Religion: The Deuce

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Fri Dec 09, 2011 4:05 am UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:When defending fallacy with a fallacy, are you being cleverly ironic or daftly ignorant?

Around here it depends on who you ask. If you ask me then I think I'm a wit, some others might think me a nitwit. Read this, you won't get it but I can't help that. Everybody always thinks there special, but we're not. We all fall prey to that crap. Thought experiment. Tell me the exact minute and the chain of events that made you decide to be an Atheist if that's what you are? Was it a Eureka Moment or a slow dawning? What day of the year? Was it cold? If that's too hard then tell me why you don't like certain foods.

nitePhyyre wrote:Pre-enlightenment Europe vs Post-enlightenment Europe?
After 1000 years of squalor, Europe rejects faith for reason, the birth of the modern world ensues.

Golden age of Islam
After 1000 years of relative prosperity, Islamic nations furiously embrace religion, the collapse of empires and squalor ensues.

Iran in the 70s
After a brief modernization period, Iran creates a religious theocracy, the oppression of the Iranian people ensues.

These three statements are an example of the types of fallacies that we all fall over. Iran in the seventies was a product of a brutal regime run by the Shah of Iran, an American puppet, they just traded one tyrant for another for another, and you can make the argument at least from an internal point of view they are better off for it.
The Golden Age of Islam ended because it got beat down, and then got colonized and raped for resources by the enlightened west.
As for number one you overstate your evidence, but I've already said that.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Fri Dec 09, 2011 6:04 pm UTC

guenther wrote:It's not "If I have faith in God, show me that I don't have faith in God". Rather it's "If I have faith in God, what evidence is there that this is problematic." Earl Grey made a claim about how it is problematic, and I was asking for evidence on that.


This isn't the dichotomy in question, rather it's "If one has faith in X, one cannot simultaneously critically examine X", which I stated on page 67 of this thread.

If you have lived by an unthinking faith, you could decide to start thinking about it. [...] What happens when a person with faith tries to use that process? You and others seem to just conclude that there is some inherent conflict, but take me inside what that conflict looks like.


We have been trying to illustrate this. The conclusion wasn't just pulled out of a hat, there are a lot of good reasons for understanding that faith and skepticism conflict with each other.

- The foundation of skepticism is the null hypothesis. You start with the assumption that claim X is not true until there is sufficient evidence to say otherwise.
- The foundation of faith is belief in the affirmative. You start with the assumption that claim X is true.

These are complete opposites, but apart from conflicting in concept, there are important empirical conflicts as well. Harris' fMri data shows us these are entirely different processes on a neurological level. You cannot believe something is true and be skeptical about it at the same time. (It is also important to note that rejecting a claim perceived to be false and skepticism, or being unsure, activate the same parts of the brain, which are associated with pain and disgust).

It is perfectly possible to initially choose faith but later choose skepticism. However, once the choice to accept something as true has been made, there is evidence that suggests we tend to want to stick to accepting it, instead of being skeptical of the conclusions we've previously established. Psychology defines these tendencies as cognitive bias, and they are very well documented. Also, when something has been marked as true in the brain, a pleasure response associated with learning occurs, and the brain then wants to use this 'true' information for understanding new patterns. Later rejecting something requires abandoning not only the initial belief, but possibly any other framework it has since become a part of, and the pleasure response is replaced with pain/disgust response (however mild). This information goes a long way to explaining why people don't like changing their minds, and why we're amazed when people give up long held beliefs.

One of the factors which determines how willing someone is to question a given claim is the perceived value of that claim. The more important an idea is the less likely someone will be willing to question it (which is neurologically similar to rejecting it, remember). Religious ideas are among the most important to people. They are not just important, they are sacred. Furthermore, ethnology and psychology show us that the sacralizing that religion does plays a significant role in emotionally charging issues related to those sacred values (source). We know that strong emotions amplify cognitive bias. That's why our justice systems go to such great lengths to foster impartiality in its agents (law enforcers, juries) and why the medical profession advocates for doctor-patient detachment. This is another set of facts which are in line with the conclusion.

Religion doesn't simply cause these things, it relies on them to reinforce religious truths because the things which are most important to religion are not empirically reachable. If religion didn't rely on faith and reinforcing ritual, religious claims would lack all credibility. Which brings us to:

So when churches set up their articles of faith, they're not expected to justify them in any way? Are you stating this based on your experience with churches? What happens when someone does ask for a justification? Do you think this just doesn't happen?


They don't justify the claims themselves directly, because that's impossible. If you look at the Apostle's or Nicene Creeds, the Shahada, or similar foundational articles of faith, none of the claims is falsifiable (with the exception of "[Jesus] suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried". This is technically falsifiable, but the extremely important theological underpinnings of this event are not). Instead, the truth and value of religious claims are affirmed and reinforced through very effective but ultimately illogical methods (miracle claims, inducement of emotional states through ritual, confirmation bias, etc). Religions have to work with conviction instead of justified true beliefs because there's no other way to establish the certainty required to influence actions.

Religious ideas translating into actions is the next important consideration. It's where cause and effect enter the equation and gives us something we can actually examine. We can't evaluate the truth or falsity of many religious ideas, but we can examine the consequences which emerge when they affect people's actions.

So we should look at instances where ideas which are rooted in faith claims have been challenged by evidence.

- When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: The various methods of refusal to accept evidence of failed prophecies by their believers are documented. This exemplifies faith claims trumping the use of critical thought.
- Flood geologists and evolution deniers: People who fall in these categories deny these specific aspects of science because their implications conflict with faith claims. Some of them are even trained scientists with degrees, who have proven grounding in critical thought, but throw it out the window in their efforts to 'make science fit' their religious notions. This exemplifies faith claims trumping the use of critical thought.
- Geology and evolution are the big areas for this today, but astronomy was at the center of it once upon a time. What did religious leaders do when evidence contradicted notions of the heavens derived from scripture? Jailed and executed people on the basis of blasphemy/heresy. This exemplifies faith claims trumping the use of critical thought.
- Christian Science and resistance to medicine on religious grounds: Mortality and preventable disease rates are higher among groups which eschew modern medicine. Parents practicing Christian Science believe in healing by faith and refuse to take their children to medical doctors. People exempted from vaccination on religious or philosophical grounds disproportionately get sick with vaccine-preventable diseases. Amish societies, ordered according to religious ideas, have significantly higher rates of birth defects and congenital disorders. These all exemplify faith claims taking precedence over evidence which is proven to prevent death and suffering.

These are some of the large pieces of evidence which draw me towards the conclusion that the relationship between faith and skepticism is conflicting, and in important ways. This is to say nothing of situations where faith claims are a factor in the middle of more complex issues, such as in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Problems there cannot be reduced to faith, but unbending dedication to faith ideas is most certainly a big player (see the Atran paper I sourced above).

None of this is to say that a lot of people and communities don't manage to reconcile having a faith life and benefiting from critical thinking. This does happen, but it happens because people find ways to keep the two cognitively separate and avoid dissonance. It's a subtle and largely positive hypocrisy, but the fact remains that when skepticism starts to tread into the territory of highly valued faith claims, people more often than not choose the latter over the former.

I don't know how much clearer I can explain the chain which has led me to the conclusion (without writing a book), but I'm sure I'll be illuminated with some ideas about that soon :).
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:13 pm UTC

Earl Grey wrote:It is perfectly possible to initially choose faith but later choose skepticism. However, once the choice to accept something as true has been made, there is evidence that suggests we tend to want to stick to accepting it, instead of being skeptical of the conclusions we've previously established. Psychology defines these tendencies as cognitive bias, and they are very well documented. Also, when something has been marked as true in the brain, a pleasure response associated with learning occurs, and the brain then wants to use this 'true' information for understanding new patterns. Later rejecting something requires abandoning not only the initial belief, but possibly any other framework it has since become a part of, and the pleasure response is replaced with pain/disgust response (however mild). This information goes a long way to explaining why people don't like changing their minds, and why we're amazed when people give up long held beliefs.
I just have to ask this and then I'm done here. Is the acquisition of belief a process that happens in a predictable way? For instance if exposure to Religiosity as a child is the basis for adult faith why has the trend in industrial nations ran counter to that. Religiosity is in decline in Europe and in the US. I asked nitePhyre and I'll ask you. Can you note the time that you made the decision about whatever faith, religious or otherwise, that you use. Was it a conscious choice? How did you get there? It doesn't really matter if you answer this, but I can guess what the answer is, maybe.

By the way I'll give you a mechanical analog of Conformation Bias that came to me. Think of a mechanical relay that changes states based on an applied signal. But the line is noisy. Full of spikes around the amplitude of our signal. If it changes on every signal of the same amplitude of our signal the relay will chatter, so we put a time delay which filter the signal to make sure that if the signal stays high long enough the relay will change state. I give you a biological example but I can't really connect the dots as well as I would like. But just for a second think of those guys you know who never seem to trust their wives or girlfriends.

Mr. Grey I like your rhetorical style, good luck here.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:53 pm UTC

morris, as to you first question, give me some time to ponder on it before I venture in.

morriswalters wrote:Can you note the time that you made the decision about whatever faith, religious or otherwise, that you use. Was it a conscious choice? How did you get there? It doesn't really matter if you answer this, but I can guess what the answer is, maybe.


I can pin it down to a particular month where it became solid enough to easily identify. However, the process leading up to that decision was very gradual and contained many stages of progression. Most of these smaller transitions happened in a conscious way when I had to integrate new information. The big push over the theism hill came when I finally came across and understood alternative explanations for a list of powerful personal experiences which seemed to be the last bastion firmly anchoring theism as the best explanation for me. I hope that answers your question. I am curious what you're looking for by asking us this.

By the way I'll give you a mechanical analog of Conformation Bias that came to me. Think of a mechanical relay that changes states based on an applied signal. But the line is noisy. Full of spikes around the amplitude of our signal. If it changes on every signal of the same amplitude of our signal the relay will chatter, so we put a time delay which filter the signal to make sure that if the signal stays high long enough the relay will change state. I give you a biological example but I can't really connect the dots as well as I would like. But just for a second think of those guys you know who never seem to trust their wives or girlfriends.


If I understand your analogy correctly, the time delay is analogous to weeding out real patterns from merely apparent ones?

Mr. Grey I like your rhetorical style, good luck here.
Toodles


Thank you, I appreciate that. I'm sure we'll still interact on these boards in other places, once I get tired of this thread (which could be a while since it's my favorite thing to discuss). Good luck to you as well.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Sat Dec 10, 2011 12:08 am UTC

Earl Grey wrote:- The foundation of skepticism is the null hypothesis. You start with the assumption that claim X is not true until there is sufficient evidence to say otherwise.
- The foundation of faith is belief in the affirmative. You start with the assumption that claim X is true.

What if the person with faith starts with the assumption that claim X is not true and then proceeds with the process of thinking critically?

Earl Grey wrote:They don't justify the claims themselves directly, because that's impossible. If you look at the Apostle's or Nicene Creeds, the Shahada, or similar foundational articles of faith, none of the claims is falsifiable

The moral claims from politicians are not falsifiable. This is what you compared religion to and said that religion can't be subject to the same system of justification. If justification is only about evaluating truth, then we'll fail on both. If justification is broadened to simply making a convincing appeal, then we can subject both to this.

Earl Grey wrote:None of this is to say that a lot of people and communities don't manage to reconcile having a faith life and benefiting from critical thinking. This does happen, but it happens because people find ways to keep the two cognitively separate and avoid dissonance. It's a subtle and largely positive hypocrisy, but the fact remains that when skepticism starts to tread into the territory of highly valued faith claims, people more often than not choose the latter over the former.

I agree with this (except to call it hypocrisy). Churches are not promoting skepticism in God, they are promoting faith, so of course there's a conflict. And if we remove that faith from people, they will be more skeptical of the notion of God. But will they be better at being skeptical overall? Is removing faith an important step in getting people to be better at handling uncertainties? This is where I differ with you, and something like this should be straight-forward to study in "laboratory ideal" conditions.

We are naturally bad at being skeptical, and my claim is that faith is shaping our push for a more concrete belief. It helps unify a group around a shared idea. But groups can get this unification without explicitly promoting faith, and this creates biases that are just as troublesome to overcome. This is my point. Faith is a manifestation; it's not the problem. Getting rid of faith doesn't help us win any battles against poor thinking; it just helps fight against something that a lot of people here find unsightly.

What about the idea I presented earlier? First find a way to reliably improve people's thinking skills and start applying it broadly. If religious groups fight against this because they fear a smarter laity, then they are creating the dividing line and become the clear hurdle. And alternatively, if some religious groups support the effort, that's wonderful! Also, this would give real metrics that we could use to study the effects that faith, political ideology, nationalism, etc. play on this. And if faith stands out as a particular detriment to this process, then there's a clear case to be made.

Here's how I boil down my position as clearly as I can. If you presented your case as merely a reasonable explanation, as something that warranted serious consideration and further study, I'd have little trouble with it. But, correct me if I'm wrong, I get the sense that you are pushing it as true, and not just true, but true and worth acting upon. This is my issue. I think this misses an opportunity to apply healthy skepticism. And not just intellectually healthy, but if faith is singled out as problematic when it's not, this can actually impede the goal of bringing about better thinking. Plus I suspect that if we find a system that works well at getting people to think better, any problems with faith will naturally fall out of that, and thus isolating it now doesn't actually help at all.

Earl Grey wrote:
By the way I'll give you a mechanical analog of Conformation Bias that came to me. Think of a mechanical relay that changes states based on an applied signal. But the line is noisy. Full of spikes around the amplitude of our signal. If it changes on every signal of the same amplitude of our signal the relay will chatter, so we put a time delay which filter the signal to make sure that if the signal stays high long enough the relay will change state. I give you a biological example but I can't really connect the dots as well as I would like. But just for a second think of those guys you know who never seem to trust their wives or girlfriends.

If I understand your analogy correctly, the time delay is analogous to weeding out real patterns from merely apparent ones?

I'm used to this being called hysteresis, and it's about reducing the sensitivity of the relay to noise, which in essence sounds like what you're saying. I haven't heard this analogy in relation to confirmation bias at all, and it sounds interesting. But it's a fix for a system where you have to choose between believe/don't believe, and thus hysteresis keeps you from rapidly flip-flopping. But if we add a state of uncertainty, then maybe we don't need the hysteresis. Of course, maybe we still have this confirmation bias because we suck at dealing with uncertainty. It's an interesting comparison. (I'm an engineer and I love finding analogies between what I do and how people work. :))

Earl Grey wrote:
Mr. Grey I like your rhetorical style, good luck here.
Toodles

Thank you, I appreciate that. I'm sure we'll still interact on these boards in other places, once I get tired of this thread (which could be a while since it's my favorite thing to discuss). Good luck to you as well.

I'll take this opportunity to mention that I'm enjoying the discussion as well.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Sat Dec 10, 2011 1:17 am UTC

My reasoning would be along these lines. If this came to gradually over time exactly when does it become fixed? It strikes me that the process is largely unconscious. So that pattern is mostly set before you are aware of it. The reverse could be the same. I'm comparing it to my own process.

On the analogy, close enough. We don't like people who vacillate, or who change their minds too much. Basically cognitive biases are a product of shortcuts taken by the brain. I don't doubt that they cause problems, I'm just not sure that we have a lot of control over the process when we are engaged emotionally. Anyway enough said.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:05 pm UTC

I hope December is treating everyone well (which is startlingly already half over). Between traveling to visit family and my S.O. commandeering my laptop for the last little while, I haven't had time to do much more than browse. Remedying that now.

guenther wrote:What if the person with faith starts with the assumption that claim X is not true and then proceeds with the process of thinking critically?


In such a case, X is not something the person has faith in... I think I'm starting to see a possible source of misunderstanding here.

guenther wrote:
Earl Grey wrote:None of this is to say that a lot of people and communities don't manage to reconcile having a faith life and benefiting from critical thinking. This does happen, but it happens because people find ways to keep the two cognitively separate and avoid dissonance. It's a subtle and largely positive hypocrisy, but the fact remains that when skepticism starts to tread into the territory of highly valued faith claims, people more often than not choose the latter over the former.
[...]Churches are not promoting skepticism in God, they are promoting faith, so of course there's a conflict. And if we remove that faith from people, they will be more skeptical of the notion of God. But will they be better at being skeptical overall?


"Overall". If I am (finally?) reading you correctly, you see me arguing that simply having faith at all impedes your overall critical thinking abilities. For example, that believing in Jesus will lower your scores on logic tests; a straight forward, inversely-proportional relationship. This is not what I'm arguing. I am not saying, to play on a somewhat crude joke, that a human being only has enough blood in their body to run either their faith-brain or their skeptical-brain, not both at the same time.

What I've been trying to argue is a little more nuanced than that, but I don't think overly complicated. As far back as page 65 of this thread, when I was discussing Dr. Francis Collins, I was talking about successful compartmentalizations of faith (using critical thought about what you put faith in). On page 66 I specifically talked about unverified beliefs which are treated as knowledge (faith-claims) being used in chains of reasoning which lead to action, and that problems arise when articles of faith are contradicted. Even in the above quote there's a qualification of skepticism treading into the territory of highly valued faith claims. The key condition is when the two are forced to interact, not merely be processes which at different times occur in the same individual.

So to clarify:

guenther wrote:What if the person with faith starts with the assumption that claim X is not true and then proceeds with the process of thinking critically?


By definition, by starting with the assumption that X is not true, the person is, if they are sincere, at that moment not exercising faith in X. 'With faith' here is unclear, and along with "overall" in the above context has led me to my above interpretation that you've misunderstood my proposed relationship between faith and critical thinking.

Is this what you meant? Were you operating with the understanding that I was asserting that having faith impedes critical thinking, even in areas unrelated to the content of the faith-claims?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby nitePhyyre » Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:57 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:When defending fallacy with a fallacy, are you being cleverly ironic or daftly ignorant?

Around here it depends on who you ask. If you ask me then I think I'm a wit, some others might think me a nitwit. Read this, you won't get it but I can't help that. Everybody always thinks there special, but we're not. We all fall prey to that crap.
If you were trying to make a point, its the second. Let's backup:
morriswalters wrote:I truly wish that people would quit using cognitive bias like a pejorative. Cognitive bias is built in. It's a tool used by the brain to do the business of the brain. This whole discussion is a product of the biases of both sides. Does anyone truly believe that they escape them in any way. It's part of the decision making process. You can't choose between two brands of salt without using some form of it. Bah! Look around. Our whole society is founded on them.
Your argument is an example of the Naturalistic fallacy. You can't just say that because something is biologically natural that we can't change it or that we shouldn't change it. You have to actually put forth an argument.

Are you honestly denying that knowing which situations and which mental states will cause you to make bad decisions will do nothing to help someone avoid making decisions in those scenarios and mental states?

morriswalters wrote:Thought experiment. Tell me the exact minute and the chain of events that made you decide to be an Atheist if that's what you are? Was it a Eureka Moment or a slow dawning? What day of the year? Was it cold? If that's too hard then tell me why you don't like certain foods.
I don't remember, it was such a long time ago. I do remember that each christian apology weakened my faith. "The only way to know god is through the bible. If the bible is full of wrong, what we know about god must be full of wrong" was the (very) basic thought process that I can remember.

I have a slight case of hyposmia, so generally I don't like foods because when that have a texture that I find unpleasant.

morriswalters wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:Pre-enlightenment Europe vs Post-enlightenment Europe? [snip] the oppression of the Iranian people ensues.

These three statements are an example of the types of fallacies that we all fall over...
guenther wrote:You made a comparison, but you didn't demonstrate anything meaningful about faith. You are talking about macro-scale issues, and faith is in the mix somewhere. But how much of the effect is faith and how much is something else? That's not clear in what you presented.
Again,
guenther wrote:If faith is causing problems, then we should be able to demonstrate this by comparing in some way a group that has faith and another group that rejects faith.
So yes, I didn't bother to show any causation because I was responding to "Show me correlation, and I'll assume causation." If you are now moving the goal posts, tell me where you are moving them to, and we can take it from there.

On a side note, can anybody think of some good examples to counter my correlations? Sometime in history where a large uptick in a population's religiosity preceded/followed a large uptick in well-being? I can't think of any off the top of my head.

guenther wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:On subject-J, if you used method-X to decide, you haven't used method-Y. There is a inherent conflict between method-X and method-Y.
What if you use method-X and then use method-Y? Then you have used both on the same subject without conflict.
No, it means you threw out the results of method-X, then went with method-Y.
guenther wrote:When I agreed with you, I meant that if you made a decision in the past without using method-X, then you can't go back and change that because we don't know how to time travel. But using your car analogy, you can travel from A to B over and over again, and each time you can take a different mode of transportation. You seem to be assuming that people only travel once and never reevaluate why or how they landed on their conclusion.
To continue with the transportation analogy, one day you go to your friends house. He asks you how you got there. "I walked," you respond. The next day you went to his house again. This time you drove. Again your friend ask how you got to his house. Do you answer that you walked and drove? Or do you say that you drove? Each time you re-evaluate something it is independent.*

Oh and by the way, confirmation bias makes that assumption very likely true.

*ignoring confirmation bias, of course

guenther wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:
guenther wrote:Those same biases can lead to a belief that is not faith. How is that belief different than faith?
It's the same.
Then we are working from different notions of faith. If fallacies make you think the evidence is there when it's not, this can foster belief. But faith is belief without evidence, as in you are hinging your belief on something other than evidence. If you are basing your belief on evidence, be it good quality evidence or poor quality, then it's not faith.
Earlier in the thread, Drumheller769 said that they believe in god because god answers their prayers and because god cured them of alcoholism. Because Drumheller769's beliefs are derived from real world events, would you say that Drumheller769 has no faith?

Although I must say, the idea that (Fallacy) + (Acceptance of fallacy) = (Faith) is an interesting concept.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:12 am UTC

Earl Grey wrote:I hope December is treating everyone well (which is startlingly already half over). Between traveling to visit family and my S.O. commandeering my laptop for the last little while, I haven't had time to do much more than browse. Remedying that now.

I understand holiday busyness. :)

Earl Grey wrote:By definition, by starting with the assumption that X is not true, the person is, if they are sincere, at that moment not exercising faith in X.

What definition are you referencing? I'm not sure that faith precludes anyone from starting intellectual exercises with certain assumptions. And when I said "with faith", I meant a person with faith in a certain belief. Thus I was talking about a person who has faith that X is true but then starts the intellectual process with an assumption that X is not true. If you say they have lost faith at that moment, do you think it's against what the Bible says about faith? Do you think churches should be discouraging this behavior if they mean to stay true to their scripture? I don't think so.

But for the sake of debate, let's just take your statement as true. Suppose someone decides to set their faith aside at that moment and looks only at the evidence regarding the effectiveness of prayer, the existence of God, the historicity of Bible, the support for evolution, etc. They can come to the exact same conclusion that areligious people have come to, yet afterward they can still decide to believe by faith. Maybe there's a conflict in terms of belief, but there's no incompatibility between having faith and using the critical thinking process. Or if there is one, then I'm still not seeing it.

Earl Grey wrote:Is this what you meant? Were you operating with the understanding that I was asserting that having faith impedes critical thinking, even in areas unrelated to the content of the faith-claims?

Yes. And when I read your post, I still get that impression (though not necessarily in unrelated areas). If articles of faith are contradicted and problems arise, you don't consider these problems to be impediments to critical thinking? I did think that was what you meant, and I actually agree with that statement. My point is that while this happens, it's not specifically related to faith. If political dogma gets contradicted, you'll have similar problems with bias. I think the problem is related to having something be both important and hard to verify. And the techniques used to get people to think better about politics will work just as well at getting people to think better about religion, or at least that's my claim.

For clarity let me quickly summarize: In the first section I'm saying that there's no incompatibility between faith and critical thinking, but in the second I'm acknowledging that it can create a bias. So in other words, it's a hurdle that can be overcome. Also, I'm saying that this hurdle isn't unique to faith, but is something that really permeates our society. My understanding of your position is that you are saying that there is something unique about faith that makes it stand out from where this happens elsewhere. But clearly there's still something wrong in how I capture your position since you don't think that faith impedes critical thinking. So please help me understand.

--------------------

nitePhyyre wrote:So yes, I didn't bother to show any causation because I was responding to "Show me correlation, and I'll assume causation." If you are now moving the goal posts, tell me where you are moving them to, and we can take it from there.

Who said "Show me correlation, and I'll assume causation"? Do you think that's my goal post? Why do you think I'm OK with making that assumption?

Also, while the correlation/causation thing is an issue, that doesn't capture the problem I was mentioning. Even if you prove causation with religion and various problems, religion has countless different facets, and faith is just one element. How do you know that faith specifically out of all those elements is causing the problem? For example, can you have a religious Muslim community with beliefs based in faith that doesn't create something like the oppressive theocracy in Iran? If so, then the cited problem isn't really about faith at all, and is related to some other facet (like perhaps the connection between religion and government).

nitePhyyre wrote:No, it means you threw out the results of method-X, then went with method-Y.

OK, so what? Maybe in the midst of this abstraction I've lost track of what you're saying. Originally you said that you can use a number of different thought processes to decide if a statement is true, and once you've picked one, it's impossible to use the others. But now you seem to be talking about how you can only have one belief regardless of the number of processes you've used. My claim is about what processes people can and do use, not about the belief. I.e. someone with faith can think critically, and they may have applied the process in the past and they can do so again in the future.

nitePhyyre wrote:Earlier in the thread, Drumheller769 said that they believe in god because god answers their prayers and because god cured them of alcoholism. Because Drumheller769's beliefs are derived from real world events, would you say that Drumheller769 has no faith?

Well, I don't like speaking for other people, but Drumheller769 said "That's the kind of proof that gives the ideas of the bible credibility to me". I read this as him saying that the Bible sounds reasonable. There's still a leap from "This is reasonable" to "This is true", and that gap can be bridged with faith.

Let's take a different example. In the Bible the disciples personally witness Jesus' power over and over, and their beliefs are very much shaped by real-world events. Yet they still get chided because of their lack of faith. If they have personal evidence that Jesus is really the son of God, isn't this an evidence-based belief, and thus not faith-based? But the Bible calls us to believe not only that Jesus was real and powerful, but that he's also our only path to salvation. We are supposed to trust him with both our life and our afterlife. To me this is the meat of the faith, and it applies to all Christians, even if someone believes that God came down to earth and personally visited them. Fallacies (and their acceptance) can play a role for people both with and without faith. And someone can have faith both with and without fallacies. The two concepts are separate.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:57 am UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:Your argument is an example of the Naturalistic fallacy. You can't just say that because something is biologically natural that we can't change it or that we shouldn't change it. You have to actually put forth an argument.

Are you honestly denying that knowing which situations and which mental states will cause you to make bad decisions will do nothing to help someone avoid making decisions in those scenarios and mental states?


I have no doubt that you can impact some decisions sometimes, but the process is unreliable. I don't really care to make this case in a long drawn out fashion, but History is littered with examples of rational, reasonable people doing irrational, unreasonable things. If you wish to believe that you can shine a light this way than more power to you. But Neuroscience may disagree. Too many things can and do interfere with the process. Some things aren't subject to conscious analysis.

I asked if you knew the hour when you decided their was no God. The point being that I believe that it was an unconscious process that led you there, rather than a deliberate process of evaluation. And I believe the process for getting to the belief in God is done much in the same way. I also believe that people compartmentalize much more than they believe. It's perfectly easy for me to believe that a Christian can be very rational and an live their lives guided by reason.

In terms of moving the goal posts, by any measure you wish, European Society, and the advances that grew out of it, came in a world which was full of people who believed in God. It was central to their lives. You can say we got here in spite of that but if your honest with yourself you will see that there is no evidence to support that view. I thought I owed you an answer, and I don't mind in the least that you think me a nitwit.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby IcedT » Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:54 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:In terms of moving the goal posts, by any measure you wish, European Society, and the advances that grew out of it, came in a world which was full of people who believed in God. It was central to their lives. You can say we got here in spite of that but if your honest with yourself you will see that there is no evidence to support that view. I thought I owed you an answer, and I don't mind in the least that you think me a nitwit.

Considering religiosity in the Western world has been declining for centuries, even as technology has accelerated, I don't think you have much of a point here. Religion has declined wherever scientific and material advances have been greatest, and it never had much of a hold at all in, say, China and Japan, the world's 2nd and 3rd largest economies and major centers for science and industry. At best, progress is independent of religion and at worst religion is an obstacle to it.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby nitePhyyre » Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:08 am UTC

I think this exchange is a succinct collection of my arguments with your response, so let me answer it alone and cut down on post size. IMO, most of this exchange applies to your conversation with Earl Grey.
guenther wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:
guenther wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:On subject-J, if you used method-X to decide, you haven't used method-Y. There is a inherent conflict between method-X and method-Y.
What if you use method-X and then use method-Y? Then you have used both on the same subject without conflict.
No, it means you threw out the results of method-X, then went with method-Y.
OK, so what? Maybe in the midst of this abstraction I've lost track of what you're saying. Originally you said that you can use a number of different thought processes to decide if a statement is true, and once you've picked one, it's impossible to use the others. But now you seem to be talking about how you can only have one belief regardless of the number of processes you've used. My claim is about what processes people can and do use, not about the belief. I.e. someone with faith can think critically, and they may have applied the process in the past and they can do so again in the future.
I don't think anyone has yet argued with what you say in your 'i.e.'. What we are saying is: A single belief cannot be formed by multiple separate process.

While this should be self-evident, let me elaborate. Let's say my friends and I are trying to decide what restaurant to eat at. We hold a vote with everyone rating their preferences then randomly assign numbers to the restaurants and roll a dice. We go to whichever restaurant's number comes up on the dice. I wouldn't say: We decided where to eat by dice roll informed by vote. Worse, I definitely wouldn't say: We decided where to eat by vote informed by dice roll.

The clearest real world with example is intelligent design. Intelligent design proponents claim it is an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins, informed by faith. At this point, I believe that is the only argument being made. I want to make sure we are all on the same page before moving on.

guenther wrote:Who said "Show me correlation, and I'll assume causation"? Do you think that's my goal post? Why do you think I'm OK with making that assumption?
Never mind. I quoted it like 3 times now. If you can't even understand what you wrote, let's just drop the subject.

guenther wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:Earlier in the thread, Drumheller769 said that they believe in god because god answers their prayers and because god cured them of alcoholism. Because Drumheller769's beliefs are derived from real world events, would you say that Drumheller769 has no faith?
Well, I don't like speaking for other people, but Drumheller769 said "That's the kind of proof that gives the ideas of the bible credibility to me". I read this as him saying that the Bible sounds reasonable.
If you see the word 'proof' and understand 'compelling, but not conclusive evidence' all can tell you is this: Learn how to read. I recommend grade school. Preferably in an English speaking country that isn't the USA.
Let's back it up a bit.
guenther wrote:
nitePhyyre wrote:
guenther wrote:Those same biases can lead to a belief that is not faith. How is that belief different than faith?
It's the same.
Then we are working from different notions of faith. If fallacies make you think the evidence is there when it's not, this can foster belief. But faith is belief without evidence, as in you are hinging your belief on something other than evidence. If you are basing your belief on evidence, be it good quality evidence or poor quality, then it's not faith.
The claim that faith is separate from evidence is preposterous. For your assertion to be true, there would have to be an example of someone becoming faithful without ever having heard about god. Without having heard about Jesus, etc. Do you have any examples of anyone ever spontaneously converting to a religion they've never heard of? Even a single example of someone who developed their faith without ever at least trying to link their faith to some form of evidence? If no one has ever spontaneously developing a faith in such a manner, then faith is fallacy.

morriswalters wrote:I have no doubt that you can impact some decisions sometimes, but the process is unreliable. I don't really care to make this case in a long drawn out fashion, but History is littered with examples of rational, reasonable people doing irrational, unreasonable things. If you wish to believe that you can shine a light this way than more power to you. But Neuroscience may disagree. Too many things can and do interfere with the process. Some things aren't subject to conscious analysis.

I asked if you knew the hour when you decided their was no God. The point being that I believe that it was an unconscious process that led you there, rather than a deliberate process of evaluation. And I believe the process for getting to the belief in God is done much in the same way. I also believe that people compartmentalize much more than they believe. It's perfectly easy for me to believe that a Christian can be very rational and an live their lives guided by reason.
I understand what you believe, I'm just asking why. Why do you believe that critical thinking is unique among skills that it cannot be improved with training?

morriswalters wrote:In terms of moving the goal posts, by any measure you wish, European Society, and the advances that grew out of it, came in a world which was full of people who believed in God. It was central to their lives. You can say we got here in spite of that but if your honest with yourself you will see that there is no evidence to support that view. I thought I owed you an answer, and I don't mind in the least that you think me a nitwit.
Errr, what? Age of Enlightenment?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:37 am UTC

I think critical thinking is quite important in situations where the issue at question is reducible in some fashion to something that is conducive to analysis. Religion isn't. When you attempt to use critical thinking to analyze Religion too many things get in the way. Otherwise reasonable and intelligent people go off the rails. Making a statements such as, Religion has held the world back. This isn't reasonable. I'm not saying it didn't, but there's no way to know, but people accept this as a article of faith.

I know that this doesn't win me any friends but I have no faith in any tools that don't work reliably, every time. As humans we can go wrong in ways that we can't see, so I suspect everything. I'll try an example. Cut your corpus callosum and you will be blind on one side. You will never know it. Testing suggests that when you do this and present the brain with information from the disconnected side that you confabulate data when presented with things happening to the side you can't communicate with. The scary part is that you don't know it. I don't trust things that break that way. When we talk about physical facts that are reproducible and repeatable, we are very good. We can test those facts and see clearly where they lead. But things that are ephemeral force us to work without facts. People seem to have a hard time with this. The concept of falsifiability is the clearest statement of this that I have seen. But people seem to not want to understand what it means.

Religion was the foundation of the Age of Enlightenment. It supplied the stability that enabled men to have the leisure to attack problems other than how to stay alive. Whatever else it may have done it had to be responsible for that there was no other socially cohesive mechanism in place to do it. Name me another social force that existed.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:11 am UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:What we are saying is: A single belief cannot be formed by multiple separate process.

This is true if we define the process by which we form beliefs as a single thing. But multiple things could be part of that process. In your restaurant example, you crafted a scenario where people explicitly ignored the votes, and then you conclude that the votes weren't relevant to the decision. Not very profound.

nitePhyyre wrote:Never mind. I quoted it like 3 times now. If you can't even understand what you wrote, let's just drop the subject.

It's fascinating that out of this you conclude that I'm the one not understanding what I wrote. But I'm fine with dropping the subject.

nitePhyyre wrote:The claim that faith is separate from evidence is preposterous.

I am not claiming they're separate or that there's no linking between faith and evidence. My point is that faith is about taking a belief beyond the evidence, as in we believe even though we know we can't prove that it's true. This is different than claiming that you can prove it's true and then defending it with a fallacious argument.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby mattshark100 » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:00 am UTC

Name me another social force that existed.


It's an interesting point, but couldn't a nomocracy or a form of autocracy not related to religion but led by someone of power have filled this gap nicely. Theocracy is only one state of stability human beings respond to, isn't it?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:02 pm UTC

The obvious advantage is that in its own sweet way the Church eliminated the weaknesses of an autocracy, by having the pope selected by the Cardinals, once it got the opportunity.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Earl Grey » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:22 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:If you see the word 'proof' and understand 'compelling, but not conclusive evidence' all can tell you is this: Learn how to read. I recommend grade school. Preferably in an English speaking country that isn't the USA.


I'm not a moderator, and they can let me know if I'm overstepping my bounds here, but the only difference between the above quote and another in a different thread in SB which earned the writer a temporary ban is the presence of a couple of expletives. Please, let's avoid slipping into these kinds of tones while arguing, it muddies the progress.

Now back to catching up.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Jan 09, 2012 7:49 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I think critical thinking is quite important in situations where the issue at question is reducible in some fashion to something that is conducive to analysis. Religion isn't. When you attempt to use critical thinking to analyze Religion too many things get in the way. Otherwise reasonable and intelligent people go off the rails. Making a statements such as, Religion has held the world back. This isn't reasonable. I'm not saying it didn't, but there's no way to know, but people accept this as a article of faith.


It is certainly possible to analyse religion critically, just like anything else. Historical analysis is very difficult, because the evidence we have is limited, non-repeatable, and the sources we are using may not be reliable. Making a claim that "Religion has held the world back" is probably not a particularly sound one, but that claim too, can be examined critically by investigating the evidence for that claim. You certainly can analyse the benefits and detriments of religion and try to make a reasoned judgment one way or the other, or provide a more nuanced argument about the aspects of religion that have been particularly beneficial compared to the ones that have been on the whole, rather detrimental.

morriswalters wrote:I know that this doesn't win me any friends but I have no faith in any tools that don't work reliably, every time. As humans we can go wrong in ways that we can't see, so I suspect everything. I'll try an example. Cut your corpus callosum and you will be blind on one side. You will never know it. Testing suggests that when you do this and present the brain with information from the disconnected side that you confabulate data when presented with things happening to the side you can't communicate with. The scary part is that you don't know it. I don't trust things that break that way. When we talk about physical facts that are reproducible and repeatable, we are very good. We can test those facts and see clearly where they lead. But things that are ephemeral force us to work without facts. People seem to have a hard time with this. The concept of falsifiability is the clearest statement of this that I have seen. But people seem to not want to understand what it means.


If only there was a technique where we could rigorously analyse and synthesize information from various sources to determine their credibility and impartiality, check our assumptions and improve our evidence-gathering techniques. If you're going to avoid any kind of higher-order thought, you aren't going to get very far in terms of decision-making. Disconnected facts do not actually tell you anything interesting about the world.

morriswalters wrote:Religion was the foundation of the Age of Enlightenment. It supplied the stability that enabled men to have the leisure to attack problems other than how to stay alive. Whatever else it may have done it had to be responsible for that there was no other socially cohesive mechanism in place to do it. Name me another social force that existed.


Central government? Laws and people to enforce them? Countries? Seriously, the minimum requirement to give people leisure time to think about problems other than staying alive is a stable and surplus supply of food, and that problem had been solved thousands of years before the Enlightenment. It is no more justifiable to say that religion was the foundation of the Age of Enlightenment than it is to say that religion held the world back. Both are gross simplifications of a much more complicated situation.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:51 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:It is certainly possible to analyse religion critically, just like anything else. Historical analysis is very difficult, because the evidence we have is limited, non-repeatable, and the sources we are using may not be reliable. Making a claim that "Religion has held the world back" is probably not a particularly sound one, but that claim too, can be examined critically by investigating the evidence for that claim. You certainly can analyse the benefits and detriments of religion and try to make a reasoned judgment one way or the other, or provide a more nuanced argument about the aspects of religion that have been particularly beneficial compared to the ones that have been on the whole, rather detrimental.

There is no evidence. It would require a comparable situation where Religion wasn't in play. There isn't any. The best you can do is guess.

Please, I've read that piece, oh, a good twenty times. I never said critical thinking doesn't work. It just doesn't work well in Religion. In Religion there are no facts. Certainly there are things that seem to be in flagrant, willful ignorance, of data, until you realize that the rules are rigged. God does whatever we want.

LaserGuy wrote:Central government? Laws and people to enforce them? Countries? Seriously, the minimum requirement to give people leisure time to think about problems other than staying alive is a stable and surplus supply of food, and that problem had been solved thousands of years before the Enlightenment. It is no more justifiable to say that religion was the foundation of the Age of Enlightenment than it is to say that religion held the world back. Both are gross simplifications of a much more complicated situation.

Name a social force that gave stability other than Religion. I'm not saying that Religion handed the world whole cloth, but it was the force that was always there. It all gets bound up in the idea that authority has to come from somewhere. And God was it.

Question? How many opinions do you get on something not concerning repeatable, testable, facts, from 100 critical reasoners?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:24 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Name a social force that gave stability other than Religion. I'm not saying that Religion handed the world whole cloth, but it was the force that was always there. It all gets bound up in the idea that authority has to come from somewhere. And God was it.


The State. Hobbes old maximum is backed up by statistics. 15 percent of prehistoric humans met a violent death at the hands of another person. Research into contemporary or recent hunter-gatherer societies yields a remarkably similarly average, while another cluster of studies of pre-state societies that include some horticulture has an even higher rate of violent death. In contrast, among state societies, the most violent appears to have been Aztec Mexico, in which 5 percent of people were killed by others (due to religious desire to appease a Sun God). In Europe, even during the bloodiest periods — the 17th century and the first half of the 20th —­ deaths in war were around 3 percent. The data vindicates Hobbes’s basic insight, that without a state, life is likely to be “nasty, brutish and short.” In contrast, a state monopoly on the legitimate use of force reduces violence and makes everyone living under that monopoly better off than they would otherwise have been.

In fact, the lessening of religion as a social force is associated historically with less violence and instability. What marked one of the longest periods of peace was the close of the 17th century and events like the Treaty of Westphalia, which marked an end to the prolonged period of religious wars and in-fighting. One of the most significant permanent declines in violence - both on the scale of war and even individual murder rates - came about following the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, not merely in the centuries following but fractally in the decades and fifty year spans since it. The ascent of reason, the decline of superstition and religion, has been a civilising effect upon the world.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:20 am UTC

Which doesn't speak to what it would have been like without Religion. Again as I already stated you don't have an exemplar absent Religion. Is the decline in violence due to greater wealth or the decline of Religion? Or is the decline of Religion due to the greater wealth? If there is no God, something I believe, than you are left with the fact that man created him. So look at it this way, whatever evils it may or have not been responsible for, the underlying cause was was us.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:34 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:It is certainly possible to analyse religion critically, just like anything else. Historical analysis is very difficult, because the evidence we have is limited, non-repeatable, and the sources we are using may not be reliable. Making a claim that "Religion has held the world back" is probably not a particularly sound one, but that claim too, can be examined critically by investigating the evidence for that claim. You certainly can analyse the benefits and detriments of religion and try to make a reasoned judgment one way or the other, or provide a more nuanced argument about the aspects of religion that have been particularly beneficial compared to the ones that have been on the whole, rather detrimental.


There is no evidence. It would require a comparable situation where Religion wasn't in play. There isn't any. The best you can do is guess.


Repeatable, testable facts are not the only kind of evidence, nor are they always the best kind of evidence.

morriswalters wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Central government? Laws and people to enforce them? Countries? Seriously, the minimum requirement to give people leisure time to think about problems other than staying alive is a stable and surplus supply of food, and that problem had been solved thousands of years before the Enlightenment. It is no more justifiable to say that religion was the foundation of the Age of Enlightenment than it is to say that religion held the world back. Both are gross simplifications of a much more complicated situation.


Name a social force that gave stability other than Religion. I'm not saying that Religion handed the world whole cloth, but it was the force that was always there. It all gets bound up in the idea that authority has to come from somewhere. And God was it.


I just did. Central government, laws, countries. Monopoly on force as WE mentioned. You just claimed that you can't demonstrate religion did harm because you have nothing to compare it to. How on earth do you believe that you can make any claims about whether religion did good? Incidentally, "God" is not a concept that is shared by all religions. Confucianism, for example, does not ascribe to any higher powers and is not particularly concerned with an afterlife.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:11 pm UTC

I make no claims the Religion is good or bad, period. Religion is a social device created by us, we the people. Government and Law must act from Authority, God is it, or was. My claim is that Critical Thinking doesn't work on it. Good doesn't advance Civilization.

My knowledge of Chinese history is nil. However the Emperors drew authority from somewhere. And their history is as violent as European history. Which returns to my thesis. Man is God, and all the evil attributed to him lands at our feet.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:12 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I make no claims the Religion is good or bad, period. Religion is a social device created by us, we the people. Government and Law must act from Authority, God is it, or was. My claim is that Critical Thinking doesn't work on it. Good doesn't advance Civilization.

My knowledge of Chinese history is nil. However the Emperors drew authority from somewhere. And their history is as violent as European history. Which returns to my thesis. Man is God, and all the evil attributed to him lands at our feet.



But I just linked the rise of Secular authority, the State, and its centralisation with the decline of violence. The rise of that State came when Religion was more or less constant, or indeed falling - 500 AD to 1500 AD for instance- so ceterus paribus, it seems secular authority rather than religious authority is responsible for stability and low violence. In fact, looking at the examples of the Enlightenment, the end of the Wars of Religion and the Age of Reason, if we keep secular authority constant and reduce religiosity, then violence declines both on macro and micro levels and in both the long and short term. I've given you a Social Force that results in order: The Leviathan. Furthermore, I've shown that, at best, religiosity seems an awful substitute for it - having little comparable effect on social order - and at worst, is in fact a factor in violence and conflict.

You're really going to have to make a better argument then simply acting as if it's self evident that both religion is a good force for social order and that there is no comparable one.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:50 am UTC

Correlation and causation. You can't draw the line and tell me which caused what or if both were just natural functions. And neither can I. I just know that he basis of authority in European culture until the modern era was the church. When I ask for an exemplar what I am seeking is a example of how the world would have been better absent Religion, and I'm pretty sure you can't give me one. This is a failure of critical reasoning in action. Man is a murderous bastard and had it not been the church it would have been something else, or so I believe.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:47 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Correlation and causation. You can't draw the line and tell me which caused what or if both were just natural functions. And neither can I. I just know that he basis of authority in European culture until the modern era was the church. When I ask for an exemplar what I am seeking is a example of how the world would have been better absent Religion, and I'm pretty sure you can't give me one. This is a failure of critical reasoning in action. Man is a murderous bastard and had it not been the church it would have been something else, or so I believe.


It's not a failure of critical reasoning. It's an unreasonable expectation of evidence on your part. Simply because something isn't repeatable in the lab doesn't mean that we can't say anything about it. It just means we need to collect evidence in different ways. I mean, we can't repeat the Big Bang, but that doesn't mean that we can't say anything about cosmology. We can't cause earthquakes, but that doesn't mean we can't say anything about plate tectonics, or about earthquakes themselves. Simply because we can't play all of human history without religion doesn't mean we can't say anything about religion. There are a lot of different religions, and a lot of different countries and time periods to look at. We also have relevant contemporary evidence. While we might not be able to make definitive conclusions, that doesn't mean we can't make any conclusions at all. Regardless, critical reasoning does not guarantee that you will get a definitive answer to every problem. It is probably more accurate to say that it is a method for attempting to determine, as accurately as possible, the probability that a given claim is true.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:48 am UTC

Apples and oranges. What is effectively being said, is that in a alternate reality, if Religion hadn't existed, that the world would have been a better place. We can't know that. Or at least I don't think we can. There is an example in terms of the Chinese. But it is a null example. Sans the Abrahamic Religion, they seem to have been just as bloody as Christianity. Religion may well be holding us back today, but it may not, and we are to close to judge.

Critical thinking is a good thing. But it doesn't give us any answers about Religion. It's not that we can't say anything about Religion, It's that we can't say anything useful. Maybe the conservative bent of Religion retards advances enough that we don't kill ourselves off. Maybe it has kept us from making earth a paradise. Who knows?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Shahriyar » Sun Jan 15, 2012 5:53 pm UTC

In my mind, Religion=Groupism, roughly speaking. Heck, it's even in the word itself: it means re-linking, affiliation: dogma is only a byproduct, and a malleable one at that. It just invents some fancy, cool-sounding but unverifiable justifications for the rules a group should follow when acting and thinking, that serve mainly to distinguish themselves from other groups (what some call "identity") so as to be able to see them as less-than-human, and okay to abuse. For one thing, you can't marry them, and joining them is huge betrayal. This mindset has been smoothed over, over the years, being replaced by nationalism, which pretty much amounts to the same thing, but with the focus of faith being a State (or even a Ruler): now infidels are not okay to hurt if they are compatriots, but "foreigners" are regardless of whether they share your denomination. The laws of the State have completely overridden the laws of the Faith, to the point that a faith having some different, extra laws, is automatically met with scorn and aggression, especially if the faith is identified with "foreigners"... and may God help them, literally, if their religious laws contradict those of the State.

Groupism is the root of the issue, the rest is just cheering and professing: very few people actually believe the tenets of their religions (they believe in them, that is, they endorse them, but that's something different altogether). Groupism is warm and fun and makes feel like you belong. It also makes the rest of humanity not belong. I think it's at the root of a lot of injustice, this belief that you're in a group, and that group's way of thinking and acting is the "right" way, and that only people in that group really count. In fact, I think it's unfairness at its most basic, its most bare: "others don't really count".
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Open Religious Discussion

Postby Black Chakram » Tue May 01, 2012 11:01 pm UTC

Hi everyone,

I know there's periodically religious talk in this forum from time to time and I like that most people here are open and respectful.

In that vein, I'd like to open a thread on open religious discussion. While I am devoutly Christian, I'm not out to convert anybody. I just want to learn about some other faiths to see why people believe what they believe, and discuss things that seem to be internal inconsistencies within religions.

I'll reply to any posting made in the same vein of curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge. Any takers? I'd especially love to just chat with someone of the Islamic faith.

Merged.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them."
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Whizzkid1024 » Thu May 03, 2012 8:29 am UTC

Well, I'm an atheist and humanist, because of lack of (measurable) proof of the existance of metaphysical entities and their power over the physical world. Personally I find science + stochastic factors a better explanation of why things happen as they happen in life.
I don't really have problems with religion, as long as they support 4 fairly basic ideas:
1) Freedom of religion: by which I mean, the believers of a religion don't try to actively convert or prosecute non-believers. They could organise meetings/activities in which they invite other people to get to know their religious traditions, that would be ok, I would possibly go too, because this hypothetical religion isn't forcing anything on anyone.

2) Freedom of speech: if someone wants to draw Jesus, Mohammed or Mozes with a funny hat in a newspaper, he or she shouldn't be afraid of repercussions.

3) Acceptance of science as the source of knowledge for the workings of the (natural) world: for example, the fact that food production on this planet is finite. This leads to a finite populations that can be supported. Logical consequence is population growth should stop or at least slow down, because we use almost all the available land for agriculture. I think it would be a good idea if religious organisations would spread that idea as well, and stimulate the use of contraceptives.

4) Human rights
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby jules.LT » Thu May 03, 2012 8:36 am UTC

Your other points are fair and right, but as for the population part of 3) you might want to read this thread: Overpopulation Rhetoric is Alarmist and Counterproductive.
Bertrand Russell wrote:Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.
Richard Feynman & many others wrote:Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Whizzkid1024 » Thu May 03, 2012 9:15 am UTC

jules.LT wrote:Your other points are fair and right, but as for the population part of 3) you might want to read this thread: Overpopulation Rhetoric is Alarmist and Counterproductive.


Yes, I agree that the overpopulation part isn't the whole of the story, but I still think it's an important factor. (rest spoilered for off topic)

Spoiler:
You probably are referring to 'global ecological footprints' and other such developments. For a really sustainable world, it's indeed the West that causes most of the problems. But with rising wealth in let's say BRIC countries, they'll probably want more luxurious food, transport, ... To live like Westeners. Because of this their carbon, phosphorous, water, nitrogen and other forms of pollution would rise fast, and they represent more than 1/3 of the worlds population. It would be a disaster to the earth's nutrient cycles. So I still support the idea of zero or really small population growth.

Other partial solutions would be to only produce meat from byproducts of the plant-oriented agriculture (straw for cows, instead of mais that could be used for human consumption), eat vegetables that grow locally in the open and import other from places where they can grow outdoors (if energy use of transport < energy use greenhouse agriculture), eat fish from lower trophic levels, be a vegetarian 5 or 6 days each week,... These are some of the changes we in the west could do to reduce our footprint for food consumption.

Other important subjects would be energy use, redesigning industry from an 'organic chemistry' based industry to a biotechnological based industry (at least here in Belgium this is important, because of the large (petro-)chemical sector), and more.


and I'm glad you agree on the other points
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Fri May 04, 2012 10:45 pm UTC

Whizzkid1024 wrote:1) Freedom of religion: by which I mean, the believers of a religion don't try to actively convert or prosecute non-believers. They could organise meetings/activities in which they invite other people to get to know their religious traditions, that would be ok, I would possibly go too, because this hypothetical religion isn't forcing anything on anyone.

The idea that believers can't actively try to convert non-believers seems restrictive to the point of conflicting with your number 2, Freedom of Speech. Or maybe you and I have different things in mind when we hear "actively convert".

Otherwise, I like the list and I'd even add one more:

5) Human obligations. For example, the importance of caring about one another, for extending compassion and respect to other people, particularly those most different from ourselves and those on the other side of sharp divides.


And I don't really have any problems with secular alternatives to religion when they follow the same set of basic ideas.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Zcorp » Sat May 05, 2012 1:13 am UTC

guenther wrote:
Whizzkid1024 wrote:1) Freedom of religion: by which I mean, the believers of a religion don't try to actively convert or prosecute non-believers. They could organise meetings/activities in which they invite other people to get to know their religious traditions, that would be ok, I would possibly go too, because this hypothetical religion isn't forcing anything on anyone.

The idea that believers can't actively try to convert non-believers seems restrictive to the point of conflicting with your number 2, Freedom of Speech. Or maybe you and I have different things in mind when we hear "actively convert".

Otherwise, I like the list and I'd even add one more:

5) Human obligations. For example, the importance of caring about one another, for extending compassion and respect to other people, particularly those most different from ourselves and those on the other side of sharp divides.


And I don't really have any problems with secular alternatives to religion when they follow the same set of basic ideas.

To point this out again...religions primary valve is not 'human obligations' it is their own 'spiritual' ones. God and the Faith and holy books come before human well-being. Consistently what these things teach about what is good for humans comes before what is actually good for humans.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby guenther » Sat May 05, 2012 8:02 am UTC

First of all, by "human obligations" I meant things humans should feel responsible for, not a specific obligation to other humans (though my example was related to that). This was meant to be in contrast with human rights. I.e. religions (and their secular counterparts) should promote responsibilities, not just rights.

Second, I didn't mention anything about primary. It's just a list of things that are important. No one said that any item should be of primary importance.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Technical Ben » Sat May 05, 2012 8:26 am UTC

They only come before, because it is taken that they lead to well being. It's a bit like the law. You put the law first, because it's assumed it's for your benefit. We may put other things before the law at times, but again, because we see it as beneficial. [Edit] Oh, I'll add that it is correct that this includes putting spiritual things first and foremost too. As said in the post above. [/edit]

If someone believes God has the greatest knowledge, power and ability, and a desire to help, then why would they not put His wishes first? Granted, I would only want people to do so if such actions prove beneficial. This is where the majority of Religion fails. They take actions that are not beneficial, and forget the ones that say "love your neighbour" etc. But that is down to the one failing to follow the "rules", not the set of rules themselves.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Whizzkid1024 » Sat May 05, 2012 4:16 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
Whizzkid1024 wrote:1) Freedom of religion: by which I mean, the believers of a religion don't try to actively convert or prosecute non-believers. They could organise meetings/activities in which they invite other people to get to know their religious traditions, that would be ok, I would possibly go too, because this hypothetical religion isn't forcing anything on anyone.

The idea that believers can't actively try to convert non-believers seems restrictive to the point of conflicting with your number 2, Freedom of Speech. Or maybe you and I have different things in mind when we hear "actively convert".
.


I don't have a problem if religious people ask politely if they could talk to you about their faith and just go away if you say you don't want to. I'm more thinking Sharia4Belgium style 'Islam is the truth, you should all join us or perish by the holy power of Allah. Marie-Rose Morel (female politician of nationalistic, anti-immigration party in Flanders) died of cancer because she didn't live by Sharia Law and denied Allah as the greatest being in the universe.' You can insert fundamentalists of all denominations here. Those kind of hatred bearing messages don't fit in 'freedom of speech' anymore. I don't really think number 1 and number 2 conflict, as long as the people doing the converting don't force themselves on the people they would try to convert. Something Sharia4Belgium hasn't really understood, it seems. So Jehova's witnesses can come by my house anyday, as long as they would go away when I tell them I don't want to talk.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Zcorp » Sat May 05, 2012 5:01 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:They only come before, because it is taken that they lead to well being. It's a bit like the law. You put the law first, because it's assumed it's for your benefit. We may put other things before the law at times, but again, because we see it as beneficial. [Edit] Oh, I'll add that it is correct that this includes putting spiritual things first and foremost too. As said in the post above. [/edit]

If someone believes God has the greatest knowledge, power and ability, and a desire to help, then why would they not put His wishes first? Granted, I would only want people to do so if such actions prove beneficial. This is where the majority of Religion fails. They take actions that are not beneficial, and forget the ones that say "love your neighbour" etc. But that is down to the one failing to follow the "rules", not the set of rules themselves.

Aye, the problem is that the clergy and laity see it as beneficial and it is often not. They follow what they perceive to be of Gods guidance, despite the great ambiguity there, even when it harms people and society. They then teach those beliefs to other people, often children, and as we know getting people to change their beliefs - especially ones reached through faith rather than reason - is quite difficult.

This results in religion often working against human well-being rather than for it.

guenther wrote:First of all, by "human obligations" I meant things humans should feel responsible for, not a specific obligation to other humans (though my example was related to that). This was meant to be in contrast with human rights. I.e. religions (and their secular counterparts) should promote responsibilities, not just rights.
Clarification appreciated.

Second, I didn't mention anything about primary. It's just a list of things that are important. No one said that any item should be of primary importance.
True. That religion puts other responsibilities above human well-being is one of the problems I've expressed with it. When a primary value - the well-being of the faith - comes in conflict with a secondary value - the well-being of humans - it sucks to be included in that second value. That and advocating doctrine based in faith rather than skepticism are the two arguments we spent pages discussing. The former is one you denied for literally years.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Technical Ben » Sat May 05, 2012 10:15 pm UTC

Here's an idea. It's quite agreed that religion is acting wrongly. That there is some benefit to religion, but it's not being acted on. What should religion be doing? If it's suppose to be listening to the commands of God (because those commands are good for people), then should they not be doing just that? If they did, would this be much more acceptable?

Would it be that religion is wrong, but the pursuit of "spiritual" things is not?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Zcorp » Sat May 05, 2012 10:25 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Here's an idea. It's quite agreed that religion is acting wrongly. That there is some benefit to religion, but it's not being acted on. What should religion be doing? If it's suppose to be listening to the commands of God (because those commands are good for people), then should they not be doing just that? If they did, would this be much more acceptable?

Would it be that religion is wrong, but the pursuit of "spiritual" things is not?
The commandments of God are incredibly unclear and his commandments with great frequency not good for people.
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