would rather burn other men to death than change their belief that the universe revolved around planet earth.  But their beliefs were wrong, and reality was different.  Burning other people to death did not change that.

The brain has not evolved to be rational.  It has evolved to take short cuts, use intuition, snap judgments and other non-rational means to form beliefs.  It has evolved to then tenaciously hold those beliefs despite all evidence to the contrary.  Still, men would prefer to burn other men than discard dear beliefs.

This is a problem for the entire human species.  We have to overcome our evolved nature and chose to come to our beliefs rationally.  This, fundamentally, is what science is about.  It is a method for arriving at the best beliefs.  It is not to prove a point or to discredit any particular idea.  It is the best way we have of knowing what is real and true. 

There was a psychotherapist and philosopher named Eugene Gendlin who observed:
Quote
What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be believed.
People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.
 

Can you do that?  Can you do science?  Are you rational enough?  Are you strong enough to believe what is true?  To sacrifice your dearest beliefs because they are untrue? 

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What's true is already so. Owning up to it does not make it worse.

Offline flapdoodle64

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2012, 12:55:45 PM »
'Reality' is all well and good for you heathen types, but I know that God created humans with the superior capability of faith so that we could all experience the joy of living in constant fear of displeasing an invisible, omnipotent sadist.

Some day, if God wills it, you will see that faith transcends reason and reality, makes them obsolete...

Then you will be able truly understand the badly translated ravings of bronze-age tribesmen, and your heart will be open enough so that you can reinterpret your own sado-masochistic impulses as being the true will of God. 
« Last Edit: September 04, 2012, 01:21:35 PM by flapdoodle64 »

Offline Quesi

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2012, 06:07:41 PM »
Are you suggesting that those who don't believe in, say, the theory of evolution (because, after all, it is JUST a theory) should demonstrate their faith, and prove how flimsy scientific theories really are, by stepping off a cliff? 

Online Mr. Blackwell

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2012, 07:39:32 PM »
Can you do that?  Can you do science?  Are you rational enough?  Are you strong enough to believe what is true?  To sacrifice your dearest beliefs because they are untrue?

I believe that I am rational enough and strong enough to challenge my convictions. I believe that I am willing to acknowledge my mistakes and correct my thinking when the cold harsh light of reality disperses the shadows from the cave walls.

This is what I like to believe about myself because I hold these qualities up as a virtue. Will reality reflect this about me or am I just deluding myself?
I show affection for my pets by holding them against me and whispering, "I love you" repeatedly as they struggle to break free.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2012, 07:49:56 PM »
While screwtape's post is very cogent and sensible, I can put the idea into ten words.

Beliefs can not determine reality; reality has the final word.

I'm not good at haikus, or I'd try to put it like that.

Online Mr. Blackwell

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2012, 08:02:38 PM »
While screwtape's post is very cogent and sensible, I can put the idea into ten words.

Beliefs can not determine reality; reality has the final word.

I'm not good at haikus, or I'd try to put it like that.

Yeah but if you start of that simple it would be way too easy for even a moderately intelligent theist to simply retort.

          Reality is
That which my God created
       His word is final


Edited
changed Haiku
 
« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 08:07:44 PM by Mr. Blackwell »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2012, 10:58:56 AM »
Are you suggesting that those who don't believe in, say, the theory of evolution (because, after all, it is JUST a theory) should demonstrate their faith, and prove how flimsy scientific theories really are, by stepping off a cliff?

No.  I am trying to get the religious member to understand some very basic, but often overlooked points about beliefs and rationality and then elicit a commitment from them to be rational.  We very often talk past one another, it seems to me, because of very fundamental, unspoken differences.  In order to have any kind of actual communication, we have to get down to the most basic levels and understand.

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Offline jdawg70

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2012, 12:26:19 PM »
Can you do that?  Can you do science?  Are you rational enough?  Are you strong enough to believe what is true?  To sacrifice your dearest beliefs because they are untrue?

I believe that I am rational enough and strong enough to challenge my convictions. I believe that I am willing to acknowledge my mistakes and correct my thinking when the cold harsh light of reality disperses the shadows from the cave walls.

This is what I like to believe about myself because I hold these qualities up as a virtue. Will reality reflect this about me or am I just deluding myself?
I have the exact same problem.  I strive to be rational.  I keep wondering how often I fail.
"When we landed on the moon, that was the point where god should have come up and said 'hello'. Because if you invent some creatures, put them on the blue one and they make it to the grey one, you f**king turn up and say 'well done'."
- Eddie Izzard

Offline flapdoodle64

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Re: A Preamble to discussion for the religious
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2012, 01:13:22 PM »
I'm going to apologize for a previous post that was intended to be satiric but in retrospect seems caustic.

Nonetheless, despite the OP's good intentions and his giving it the old college try, I really think religious/spiritual thinking involves modes other than logic and reason. 

The impulses that drive the religious and spiritual sections of the mind are varied, ranging from intuitive to psychotic.   Such impulses, when experienced firsthand, feel as if they transcend rationality.   As if rationality were a bicycle, and as if spirituality were a jet fighter plane. 

Insight, gained by experience and filtered through honesty, seems to be the factor that mitigates that kind of thinking.   That is, the painful experience when one's spiritual modes of thinking lead one to a disaster...I think that is what causes us to be skeptical regarding these things. 

Not that one shouldn't try to use logic and reason when discussing things with theists.  Because most of us believe in science, in reason, and in observable reality. 

What's absurd is theists trying to use such things to prove god.  God by most definitions exists on a plane where reason and sense cannot percieve him.  So even as former theist, I am baffled when theists try to employ logic and reason. 

I think in many instances, faith is an attempt to escape reality, because often, reality is painful.  If that is so, then appealing to reason and percieved reality is diametrically opposed to religious/spiritual experience. 
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 01:48:41 PM by flapdoodle64 »