I don't understand the faith people put in religious texts

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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby WarDaft » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:50 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:Right, it's a method of what is and isn't rational to believe in, not a system of proof. Occam's Razor does seem to suggest faith in God is irrational.

You realize you are now putting as much faith in Occams razor as the people you criticize are in God, when logic is the only field in the world that has managed to prove that it itself must have principles that simply must be taken on faith?

Also, that thing about Occam's razor biting you when you use it too much... yeah... then you have to deal with the fact that it may be more likely that your entire life (or rather, only what you are remembering of it right now, thinking right now, seeing right now, feeling right now, etc) is actually the result of a random fluctuation causing an observer (you) to spontaneously pop into existence for a fraction of a second, long after the big rip destroys every kind of traditional observer. This is the Boltzmann Brain paradox, Occam's razor will not save you.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Azrael » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:31 pm UTC

While the general point you make is valid (that science and religion are not mutually exclusive), you seem to go out of your way to say some stupid stuff. It's rather insulting, unnecessary and entirely ill-informed -- like acting as if the point hadn't already been made at great length. Or that it's particularly relevant to the topic at hand.

But, more specifically:
MrPhyntch wrote:This is the key distinction between science and religion. You Atheists probably don't want to hear me say it, but it's true none the less. Atheism is as much a religion as Christianity. Remember why Christianity is not science? Because God is not infalsible. It is impossible to prove that God exists. But equally, it is impossible to prove that He does not. Atheism has just as much faith involved as Christianity.

No. Just no. First off "you atheists" is sorta like saying "I'm not racist, but..." in that you're almost guaranteed to be wrong right out of the gate about at least something. Especially since the argument you broach has already been heard and discussed. Second, atheism is certainly not a religion primarily because religion is more than just faith. Atheism doesn't have the worship, ceremony, rituals, moral pronouncements or any of the other trappings of religion.

But, about 'faith'. While the positions 'God exists' or 'God doesn't exist' are not falsifiable, that does not mean that they both require faith. Nor does atheism make the definitive statement that 'god does not exist'. Atheism is a slew of varied stances, that at the minimum do not hold the belief that god exists. That belief in God is faith. Atheism is inherently a non-statement: not a negative one, nor a positive one. It rejects the positive statement, typically because there isn't enough evidence to support it.

Once again, a large portion of Christians believe in modern science (those who don't are called Amish, and even among them the prominent idea is "we want to separate from modern trash," not "We don't believe the world revolves around the sun").
Here's where you go way off the rails. Plenty of Christians don't believe in evolution, and they aren't Amish. They don't believe in evolution because it contradicts religious teachings. Yes, lots of Christians do believe in evolution, but instead of just making that point, you went and said something hyperbolic and demonstrably wrong.

Atheism is hopeless and has no meaning, unless you apply some sort of Buddhism to give it meaning (The meaning is what we make it, etc.). However, it still has the underlying idea that we are all we have. Most religions are based on the idea that there is more than this, and that idea gives our lives meaning more than simply existing because that's how things worked out, I guess.
The tautology there is amazing: Without religious meaning to life, life has no meaning unless you apply a meaning, which doesn't count because it's not religious meaning. Or that hope can only be defined as 'getting to heaven' or 'pleasing God' -- I'd bet that every day you hope for one thing or another that has nothing to do with your religion, or God's acceptance.

It's also a simply ridiculous claim unless you've structured your life so that your everyday actions are all in the name of fulfilling a religious existence. Unless you're willing to say that you only love your family because God told you to, or you only look forward to making the future a better place because God told you to, or only look forward to your annual summer trip to the lake because God told you to.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:54 pm UTC

curtis95112 wrote:It seems that quite a few of you are saying that you don't use religion to make empirical predictions and only use it for introspection and thinking about the nature of God/gods. Of course, religion is a valid frame for introspection precisely because it forms a big part of you, and it's by definition a valid way of thinking about God/gods (Although many would argue your premises are false, but that's a different discussion altogether). Importantly, you don't use religion to analyze the material world. You use science for that.

Of course, this puts your religions firmly into the realm of the unfalsifiable. You're as far as you can get from religious fundamentalism without becoming atheist. I don't think that's what the OP had in mind. Nor is it how the majority of believers believe.

curtis95112 wrote:In any case, I have a question for all of you. Do you embrace a form of Cartesian dualism? That is, that the mind is separate from the physical body? I don't see how you can claim introspection is not empirical without it.
I would expect it has more to do with a duality between the material world (through which empiricism and science are the best means to understand the universe) and the spiritual (through which religious experience and introspection are the best means to understand the universe). Empiricism encapsulates the inner spiritual world (we can explain religious experiences through chemical reactions; we can analyze the neurological influence and source of religion), but just because we can explain the source and reason for myth doesn't invalidate it as a means of understanding our personal universe.

I can simultaneously believe that earth was created over a million years or more and that it was created in 7 days. This doesn't involve some trick of language, where I play with the meaning of the word 'day'--both ideas, despite appearing contradictory, can fit into my brain. All I have to do is compartmentalize: As a scientist, I understand the world is ancient, shaped by slow, indifferent, cosmic forces. As a theist, I understand God produced it in a week. For me, both could be true. My answer to the question of "How long did it take to create the earth" would then depend on context (are you asking me as a scientist, or as a theist?).

So, assuming I believe these things, ask me the OP question again. How can I have faith in these documents despite all the empirical evidence that they're not what they claim to be? Easy--I'm not reading those documents as a scientist. I'm reading them as a theist. When I read them as a scientist, I analyze their flaws, weigh the evidence, and come to the appropriate conclusions. When I read them as a theist, I believe them and put my faith in them.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby tsperk » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:04 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:But, about 'faith'. While the positions 'God exists' or 'God doesn't exist' are not falsifiable, that does not mean that they both require faith. Nor does atheism makes the definitive statement that 'god does not exist'. Atheism is a slew of varied stances, that at the minimum do not hold the belief that god exists. Atheism is inherently a non-statement: not a negative one, nor a positive one. It rejects the positive statement, typically because there isn't enough evidence to support it.
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While I respect that fact that you recognize that the statements "I do not believe that God exists" and "I believe that God does not exist" are different, I must quibble without your characterization of atheism as defaulting to the former. The viewpoints espoused by both statements are commonly found among people who self identify as atheists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicit_and_explicit_atheism

The quote above seems to indicate that you are identifying with, or at least defending Implicit Atheism. I agree that it this is a more rational viewpoint than Explicit Atheism. After all, if belief in God is not falsifiable (which I agree it is not), and given that it is impossible to prove that God does not exist, then implicit, or weak atheism would be the default position for empiricists.

However, as brought out earlier in the thread, much of the vitriol against religious belief these days appears to be along the line of "Belief in God is unjustifiable and ridiculous". To be self-consistent and make this statement one would need to be an Explicit Atheist, in which case one believes in the non-existence of God without direct proof. My contention is that this position, that of explicit atheism, is one of faith.

A related recent cultural meme, no doubt stemming from the Christian attack on evolution that has taken place for the last century, is that to be a scientific person means that you must be purely empirical in all of your beliefs, and therefore should be atheistic, or at the least agnostic. Similarly, I reject this position as irrational. The valid statement "Some believers are anti-scientific" is so often conflated to "All religious believers are anti-scientific" without good evidence.

As far as the cultural and political religious right in the United States, I have as much disdain for them as does the most hardcore atheist. They have completely betrayed their stated belief in the Bible by their actions and hypocrisy. So thus my statement in the original post: People on the extremes of both sides of the debate are unreasonable and irrational.
Last edited by tsperk on Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:18 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Noc » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:06 pm UTC

Hippo, I think I'm going to have to ask you to properly define the "Spiritual World," here -- both what it is, and what relevance it has to anything.

(Apologies if you've already done so upthread; I did a quick Skim 'n Search and didn't find it, but it's likely that I missed something.)
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Scyrus » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:15 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote: *Wise words.*


It is good to view both religion and science through their appropriate point of view.

As for
curtis95112 wrote: In any case, I have a question for all of you. Do you embrace a form of Cartesian dualism? That is, that the mind is separate from the physical body? I don't see how you can claim introspection is not empirical without it.


I believe the mind, or rather, a conscience, is indeed a separate entity from the physical body but is linked to it, perhaps as a form of symbiosis (I do realize symbiosis refers to organisms, but you clearly understand I mean a sort of mutual benefit). How? I do not know, no one does and we can for now only speculate. Why do I believe it? I choose to. It makes my understanding of my perceived reality make "more sense".

For example, I simply can not bear the thought of there being "nothing after death". It simply does not make logical sense in my head. Your thoughts may differ, but in my understanding of things it is impossible for there to be a nothing, or for something to be created ex nihilo.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:20 pm UTC

tsperk wrote:However, as brought out earlier in the thread, much of the vitriol against religious belief these days appears to be along the line of "Belief in God is unjustifiable and ridiculous". To be self-consistent and make this statement one would need to be an Explicit Atheist, in which case one believes in the non-existence of God without direct proof. My contention is that this position, that of explicit atheism, is one of faith.
If you ask me if ghosts are real, I will respond with 'No'. If you ask me how I know that ghosts aren't real, I will respond 'because my observation have allowed me to determine so'. If you ask me whether my observations allow me to make this assertion with 100% certainty, I will respond with 'No, but when a possibility is so insignificantly small as to render it on the threshold of impossible, I redub it 'zero' and call it a day. If you want to call that 'having faith that there are no ghosts', then fine--you win. I call it 'being reasonable'."

My point here is that you're hung up on semantics. Explicit atheists are just atheists who are taking a hard-line position on the question of whether or not ghosts are real. No, they're not. Yes, it's possible we're wrong, but the daunting lack of evidence to the contrary leads us to not care. Or, as Hitchens put it: "That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."

Believing in God is ridiculous--from a scientific perspective. Of course, not all perspectives need be scientific.
Noc wrote:Hippo, I think I'm going to have to ask you to properly define the "Spiritual World," here -- both what it is, and what relevance it has to anything.
My apologies; I'm being vague. By 'spiritual world', I don't mean to imply that there is a second empirically verifiable world out there that exists separate from the material world--but rather, if we are so inclined, we can split our narrative into two (or refrain from defining our narrative via empiricism). A narrative where empiricism and materialism are not central tenets is one I would describe as spiritual.

'Narrative' is probably a better word than 'world', here, because really, that's all I'm talking about. Do you live in a scientific narrative or a theistic narrative? Can you live in both? Do those two 'worlds', or 'narratives', need to be reconciled--or can you simply leave them in their proper contexts, not worrying about the contradictions? I think the latter is possible, and represents a more healthy way of tackling religion rather than getting tied up in trying to prove theism has scientific or logical validity (which is stupid) or that theism should be dismissed because it has no grounding in empiricism (which is, while perhaps not equally as stupid, still also stupid).


EDIT: Edited, because I realized my initial metaphor was flawed, so I replaced it with a better one.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Azrael » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:40 pm UTC

tsperk wrote:While I respect that fact that you recognize that the statements "I do not believe that God exists" and "I believe that God does not exist" are different, I must quibble without your characterization of atheism as defaulting to the former. The viewpoints espoused by both statements are commonly found among people who self identify as atheists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicit_a ... it_atheism
And, as stated, the implicit statement rejecting belief in God is the only one common to all atheists. Thus, when making the characterization of what all atheists believe, it's the only one available. Atheists do not believe in God.

However, as brought out earlier in the thread, much of the vitriol against religious belief these days appears to be along the line of "Belief in God is unjustifiable and ridiculous". To be self-consistent and make this statement one would need to be an Explicit Atheist, in which case one believes in the non-existence of God without direct proof.
Nope. I can easily make that statement from the implicit standpoint, positioned firmly about making great pronouncements (pro- or con-) without any falsifiable evidence. In fact, the implicit standpoint can point at everyone else and, for lack of an easier phrase, say 'you're doing it wrong'.

But, on the whole, see what Hippo says above. Most explicit statements are shorthand, leaving off a statement regarding confidence level and availability of new data.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Noc » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:56 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:My apologies; I'm being vague. By 'spiritual world', I don't mean to imply that there is a second world out there that exists separate from the material world--but rather, if we are so inclined, we can split our narrative into two (or refrain from defining our narrative via empiricism). A narrative where empiricism and materialism are not central tenets is one I would describe as spiritual.

'Narrative' is probably a better word than 'world', here, because really, that's all I'm talking about. Do you live in a scientific narrative or a theistic narrative? Can you live in both? Do those two 'worlds', or 'narratives', need to be reconciled--or can you simply leave them in their proper contexts, not worrying about the contradictions? I think the latter is possible, and represents a more healthy way of tackling religion rather than getting tied up in trying to prove theism has scientific or logical validity (which is stupid) or that theism should be dismissed because it has no grounding in empiricism (which is, while perhaps not equally as stupid, still also stupid).

Right.

I don't agree, however, that a cognitive approach is "valid" simply because it contributes well to a personal narrative. If we agree that the 'narrative world' has no intrinsic relation to the physical one, then it would follow that it's a mistake to reference it in one's decision-making process. After all, the decisions we make have consequences in the real world, and even if we accept the 'narrative world' as an equally valid environment we'd be attempting to make real-world decisions using principles and information that is not true in the real world.

Thus, the narrative has no intrinsic relevance to reality. It's, well, just a story. And there's nothing wrong with enjoying stories, or even becoming invested in them emotionally! I'd even say that there's quite a bit of emotional use to be drawn from a personal narrative, provided one privileges empiricism when the two narratives conflict and remains aware of what is reality and what is simply wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is both important and useful...but it seems extremely silly to claim that both an empirical and a narrative claim are "equally true." One's an observation about the real world, and one's something made up because it makes for a good story.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Jan 21, 2012 2:59 am UTC

Noc wrote:I don't agree, however, that a cognitive approach is "valid" simply because it contributes well to a personal narrative. If we agree that the 'narrative world' has no intrinsic relation to the physical one, then it would follow that it's a mistake to reference it in one's decision-making process. After all, the decisions we make have consequences in the real world, and even if we accept the 'narrative world' as an equally valid environment we'd be attempting to make real-world decisions using principles and information that is not true in the real world.

Thus, the narrative has no intrinsic relevance to reality. It's, well, just a story. And there's nothing wrong with enjoying stories, or even becoming invested in them emotionally! I'd even say that there's quite a bit of emotional use to be drawn from a personal narrative, provided one privileges empiricism when the two narratives conflict and remains aware of what is reality and what is simply wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is both important and useful...but it seems extremely silly to claim that both an empirical and a narrative claim are "equally true." One's an observation about the real world, and one's something made up because it makes for a good story.
When you talk about a narrative and its relation to reality, remember that beyond the narrative itself, you have no actual understanding--no knowledge, no data--concerning reality. As far as we're concerned, the narrative is reality. It's certainly the only reality we know.

A lot of times we use the world 'real' as a stand-in for empirically derived. So when I say God isn't real, what I really mean is that, from an empirical narrative--one that's concerned with measurable facts and observable evidence--God isn't real. But from a religious narrative, God may very well be real. We can't talk about God's realness (or lack thereof) outside the context of these narratives, because we don't exist in the real world, only the world of our minds. So I rate both these narratives--an empirical one that states God isn't real, and a religious one that states that God is--as equally valid, because both are attempts to describe a reality that we cannot truly know--only 'sense'. I get frustrated with theists only when they insist that God is real in my narrative--an empirical one.

It's hard for me to explain precisely what I'm getting at, and maybe I'm doing it poorly--I have no background in philosophy and even if I did, I feel like the English language may not be well equipped to get across what I mean. All of our 'truths' are derived second-hand from extrapolations we've made based on sensory input. Empiricism is an excellent tool--perhaps the best--for making accurate predictions about what my senses will tell me next, based on what they told me before. But I know that because I've measured empiricism from my own empirical narrative. Were I to measure it from another narrative, what would it tell me?

Perhaps better put: What evidence outside of empiricism itself is there for empiricism being the better prediction tool? Prove to me that empiricism is better using non-empirical evidence.

How do you even begin to make sense of a request like that? Where would you even start?
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Jave D » Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:58 am UTC

Noc wrote:I don't agree, however, that a cognitive approach is "valid" simply because it contributes well to a personal narrative. If we agree that the 'narrative world' has no intrinsic relation to the physical one, then it would follow that it's a mistake to reference it in one's decision-making process.


Were you happy as a child?

Now, this is just an example question and you needn't answer it. But if you were to answer it, you would reference your memory, which we know to be a flawed and imperfect system of retention of one's personal experiences. If I were to ask you to describe your childhood, you might give some empirical facts such as date of birth, the years you spent here, people you knew. But you might also describe things that are not empirical nor scientific nor "intrinsically related to the physical world." Things such as your general summarizing of how happy you were - something that you likely did not report on a daily basis and then take an average of the data, but rather a story that you construct, covering years and missing things and interpreting it on a personal level. In other words, a personal narrative. Memory thus tends to consist of personal narratives. Yet could you say with honesty that such personal narratives have no relevance to your decision-making processes? Are you truly like a computer who only behaves according to logical results derived purely from empirical data?

If so, you would be in the extreme minority. And it's not a mistake at all to derive meaning which, yes, contributes to decision-making, based on something other than that which is testable.

Thus, the narrative has no intrinsic relevance to reality. It's, well, just a story. And there's nothing wrong with enjoying stories, or even becoming invested in them emotionally! I'd even say that there's quite a bit of emotional use to be drawn from a personal narrative, provided one privileges empiricism when the two narratives conflict and remains aware of what is reality and what is simply wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is both important and useful...but it seems extremely silly to claim that both an empirical and a narrative claim are "equally true." One's an observation about the real world, and one's something made up because it makes for a good story.


Suffice to say not everyone agrees with such a conclusion, and when I hold the idea of God to be relevant to me I also testify that my belief in him comes from my personal experiences - experiences I had in no other world but the real one. I didn't just make him up for wishful thinking, as you suggest here.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby aoeu » Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:02 am UTC

Jave D wrote:
Noc wrote:Suffice to say not everyone agrees with such a conclusion, and when I hold the idea of God to be relevant to me I also testify that my belief in him comes from my personal experiences - experiences I had in no other world but the real one. I didn't just make him up for wishful thinking, as you suggest here.

Wishful thinking is a personal experience in the real world too, you know.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Noc » Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:36 pm UTC

Jave D wrote:Yet could you say with honesty that such personal narratives have no relevance to your decision-making processes? Are you truly like a computer who only behaves according to logical results derived purely from empirical data?

I wouldn't say that at all! In fact, narrative-lead decision making is quite common, and quite a useful too in my daily life.

The thing is that I don't trust it. I don't, if you will, have faith in it. For example: I think I was happy as a child. But a large part of that is because it fits well into the narrative of my life, and the transition between a rambunctious, arrogant and blissfully ignorant little brat into the wiser, more aware, yet less energetic and resilient adult I have become. It "makes sense" to me, it feels right -- and yet, I can think of a number of times I was rather unhappy, and could argue that my childhood was characterized by temper and frustration. But I don't have good data on it, and my perspective could well be warped by time and narrative-lead thinking -- thus, my conclusion is tentative, and I'm more than willing to defer my vague feeling to any competing conclusion that's more empirically sound.

The personal narrative is immensely powerful, and immensely persuasive -- but it's also inherently untrustworthy. We as human beings rely on it for much of our decision-making...but we shouldn't. The personal narrative is a silly thing to ignore: like the rest of our emotions, it's a very real thing that has a very real effect on our behavior. But it's a just as silly a thing to trust, and while it may be understandable it is not justifiable to compare it equally to documented empiricism.

. . .

That's the powerful thing about narratives: we respond to them on an emotional level, and we tend to consult our emotions before our logic when we make decisions. It is quite a thing to have an emotional investment in a belief, and is a hard thing to shake . . . and why would you want to, when the empirical truth, stripped of its emotional content, is so much less satisfying? When you hold a belief it feels like far more than just a wish: it feels like something you know, something that makes sense to you, something that is incontrovertibly true for reasons you can't quite articulate.

...except we have a word for that, and it's called "bias." The very foundation of the scientific method is that just because something seems to make sense, just because it feels true, doesn't mean that it is. And time and time again, science has demonstrated the effect of bias in distorting the actual narrative of an event, by warping it into something that makes for a better story or justifies previously-held beliefs. It is a thing we do! It is a human thing we do, perhaps an inescapable thing. But it's not a good thing; it's a thing that disguises the truth of the world, and leads to us discarding the observations that don't fit our narrative while keeping the ones that do. Beer Goggles for the intellect, if you will.

This is the reason empirical tests are well documented -- so we don't have to rely on our faulty memories. It's why they're double-blind, or use placebos, or whatever, because what we believe to be true and what is actually true are often strikingly different.

. . .

The Great Hippo wrote:Perhaps better put: What evidence outside of empiricism itself is there for empiricism being the better prediction tool? Prove to me that empiricism is better using non-empirical evidence.

How do you even begin to make sense of a request like that? Where would you even start?

The reason this seems so weird is that without empiricism -- which judges things based on their predictive usefulness -- you don't have an obvious definition of "better." Empiricism itself isn't even a method, per-se; there are good practices that help produce better empirical results, but at its core what science is is a standard for judging beliefs, which amounts to "the model that is better at reliably producing accurate predictions is better."

Narrativism, on the other hand, uses the standard of "the model that is most emotionally satisfying is better." Empirically sound observations are such because they are more accurate to the world around us, while narratively sound observations "ring true" internally.

You're mentioned the 'empirical narrative' a couple times, and that's an interesting point, because it means that you can evaluate empiricism narratively! Here's what you get:

    Empiricism: A brave, untiring pursuit of the truth, even at the cost of personal satisfaction, characterized by a refusal to settle for 'easy answers.'
    Narrativism: A lying, sneaky, distorting specter that is fickle in its manipulations, sometimes compelling humans to greatness but just as often driving them to ignorance and hate and pointless self-destruction.

So, it would seem that even by narrative standards, empiricism is awesome and noble while narrativism is scary and dangerous. Am I distorting the narrative here? Probably. Narrative, by its nature, is basically nothing but distortion: even if everything you include is accurate, you have to discard a lot of 'footage' to make a good story. A complete and comprehensive documentary is extremely boring; to make it narratively compelling you have to pick and choose what you show, to pick only the moments that contribute to the story you want to tell.

Which means that while the resulting story may be compelling, it's also inherently untrustworthy.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:46 am UTC

Religion and science are NOT opposites. They are completely different ideas with completely different goals. Ideas explained by religion and science oftentimes overlap, and are not mutually exclusive. Plenty of religious people and science people both have got this wrong. Science is about explaining the how, the when, the where, and the what. Religion is about explaining the who and the why.


I think it would probably be more accurate to say that "Philosophy is about explaining the who and they why", and religion is a subset of philosophy.

MrPhyntch wrote:The catcher? Evolution does not directly contradict Christianity, provided God is not taken out of the equation (as in, God guided evolution). Genesis says that God raised us from dust. So does evolution (minus the God part, and given a bit longer time span).


Well, it depends how literal your interpretation of Christianity is. It may not contradict your Christianity, but that does not mean that it does not contradict some other Christianity. My experience (both as a Christian and as an atheist), is that there are as many Christianities as there are Christians. For some Christians, evolution does indeed directly contradict their beliefs and worldview. It's not that much different to them for you do say "Well, evolution doesn't contradict Christianity, you just have to throw out a Young Earth and Special Creation" than it is for me to say to you "Well, science doesn't contradict Christianity, you just have to throw out the God part".

MrPhyntch wrote:This is the key distinction between science and religion. You Atheists probably don't want to hear me say it, but it's true none the less. Atheism is as much a religion as Christianity. Remember why Christianity is not science? Because God is not infalsible. It is impossible to prove that God exists. But equally, it is impossible to prove that He does not. Atheism has just as much faith involved as Christianity.


Mmm... no, it actually takes no faith at all not to believe in anything. Take the extreme example: Suppose I have never, in my life, heard of God. Do I have faith that God does not exist? No, of course not. I don't know anything about it one way or the other. But I'm clearly an atheist, because I don't believe in God. It requires no faith to not believe in something--in fact, it requires no action whatsoever. It is simply a default--if you have a belief in God, you are a theist; if you have no such belief, you are an atheist. It is true, that it is impossible to prove that God does not exist. But so what? It is impossible to prove that Santa Claus, Gandalf, and the Loch Ness Monster do not exist either (indeed, it is impossible to prove any universal negation of this nature). That does not mean that disbelieving in any such things ought to be considered a religion, for any sensible definition of religion.

MrPhyntch wrote:And the given example is a perfect reason why I put faith in religious texts. The alternative, Atheism, basically says that there's nothing beyond ourselves, and existence as we know it is simply random chance that we get to experience it, to the point that it can all be explained as a series of numbers on a chalkboard. Atheism is hopeless and has no meaning, unless you apply some sort of Buddhism to give it meaning (The meaning is what we make it, etc.)


You might want to actually read some secular philosophy rather than just strawmanning. Most atheists are not nihilists. Indeed, I might argue the opposite: an atheist may well value their life much more than a Christian because life is short and finite. Scarce things have value; things that we have in endless abundance have no value. Therefore a person who genuinely believes that, if they're lucky, they'll get 80 years and that's it, is probably going to do more to cherish those years than a person who genuinely believes that after they die, they'll live on forever in some eternal paradise, because to that latter person, time is infinite, and therefore worthless.

[edit]Fixed top quotation
Last edited by LaserGuy on Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:58 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Agrajag619 » Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:37 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Depends... the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example have some substantial differences to canon:

The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100.[33]



I disagree with the idea that the Dead Sea Scrolls cast doubt on the veracity of the received text of the Old Testament. In my opinion, the discrepancies in Samuel and Exodus are minor and are eclipsed by the astonishing closeness of correspondence elsewhere, particularly in Isaiah.

In Samuel, there are two major discrepancies: the first is the story of David and Goliath, where the Scrolls say that Goliath was 4 cubits tall instead of 6 cubits as in the traditional text. Here, the Greek Septuagint agrees with the scrolls against the traditional text, so it seems probable that 4 cubits is the correct figure.

Next is 1 Samuel 11, where the traditional text omits the first paragraph of the chapter. The omitted portion says: “Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went to Jabesh-gilead."

In Exodus the Scrolls contain extra detail (mainly repetition of God’s commands) that is not found in the traditional text. These Scrolls match closely with the Samaritan Pentateuch, a variant textual tradition used by an ethnic group that was estranged from the rest of the Jews, although the scrolls omit some of the peculiar doctrines of the Samaritans. The most likely explanation here is that the traditional text is the most accurate, that the Scrolls are a later deviation from the traditional text, and that the Samaritan Pentateuch is a deviation from the Scrolls.

(There are certainly many other textual variants, misspelled words and the like; however, these do not significantly alter the meaning of the text.)

So, what the above quote says is true: the Dead Sea Scrolls do differ from the traditional text. However, the implication which could be drawn, that the traditional text is therefore unreliable, is not necessarily justified. In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls make me more confident about my faith in the scriptures, not less so.

To answer the OP, I would say that the more we learn about the Bible (I am speaking here of the Protestant Christan Bible), the more we see that it is in fact remarkably free of errors and internal contradictions. There is no logical reason not to put faith in it.

The Hittites mentioned in the Bible were once thought to be a legend and evidence for the Bible’s inaccuracy since no one had ever heard of them outside of the Bible. In the late 19th century, though, archaeologists at Bogazkoy, Turkey found the remains of the vast empire of some unknown civilization which turned out to be the Hittites. The more we learn, the more the Bible’s record is confirmed.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:26 am UTC

Noc wrote:The thing is that I don't trust it. I don't, if you will, have faith in it. For example: I think I was happy as a child. But a large part of that is because it fits well into the narrative of my life, and the transition between a rambunctious, arrogant and blissfully ignorant little brat into the wiser, more aware, yet less energetic and resilient adult I have become. It "makes sense" to me, it feels right -- and yet, I can think of a number of times I was rather unhappy, and could argue that my childhood was characterized by temper and frustration. But I don't have good data on it, and my perspective could well be warped by time and narrative-lead thinking -- thus, my conclusion is tentative, and I'm more than willing to defer my vague feeling to any competing conclusion that's more empirically sound.
Better question: Do you love someone? Can you prove it? How do you trust that love? What empirical evidence can you produce that this love isn't just a shallow fancy or a bad case of indigestion? How do you know you'll still love them tomorrow, or the next day?

Obviously you're acknowledging that emotionally-driven narratives can be useful, so it's not like I'm contradicting you here; I'm just providing a clear example of where trusting your emotions without science or empiricism is probably the healthy, responsible choice.
Noc wrote: Empiricism itself isn't even a method, per-se; there are good practices that help produce better empirical results, but at its core what science is is a standard for judging beliefs, which amounts to "the model that is better at reliably producing accurate predictions is better."

Narrativism, on the other hand, uses the standard of "the model that is most emotionally satisfying is better." Empirically sound observations are such because they are more accurate to the world around us, while narratively sound observations "ring true" internally.
The reason we assess empiricism as superior is because being more accurate to the world around us 'rings true' internally--because we find the struggle for accuracy more emotionally satisfying than the assumption of accuracy. But this is just another arbitrary yardstick based on what we prefer rather than what we can prove; we can't prove empiricism is a better approach--only that it's a more accurate one. We're still slaves to our emotions, picking our models based on what we find the most emotionally satisfying. The only real difference is that we've settled on different means to derive that satisfaction.

Why is the model that is better at reliably producing accurate predictions 'better' over-all? The problem here is that the last 'better' in that sentence is nebulous. Better in what sense? If by 'better' we just mean 'makes accurate predictions', then sure--but maybe that's not what you're interested in.
Noc wrote:Which means that while the resulting story may be compelling, it's also inherently untrustworthy.
I agree that empiricism is an incredibly useful tool by which to determine how credible something is. Probably the most useful tool. But I think that stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.

Which, to bring things back to the OP, is why I think trusting scripture without empirical analysis can be fine. Because sometimes, it's good to just take something on faith.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Lucrece » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:24 am UTC

Azrael wrote:
Once again, a large portion of Christians believe in modern science (those who don't are called Amish, and even among them the prominent idea is "we want to separate from modern trash," not "We don't believe the world revolves around the sun").
Here's where you go way off the rails. Plenty of Christians don't believe in evolution, and they aren't Amish. They don't believe in evolution because it contradicts religious teachings. Yes, lots of Christians do believe in evolution, but instead of just making that point, you went and said something hyperbolic and demonstrably wrong.



Just so that this doesn't sound like clashing perceptions and estimates biased by them:

Image

LaserGuy wrote:
MrPhyntch wrote:And the given example is a perfect reason why I put faith in religious texts. The alternative, Atheism, basically says that there's nothing beyond ourselves, and existence as we know it is simply random chance that we get to experience it, to the point that it can all be explained as a series of numbers on a chalkboard. Atheism is hopeless and has no meaning, unless you apply some sort of Buddhism to give it meaning (The meaning is what we make it, etc.)


You might want to actually read some secular philosophy rather than just strawmanning. Most atheists are not nihilists. Indeed, I might argue the opposite: an atheist may well value their life much more than a Christian because life is short and finite. Scarce things have value; things that we have in endless abundance have no value. Therefore a person who genuinely believes that, if they're lucky, they'll get 80 years and that's it, is probably going to do more to cherish those years than a person who genuinely believes that after they die, they'll live on forever in some eternal paradise, because to that latter person, time is infinite, and therefore worthless.

[edit]Fixed top quotation


And even if many atheists were nihilist, there's no reason for them to cede ground to such condescension. The value judgement on a nihilist is petty and unworthy of serious response.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby curtis95112 » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:15 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Better question: Do you love someone? Can you prove it? How do you trust that love? What empirical evidence can you produce that this love isn't just a shallow fancy or a bad case of indigestion? How do you know you'll still love them tomorrow, or the next day?


You don't know if you'll still love them tomorrow. Trying to predict your future feelings based on how you feel now often fails. Why do you think so many relationships fade over time? OTOH, using empirical statistics to estimate the chances of a break-up, and then preparing for that possible future is prudent.

The reason we assess empiricism as superior is because being more accurate to the world around us 'rings true' internally--because we find the struggle for accuracy more emotionally satisfying than the assumption of accuracy. But this is just another arbitrary yardstick based on what we prefer rather than what we can prove; we can't prove empiricism is a better approach--only that it's a more accurate one.

We're still slaves to our emotions, picking our models based on what we find the most emotionally satisfying. The only real difference is that we've settled on different means to derive that satisfaction.

Why is the model that is better at reliably producing accurate predictions 'better' over-all? The problem here is that the last 'better' in that sentence is nebulous. Better in what sense? If by 'better' we just mean 'makes accurate predictions', then sure--but maybe that's not what you're interested in.
Noc wrote:Which means that while the resulting story may be compelling, it's also inherently untrustworthy.
I agree that empiricism is an incredibly useful tool by which to determine how credible something is. Probably the most useful tool. But I think that stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.

Which, to bring things back to the OP, is why I think trusting scripture without empirical analysis can be fine. Because sometimes, it's good to just take something on faith.

In the end, all you've said is that "better" is not well-defined. You then proceed to assert that stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.
So, I'd much appreciate it if you could give us a sensible definition of 'better'. And tell me why stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.
Also, what do you mean by 'trusting'? You obviously don't mean 'believing that it actually happened', since if that was the case, you wouldn't reject empiricism.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:39 am UTC

curtis95112 wrote:You don't know if you'll still love them tomorrow. Trying to predict your future feelings based on how you feel now often fails. Why do you think so many relationships fade over time? OTOH, using empirical statistics to estimate the chances of a break-up, and then preparing for that possible future is prudent.
I agree that combining an empirical approach with an emotional approach is often a good call. The hard part is striking a proper balance.
curtis95112 wrote:In the end, all you've said is that "better" is not well-defined. You then proceed to assert that stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.
So, I'd much appreciate it if you could give us a sensible definition of 'better'. And tell me why stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.
Also, what do you mean by 'trusting'? You obviously don't mean 'believing that it actually happened', since if that was the case, you wouldn't reject empiricism.
No, I defined 'better' as 'more emotionally satisfying'. As in, stories and narratives are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis because they provide emotional satisfaction.

And I don't reject empiricism, but I do believe in things that I cannot empirically prove.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Jave D » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:03 am UTC

curtis95112 wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:Better question: Do you love someone? Can you prove it? How do you trust that love? What empirical evidence can you produce that this love isn't just a shallow fancy or a bad case of indigestion? How do you know you'll still love them tomorrow, or the next day?


You don't know if you'll still love them tomorrow. Trying to predict your future feelings based on how you feel now often fails. Why do you think so many relationships fade over time? OTOH, using empirical statistics to estimate the chances of a break-up, and then preparing for that possible future is prudent.


Yeah, nothing says a successful romantic relationship like using empirical statistics. :P
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby curtis95112 » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:06 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
curtis95112 wrote:You don't know if you'll still love them tomorrow. Trying to predict your future feelings based on how you feel now often fails. Why do you think so many relationships fade over time? OTOH, using empirical statistics to estimate the chances of a break-up, and then preparing for that possible future is prudent.

I agree that combining an empirical approach with an emotional approach is often a good call. The hard part is striking a proper balance.

curtis95112 wrote:In the end, all you've said is that "better" is not well-defined. You then proceed to assert that stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.
So, I'd much appreciate it if you could give us a sensible definition of 'better'. And tell me why stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.
Also, what do you mean by 'trusting'? You obviously don't mean 'believing that it actually happened', since if that was the case, you wouldn't reject empiricism.

No, I defined 'better' as 'more emotionally satisfying'. As in, stories and narratives are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis because they provide emotional satisfaction.
And I don't reject empiricism, but I do believe in things that I cannot empirically prove.


So you're advocating doublethink? You believe so-and-so happened, although you know it never happened, because it makes you feel better? Again, I have to ask you what you mean by trust. How far would you go in trusting the stories? Would you just quietly believe it and never act on those beliefs? Would you pass those beliefs on as fact to other people? Would you spend all your money and possessions if your stories told you the world would end in 2012? Would you kill unsuspecting civilians in order to bring God's kingdom to Earth?

@ Jave D: I know, I know, but ridiculous amounts of money, time, and future planning have a tendency to get embroiled into relationships. Never hurts to know 38% of [whatever group you're in] gets divorced in 10 years.
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Роберт wrote:Sure, but at least they hit the intended target that time.

Well, if you shoot enough people, you're bound to get the right one eventually.

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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Azrael » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:00 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:
Azrael wrote:
Once again, a large portion of Christians believe in modern science (those who don't are called Amish...)
Here's where you go way off the rails. Plenty of Christians don't believe in evolution, and they aren't Amish...
Just so that this doesn't sound like clashing perceptions and estimates biased by them:

All I'm getting from those poll results is that ~45% of Christians are Amish. :D
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:36 pm UTC

Also see online dating sites for an interesting intersection between statistics and romance.
curtis95112 wrote:So you're advocating doublethink? You believe so-and-so happened, although you know it never happened, because it makes you feel better?
No. Just because I can't prove something empirically doesn't mean that I don't believe it exists. Do you love anyone? Try to prove it with science.
curtis95112 wrote: Again, I have to ask you what you mean by trust. How far would you go in trusting the stories? Would you just quietly believe it and never act on those beliefs? Would you pass those beliefs on as fact to other people? Would you spend all your money and possessions if your stories told you the world would end in 2012? Would you kill unsuspecting civilians in order to bring God's kingdom to Earth?
Trust, in this context, means believing it to be true. And for most of your questions, it depends on the story.

I think a certain level of skepticism--rationality--whatever you call it--is necessary for a healthy narrative. Simultaneously, I think it's fine and good to believe in silly things, so long as you're measuring the consequences. Believing in God is, to me, just as silly as believing in love, or justice, or the notion that we deserve certain rights. I believe in the latter things despite not being able to produce any evidence as to their existence, because believing in them brings me emotional satisfaction. I imagine that if believing in God brought me emotional satisfaction, I'd do that, too.

Now, if you believe in scripture, and scripture tells you to kill your family, I think there's a problem. When silly beliefs intersect with real consequences, we should put aside the silliness, roll up our sleeves, and get empirical. But if all the scripture is doing is telling you to live well and treat your neighbor nicely, then I fail to see the fuss.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:26 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Now, if you believe in scripture, and scripture tells you to kill your family, I think there's a problem. When silly beliefs intersect with real consequences, we should put aside the silliness, roll up our sleeves, and get empirical. But if all the scripture is doing is telling you to live well and treat your neighbor nicely, then I fail to see the fuss.


I think the problem is that many scriptures do not, or at least do not exclusively, tell you to live well and treat your neighbour nicely. I would venture that if all religious scriptures did was teach these things, there wouldn't be a fuss about it. The problem is that scriptures teach a whole lot of other things that are pretty horrendous, and, because many scriptures are pretty exclusivist, have a tendency to incite a lot of conflicts between sects of the same religion or between religions.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Brutz » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:29 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:No, I defined 'better' as 'more emotionally satisfying'. As in, stories and narratives are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis because they provide emotional satisfaction.

And I don't reject empiricism, but I do believe in things that I cannot empirically prove.


Would you say that the belief is necessary for any emotional satisfaction to take place, or that it just offers some kind of higher level of emotional satisfaction than you could get from the narrative without believing it?

Many world class athletes thank a god for their successes but never blame one for their failures and seem to be at peace with their belief that they only win when a higher power wants them to. I could never think like that because it would only make me wonder about things such as whether any training was needed at all or why a god would only give very tiny performance boosts. It just seems so silly to me. I would like to have faith, but I can't. I'll even acknowledge that it has health benefits. Every person with faith I know has an easy time dealing with stress and seems to always be in a good mood. Except when discussing religion!

That said, I'm perfectly capable of enjoying any religion's text and being inspired or moved by it without believing a word of it, the same way I can be moved, for example, by a reincarnation romance story without actually believing in "true love", destiny (aside from the deterministic sense) or reincarnation.

I think this distinction is important when discussing in what situations a story is "worth trusting without empirical analysis". If the story moves and inspires you, it succeeds as a piece of art and certainly its inspiration can change the way you think and behave. What exactly is the added benefit when on top of this you also decide that you will accept it as absolute truth regardless of any inconsistencies with the rest of your experience? I can't think of any aside from a self-confidence placebo, but I can sure name some harms.

Justice and rights seem to me like illusions conveniently thought up to have an easier time controlling masses, the same thing I think about most organized religions.

As for love, I think "falling in love" is the worst thing one can possibly base a relationship on. It's possibly some weird evolutionary mechanism that ended up being useful in making people actually like each other for a few years despite everything else, which increased kids' odds of surviving the first year or so of their lives, but I wouldn't even defend such a position because I'd sound like a pop psychology journalist. I certainly plan to base any potential romantic relationships on things like the other person's behavior, health and how many interests we share. Just because I don't believe there is some ethereal mysterious thing called true love floating somewhere doesn't mean that I'm not capable of the type of unselfish thoughts and behaviors that metaphysical things like "soul" and "love" were widely believed to be a cause of until science told us better.

Now I just wish I could find some honest empirical psychological statistical data on relationship duration to quote instead of this pop psych nonsense the internet is full of. ; ;

Agrajag619 wrote:To answer the OP, I would say that the more we learn about the Bible (I am speaking here of the Protestant Christan Bible), the more we see that it is in fact remarkably free of errors and internal contradictions. There is no logical reason not to put faith in it.

The Hittites mentioned in the Bible were once thought to be a legend and evidence for the Bible’s inaccuracy since no one had ever heard of them outside of the Bible. In the late 19th century, though, archaeologists at Bogazkoy, Turkey found the remains of the vast empire of some unknown civilization which turned out to be the Hittites. The more we learn, the more the Bible’s record is confirmed.


A bit of my old faith is restored every time popular internet news sources tell me scientists of an unspecified field found another one of Ut... Noah's arks!
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:44 pm UTC

Brutz wrote:Would you say that the belief is necessary for any emotional satisfaction to take place, or that it just offers some kind of higher level of emotional satisfaction than you could get from the narrative without believing it?
No, I'd definitely say it's possible to find emotional satisfaction from religious stories without being a believer. For example, I'm fascinated by Christian theology despite my atheism. I don't think I experience Christianity in the same way a Christian would, but I think that we both derive certain amounts of emotional satisfaction from our experiences with it.
Brutz wrote:I think this distinction is important when discussing in what situations a story is "worth trusting without empirical analysis". If the story moves and inspires you, it succeeds as a piece of art and certainly its inspiration can change the way you think and behave. What exactly is the added benefit when on top of this you also decide that you will accept it as absolute truth regardless of any inconsistencies with the rest of your experience? I can't think of any aside from a self-confidence placebo, but I can sure name some harms.
The problem is that people are different. Some of us will still find Christianity inspiring even without belief; for others, belief is what makes it inspiring. I can't assume to know that a Christian would still draw inspiration from the Bible without believing it, particularly when they tell me otherwise.
Brutz wrote:As for love, I think "falling in love" is the worst thing you can possibly base a relationship on. It's possibly some weird evolutionary mechanism that ended up being useful in making people actually like each other for a few years despite everything else, which increased kids' odds of surviving the first year or so of their lives, but I wouldn't even defend such a position because I'd sound like a pop psychology journalist. I certainly plan to base any potential romantic relationships on things like the other person's behavior, health and how many interests we share. Just because I don't believe there is some ethereal mysterious thing called true love floating somewhere doesn't mean that I'm not capable of the type of unselfish thoughts and behaviors that metaphysical things like "soul" and "love" were widely believed to be a cause of until science told us better.
You should certainly always dose your romance with a certain level of skepticism to keep yourself healthy and sane. But a little irrationality doesn't hurt, and can even enrich. I speak as someone who's been in a near-decade long relationship with a fellow skeptic and materialist. Being silly and romantic can be a lot of fun, and I see no reason not to indulge.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Brutz » Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:46 pm UTC

Then we agree about the romance part, but being silly for fun and acting in a certain way out of trying to avoid eternal torture don't fall in the same category to me. Is it possible to formulate a generalization to say when blind faith is a good thing and where it is not?

When you accept, for example, one of the versions of the Bible as absolute truth, you're also accepting some unpleasant things. Never mind the talking snake, the Nephilim, a guy surviving in a whale's stomach or a sea opening up a walking path along its bottom and being selective about who may pass. Demons are f***ing real! Their only goal in life is to deceive and corrupt me! Sure, I'm told the only god loves me and everything will work out fine if I follow simple instructions and peacefully let people take advantage of me while I feel sorry for them, but different priests interpret the text in different ways! Am I angering that one god by going with the wrong interpretation or chosing to believe only some parts of the Bible? Which version? Should I devote my life to studying the text to iron out ambiguities? So many tried and they're still a' arguin'. Maybe I'm supposed to hate homosexuals. Maybe all those instructions in the Book of Numbers apply to me too, not just Jews. Worst of all, will heaven really be so great that I won't mind the fact that pretty much all the people I love are rotting in hell because I failed to convince them that my narrative is true? Maybe I'll be punished for not convincing pretty much anyone.

Somehow I get the impression that the people I know who have faith and follow a major religion aren't torn by questions like these. If I didn't know better, I'd think that they read only the nicest parts of the Bible. Why is that? It sure reminds me of internet game/music/novel/cartoon/film discussions where fans of a work become so adamant that the work is objectively the best ever in every possible way. Did they get emotionally moved by the narrative so much that they're in denial of all its faults or did all aspects of the work just accidentally happen to line up perfectly with these people's tastes? I claim that in faith (talking now only about cases where there was no indoctrination in childhood; cases where faith was actually a choice) the former is usually the case, and this is what makes it dangerous. An authority can add its own agenda into the scope of a beautiful and inspiring narrative, or interpret an existing one in their own way, and thus manipulate the most credulous people into carrying out that agenda. I'm just happy that most people with faith and most religious people behave as if they accepted as absolute truth only the nice parts of the narratives that inspired them.

I don't think it's about people being "different" in the sense that some need the blind faith to be moved by a narrative while others don't. Then again, I can't know other people's minds.

edit: basically added the bottom half of the post
Last edited by Brutz on Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:58 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Noc » Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:49 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Better question: Do you love someone? Can you prove it? How do you trust that love? What empirical evidence can you produce that this love isn't just a shallow fancy or a bad case of indigestion? How do you know you'll still love them tomorrow, or the next day?

Obviously you're acknowledging that emotionally-driven narratives can be useful, so it's not like I'm contradicting you here; I'm just providing a clear example of where trusting your emotions without science or empiricism is probably the healthy, responsible choice.

Actually, I'd call this a fairly good example for my argument, because "love" is one of the most egregiously ambiguous words in the English language.

Culturally we have the assumption that True Love is a thing, an intrinsically benevolent force that conquers all and compels us to make good decisions. This is distinct from Imitation Low-Fat I Can't Believe It's Not Love (from concentrate)1, which is crude and common and jealous and ruins things. And yet, we don't have a very good definition for what exactly "true love" is, which leads to lots of navel-gazing about "what is Love,"2 which casts itself as an philosophical exploration of a phenomenon when it's often just a clumsy attempt to come up with a working definition for something that by and large doesn't have one.

So, while a self-analysis reaching the conclusion that "I'm in LOVE!" fits very well into a narrative, it's, well, it doesn't actually mean shit as far as being a useful analysis of one's relationship with someone goes. Personally, I tend to figure things in a way rather similar to how I look critically at art: I note my reaction to someone, then pick it apart to try and suss out its important components what's provoking them. Is there affection, attraction, or attachment? Have I made an emotional investment? Do they keep coming up in my thoughts when they're not around, and what kind of thoughts are those? Basically, what aspects of me are reacting to what aspects of them, and how?

Then once I've got a conclusion I run it by some integrity and bias checks. Does the resulting narrative look suspiciously self-serving? If I'm using it to inform my decision making, am I just trying to rationalize something I want to do anyways? How does this look next to my memories of similar reactions to other people in the past, and can I spot any probably mistakes I've made before? Are any reservations I have genuine reservations, or just feedback from an insecurity/negativity loop? How strong are the memories I'm basing this conclusion off, and how likely am I to be quietly revising them to fit my conclusion?

Basically, I try to be both critical and skeptical of my own emotional and cognitive processes. Basically, I try to be self-aware. And as someone carrying around a lot of depression and anxiety and crap, my emotions aren't something I can trust: unreservedly trusting my internal narrative has lead to me doing some spectacularly stupid shit in the past, and the way to prevent that from happening again is to keep a watchful and critical eye on myself, and to hopefully raise some red flags before I get carried away with something and screw everything up. And given the presence of some bad habits, I could actually stand to be rather more self-aware, to be alert and observant enough to spot problematic behaviors (both physical and mental) as they happen instead of simply in retrospect.3

So, tl;dr: No, I'm pretty sure that this is exactly the sort of thing where just blindly trusting one's emotions is an absolutely terrible idea.

The Great Hippo wrote:Why is the model that is better at reliably producing accurate predictions 'better' over-all? The problem here is that the last 'better' in that sentence is nebulous. Better in what sense?
[snip]
But I think that stories are sometimes worth trusting without empirical analysis.

Well...that's what I'm asking. You've been claiming that narrative-lead conclusions are "just as valid" as empirically lead ones, but it's not entirely clear what standard you're using to assess validity. And if narratives are worth "trusting" . . . how? And for what? I'm certainly not going to use them for any decisions that affect the real world without some indication that the story bears any similarity to it. You wouldn't use the way cars behave in movies to inform your driving decisions, because while that stuff is cool it's emphatically not the way things work in real life. Any given example of cinematic car-physics may very well be accurate to real life car physics, but we assume that it's not unless we have particular reason to believe otherwise, and I'm a bit confused as to why we'd treat any other aspect of any other story differently.

[Edit: Okay, so you responded to some other people's posts and clarified some of this, but still not quite to my satisfaction.

You claimed that you're defining "better" as more emotionally satisfying. And...yeah, that just gets back to what I said in my last post. Empiricism is a standard, where something is "better" if it's more accurate to the real world. Narrativism is a standard where something is "better" if it's more emotionally satisfying. You are comparing these two standards, but it's not clear what criteria you're using to make the comparison. For instance: if I'm going to enjoy something for my entertainment, I am going to go with the better narrative. But if I am going to make a decision about a thing in the real world, I am going to go with the empirically better thing.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying things that aren't true. And your enjoyment of something is definitely a component of any sound empirical decision: "I will do this because it appeals to me more on an emotional and aesthetic level" is an entirely valid argument in favor of something. But placing any kind of trust in fictions -- and thus elevating them beyond the realm of fiction -- seems fairly questionable.]


1 Contains 3% Love by volume.
2 Baby don't hurt me, no more, etc etc.
3 It's probably important to note that this includes negativity and insecurity as well: narratively-driven avoidance can be just as problematic as narratively-driven enthusiasm.
Last edited by Noc on Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:09 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby tsperk » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:00 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:It's hard for me to explain precisely what I'm getting at, and maybe I'm doing it poorly--I have no background in philosophy and even if I did, I feel like the English language may not be well equipped to get across what I mean. All of our 'truths' are derived second-hand from extrapolations we've made based on sensory input. Empiricism is an excellent tool--perhaps the best--for making accurate predictions about what my senses will tell me next, based on what they told me before. But I know that because I've measured empiricism from my own empirical narrative. Were I to measure it from another narrative, what would it tell me?

Perhaps better put: What evidence outside of empiricism itself is there for empiricism being the better prediction tool? Prove to me that empiricism is better using non-empirical evidence.


Far be it from me to put words in other people's mouths, however I think I understand what Hippo is getting at, and it is very close to my philosophical outlook. There has been an assumption within this conversation that religious belief = narrativism, and therefore the choice is between narrativism and empiricism. Rather than this contrast, I would say that both religiosity and empiricism are differing narratives.

The narrative of empiricism is one that values making accurate predictions about the nature of the universe, as well as evaluating these predictions using the scientific method. If your personal values say that these things should define your worldview at the exclusion of other viewpoints, than I agree that empiricism is the superior narrative for you and religious belief is probably not relevant.

OTOH, the narrative of religious belief is one that values "truth". Unlike empiricism wherein the scientific method is universally applied, different religions and even subsets within a given religion define truth in different ways. For example, I define religious truth as "Concepts that are consistent with Scripture, my metaphysicial outlook, and observed empirical data from the world." However, a true fundamentalist would only recognize Scripture (and perhaps authority, or dogma) as the source of religious truth.

I agree with all of you that Scripture in and of itself cannot be used to make predictions about the nature of the physical universe. However, that does not mean that religious truth is useless in making predictions. For example, using religion to improve ones family life, community involvement, and emotional resilliance involves a cycle of analyzing your "religious truth", applying it within context of the physical universe, observing the results, and starting over again. This cycle is true whether you are practicing fundamental Islam, Protestant Christianity, or Zen Buddhism.

The main difference here IMO is one of values, not superiority of one system over another. I will never convince someone who values empiricism more than anything else to adopt my religious belief system. However, a pure empiricist will never convince me that my religious belief has no applicability in the universe exterior to my mind.

Also, I must caution everyone (except for apparently Hippo) in saying "Empiricism is better than religious belief because..." since "better" implies a subjective value judgement. Rather, the statements "Empiricism is more useful to me, makes more sense to me, seems more logical because..." are more easily defended from a philosophical standpoint.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby tsperk » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:19 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:Now, if you believe in scripture, and scripture tells you to kill your family, I think there's a problem. When silly beliefs intersect with real consequences, we should put aside the silliness, roll up our sleeves, and get empirical. But if all the scripture is doing is telling you to live well and treat your neighbor nicely, then I fail to see the fuss.


I think the problem is that many scriptures do not, or at least do not exclusively, tell you to live well and treat your neighbour nicely. I would venture that if all religious scriptures did was teach these things, there wouldn't be a fuss about it. The problem is that scriptures teach a whole lot of other things that are pretty horrendous, and, because many scriptures are pretty exclusivist, have a tendency to incite a lot of conflicts between sects of the same religion or between religions.


Good and evil are subjective concepts, not objective truths. I agree that killing your family is wrong, however I can easily envision a system of religious belief (e.g. honor killings in Islam) where killing a family member is considered "good". However most religions in the world share the viewpoint "Life is sacred" and I would say this is one of of the few intersections between the Judeo-Christian religious worldview and the modern secularist worldview.

The problem is that there are people in all religions, as well as non-religious people, who commit evil acts. The question of why people commit evil has long been a topic of study in science, philosophy, and religion, and is very complex. However, it is spurious to say that all evil acts committed by religious people are done so because of their belief system. This ignores culture, psychology, and many other sources of personal motivation.

For example, the Bible says literally nothing about climate change, global warming, CO2, fossil fuels, etc. So why are large numbers of Christians in the United States climate change skeptics? To answer this question you would have to look at their culture, values, and personal backgrounds. However it would not be fair to claim that Christianity as a belief system endorses or promotes climate change skepticism.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Brutz » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:21 pm UTC

tsperk wrote: There has been an assumption within this conversation that religious belief = narrativism, and therefore the choice is between narrativism and empiricism. Rather than this contrast, I would say that both religiosity and empiricism are differing narratives.

In my last 2 posts, I guess unsuccessfully, I tried to say that I look at this on 3 levels: empirical, narrative and faith based. I'm saying that what makes a religious story moving or inspiring regardless if you believe it or not, is the narrative, just like in any other work of fiction or art in general. The faith based level would be the human bias where one was either indoctrinated that the narrative is true, or was emotionally moved by the narrative so much that they are in denial of its faults. Hippo's position, if I understood it correctly, is that for some people the faith based level, not the narrative one, is the cause for the inspiration or emotional movement.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby tsperk » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:42 pm UTC

Brutz wrote:
tsperk wrote: There has been an assumption within this conversation that religious belief = narrativism, and therefore the choice is between narrativism and empiricism. Rather than this contrast, I would say that both religiosity and empiricism are differing narratives.

In my last 2 posts, I guess unsuccessfully, I tried to say that I look at this on 3 levels: empirical, narrative and faith based. I'm saying that what makes a religious story moving or inspiring regardless if you believe it or not, is the narrative, just like in any other work of fiction or art in general. The faith based level would be the human bias where one was either indoctrinated that the narrative is true, or was emotionally moved by the narrative so much that they are in denial of its faults. Hippo's position, if I understood it correctly, is that for some people the faith based level, not the narrative one, is the cause for the inspiration or emotional movement.


Personally I disagree with you, but I know many religious people (even within my own religion) for whom your statement is accurate. I am a pretty non-emotional person when it comes to formulating a worldview. If I believed that my religious views were formed exclusively by emotion, than I would not really have faith in them (as I understand faith). However, how do I really know what is going on in my own mind? I cannot, however I can constantly observe and evaluate. My observations about my own beliefs tell me that I put emphasis on the more intellectual components of Scripture and less so on the emotionally driven ones.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:19 pm UTC

tsperk wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:I think the problem is that many scriptures do not, or at least do not exclusively, tell you to live well and treat your neighbour nicely. I would venture that if all religious scriptures did was teach these things, there wouldn't be a fuss about it. The problem is that scriptures teach a whole lot of other things that are pretty horrendous, and, because many scriptures are pretty exclusivist, have a tendency to incite a lot of conflicts between sects of the same religion or between religions.


Good and evil are subjective concepts, not objective truths. I agree that killing your family is wrong, however I can easily envision a system of religious belief (e.g. honor killings in Islam) where killing a family member is considered "good". However most religions in the world share the viewpoint "Life is sacred" and I would say this is one of of the few intersections between the Judeo-Christian religious worldview and the modern secularist worldview.


There are more religions in the world than just Judaism and Christianity, you know. And not all interpretations of even those would necessarily intersect with the secular worldview at this point.

tsperk wrote:The problem is that there are people in all religions, as well as non-religious people, who commit evil acts. The question of why people commit evil has long been a topic of study in science, philosophy, and religion, and is very complex. However, it is spurious to say that all evil acts committed by religious people are done so because of their belief system. This ignores culture, psychology, and many other sources of personal motivation.


While I never claimed that this was the case, the idea that religion has no effect on people's lives, good or ill, is utter nonsense. Religions are incredibly powerful motivators--one might argue, in fact, that is the very purpose of religions--and it is not only possible, but common, for people to use religion to motivate some goal or idea. Do you think anyone would be complaining about same-sex marriage in the United States were it not for the Bible's explicit condemnation of homosexuality? Or abortion? Had the Bible not endorsed slavery, would it have persisted for so long? Do you think we would be on the brink of war in the Middle East had not three of the world's great religions been founded there and declared the area sacred and exclusive to their people? I am not speaking of individual people doing harmful things, but of systematic problems that exist within particular religious structures.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Soralin » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:30 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Do you love anyone? Try to prove it with science.

Already done:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional ... ce_imaging
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/150193.php
The discovery, reported online on May 14th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, is the first to show that emotional information is represented by distinct spatial signatures in the brain that can be generalized across speakers.

http://www.forbes.com/maserati/singles2 ... ingle.html
Image

But if you want a simpler way to determine it by science, you could just simply observe someone's actions, and draw probable conclusions based on that.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby tsperk » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:00 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:There are more religions in the world than just Judaism and Christianity, you know. And not all interpretations of even those would necessarily intersect with the secular worldview at this point.


Agreed, which is why I qualified my statement by saying "Judeo-Christian", although I could have included Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Bahai, and some animist faiths as well. I would be hesitant to make such a statement about Islam, but only because of recent history.

LaserGuy wrote:While I never claimed that this was the case, the idea that religion has no effect on people's lives, good or ill, is utter nonsense. Religions are incredibly powerful motivators--one might argue, in fact, that is the very purpose of religions--and it is not only possible, but common, for people to use religion to motivate some goal or idea. Do you think anyone would be complaining about same-sex marriage in the United States were it not for the Bible's explicit condemnation of homosexuality? Or abortion? Had the Bible not endorsed slavery, would it have persisted for so long? Do you think we would be on the brink of war in the Middle East had not three of the world's great religions been founded there and declared the area sacred and exclusive to their people? I am not speaking of individual people doing harmful things, but of systematic problems that exist within particular religious structures.


Yes, and this is why Jesus said referencing his disciples "They are no part of the world, as I am no part of the world." (John 15:17) I am not defending the political, social, and economic policies of the Christian Right in the United States. I recognize that people have used the Bible (and other Scripture for that matter) to justify great acts of evil throughout human history. I agree with you that "systematic problems exist within particular religious structures", and that this contributes to much strife in the world today.

It is easy to say that the Bible endorses slavery, mistreatment of homosexuals, and violence when looking at the behavior of many people who claim to be Christian, and without doing an in-depth study of Scripture. However these viewpoints are misunderstanding of Scripture. The New Testament specifically says that the laws and penalties applied in the Mosaic Code no longer apply, since Christ made them invalid. My study of the Bible has led me to the ethical conclusions that abortion and homosexuality are wrong (unethical behavior), however it in no way gives me license to judge or persecute those who do such actions. "Judge not, lest you be judged" "As far as it depends with you, be peaceable with all men" etc...

I don't mean to preach a sermon here, but a lot of the comments imply a condemnation of the Bible generally, and Christianity in particular, and I feel impelled to defend my beliefs. I especially feel adamant in expressing that the bad behavior of others who claim to be Christians does not have anything to do with my own faith.

Taking a wider view, there have been many, many systems of religion, politics, and ethical thought throughout history, some have shown to be on balance good, some on balance evil, through the actions of their followers. You would be hard pressed to argue that the religious beliefs of Ahisma Hindus or Amish Christians have led them to commit evil acts, just as you could not argue that the atheistic philosophies of the Khmer Rouge or Stalinist Russia did not have a role in the inhuman acts they committed.

All this means to me is that you cannot judge a book by its cover. The OP wanted to know why people put faith in religious texts. I have done the best to answer the question according to my knowledge and experience. As far as arguing religion in general leads to evil acts, that is a very extraordinary claim. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (irony intended).
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby curtis95112 » Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:10 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Do you love anyone? Try to prove it with science.


Define it well enough, and I'll prove or disprove it. I certainly have the necessary information. As others have pointed out, love is an extremely ill-defined term.

curtis95112 wrote: Again, I have to ask you what you mean by trust. How far would you go in trusting the stories? Would you just quietly believe it and never act on those beliefs? Would you pass those beliefs on as fact to other people? Would you spend all your money and possessions if your stories told you the world would end in 2012? Would you kill unsuspecting civilians in order to bring God's kingdom to Earth?


Trust, in this context, means believing it to be true. And for most of your questions, it depends on the story.

I think a certain level of skepticism--rationality--whatever you call it--is necessary for a healthy narrative. Simultaneously, I think it's fine and good to believe in silly things, so long as you're measuring the consequences. Believing in God is, to me, just as silly as believing in love, or justice, or the notion that we deserve certain rights. I believe in the latter things despite not being able to produce any evidence as to their existence, because believing in them brings me emotional satisfaction. I imagine that if believing in God brought me emotional satisfaction, I'd do that, too.

Now, if you believe in scripture, and scripture tells you to kill your family, I think there's a problem. When silly beliefs intersect with real consequences, we should put aside the silliness, roll up our sleeves, and get empirical. But if all the scripture is doing is telling you to live well and treat your neighbor nicely, then I fail to see the fuss.[/quote]

I think we differ on what it means for something to be 'true'. I would not be able to sincerely believe in something I thought was untrue, no matter what the consequences.
Even if I was threatened with death, I would not be able to believe that I had twelve fingers. I could act like I did, but I wouldn't believe it. In short, I don't think of belief as a conscious choice.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby The Great Hippo » Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:25 am UTC

Noc wrote:Actually, I'd call this a fairly good example for my argument, because "love" is one of the most egregiously ambiguous words in the English language.
curtis95112 wrote:Define it well enough, and I'll prove or disprove it. I certainly have the necessary information. As others have pointed out, love is an extremely ill-defined term.
That's my point; you can't empirically prove it because it's ambiguous, and I think it's fair to state that most of us aren't interested in a scientific definition in our ordinary lives. I'm certainly not.

I know when I'm in love; I don't use science or empiricism to make that determination. I make that determination. If you use science to 'prove' that I'm not in love, my response is: "Fuck your science. I'm in love. Piss off."

Do you think it's reasonable for one man to assert "I love this woman" and another man to assert "No you don't; I've done a brain scan and it's clear that you actually totally hate her"? Who's right in this situation? Can't both of them be right?
curtis95112 wrote: I think we differ on what it means for something to be 'true'. I would not be able to sincerely believe in something I thought was untrue, no matter what the consequences.
Even if I was threatened with death, I would not be able to believe that I had twelve fingers. I could act like I did, but I wouldn't believe it. In short, I don't think of belief as a conscious choice.
Nevertheless, it is a choice, conscious or not; you've chosen to focus on empiricism (I assume) because you derive greater emotional satisfaction from it. Other people have made different choices.

Empiricism is just another narrative structure by which we can understand the world. When we talk about it being a more 'valid' structure, what we're actually saying is 'I find structures like empiricism to be more emotionally satisfying'. That's all.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Zcorp » Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:54 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:That's my point; you can't empirically prove it because it's ambiguous, and I think it's fair to state that most of us aren't interested in a scientific definition in our ordinary lives. I'm certainly not.
How about a reasonable one? What is a scientific definition?

Do you think it's reasonable for one man to assert "I love this woman" and another man to assert "No you don't; I've done a brain scan and it's clear that you actually totally hate her"? Who's right in this situation? Can't both of them be right?
Not if they are talking about the same concept. If they are talking about different concepts and both using the word 'love' context should allow us to understand the difference in concept between the two usages or one of them is improperly using the word. You can say you 'love' someone but unless you can tell me what you mean by that you are not succeeding at understanding your emotions and communicating them.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby Noc » Fri Jan 27, 2012 3:04 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Do you think it's reasonable for one man to assert "I love this woman" and another man to assert "No you don't; I've done a brain scan and it's clear that you actually totally hate her"? Who's right in this situation? Can't both of them be right?

I think you're confusing the strength of narrative with the paradox of the heap. If one person goes "That's a heap!" and another goes "No it isn't, it's a pile," their assessments don't conflict not because they're both free to define mound-based terminology as best fits their internal narrative, but rather because both terms are vague enough to overlap.

If you say "I love this woman," I am going to do the same thing I keep doing in this discussion: ask you to qualify that a bit more, because holy crap does that exclamation not mean anything useful. If it were part of a discussion, I mean. I don't actually feel the need to challenge every questionable claim I hear in the course of my day, but if you're using your apparent love for this individual as part of something it is important for me to understand, I am going to insist on a reasonable level of specificity.

And if your clarified self-assessment sounds a bit inaccurate? If, say, you claim you want to spend the rest of your life with this person, and that you will never love another woman so long as you live, and you've also maybe said this three times in the past month about three different people? Yeah, it totally fits your internal narrative, but your narrative has drifted out of whack with reality and I am probably going to point this out, and feel fairly justified in doing so. Assuming it is socially appropriate to do so, etc etc. Also, I say "you" here, but the point of the self-assessment I was going on about in my last post is very much about performing this process on one's self.

And, finally, thinking you're in True Love is not an excuse for doing something drastic and stupid. If you're going to make any decisions that matter, you'd best put your personal narrative aside for a moment and think about the real world instead of the fictions you got all your ideas about Love from. These "real world" concerns are empirical, and include such things as "In the past, has my interest in a partner faded almost immediately once we moved past the Exciting Romance stage?" "Have I been ignoring anything that would jeopardize our future relationship in my desire to make things fit the narrative?"

The narrative affects how you feel about things, and how you feel about things can definitely be a component in your decision making. But letting the narrative drive your decisions directly without empiricism serving as a buffer is dangerous. That's basically what I mean about empiricism being "more valid:" as a primary lens for your decision making, it doesn't make any sense to use anything but empiricism. On the other hand, it's totally okay to let narratives influence you emotionally, provided that "well lets compare that to the way things work in the Real World" step comes into play somewhere.

. . .

And it's that step -- that method of comparison, and the standard for judging what it shows you -- that empiricism is. It totally does have a narrative attached, and that is definitely why I care so much about it: there are plenty of other standards and methods in the world with loads of merit and validity, but that I don't care enough about to get into a lengthy discussion about. But the validity of a standard or a method is distinct from the strength of its narrative, and the validity of empiricism is far stronger than that of pure narratives. Using a narrative as your primary decision-making method would actually have you acting as though you live in a story, which is clearly a problem and not a valid way to approach things.

I think most of us do have some quantity of empiricism slotted in as our world-lens. I am arguing that a stronger empirical lens is better, and using the problems associated with a weak or nonexistant empirical lens (namely, all the stupid things you're prone to if you don't self-analyze) as an example.
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Re: I don't understand the faith people put in religious tex

Postby curtis95112 » Fri Jan 27, 2012 3:57 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Noc wrote:Actually, I'd call this a fairly good example for my argument, because "love" is one of the most egregiously ambiguous words in the English language.
curtis95112 wrote:Define it well enough, and I'll prove or disprove it. I certainly have the necessary information. As others have pointed out, love is an extremely ill-defined term.
That's my point; you can't empirically prove it because it's ambiguous, and I think it's fair to state that most of us aren't interested in a scientific definition in our ordinary lives. I'm certainly not.

I know when I'm in love; I don't use science or empiricism to make that determination. I make that determination. If you use science to 'prove' that I'm not in love, my response is: "Fuck your science. I'm in love. Piss off."


This is clearly a problem of differing definitions. Assuming the science is valid, it will tautologically agree with you given identical definitions.


Do you think it's reasonable for one man to assert "I love this woman" and another man to assert "No you don't; I've done a brain scan and it's clear that you actually totally hate her"? Who's right in this situation? Can't both of them be right?
curtis95112 wrote: I think we differ on what it means for something to be 'true'. I would not be able to sincerely believe in something I thought was untrue, no matter what the consequences.
Even if I was threatened with death, I would not be able to believe that I had twelve fingers. I could act like I did, but I wouldn't believe it. In short, I don't think of belief as a conscious choice.

Nevertheless, it is a choice, conscious or not; you've chosen to focus on empiricism (I assume) because you derive greater emotional satisfaction from it. Other people have made different choices.
Empiricism is just another narrative structure by which we can understand the world. When we talk about it being a more 'valid' structure, what we're actually saying is 'I find structures like empiricism to be more emotionally satisfying'. That's all.


No. It isn't a choice, and it has nothing to do with emotional satisfaction. I'd much rather believe that the Holocaust never happened. But that doesn't change the fact that I believe it did.

Can you sincerely believe that you have sixteen fingers? Even though it blatantly contradicts everything you see? Let's assume that sincerely believing will get you a free pass to heaven. Can you?
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