Understanding Moderate Religion

Strafio
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Understanding Moderate Religion

Introduction
As some of you will know, although I am an atheist I don't think that theism is necessarily irrational.
I also think that religion is misunderstood in 'militant' atheist circles. (I used 'militant' for want of a better word - you guys know what I mean...)
The common view is that fundamentalism is real religion and that moderatism is simply those who can't bring themselves to fully accept or reject fundamentalist religion so cherry pick as what suits them. I think that this is a narrow view that misunderstands religion.
So now I've made a claim on what religion isn't, I need to now offer a positive account of what religion is and then provide evidence that my account accurately responds to the real life practices of religious people.

Btw, this isn't accusatory in anyway.
I know that people here like and respect moderates in a lot of ways.
As far as I know I see two main reasons why people here feel the need to target moderates too:
1) Intelectual honesty and consistency - even if a moderate's belief is benign, if it's just as unscientifically supported as the fundamentalist then is it right for us to hold double standards for the ones we like over the ones we dislike? If we genuinely think a moderate's belief to be wrong then should we just pat them on the head and let them believe a falsehood? Do we not respect them enough to be capable of critical thinking and wanting to see the truth?
2) Moderatism feeds fundamentalism - even if moderates themselves are benign, their being there feeds fundamentalism. Fundamentalists get away with a lot because their antics are closely related to practices that are more respected. It takes a lot to distance yourself from mainstream beliefs so the survival of a belief system often requires it to share as much as with mainstream as possible. That the mainstream is 'half way' to fundamentalism gives them much more than they want.

I think that my arguments in this topic will provide a genuine answer to the first one and will possibly offer some ideas in the way of the second.

Preliminaries
Before we go on, I just want to make some clarifications on what it is for a belief to be irrational.
A belief irrational if there is some flaw in the reasoning.
Perhaps a subtle fallacy in conclusions drawn or maybe false premise behind it.
This doesn't mean that the person is irrational in believing it - the RRS accept that the theist themselves might be being rational, i.e. reasoning with the best knowledge they have at that time, but the belief itself isn't rational as their reason would reject it if they knew better.

Another point I think needs acknowledging is the 'context' of calling a belief irrational - why we see it as a bad thing.
If you think about the part that beliefs play in our lives, how we will sit down because we believe a chair is below us - an incorrect belief would lead to us falling.
We need beliefs to be accurate for them to have practical purpose in our lives. Reason is our way of making beliefs as accurate as possible, so to have a belief that is irrational is of little use to us and will affect our decision making for the worse.
So because we need a 'belief' to be accurate and reason is the best way to ensure this accuracy, we want our beliefs to be as rational as possible.
In a similar way, an action is rational if it reason declares it the best way to achieve the aim that it was supposed to.

 

The last point I want to make is one about language.
Language is a very diverse thing and this can lead to all sorts of philosophical confusions.
I'm sure you're all familiar with the fallacy of equivocation - it's when we confuse that the same word can mean two different things.
e.g. A bank is a good place to put money and a bank is on the edge of a river so I should throw my money into the river.
That one was pretty obvious - it's the more subtle ones that cause the real confusion.

Wittgenstein liked to use the word 'game' as an example.
He claimed that the various uses of the word game were related in various ways but were also subtly different.
He claimed that whatever 'essence' of 'definition' you tried to tie down to the word 'game' you could find a game out there that was counter example.
In a similar way, I think that our real world usage of the word 'belief' doesn't quite reduce to the way we were using it above.
Although belief as something that needs to be accurate for practical purposes is a common way we use 'belief', it is not the only way we use that word.
I think that 'religious belief' is subtly different to 'practical belief'.
Not completely different - they will be closely related and the differences will be subtle.
However, the differences will be enough to make a difference on how they ought to be evaluated and thereby leave them different on how they should be judged to be 'rational' or not. With that, I am ready to finally put forward my hypothesis on what religious belief is.

 

The Hypothesis - Religious belief is subtly different to practical belief and these differences warrant a difference in evaluation.
If I am saying that religious belief is to be evaluated differently to practical belief then I need to claim that they have different purposes.
Practical belief has the obvious practical usage - if we want to eat an Orange then we need to know where to find an orange and that our beliefs on where to find an orange will determine our success or failure in this.
My claim is that religious belief has a different purpose. Rather than instant practical use, the value of religious belief is the way it affects our outlook on the world.
That is, the psychological effect that these 'articles of faith' have on our life in general.

So for a religious belief to be valuable/commendable it would have to:
a) Have a positive effect on our life - particularly in our morality and personal meaning and happiness.
b) NOT interfere with our practical rationality - i.e. not contradict our scientific knowledge.

Bear in mind that other than this difference in justification/application, this belief would be pretty much the same.
It would be psychologically similar, 'feel' similar, so if you'd ask someone if <insert religious claim> really happened then they'd say yes.
The only difference would be that they wouldn't "feel right" about applying religious doctrine practically in the same way we do with other beliefs and justify these beliefs by the effect that it has on their life.
My belief that this is the natural state of religion and that literalists on both sides have misunderstood it, both by assuming that religious belief and practical belief are the same thing.
One dismisses religious belief for not holding to the standards of practical belief, the other bastardizes their practical belief in an attempt to unify both together.
(While I both think they've misunderstood religion to the same degree, I think that the dismissal of religion is much less severe than trying to unify them.)
Having said that, while I think that there is argument for moderate religion being natural religion and fundamentalism being the perversion, I'll leave that for another topic as I think there's enough to debate here as it is. For now I'll just settle for the fact that religion/theism can be 'not irrational'.
Notice that I've said 'not irrational' rather than 'rational'.
If religious practice is a different practice to normal belief to be valued in a different way then it's quite likely that the evaluation would be different too.
Rather than rational or irrational, I think that religion is a-rational and would be valued as more 'good/bad' or 'humanitarian/inhuman' rather than 'correct/incorrect' or 'rational/irrational'.

The consequence of this hypothesis would be that there's such thing as 'religious belief' where:
a) The 'beliefs' are like normal belief except do not have direct practical application.
(Any good religion should have clauses like "Thou shalt not put the lord to the test" or "The lord works in mysterious ways" or "God is ultimately beyond man's expectations/understanding&quotEye-wink
b) The religious belief is to be justified by the positive effect on the person and people.
("Before I accepted Jesus into my life... blah blah blah..." - well, you might not find this convincing but atleast they're arguing for the right thing! Eye-wink)
c) Although they often take care to make sure that there is no direct contradiction between their religious beliefs and practical ones, they don't feel the need to scientifically justify their religious beliefs.
(Hence the employment of 'faith' and the 'God of Gaps')

My argument is simply that moderate religion be judged by it's effect on the person.
There could easily be a counter argument in the form of "But religion is bad for the person psychologically/spiritually/socially too because..." which is fair enough - the only conclusion I am trying to settle here is that moderate religion is to be judged by its effect on the person rather than how well it matches scientific fact. I consider it still possible that even moderate religion might fall flat in the face of this kind of judgement too, but I'd be surprised.

 

Evidence that moderate religion really is like this and that I'm not merely projecting how I'd like it to be.
So how would I go about providing evidence that religion is 'this way' rather than 'that way'?
I've made two claims about moderates regarding their religious belief, that they don't treat it like practical knowledge and that they justify it by the effect that it has on their lives.
I can justify this by picking out typical behaviours and phrases that we expect from them and show that they fit my theory.

Evidence that moderates don't treat articles of faith like practical knowledge
First see if you can even get out of them a belief that has practical application.
I mean, they do base practices on their religion but not with direct consequences.
The religious practice is justified as a whole for other reasons.
In the meantime, individual beliefs do not have individual applications.

My belief in gravity means that I would happily bet my entire life savings that if I was to hold a plastic ball (you're not going to hustle me with magnets here! Eye-wink) in the air and let go then it would drop to the ground. Do the moderates have any religious beliefs that they could base bets on in the same way?
A lot of Catholics believe that the bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Christ - see what response you get if you ask them what affect eating human flesh and blood has on their diet, and if they happen to be vegetarian then do they pass by the Eucharist?
If you were to ever make the claim "If Christianity was true then God would X and Y - after all, that's the character of the God described!" then they are likely to say that "Religion doesn't work like that", or "You're missing the point" or "The lord works in mysterious ways" or "It's not your place to understand God's plan, just trust."

Are these actions and phrases common to the moderates you're familiar with?
Do you disagree that they are characteristics of moderates or do you disagree that they fit my theory?

 

Evidence that moderates justify their beliefs on their effect rather than their scientific accuracy/certainty
It's often been said that the rationality that they apply to the other areas of their life seem to bypass the moderate's treatment of religion.
What's more, they vigourously argue that it's just not appropiate, often trying to point out other areas in our life where we don't feel the need to be scientific.
They are fond of the 'God of Gaps' (both unsupported and uncontradicted by science)
Even where contradictions appear between their scientific and religious beliefs, they try to brush them aside as if they didn't matter.
They clearly see their religiousness as a-scientific, living out the NOMA split as described by Gould.

So what happens when you ask them why they believe?
They will talk about morality and meaning.
They will talk about what religion does for them on a daily basis - they clearly draw strength from it.
They often have anecdotes and stories about themselves or friends or even people they've read about.
The stories will often involve a rebellious character who didn't think much to religion, had some problems, accepted religion and that solved them.
They often consider their religion to be an integral part of their moral practice too.
Whether religion really is a help in these things is up for debate - my point is that it's these things that justify or discredit religion.

Another evidence is how they judge differing beliefs.
Moderates tend to be happy that other faiths can lead to God while others who claim to be of the same faith are 'false'.
How do they judge who is close to God and who it not?
Once again it's the character of the believers.
Those religious sects that do bad (e.g. the inquisition, the terrorists, extortionists) etc are those who have lost their way.
(The cheeky bastards even call them atheists!!)
Those of other religions who do good (e.g. peaceful Buddhists) are often seen as being close to God in the eyes of the moderate.

Again, you will have to decide yourselves whether my charitarizing of the moderate fits with your own experience.
I think it's characteristics we're all familiar with, it's just that I'm offering a new interpretation to the data, one that wasn't considered before and one that I personally think fits better.
These examples were the best I could come up with from the top of my head.
The verification/falsification will be a more gradual process.
Now the theory is in your mind, it will subconsciously test it everytime you meet a moderate.
Over time you will gradually get the feeling that the theory fits moderate behaviour or you will find yourself feeling that it doesn't.
(That'll be your subconscious brain functions giving the results of their analysing your experiences)
I'd like to think that means you'll start to agree with me within the year but it's perhaps more likely you'll finally start presenting all those counter examples that your brain has been picking up!! Laughing out loud

I guess time will tell! Smiling

 

What does this mean for fundamentalism.
There's always been this misconception towards fundamentalists, that they are the ones who follow the Bible properly rather than cherry pick.
Truth is, they cherry pick just as much as moderates do, if not more so.
Or where they don't they're willing to completely contradict themselves.
You see, religious belief can often mean what you want it to mean at that moment in time.
The religious believer's interpretation of their Holy Book will depend on the Zeitegeist of their time and place.
Fundamentalists do this to a higher degree than anyone.
God is the most loving, caring and understanding when they're trying sell him to people and then turns into a wrathful monster who dishes out eternal damnation when they want to scare you into obedience.
They know the absolute truth about things when they're feeling assertive and want to tell you that X is sinful and that Y actually happened but will declare God beyond all understanding when pressed to give a rational justification for their beliefs.

In the same way, they will play the "This is the hard truth - not what you want God to be..." when arguing with moderates and then pull out the "You rationalists want to take all the mystery of life and turn love and feeling into some mathematical equation" when the sceptics start challenging them on the facts.
They are happy to flip from one to another depending on who they are debating.
I don't think that many people change their mind on a major issue from a single argument.
A single argument might be the final straw the triggers the change in mind but more often than not it takes a several points to be on the back of the mind before the person is open to change. After all, if our idea only has a couple of slight problems we see them as something we can work around, that answers will come to.

Some changes will come around through attacking the purely unscientifficness of religious belief, but I don't think that it will get very far on its own.
After all, when you consider the reasons why people have faith, scientific fact is irrelevent.
Apologetics has never converted anyone, merely helped people who were attracted to the lifestyle of religion and were hoping for a way to find a loophole in their scientific knowledge.
(Is it a coincidence that Strobel found the Christian arguments more convincing after he admired the personality changes in his wife?)
If we want to attack fundamentalism then we want to attack it from all sides at once.
"My beliefs are on faith, on hope and love" is presented as an excuse to dismiss sceptical criticism, perhaps just the day after they used "You can't just believe what you want" to dismiss the humanitarian appeals of moderates.

That's why I see moderates as an ally against fundamentalism rather than a cover for it.
Fundies can only use moderates as cover where the sceptic's remarks affect moderates.
If we were to work with moderates to bring forward the ideal anti-fundy arguments, ones that targeted objective claims while accepting the validity of personal faith, fundamentalism would have no cover at all.
Not that we wouldn't have disagreement and debate with moderates too, just that would be a leisurely topic to debate for fun, rather than one that our politics and future critically hangs on.

Anysway, here's my theory of moderate religion.
Thoughts?


Hambydammit
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Glad to see something new

Glad to see something new from you, Strafio!

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The common view is that fundamentalism is real religion and that moderatism is simply those who can't bring themselves to fully accept or reject fundamentalist religion so cherry pick as what suits them. I think that this is a narrow view that misunderstands religion.

This is not my contention.  I hold that fundamentalism and moderation are two degrees of the exact same thing.  All theism accepts the premise that things which are false according to materialism are true.  The only difference between moderates and fundamentalists is how many irrational beliefs they hold.

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A belief irrational if there is some flaw in the reasoning.

Psst... "A belief is irrational." 

[/editor hat OFF]

For the sake of simplicity, this is true, but it's not exactly complete.  I'll hold off for a bit though.

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This doesn't mean that the person is irrational in believing it - the RRS accept that the theist themselves might be being rational, i.e. reasoning with the best knowledge they have at that time, but the belief itself isn't rational as their reason would reject it if they knew better.

I maintain that one of the reasons all religion should be attacked is that indoctrination into the notion that "faith is a virtue" at a young age can permanently diminish a person's ability to think rationally.  There are many people who do know better and still believe.  Had they been introduced to the idea after being taught good thinking skills at a very young age, they would immediately dismiss it.

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In a similar way, an action is rational if it reason declares it the best way to achieve the aim that it was supposed to.

(EDITOR CHECK!!!)

I don't necessarily claim this as universally true.  It's splitting hairs a bit, but here's an example.  Last week, I went on vacation.  While I was gone, I drank constantly, ate as much as I wanted, and indulged in as much junk food as I wanted.  I got precious little sleep, and I spent most of next month's spending money.  My behavior was not rational by very many standards, and yet, because I am human, it was good for me.  Yes, we can make a case for my behavior being rational because it had good results, but that's the point I'm making.  Rational and irrational are often dependent on an arbitrary measuring stick.  For the goal of good health, my behavior was objectively irrational.  For the goal of financial gain, clearly and objectively irrational.  For mental health?  Very rational.

So, there are two ways in which the words rational and irrational can be used.  One is objective.  Believing that all traffic lights are figments of your imagination is irrational.  Period.  Traffic lights obviously exist, and there is no practical way of making that belief rational.  Vegetarianism, on the other hand, is both rational and irrational, and it is mainly a matter of personal values whether an individual's vegetarianism is rational or irrational.  If someone is vegetarian because they believe the government has introduced poison into all meat because they're trying to kill us all, their vegetarianism is irrational.  If they feel better on a vegetarian diet, it's rational.

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My claim is that religious belief has a different purpose. Rather than instant practical use, the value of religious belief is the way it affects our outlook on the world.
That is, the psychological effect that these 'articles of faith' have on our life in general.

You know my "Special Pleading" trigger finger is itchy.

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So for a religious belief to be valuable/commendable it would have to:
a) Have a positive effect on our life - particularly in our morality and personal meaning and happiness.

Dangerous proposition.  If I am a sadist, inflicting great pain on others brings me personal meaning and happiness.  I'd like to see you expand this just a bit.

I see you running into some serious issues with this proposition.  I hope you've been following my writing about morality, primarily my contention that it is relative but not arbitrary. 

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b) NOT interfere with our practical rationality - i.e. not contradict our scientific knowledge.

You realize that for this to occur, this religion is going to have to have virtually no meaning whatsoever.   By definition, the belief that a god influences the world in any way whatsoever does interfere with our practical rationality.

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My belief that this is the natural state of religion and that literalists on both sides have misunderstood it, both by assuming that religious belief and practical belief are the same thing.

I'm responding as I read.  I hope you're going to justify this division, because I can't.

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If religious practice is a different practice to normal belief to be valued in a different way then it's quite likely that the evaluation would be different too.

Special pleading.

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Rather than rational or irrational, I think that religion is a-rational and would be valued as more 'good/bad' or 'humanitarian/inhuman' rather than 'correct/incorrect' or 'rational/irrational'.

The existence of another system in which to examine religion does not negate its existence as rational or irrational.  If I say that oranges and asparagus are nothing alike because one's a fruit and the other's a vegetable, that doesn't take away the fact that they are both foods that people eat.  If you are to have us believe that we should not apply the rational/irrational label to moderate theism, you're going to have to do more than say that there's another way we can look at it if we choose.

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There could easily be a counter argument in the form of "But religion is bad for the person psychologically/spiritually/socially too because..." which is fair enough - the only conclusion I am trying to settle here is that moderate religion is to be judged by its effect on the person rather than how well it matches scientific fact. I consider it still possible that even moderate religion might fall flat in the face of this kind of judgement too, but I'd be surprised.

Well, if you choose to judge moderate religion only by its effect on the individual, that is your prerogative.  I think it's awfully shortsighted, since individuals get together in groups, and groups have effects on other groups.  I don't think I see any rational justification for excluding religion (SPECIAL PLEADING!) from the same kind of scrutiny we give to any other kind of belief. 

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Are these actions and phrases common to the moderates you're familiar with?

Yes.

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Do you disagree that they are characteristics of moderates or do you disagree that they fit my theory?

I agree that moderates would not bet a lot of money on god, and that they tend not to let their religious beliefs get in the way of most practical activities.  I disagree that this is evidence that their religious belief doesn't effect their practical life in any meaningful way.  What you're doing is equivalent to telling me there are no marbles in a box, and then one by one, taking quarters out of the box and saying, "See, this isn't a marble!"

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They will talk about morality and meaning.
They will talk about what religion does for them on a daily basis - they clearly draw strength from it.
They often have anecdotes and stories about themselves or friends or even people they've read about.
The stories will often involve a rebellious character who didn't think much to religion, had some problems, accepted religion and that solved them.
They often consider their religion to be an integral part of their moral practice too.

These are all exactly the same answers that a fundamentalist would give.

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How do they judge who is close to God and who it not?
Once again it's the character of the believers.

Same with fundamentalists.

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Those religious sects that do bad (e.g. the inquisition, the terrorists, extortionists) etc are those who have lost their way.
(The cheeky bastards even call them atheists!!)

Same with fundamentalists.

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I'd like to think that means you'll start to agree with me within the year but it's perhaps more likely you'll finally start presenting all those counter examples that your brain has been picking up!! Laughing out loud

I hate to tell you, but it's not going to take me a year to come up with counter examples. 

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The religious believer's interpretation of their Holy Book will depend on the Zeitegeist of their time and place.
Fundamentalists do this to a higher degree than anyone.

You've just admitted my contention.  Fundamentalism and moderation are two degrees of the same thing.

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After all, when you consider the reasons why people have faith, scientific fact is irrelevent.

I don't completely agree.  Children pick up religious faith because they are not presented with the alternative.  Rational adults who have been taught good thinking skills don't often turn to religion for the reasons religious people say they believe.  Once someone has grown up in an atheist world, they don't often feel the "innate longing for a god" that religious people claim everyone has.

Scientific fact is very relevant to people's belief.  Otherwise, why would highly schooled scientists be the least likely people to be religious? 

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Apologetics has never converted anyone, merely helped people who were attracted to the lifestyle of religion and were hoping for a way to find a loophole in their scientific knowledge.

A bold claim.

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Fundies can only use moderates as cover where the sceptic's remarks affect moderates.

You mean... like the whole justification for believing a religion?  That some things are proven by faith alone?

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If we were to work with moderates to bring forward the ideal anti-fundy arguments, ones that targeted objective claims while accepting the validity of personal faith, fundamentalism would have no cover at all.

I'm not being flippant when I say this.  You give this a try.  Go to all the moderate churches, and see if you can get them to mount a targeted attack against fundamentalists.  Good luck.  When you get back, I have a few windmills you can tilt.

This is precisely why I maintain that we must attack all theism equally.  Moderates, if they have any brains at all, know that they cannot attack fundamentalists on any purely rational grounds.  They are left only with appeals to emotion.

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Thoughts?

Well, not to be harsh, but I don't see anything new in this.  It appears to me that your argument goes something like this:

1) Moderates are different than fundamentalists because moderates don't believe *really* wacky stuff, and they live normal lives, and religion makes them feel good.  (What do you call this fallacy?  You're creating a difference in kind when it's really a difference in degree.)

2) Religion should not be judged by rational/irrational criteria because moderates don't take their religion very seriously.  (Special pleading)

3) Some moderate beliefs don't let their beliefs affect X, Y, Z behaviors.  Therefore, moderates don't let religion affect their behaviors.  (Just plain goofy.)

4) Moderates ought to help us fight fundamentalists.  (Good luck.)

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
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I AM GOD AS YOU
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Thanks for your posts.

Thanks for your posts. Religion is like bad medicine. It may get a desperate moderate back on their feet but the side effects aren't good, which includes support to the fundys.

All religion needs to be permanently recalled and replaced with rational wisdom and options. That is indeed an on going big task, but do able. Fix our religiously biased media and government. Care and bitch a little LOUDER, wake up the neighbors. Appeasing is not healing .... Go atheists .... RRS  

Humm, atheist story Jesus tried to smash the church temple .... Sheezzz, that was 2000 yrs ago .... and the church is still a huge menace.  What to do ....    


Strafio
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Hambydammit wrote:Glad to

Hambydammit wrote:
Glad to see something new from you, Strafio!

Good to see my work still interests you enough to reply! Smiling

I think that spreading the argument over an entire post perhaps made it unclear of my exact argument.
What I'll do is start with a sumarised version of the argument.
Then I'll pick up on some of the points you made and answer them.
I'll be leaving out all the various points you made on practical reason and morality etc.
This is because I don't really disagree with you and you seemed to be picking out niggly details that I didn't spell out.
The reason I didn't feel the need to fill in details was because we mostly think alike on these issues so I didn't need to argue what you already agreed with.
The best thing to do would be to give me 'the benefit of the doubt' - that is; given that I've admitted that I more or less agree with you on these issues, interpret it in a way that would make the most sense to you and that will be most likely what I am trying to say.
If we come across something we actually disagree on then we'll pick up debate there.


Hambydammit wrote:
Well, not to be harsh, but I don't see anything new in this.  It appears to me that your argument goes something like this:

1) Moderates are different than fundamentalists because moderates don't believe *really* wacky stuff, and they live normal lives, and religion makes them feel good.  (What do you call this fallacy?  You're creating a difference in kind when it's really a difference in degree.)

2) Religion should not be judged by rational/irrational criteria because moderates don't take their religion very seriously.  (Special pleading)

3) Some moderate beliefs don't let their beliefs affect X, Y, Z behaviors.  Therefore, moderates don't let religion affect their behaviors.  (Just plain goofy.)

4) Moderates ought to help us fight fundamentalists.  (Good luck.)


That's cool. Tell is how you see it else I'll never know where I'm going wrong.
Now I'll try and lay out the argument that I was trying to put forward:

Premise 1 - The diversity of language
I take this to be a fact about our language nature.
Other than words like river-bank/money-bank with obvious equivocations, there are more subtle ones too.
"I believe there's a chair in front of me"
"I believe in democracy"
"I can't believe you sometimes!!!"
We use the word 'believe' in a lot of ways that are related but still have subtle differences.

Nothing too controversial so far, right?

Hypothesis 1.1 - Belief in the 'religious' context is subtly different to belief in the 'scientific' context.
After the first premise, this is no ad hoc measure.
If we take that 'belief' can have a variety of subtly different meanings, it should be no surprise that these two different contexts hold examples.
Nevertheless, that's not enough to assert that there is a difference.
This is why it's a hypothesis - one that needs to be vindicated or falsified by evidence.
So now I put foward which characteristics differ and then compare it with people's behaviour in real life.
If their use of the word 'belief' matches then they are providing evidence towards my hypothesis.

Hypothesis 1.2 - There are two main differences between them - the practical application and justification
So here I set out the characteristics that we are looking for when we take the behaviour of people into account.
If I read you right, you agreed with my observations on religious behaviour and you agreed that they fitted the theory.
If I understood you, I think your complaint was that my theory wasn't the only one that fit the data, that the "delusion" theory fits too.
So I'd need to provide further arguments in order to place my "different practice" theory over the "delusion" theory.
I'll talk more on this subject later.

So my theory of religious belief isn't an ad hoc measure, it's an argued hypothesis on human practice/behaviour.
(I wanted to say "well argued hypothesis" but I thought that I'd let you be the judge of that! Eye-wink)


Now, for sake of argument, let's say that my hypothesis was correct - would I then be able to provide an argument that moderatism isn't irrational?
This means that we start with a new premise:

Premise 2 - Religious belief and scientific belief are subtly different practices with different applications.
I perhaps made a mistake in using the word 'practical' in the OP as that means more than I meant it to.
This time I've gone with scientific I think it'll give a clearer picture of what I mean.
Scientific propositions about the state of the world are ones that we base our action on.
For example, "There is a chair behind me" is a proposition that will determine whether I sit down or not.
Religious belief does have practical application - it is supposed to inspire the person's morality and spirituality etc.
This is a different kind of practical application to scientific belief though.
The accuracy of whether there is really a chair behind me doesn't really matter in the religious context - we don't have that kind of direct application.
Religious beliefs have the same kind of applications as morals and values do so.


Premise 3 - An evaluation of a sentence/proposition depends on its purpose/application.
This should be fairly common sense.
Scientific claims are judged by how well they are supported by evidence.
Fictional stories might be judged by how entertaining they are (or atleast how they affect the listener)
Jokes will be judged on how funny they are and things like wit.
We judge them based on what they are supposed to do and are supposed to be.
A proposition with the application of 'character' building will be judged on the effect that it has on the person.

If the hypothesis above holds then the 'articles of faith' within a religious/spiritual worldview are applied to improve 'character' of the believer.
That means that this is how it is to be judged.
Religious beliefs that improve 'character' of the person are judged to be good, ones have bad effects are to be judged bad and neutral ones to be neutral.


Premise 4 - Propositions of theism tend to occur in a religious/spiritual context.
I don't think you'll find this controversial, especially in the modern world.
I don't think that anyone's motivation for believing in a God for scientific reasons, not in the modern world anyhow.


Conclusion - Theism is arational rather than rational/irrational. Its value should be determined by it's psychological effect.
This conclusion should quite clearly follow from the premises.
I'm expecting objection to be to the premises rather than the inference.
If theism is a religious belief and religious beliefs are to be judged by their effect then it logically follows that theism should be too.
As far as I can see, theism itself won't have a particular effect - it will depend on the characteristics of the particular theistic God in question.
This leads me to believe that theologies should be judged case by case rather than all theism discredited.
 

So that's my argument broken down into logical steps.
The conclusion that the scientific justification of God isn't necessary to justify religious belief, that it is to be judged by the impact on the believer, and that impact would depend on the theology attached to this God. I can't imagine any effects that would be apply whatever the characteristics of the God.


Hambydammit wrote:
I maintain that one of the reasons all religion should be attacked is that indoctrination into the notion that "faith is a virtue" at a young age can permanently diminish a person's ability to think rationally.  There are many people who do know better and still believe.  Had they been introduced to the idea after being taught good thinking skills at a very young age, they would immediately dismiss it.

This attacks a particular kind of theology rather than religion in general.

Hambydammit wrote:
The existence of another system in which to examine religion does not negate its existence as rational or irrational.  If I say that oranges and asparagus are nothing alike because one's a fruit and the other's a vegetable, that doesn't take away the fact that they are both foods that people eat.  If you are to have us believe that we should not apply the rational/irrational label to moderate theism, you're going to have to do more than say that there's another way we can look at it if we choose.

My argument is that the system of evaluation that is appropiate depends on the characteristics of what is being evaluated.

Hambydammit wrote:
Well, if you choose to judge moderate religion only by its effect on the individual, that is your prerogative.  I think it's awfully shortsighted, since individuals get together in groups, and groups have effects on other groups.

I never said we had to purely judge individual beliefs.
Obviously group-held beliefs can be criticised in the same way.
My argument only makes claims about what kind of criticisms are appropiate.

Hambydammit wrote:
I agree that moderates would not bet a lot of money on god, and that they tend not to let their religious beliefs get in the way of most practical activities.  I disagree that this is evidence that their religious belief doesn't effect their practical life in any meaningful way.  What you're doing is equivalent to telling me there are no marbles in a box, and then one by one, taking quarters out of the box and saying, "See, this isn't a marble!"

Not really...
I'm showing a trend within theistic practice using examples.
Yes, it's not an absolute proof and it will leave me vulnerable to counter examples, but until these counter examples appear I think I atleast have the 'presumption'.
(Is that the right wording? I mean to say I have enough for the burden of proof to be on someone to find a marble in the box.)

Strafio wrote:
They will talk about morality and meaning.
They will talk about what religion does for them on a daily basis - they clearly draw strength from it.
They often have anecdotes and stories about themselves or friends or even people they've read about.
The stories will often involve a rebellious character who didn't think much to religion, had some problems, accepted religion and that solved them.
They often consider their religion to be an integral part of their moral practice too.


Hambydammit wrote:
These are all exactly the same answers that a fundamentalist would give.

...

Same with fundamentalists.

...

Same with fundamentalists.

Here is where I'll discuss the difference between moderatism and fundamentalism.
Both have the same religion at heart, just that fundamentalists clash their religion with secular knowledge and sometimes even common sense!
Moderates have implicitly recognised the value in religion.
In recognising what religion is for they recognise where it doesn't belong.
When they are telling stories they are telling stories.
When they are joking they are joking.
When they are being scientific they are being scientific, and when they are being religious they are being religious.
Furthermore, they place more emphasis on their religion incorporating common sense values wheras the fundamentalist will take their values more on doctrine.

Strafio wrote:
The religious believer's interpretation of their Holy Book will depend on the Zeitegeist of their time and place.
Fundamentalists do this to a higher degree than anyone.


Hambydammit wrote:
You've just admitted my contention.  Fundamentalism and moderation are two degrees of the same thing.

Yes, but to you that 'same' thing is the number of irrational 'scientific beliefs'.
The way I see it, moderates enjoy their religious practice to a healthy moderate degree.
Fundamentalists abuse religion and apply it where it shouldn't be applied.

Strafio wrote:
After all, when you consider the reasons why people have faith, scientific fact is irrelevent.


Hambydammit wrote:
I don't completely agree.  Children pick up religious faith because they are not presented with the alternative.  Rational adults who have been taught good thinking skills don't often turn to religion for the reasons religious people say they believe.  Once someone has grown up in an atheist world, they don't often feel the "innate longing for a god" that religious people claim everyone has.

Scientific fact is very relevant to people's belief.  Otherwise, why would highly schooled scientists be the least likely people to be religious?

What I mean is that scientific belief doesn't fullfill the function the spiritual belief does.
Acceptance of religion and spirituality depends a lot on the aesthetics and the aesthetics of someone who deals a lot in scientific fact is perhaps more likely to find religion to be less appealing. They will find something else to fit these 'human needs' that people fill with religion.


Strafio wrote:
Apologetics has never converted anyone, merely helped people who were attracted to the lifestyle of religion and were hoping for a way to find a loophole in their scientific knowledge.


Hambydammit wrote:
A bold claim.

There maybe a couple of counter examples out there but I'd be surprised if it didn't atleast hold as a strong rule of thumb.


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Quote:Hypothesis 1.1 -

Quote:

Hypothesis 1.1 - Belief in the 'religious' context is subtly different to belief in the 'scientific' context.
I call special pleading.
Quote:
After the first premise, this is no ad hoc measure.
Yes, it is.  Your first premise establishes that words have different meanings.  You have now claimed, without supporting evidence, that actions can also have subtly different meanings.  This is an analogy, not an argument.
Quote:
So now I put foward which characteristics differ and then compare it with people's behaviour in real life.
You have demonstrated that fundies and moderates have behaviors that differ in degree, not in kind.
Quote:
Hypothesis 1.2 - There are two main differences between them - the practical application and justification
So here I set out the characteristics that we are looking for when we take the behaviour of people into account.
If I read you right, you agreed with my observations on religious behaviour and you agreed that they fitted the theory.
If I understood you, I think your complaint was that my theory wasn't the only one that fit the data, that the "delusion" theory fits too.
So I'd need to provide further arguments in order to place my "different practice" theory over the "delusion" theory.
I'll talk more on this subject later.

So my theory of religious belief isn't an ad hoc measure, it's an argued hypothesis on human practice/behaviour.
(I wanted to say "well argued hypothesis" but I thought that I'd let you be the judge of that! )

My objection is that you've used an analogy to form your hypothesis, not an actual argument.  I don't see any reason to assume that the existence of subtle differences of definition in an individual word demonstrates in any way the existence of subtle differences in the function of logic.
Quote:
Premise 2 - Religious belief and scientific belief are subtly different practices with different applications.
Unsupported.
Quote:
Religious belief does have practical application - it is supposed to inspire the person's morality and spirituality etc.
This is a different kind of practical application to scientific belief though.
Sociobiology and Game Theory explain morality very well.  Spirituality is an irrational belief.
Quote:
The accuracy of whether there is really a chair behind me doesn't really matter in the religious context - we don't have that kind of direct application.
The only way this is true is if we don't use our religious beliefs to determine a course of action with regard to the chair.  You've successfully demonstrated that moderates don't use religious beliefs to determine as many courses of action.  That, I believe, is why they're called moderate instead of fundamentalist.If moderates use their religious belief to determine any "real world" behavior, then they are different only in degree from fundamentalists.
Quote:
Religious beliefs that improve 'character' of the person are judged to be good, ones have bad effects are to be judged bad and neutral ones to be neutral.
You've created an interesting red herring here, and I think you've distracted yourself.  You've set out to prove that religion is in a different category of functionality, and to prove it, you're essentially arguing that some moderate theists have religious beliefs that agree with what Game Theory and Evolution tell us our morality actually is.This is evidence that some moderate religion agrees with science, not that some religion is functional outside of science.  Please don't gloss over this point.  The reason that many moderates live very functional lives is that their religion has very little function!  Any religious belief that agrees with science is a scientific belief, and so does not fall into the category of irrational theism.  Insofar as a religion is scientific, it is not irrational.
Quote:
Premise 4 - Propositions of theism tend to occur in a religious/spiritual context.
I don't think you'll find this controversial, especially in the modern world.
I don't think that anyone's motivation for believing in a God for scientific reasons, not in the modern world anyhow.
Yeah, and the word 'spiritual' is synonymous with "I don't know how to describe it scientifically, so I made something up."So, this could read, "Propositions of theism tend to occur in a non-scientific context."Yes.  I agree.
Quote:
Conclusion - Theism is arational rather than rational/irrational. Its value should be determined by it's psychological effect.
This conclusion should quite clearly follow from the premises.
I'm afraid it doesn't.  Your supporting arguments all assume that your analogy proved your original premise, which it did not.  All you've done is demonstrate that which we already knew -- moderates are not as irrational as fundamentalists.
Quote:
If theism is a religious belief and religious beliefs are to be judged by their effect then it logically follows that theism should be too.
Again, when moderates do something that makes sense, it's because their act was rational.  (Duh.)  As you well know, invalid arguments can produce true results.  Theism is, by definition, an invalid argument.  As such, it can only be described as less effective than any other valid argument.  When it happens to produce a false positive, there's no reason to give it a medal.
Quote:
This leads me to believe that theologies should be judged case by case rather than all theism discredited.
As I've said before, you show me a theist who believes 100% in rationality, and I'll show you a scientist who doesn't believe in a god.  If the theism in any way differs from the materialist, rationalist, empirical approach, it is less effective at reaching true conclusions.I'm happy to admit that some religions are less wacky than others.
Quote:
The conclusion that the scientific justification of God isn't necessary to justify religious belief, that it is to be judged by the impact on the believer, and that impact would depend on the theology attached to this God. I can't imagine any effects that would be apply whatever the characteristics of the God.
Well, yeah.  What you're saying is that regardless of what wackiness a particular church preaches about the nature of god, the person who ignores the irrational parts and lives practically is more rational than people who take it all very seriously.Duh.
Quote:
This attacks a particular kind of theology rather than religion in general.
Any religion that believes something that defies logic and science must, by definition, have faith as a virtue.  If faith is seen as a virtue, then my statement stands.
Quote:
Moderates have implicitly recognised the value in religion.
On the contrary.  Moderates have realized the value of rationality and discarded large chunks of theism.
Quote:
When they are being scientific they are being scientific, and when they are being religious they are being religious.
And whenever they do something based on religious rather than logical reasons, they are being irrational.  If the results happen to be good, it is not because the religion is good.  Rather, it was either a false positive (good result from bad logic) or the religion happens to agree with logic in this instance, which makes it not a religious decision anyway.
Quote:
Yes, but to you that 'same' thing is the number of irrational 'scientific beliefs'.
The way I see it, moderates enjoy their religious practice to a healthy moderate degree.
Fundamentalists abuse religion and apply it where it shouldn't be applied.
You're welcome to view it this way.  However, you've admitted my point again.  In your subjective view, moderates are ok.  You haven't provided any objective proof that there is a difference in kind.
Quote:
What I mean is that scientific belief doesn't fullfill the function the spiritual belief does.
I've already argued that when religious belief has positive results, it is because it either agrees with logic or is essentially blind luck.Just because something is preached in a religious context, it is not necessarily irrational.  There are things in the Bible that espouse reciprocal altruism, which is logical and scientific.  If you tell someone that the pill you're giving them is magic, but it's actually penicillin, magic didn't cure them.  Science did.So, moderates behave rationally more than fundies because their religious beliefs agree with rationality more than those of fundies.  They still, however, have beliefs that are less than rational, and so are less rational than people who don't believe in god. 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Sorry for formatting

Sorry for formatting problems in that last post.  I don't know why all of my formatting disappeared.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Strafio wrote:Hypothesis 1.1

 

Strafio wrote:
Hypothesis 1.1 - Belief in the 'religious' context is subtly different to belief in the 'scientific' context.

Hambydammit wrote:
I call special pleading.

You can't call 'special pleading' on a hypothesis!!
Special pleading is when you make an exception without justification.
If I put a distinction forward as a hypothesis it can't be special pleading as it is pending evidence for justification/falsification.

Hambydammit wrote:
Your first premise establishes that words have different meanings.  You have now claimed, without supporting evidence, that actions can also have subtly different meanings.  This is an analogy, not an argument.

Right...
I think I can see where I've been misunderstood now.
I really am claiming that the word belief means a different thing in the religious context to the scientific context.
In both cases it describes a behaviour/practice which are very similar to each other with 2 exceptions - how the person applies the 'proposition' that they believe and how the person justifies it.
Unless you understood this, none of what followed made any sense whatsoever.
Before you read it again, forget that I'm comparing moderates and fundamentalists for now.
I'm just making a claim that the words 'religious belief' and 'scientific belief' refer to two slightly differing practices/behaviours and hence should be treated differently.
We'll leave fundamentalists out of this until we've atleast got the basics to my argument settled.

There is two things I wanted to point out though:
Strafio wrote:
Premise 2 - Religious belief and scientific belief are subtly different practices with different applications.

Hambydammit wrote:
Unsupported.

If you read what came before it:
Strafio wrote:
Now, for sake of argument, let's say that my hypothesis was correct - would I then be able to provide an argument that moderatism isn't irrational?
This means that we start with a new premise:

Premise 2 - Religious belief and scientific belief are subtly different practices with different applications.

I probably didn't make it clear but premise 2 was there if we hypothetically took the hypothesis as being verified.

Strafio wrote:
Religious belief does have practical application - it is supposed to inspire the person's morality and spirituality etc.
This is a different kind of practical application to scientific belief though.

Hambydammit wrote:
Sociobiology and Game Theory explain morality very well.  Spirituality is an irrational belief.

Inspire and explain are two very different words for a very good reason.
Yes, scientific facts are good for explanation.
Perhaps you have the belief that explanation is all a person's psyche needs in order to do the right thing well?
If you don't (and I'm sure you don't!!) then you should agree that there's more to doing good than just having the right beliefs - you need psychological motivation, the will power etc, things that inspiration boosts.

Hambydammit wrote:
You've set out to prove that religion is in a different category of functionality,

So close...

Hambydammit wrote:
and to prove it, you're essentially arguing that some moderate theists have religious beliefs that agree with what Game Theory and Evolution tell us our morality actually is.

... but yet so far!!

 

It looks like we'll have to debate this argument step by step.
It seems that the first premise got by you okay.
We'll work on hypothesis 1.1 and 1.2 next.
Given that I've explained that my claim is the word belief means a subtly different thing in religious and scientific context, I'd like to see what you make of it now.
(I'm not expecting to completely prove them but so long as we're clear on what the hypothesis states and what kind of evidence would confirm this, that would be enough to carry on the debate is. So we could leave the truth of the hypothesis as pending evidence but debate as to what the consequences would be if the evidence was to favour it.)


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Quote:You can't call

Quote:
You can't call 'special pleading' on a hypothesis!!

Ok... solid point.  I call "Unsupported hypothesis!"

Quote:
I really am claiming that the word belief means a different thing in the religious context to the scientific context.

I understand this.  I just don't buy it because it sounds like part of an argument (not a hypothesis) that relies on special pleading:

1) Belief is different for theists.  (Unsupported hypothesis)

2) Therefore, we should treat religion differently than anything else in regard to its rationality.  (Special pleading)

 

Quote:
In both cases it describes a behaviour/practice which are very similar to each other with 2 exceptions - how the person applies the 'proposition' that they believe and how the person justifies it.

Belief is belief.  Practice is practice.  I get what you're saying.  Religious people practice things that sometimes work out pretty well, and sometimes make them feel good.  These practices are done because of their belief in a particular religion.  Therefore, there is a rationally justifiable reason to say that their behavior is rational.

I'm ok with that.  However, they still do some things that are irrational because of their particular theistic belief, unless of course their belief has literally no effect on their behavior whatsoever, in which case, we might as well stop talking about this and have a beer.  (Or, in the case of their religious belief lining up 100% with rationality, in which case we can't very well call it a religion, so we can still grab that beer.)

How the person applies the proposition that they believe is how much "faith" they put in their belief -- where they fall on the continuum between fundamentalist literalist and moderate figurativist.  (If I can coin those terms for the moment.)

How a person justifies it is either by faith or reason.  If faith, then it is irrational.  If reason, it is either valid or invalid.

Quote:
I'm just making a claim that the words 'religious belief' and 'scientific belief' refer to two slightly differing practices/behaviours and hence should be treated differently.

I understand the claim.  I disagree completely with your "slightly differing" hypothesis.  Yes, I get that moderates treat religion as a much more cultural and social thing than a strict description of truth.  We already have a way to describe that without saying that it's a different class of belief.  We say, "Moderates treat religion as a much more cultural and social thing than a strict description of truth."  Once we've done that, we can look at what the social practices are and evaluate them against their effectiveness in promoting happiness and societal well being.  No need to invent new classifications just because it's religious in nature.

Quote:
I probably didn't make it clear but premise 2 was there if we hypothetically took the hypothesis as being verified.

Yep.  I understand that.  You proposed a slightly different definition, but then you don't say what it is.  Without so much as a "By your leave," you then start looking for evidence that your undefined definition exists.

Poor hypothesizing, if you ask me.

1) "Believe" means something different only when applied to religious moderates.

2) See, they don't behave like fundies.

3) Therefore, I'm right about the definition.

Feh...

Quote:
Perhaps you have the belief that explanation is all a person's psyche needs in order to do the right thing well?

No, I have the belief that a person's genes contain a blueprint for basic morality, and humans will naturally adopt a version of it consistent with the prevailing beliefs, both scientific and religious.

You seem to be falling into a trap that theists often lay.  They claim that people are either not smart enough, or not moral enough to be moral without some other motivation, or some mythology to explain it to them.  I see no evidence of this, since all societies have had some system of morality, whether they were religious or not.  Morality, it has been demonstrated, is not usually a matter of reason.  It's a matter of "gut feelings" -- feelings we have because natural selection has honed us into a species that very closely follows a modified tit-for-tat game strategy, and emotions are the most cost-effective way for our genes to enforce behaviors.

To be specific, I don't think people need an explanation or a mythology.  They will behave morally because it is human nature to do so.

Quote:
If you don't (and I'm sure you don't!!) then you should agree that there's more to doing good than just having the right beliefs - you need psychological motivation, the will power etc, things that inspiration boosts.

We have these things built into our genes.  When we behave morally, we are rewarded socially.  We like getting those rewards, so we are inspired to do them again.  The will power comes from the simple fact that acting morally is usually in our best interest.

I think science clearly demonstrates that people are mostly inherently good.  Even the cruelest of despots in history, if you cataloged every act they ever did, from the mundane to the immense, would be shown to have acted within social convention (morally) virtually all the time.  We take notice of the gross exceptions, and so they seem dominant.  Think about this for a second, and you will see the truth of it.

Quote:
Given that I've explained that my claim is the word belief means a subtly different thing in religious and scientific context, I'd like to see what you make of it now.

I'd like specific definitions of each application of the word.

 

 

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Strafio, have you ever read

Strafio, have you ever read this book?

 Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation  

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley (Paperback - April 1, 1998)

If you have not, perhaps you simply don't understand how strong a case there is for the contention that people behave morally simply because it is our nature to do so.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote:I

Hambydammit wrote:
I understand this.  I just don't buy it because it sounds like part of an argument (not a hypothesis) that relies on special pleading:

1) Belief is different for theists.  (Unsupported hypothesis)

2) Therefore, we should treat religion differently than anything else in regard to its rationality.  (Special pleading)


I'll come back to (1) later.
For now I just want to prove that if (1) was supported then something a bit like (2) would logically follow.
I also want to leave fundamentalists and moderates out of it as they are clouding the issue.
We'll talk about them again once the groundwork is clear.
There's various points you made that I wanted to make answers to but for now I want to focus on very specific points.
I'm sure that those points will pop up later on anyway.

For this post I'm going to try to stick to two minimalistic points that I need in place before I can do any more.
I'd like the rebuttals to be purely onto whether you agree or not and why.
I'd like to avoid "where I'm going with this" because:
a) It'll take away attention from the debate of the truth or falsity of the premise in question.
b) The whole point in breaking down the argument into premises is because we already know that you disagree with the argument as a whole, so now we need to know what you think of each premise individually, in its own context.
Here are the two premises I'll be forwarding:

(1) Evaluating beliefs as 'irrational' or 'rational' is only appropiate because we want beliefs to be accurate.
(2) Through the diversity of language, it should come as no surprise that there are a number of variations on the definition of 'belief'.
To claim that one is the correct one would be a positive claim that the claiment themselves must prove.


These will both be premises in the overall argument.
By narrowing the focus to just two relatively uncontroversial points at a time we'll be able to decisively settle steps rather than loosely commenting on the whole itself.

(1) Evaluating beliefs as 'irrational' or 'rational' is only appropiate because we want beliefs to be accurate.

Premise 1) There is a reason why we make rational/irrational evaluations on belief.
It is not just a matter of taste or cultural fetish, there's a good reason why we do this.
Either you agree with this or you disagree with this.
If you agree then the following premises follow:

Premise 1a) Applications of 'rational' and 'irrational' are to be justified through practical reason.
Premise 1b) The reason why rational and irrational are to be applied as they are is related to the 'human practice' we call belief.


Premise 2) We evaluate a belief as 'rational' if and only if reason shows it to be accurate.
It is also the only criteria we have for considering a belief to be rational.
If you disagree with this then I would like and explanation and some counter examples.
If you agree with premises 1 and 2 then this follows:

Premise 2a) We evaluate a belief as rational if it is accurate, and there is a reason why we evaluate a belief as rational. Combination of (2) and (1a)
Premise 2b) If an evaluation of 'rational' is favourable then that shows that we want beliefs to be accurate. Follows from (2a) and (1b)
Premise 2c) That 'rational' and 'irrational' are appropiate evaluations is because we want belief to be accurate. Follows from (2b and 1a)

Conclusion) Evaluating beliefs as 'irrational' or 'rational' is only appropiate because we want beliefs to be accurate. Follows from 2c

I've broken down the argument into steps.
It'll be interesting to see where your disagreement lies.
On to the second one:

(2) It is quite possible that there is a 'human practice' that we call 'belief' that is similar to the 'belief in context of rationality' above in every single way except the purpose - it will have a different purpose than to 'being accurate'.

Premise 1) Language is diverse. A single word will likely have many variations with no absolute rule that connects them.
You didn't disagree with this earlier and it is a claim of Wittgenstein's that is commonly accepted.
You've probably heard me use the example of 'game' a several times.
There's no single rule that determines whether an activity is a game.
We apply the term to a variety of activities that have loose relations.
If you still have no disagreement then the following premises follow:

Premise 1a) 'Belief' as in the context of 'rational/irrational' evaluation need not be assumed to be the only definition, even if it is the most common one.
Premise 1b) A similar human practice with just one slight difference (i.e. the purpose) might also have been given the same name.
Premise 1c) It follows that there could be another context of 'Belief' where the purpose differs to 'being accurate'.

Conclusion) Such a usage of 'belief' could possibly be contained within our language.
Evidence of such a usage would include observations of people using the word 'belief' this way in real life.
I.e. Using the word belief to denote a 'human practice' with a different purpose than to 'being accurate'

Again, the steps have been clearly marked.
I need to see where your disagreement lies.
Once we have settled the debate on these premises, I'll make a further argument about them.

 


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Hambydammit wrote:Strafio,

Hambydammit wrote:

Strafio, have you ever read this book?

 Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation  

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley (Paperback - April 1, 1998)

If you have not, perhaps you simply don't understand how strong a case there is for the contention that people behave morally simply because it is our nature to do so.

Obviously I believe that there is an evolutionary explanation as to how morality came about.
What you seem to be missing is that explanations aren't the only things we need in life.
An explanation can inform us and help us make decisions, but our decision making encounters a lot more factors than just information.
If our decision making was a simple case of making decisions on information then human psychology would be a dull subject indeed.
I think that a history lesson in how virtue came to be would be valuable in a lot of ways but it's far from being all someone needs for their morality.

However, this is off topic so I don't want to debate it any further here.
(If you make a different topic in Atheist vs Theist or Freethinkers Anonymous then I'll definately take up the subject there.)


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Is this debate dead?

Is this debate dead?


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Hmm... IIRC, I pretty much

Hmm... IIRC, I pretty much gave up on it when it got into the same debate that was taking place in six other places on the board -- do humans need myth to understand, motivate, or explain morality.

I've covered that question in great detail, so I didn't feel like rehashing it here.

 

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Quote:What you seem to be

Quote:
What you seem to be missing is that explanations aren't the only things we need in life.
An explanation can inform us and help us make decisions, but our decision making encounters a lot more factors than just information.

I can tell you haven't read the book.  It's not just an explanation of where morality came from.  It's an explanation of why we are moral, regardless of whether or not we have an external belief system about it, or are aware of the cause of it.

Quote:
If our decision making was a simple case of making decisions on information then human psychology would be a dull subject indeed.
I think that a history lesson in how virtue came to be would be valuable in a lot of ways but it's far from being all someone needs for their morality.

You are still going to get back to the same place we've always gotten.  You can describe morality irrationally or rationally.  Religion describes it irrationally, and is therefore... irrational.  It's perfectly easy to explain morality rationally.  Once you understand it, it becomes easy to see that mythological frameworks don't actually promote rational morality.

 

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My opinion:In reality, there

My opinion:

In reality, there are no 'moderates'. There are 'pussies', who believe everything that the most outspoken and disgusting fundy does, but don't have the balls to take it to the debate floor, and there are 'sub-pussies' that we call 'closet atheists' who don't believe the fairly tale at all, but try to convince themselves of it (often by turning some of it into 'metaphor', without even understanding what a metaphor is) and defend their 'beliefs' to some limited extent to avoid being ostracized.

Note that belief in a creator from beyond time and space allows for no gradiency. You either do, or you don't. You can't just, 'Sort-of'. You can say, 'I don't know for sure,' (the most honest answer), which is more or less the same thing as saying, 'I don't believe there is.'

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

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Me and Strafio are

Me and Strafio are discussing this here.

My view is this: (essentially I agree with Hamby that they are different degrees of the same thing, not different kinds)

Moderate religion is simply taking the parts of religion that conform to the social and moral zeitgeist of the time. You do this your called a moderate.

Fundamentalist religion is simply taking the religion, in its original form, as applying it into an different era. You do that and your called a fundamentalist.

Thus the only real difference is whether the content of the belief conforms to todays social standards.

When people declare that fundamentalism is a distortion of 'real' religion, all it does is reveal that they are incapable of putting the religion into historical and social context; they're stuck on their perch in their social/moral zeitgeist and can only analyze it from that perspective, thus, 'real' religion is merely what they think is moral, as per their societies moral zeitgeist.

As I've said before: there is no such thing as 'real' religion. Religion is simply the individual projecting their beliefs, their desires, their ideologies and their prejudices into a god in order to gain a divine mandate for what they want, and obviously what they want will be dictated by their society, which explains why scripture is full of things we would consider fundamentalist in any modern society: because when a religion is created it inherits the morals and standards of the society within which it is created, via the individuals that created it.

I think you're depending too much on the function of the beliefs when I don't think it changes the nature of the belief itself.
You either believe a given proposition corresponds to reality, the objective world, or you do not. The function the belief can vary, but the nature of the belief (whether it is held to be true or false) still remains, for every case.

Just because someone holds their religious beliefs for reasons such as living a good life, inspiration, etc, does not in any way mean they cannot hold the beliefs to be literal/historical. Furthermore, I would content that all theists hold their beliefs for such reasons (living a good life, morality, etc). Fundamentalists just feel that in order to live a good moral life you have to turn to the original form of the religion. The moderates on the other hand recognize that somethings are incompatible to current moral/social standards and rejected stuff accordingly. This isn't different kinds of religion, its different degrees of the same thing.

I think the root of the problem is Strafio's definition of fundamentalism. He argues that fundamentalism is merely holding literal/historical belief. Any moderate who make a literal/factual claims is merely dabbling in fundamentalism. So belief in things like a literal resurrection, miracles, virgin births, or making the design argument mean you're a fundamentalist!

Strafio wrote:
So what happens when you ask [moderates] why they believe?
They will talk about morality and meaning.
They will talk about what religion does for them on a daily basis - they clearly draw strength from it.

Topher wrote:
Yeah, and how do they justify this meaning and morality? By taking a recourse to god. They will often say that without god, the morality and meaning is nonexistent. How do they justify god? On what basis do they believe in god? By making evidenced-based arguments: "the Bible proves it"; "design proves it", etc. So when you actually move beyond the superficial exterior of their beliefs and claims, their position is rooted in evidence-based claims.

Strafio wrote:
These people I'd consider to be fundamentalists.

The problem with this position is that it is clearly the case that most, of not, all theists can and do hold literal beliefs of some kind, this means that under Strafio's definition of fundamentalism, almost all theists would be fundamentalist.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher, I'll leave my debate

Topher, I'll leave my debate with you on the other board.
Stretching a debate across two boards would just confuse things too much for my little mind.
It would also make it easier for our audience to follow our argument.
I know the Ljoll was involved and Ckava was planning to follow it.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
Hmm... IIRC, I pretty much gave up on it when it got into the same debate that was taking place in six other places on the board -- do humans need myth to understand, motivate, or explain morality.

I've covered that question in great detail, so I didn't feel like rehashing it here.


I never said that humans need myth.
I simply used a anthropological/linguistic analysis to claim that religion serves a different purpose to explanation and should be judged accordingly.
I don't exactly feel like you met my argument, but if you've got other things to be doing then that's fair enough.
 

Hambydammit wrote:
I can tell you haven't read the book.  It's not just an explanation of where morality came from.  It's an explanation of why we are moral, regardless of whether or not we have an external belief system about it, or are aware of the cause of it.

I admit I haven't read it. But you're still saying that it's an explanation.
I bet that if I read it then I wouldn't be surprised, it would just vindicate the kind of conclusions that I'd expect being an atheist.
It might surprise me how much evidence supported my view and where this evidence was coming from, but not the position or content it was putting foward.
You're still missing what I'm saying here. If all we needed was an explanation, then scientific physical accounts would be all we needed.
Since as humans we need more than explanations, there will be a place for things that have a different purpose than explanation.
Your criticisms were working under the assumption that a correct explanation is all a person needs.
Read what I said again:

Strafio wrote:
What you seem to be missing is that explanations aren't the only things we need in life.
An explanation can inform us and help us make decisions, but our decision making encounters a lot more factors than just information.

Hambydammit wrote:
You are still going to get back to the same place we've always gotten.  You can describe morality irrationally or rationally.  Religion describes it irrationally, and is therefore... irrational.  It's perfectly easy to explain morality rationally.  Once you understand it, it becomes easy to see that mythological frameworks don't actually promote rational morality.

Except you're still doing the same thing as before.
You're assuming that the explanation is what is important, that the purpose of religion is to explain things.
I've claimed that it's not always explanation that we need and religions serves a different purpose to explanation, and it's on those terms it should be judged.

 

 

Kevin R Brown wrote:

My opinion:

In reality, there are no 'moderates'. There are 'pussies', who believe everything that the most outspoken and disgusting fundy does, but don't have the balls to take it to the debate floor, and there are 'sub-pussies' that we call 'closet atheists' who don't believe the fairly tale at all, but try to convince themselves of it (often by turning some of it into 'metaphor', without even understanding what a metaphor is) and defend their 'beliefs' to some limited extent to avoid being ostracized.

Note that belief in a creator from beyond time and space allows for no gradiency. You either do, or you don't. You can't just, 'Sort-of'. You can say, 'I don't know for sure,' (the most honest answer), which is more or less the same thing as saying, 'I don't believe there is.'


I know. That's most people's opinion around here.
In this topic there's a logical argument to challenge it if you're interested.


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Strafio wrote:I think that a

Strafio wrote:
I think that a history lesson in how virtue came to be would be valuable in a lot of ways but it's far from being all someone needs for their morality.

So, I see the word "need."  If you're not claiming that they need a mythology, what are you claiming that people need besides an explanation?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Well it's basic psychology

Well it's basic psychology isn't it?
Don't you recognise your own needs?
People need things like inspiration and motivation.
Explanation has its part, but I'd say it's the least important out of the three.
I don't believe that you need mythology or religion for your inspiration - we atheists clearly get plenty elsewhere.
But that doesn't mean that it isn't a valid source.


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The moderates in my view

The moderates in my view know it's lie, yet they are dishonest. The cherry pick, so their only morality is really just whatever fells good, do it.

The hard core fundies may be delusional. So it's hard to critisize someone who may be suffering from brainwashing or a mental disorder. The may be scared to death of God and Hell.

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Quote:Well it's basic

Quote:
Well it's basic psychology isn't it?
Don't you recognise your own needs?

It's basic psychology, but it's far from simple.  Needs and desires are often conflated.  End goals are often conflated.  Do we need more than an explanation to live?  Clearly not.  Does it help to have a driving philosophy?  Sometimes.  The thing is, you don't get to just lump things that humans want all together and then say that because humans want something, it's rational to believe the irrational.  That doesn't demonstrate anything about rationality... just the existence of a human want.

Quote:
People need things like inspiration and motivation.

No.  Inspiration and motivation are conducive to happiness, but people can live without them.  Yes, their mortality rates are higher, but this is not a need.  It's an addition to life, not a basic need.  If they live long enough to reproduce, natural selection has done its work.  Clearly, depressed and unmotivated people reproduce all the time.

Quote:
Explanation has its part, but I'd say it's the least important out of the three.

I'm sooo going to bust your ass on this one.  You admit you haven't read the evolutionary explanation of why we are inherently good, regardless of mythology, and yet you're going to make this claim?  Back your claim up or back down from it.

Quote:
I don't believe that you need mythology or religion for your inspiration - we atheists clearly get plenty elsewhere.
But that doesn't mean that it isn't a valid source.

So, like I said, we're right back where you started.

Strafio: Religion is objectively irrational, but it's rational in some cases.

Hambydammit: Sure.  I've admitted this, but it's still objectively irrational.

Strafio: But that doesn't mean it's not valid.

Hambydammit: Yes, it does.  False positives do not convey validity.

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:It's basic

Hambydammit wrote:
It's basic psychology, but it's far from simple.  Needs and desires are often conflated.  End goals are often conflated.  Do we need more than an explanation to live?  Clearly not.

Explanation is nothing without the will. Inspiration is about handling the will.
I don't have enough experience and research in psychology to give reasoned argument against this.
What's more, it's a tangent off the original topic so don't feel the need to discuss it anymore.
I can say that everything I do know about human psychology (and although I know little, that doesn't mean I'm just talking about naive intuitions here) disagrees with this.
It's not really something I'd be good at debating on, and there's other topics I'd rather tackle.


Strafio wrote:
Explanation has its part, but I'd say it's the least important out of the three.

Hambydammit wrote:
I'm sooo going to bust your ass on this one.  You admit you haven't read the evolutionary explanation of why we are inherently good, regardless of mythology, and yet you're going to make this claim?  Back your claim up or back down from it.

Well yes. My position is that an explanation is the least important out of the three.
That's a claim about explanations in general.
It doesn't matter what the explanation is at hand.
To be honest, maybe I was in "opposition mode" when I made it the least important, but you are certainly unbalanced in your preference of it.


Hambydammit wrote:
So, like I said, we're right back where you started.

Strafio: Religion is objectively irrational, but it's rational in some cases.

Hambydammit: Sure.  I've admitted this, but it's still objectively irrational.

Strafio: But that doesn't mean it's not valid.

Hambydammit: Yes, it does.  False positives do not convey validity.


Who said anything about it being objectively irrational?
I've made an argument that religious faith is a different type of practice to normal belief.
These differences result that it has a different form of evaluation.
There was a full on argument which you took a look at, but I didn't get the impression that you've grasped it. This isn't a put down.
It's a complex philosophical argument, much more complex than the ones Todangst used to try and get through to me and they took me months to get my head around.

We saw a tanget because you produced a counter argument saying "There are naturalistic explanations for morality etc therefore religion not needed"
That rested on the assumption that all a person needed in life was an explanation.
That's how we got to here. Anyway, I'm through with the tangent now.
If you were willing to accept, hypothetically for the sake of argument, the a person needed more than explanation, then I've got an argument that religious faith is a human practice that has a different function in life to explanation. Therefore it should be judged by that function, not by whether it gives an accurate explanation.
The logical steps are all laid out above.
If you have any more questions or rebuttals on the main argument then I'll watch this space.


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My position:1) I do not see

My position:

1) I do not see enough supporting evidence for your claim that religious belief is different in kind from any other kind of belief.

2) The claim, "Because religion offers motivation for people to be moral, it is rational," fails for several reasons:

a) The science of morality contradicts this.  We are inherently moral as a species.  Your claim is essentially an ad hoc assignation of value.

b) Social evidence contradicts this.  Atheists and atheist countries are objectively more moral than theists and theist countries in many categories.  If anything, religion appears to motivate people to do irrational things that are not moral.

c) It has not been established that people need myth or explanation in order to be moral.  Many atheists do not have an explanation of human morality, and do not endorse myth, yet they are moral, and their children become moral.

d) There is no evidence I'm aware of that theists who leave religion become less moral.  This would support your claim, but the evidence just doesn't exist.

3) IF religion only appears to provide motivation to be moral, and in fact, adds nothing unique or otherwise unattainable to the human experience (a), and sometimes takes away, AND IF people without mythological or philosophical "inspiration" still function in society(c), THEN we have strong counter-evidence to your claim. 

It is my observation that all of these conditions are true, so at this time, I have no choice but to reject your idea.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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(1) is something I'm still

(1) is something I'm still willing to debate.
Is it just a matter of evidence then?
You agree that it's atleast a hypothetical possibility that the evidence can affirm or falsify?


(2) doesn't represent my position.
I'm not trying to make a general argument in favour of religion.
What I'm arguing is that it's an a-rational practice and arguments such as "Religion offers motivation for people to be moral" can justify it.

You also seemed to mistake me for justifying religious belief in general.
I'm not arguing for religious belief in general and I have no intention to defend most religions in the world.
My case is just to point out where the justification and criticism of religion should be.
I still disagree with many of your points in two.
a) Asserted that we were 'naturally moral' but you didn't make it clear what you meant by that.
You used it to argue that we don't need 'motivation', but I think that was ignoring that such motivation was part of the 'natural process' that made us so moral.
Maybe the arguments in the book you recommended do have some relevence...


d) Showed that you misunderstood my claim.
I wasn't claiming at all that "Person + religion > person without religion", I was saying that religion can benefit a person.
In life we go through good times and bad time, each of us have our own strengths and weaknesses.
Depending on where you're at, a religious belief might do wonders for your character.
Maybe once this character building has been done you don't need religion to maintain it, and perhaps you have some other weaknesses that leaving religion has allowed you deal with.
What I'm trying to do here is avoid such abstract, generalised claims and point out that the value of religion is tied to the person's situation.


Anyway, I'm not sure if I specifically want to stick up for the value of religion.
I think people in general over-estimate its value rather than under estimate.
Besides, the only point I want to settle in this topic is that religion is a-rational and should be 'value judged' rather than 'accuracy judged'.
If a rational investigation into the value of religion shows it to be necessarily bad thing then so be it.
I just think that's where more focus should be put into the argument.


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Strafio wrote:As some of you

Strafio wrote:

As some of you will know, although I am an atheist I don't think that theism is necessarily irrational.

The obvious question then is if you think theism is rational why aren't you a theist?

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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Xlint debating you all. I

Xlint debating you all. I think most of us would agree that any positives of religion could and would be better accomplished by logic and reasoning, which of course means being actively compassionate, moral, loving,  .....

I suppose if a christian was ready to jump from the bridge, I might yell, " but Jesus loves you", but that means I love you, which I would expain later .... ( well, if he didn't jump ..... ouch      


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 Quote:The obvious question

 

Quote:
The obvious question then is if you think theism is rational why aren't you a theist?

It's rational to do running instead of stair climbing as cardio-vascular exercise, and vise versa. 

To do one means you can't do the other at that time. Some believe one is better than the other, for personal reasons.

So.. two contrary things/beliefs can both be rational.  A choice of one over the other.. mainly personal I would contend.

 


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RhadTheGizmo

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

Quote:
The obvious question then is if you think theism is rational why aren't you a theist?

It's rational to do running instead of stair climbing as cardio-vascular exercise, and vise versa. 

To do one means you can't do the other at that time. Some believe one is better than the other, for personal reasons.

So.. two contrary things/beliefs can both be rational.  A choice of one over the other.. mainly personal I would contend.

 

What is rational about theism?

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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Quote:(1) is something I'm

Quote:
(1) is something I'm still willing to debate.
Is it just a matter of evidence then?
You agree that it's atleast a hypothetical possibility that the evidence can affirm or falsify?

First, you would have to fully define, and then demonstrate empirically, the existence of two quantifiably different types of belief, consistent with an overall categorical definition.  Are you working with the generally accepted definition of belief?

Knowledge, traditionally, is one kind of belief -- that is, it's held to be true and is true -- so you can say that belief and knowledge are empirically different kinds of belief.  Knowledge is a subset of belief, and there is a factual distinction that can be empirically demonstrated.  Can you give a clear definition and delineation of your two types of belief?  So far, all you've done is demonstrate that some people don't "really" believe things that they practice.  This is a difference in behavior, not belief.

Quote:
What I'm arguing is that it's an a-rational practice and arguments such as "Religion offers motivation for people to be moral" can justify it.

To be a-rational, it would have to be devoid of rational or irrational content.

Quote:
a) Asserted that we were 'naturally moral' but you didn't make it clear what you meant by that.

If you take all the actions committed by all the people in the world and categorize them, 99.9% of the people act within moral conventions 99.9% of the time.  I know I just made those numbers up, but think about it.  Immoral acts stand out precisely because they're not the norm.

Humans are born with a template for morality, much like we are born with a template for language.  As in language, there are certain constants.  We all have brains wired for subjects and verbs, and we all have brains wired to avoid killing people in our group.  The Trolley Experiment demonstrates many of the constants.  We've discussed these before.

Quote:
I wasn't claiming at all that "Person + religion > person without religion", I was saying that religion can benefit a person.

I've never disputed this.  It's also possible that a person who believed themselves to be immortal could benefit.  They'd be willing to do things no sane person would, and if they survived, it might benefit them.  However, they'd still be irrational.

I have no dispute with the claim that religion can have good effects.  I see no justification, nor any particular motivation, to try to extend some kind of special pleading style exception to rationality just because a lie can yield false positives.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hamby nailed it there , I do

Hamby nailed it there , I do believe .... ....  

    .... "a lie can yield false positives." ....

    Wow, I love language ..... it is FUN      

 


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 Quote:What is rational

 

Quote:
What is rational about theism?

Your question to Strafio was predicated on an assumption that it was.  So I was merely addressing that question.

 


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Let's be clear here, do I

Let's be clear here, do I worship life ? YES,  ME , and the way them girls talk and walk. .... I hug trees too, oh wow and my flower friends, while my friends the birds sing     


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RhadTheGizmo

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

Quote:
What is rational about theism?

Your question to Strafio was predicated on an assumption that it was.  So I was merely addressing that question.

 

Since Strafio claimed it is rational and he claims to be atheist (which, I assume, he deems to be rational also) why is Strafio atheist and not theist?

Does he find something wrong with theism? After all, he did reject it to be atheist. If he thinks there is something wrong with theism, then he's contradicting himself basing it on the category of 'rationality'.

Either/or in this case is not a fasle dichotomy.

It is puzzling.

Strafio, do you see the problem?

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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aiia wrote:The obvious

aiia wrote:
The obvious question then is if you think theism is rational why aren't you a theist?

Rhad used a good example to show that running and cycling are both competing forms of exercise, but choosing either one could be a rational decision.
I could likewise hold that theism and atheism are both potentially rational choices.
Besides, I'm not claiming that religion is rational, just not 'irrational'.
That might mean rational but for now I'm leaning towards 'a-rational'
(a-rational means reason is irrelevent, a bit like taste)

My position would probably have made more sense if you'd read more of the topic than just that one line.


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Hambydammit wrote:First, you

Hambydammit wrote:
First, you would have to fully define, and then demonstrate empirically, the existence of two quantifiably different types of belief, consistent with an overall categorical definition.  Are you working with the generally accepted definition of belief?

It's all in the original post.
I start with the usual definition and then show that 'religious belief' is the same but with a couple of slight differences.


Hambydammit wrote:
Knowledge, traditionally, is one kind of belief -- that is, it's held to be true and is true -- so you can say that belief and knowledge are empirically different kinds of belief.  Knowledge is a subset of belief, and there is a factual distinction that can be empirically demonstrated.  Can you give a clear definition and delineation of your two types of belief?  So far, all you've done is demonstrate that some people don't "really" believe things that they practice.  This is a difference in behavior, not belief.

Behaviour is part of the definition of belief. How would you define belief without mention of behaviour?
I'm saying that 'religious belief' and 'traditional belief' are similar in most ways, but have a slight difference in definition.
The difference occurs in the behavioural part of the definition.

Thus an empirical observation of this 'religious belief' as different from 'normal belief' would be observed by their having similarities except for this different in behaviour.
 

Hambydammit wrote:
To be a-rational, it would have to be devoid of rational or irrational content.

That is my claim.
Actually, it's a simplified position I'm sticking to for now.
I think in reality that religion will be a mishmash of both the rational/irrational and of the a-rational.
But I think that belief in God and the supernatural parts are a-rational so I'll stick to the a-rational side of religion for now.
 

Hambydammit wrote:
I've never disputed this.  It's also possible that a person who believed themselves to be immortal could benefit.  They'd be willing to do things no sane person would, and if they survived, it might benefit them.  However, they'd still be irrational.

I have no dispute with the claim that religion can have good effects.  I see no justification, nor any particular motivation, to try to extend some kind of special pleading style exception to rationality just because a lie can yield false positives.


Well here's my claim:
There's a reason why the human practice/behaviour of normal belief has the rational/irrational evaluation applied to it.
To differing human practices/behaviours, different evaluations will apply.
E.g. jokes are evaluated by entertainment value etc...

So if theism is a-rational, then it would be evaluated in a different way.


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Quote:It's all in the

Quote:

It's all in the original post.

I've only seen descriptions, not definitions.

Belief: a mental representation of a concept, in which the person accepts the concept as true.

Action is not mentioned in this.  You are equating belief and action without defining a new category of belief such that action is necessary and sufficient for belief to exist.

Quote:
Behaviour is part of the definition of belief.

No, it's not.  Belief can and does motivate behavior, but at a psychological level, belief is simply a mental state.

Quote:
How would you define belief without mention of behaviour?

I just did.

Quote:
I'm saying that 'religious belief' and 'traditional belief' are similar in most ways, but have a slight difference in definition.

And all you've said is that some beliefs weigh more heavily on a person's decision making processes than others, and religious beliefs in moderates tend not to have high value.  So what?

Quote:
The difference occurs in the behavioural part of the definition.

...which, so far, doesn't exist.

This is very simple, Strafio.  You're equating belief and action, and they are most certainly not the same.  Just think of one instance that you acted against something you believed to be true, and you've proven the point.

If you want to talk about the behaviors of moderates vs. fundamentalists, go right ahead.  If you want to talk about the relative degree of certainty of belief, fine.  Mitigating social factors?  Great.  Cultural practice vs. private belief?  Dandy.

You cannot, without a lot more precision, equate belief and action.

Quote:
I think in reality that religion will be a mishmash of both the rational/irrational and of the a-rational.

Then it's not arational.

While we're at it, could you tell me something else that's devoid of rational content?  Don't say "a stop sign" because that's an object, not a concept, and once we apply the conceptual purpose of a stop sign, it gains rational meaning within context.

If you're going to claim that religion is arational, you're going to have to claim that it has no purpose.  If it has no purpose, then it's extraneous and useless.  If it causes one bad thing to happen while adding nothing, it is irrational to adhere to it.

Quote:
There's a reason why the human practice/behaviour of normal belief has the rational/irrational evaluation applied to it.
To differing human practices/behaviours, different evaluations will apply.
E.g. jokes are evaluated by entertainment value etc...

So if theism is a-rational, then it would be evaluated in a different way.

I feel like I'm going in circles. 

I understand that you think religion can serve a purpose by which it can be judged.  Duh.

You completely avoided my comment that many irrational beliefs can produce false positives.  This doesn't make the beliefs any less irrational.  It makes the results positive.

Actions and beliefs are not the same.  Unless you can philosophically show that actions are necessary and sufficient for beliefs, you're sunk.  Beliefs are necessary and sufficient for actions, but the reverse is not true.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Strafio wrote:Behaviour is

Strafio wrote:
Behaviour is part of the definition of belief.

Hambydammit wrote:
No, it's not.  Belief can and does motivate behavior, but at a psychological level, belief is simply a mental state.

I've yet to see a decent philosophy of mind that didn't acknowledge behaviour to be an essential part of the definition of mental states like belief and desire.
Behaviourism went too far - it tried to reduce mind to purely behaviour, but as far as I'm aware, no philosophy of mind completely separates belief from behaviour.
Even ones that don't appear to have behaviour in their definition, e.g. defining belief as a collection of neurons, they will atleast refer to behaviour in their justification of this definition.
You cannot separate the definition of belief from behaviour.

Hambydammit wrote:
And all you've said is that some beliefs weigh more heavily on a person's decision making processes than others, and religious beliefs in moderates tend not to have high value.  So what?

I said nothing of the sort.
I pointed out that they were different types of proposition that inspired different kinds of decision.
Quote me if I said otherwise.

Hambydammit wrote:
You cannot, without a lot more precision, equate belief and action.

Who said anything about equating?
I said that belief's definition involved behaviour.
I never said that it was reducible to it.

Strafio wrote:
I think in reality that religion will be a mishmash of both the rational/irrational and of the a-rational.

Hambydammit wrote:
Then it's not arational.

Which is why I went on to specify that belief in God and Supernaturalism, the parts we were mainly dealing with here, were a-rational parts to religion.
After all, the main argument on this site is that supernaturalism is irrational.
That's what I am addressing here.

Hambydammit wrote:
While we're at it, could you tell me something else that's devoid of rational content?  Don't say "a stop sign" because that's an object, not a concept, and once we apply the conceptual purpose of a stop sign, it gains rational meaning within context.

Taste. You don't have to justify taste, you just have it.
Similar with sense of humour.
Things like "the best music" isn't a matter of rationality, it's a matter of taste.
That's what we're talking about when we say 'a-rational'.
a-rational doesn't necessarily mean completely devoid of reason, just that it isn't evaluated by the rational/irrational dichotomy.

Hambydammit wrote:
I understand that you think religion can serve a purpose by which it can be judged.  Duh.

You completely avoided my comment that many irrational beliefs can produce false positives.  This doesn't make the beliefs any less irrational.  It makes the results positive.


No. The entire topic is to address this point, incase you hadn't been paying attention...
The whole point is to show that religious faith is something different to belief rather than 'irrational belief'.
In the same way that normal belief is supposed to be judged in terms of rational/irrational (rather than by positive results), religious faith is supposed to be judged by the effect on the person. That's the argument I'm making.
The justification is in both the first post and even layered out in neat, clear logical steps in subsequent ones.
I am still waiting for you to address post #9 where I've presented my proof in simple logical steps.
I'd really like it if you could focus on that.


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Strafio wrote:aiia wrote:The

Strafio wrote:

aiia wrote:
The obvious question then is if you think theism is rational why aren't you a theist?

Rhad used a good example to show that running and cycling are both competing forms of exercise, but choosing either one could be a rational decision.

It is not. Running and cycling are both physical exercises and both can be performed sequentially to maintain physical health. Theism and atheism are entirely antithetic and definitely can not be applied sequentially nor parallelistically.

Quote:
I could likewise hold that theism and atheism are both potentially rational choices.

Then proceed.
Prove theism is rational.

Quote:
Besides, I'm not claiming that religion is rational, just not 'irrational'.

Theism is a belief; it is either rational or irrational. It cannot be nonpartisan to belief.

Quote:
That might mean rational but for now I'm leaning towards 'a-rational'
(a-rational means reason is irrelevant, a bit like taste)

Since your contention to theism is about rationality, you must argue for rationality or irrationality; otherwise it appears you are saying everything is either rational or 'irrelevant'. But the argument cannot be irrelevant because it is relevant to 'rational' or 'irrational'.

Quote:
My position would probably have made more sense if you'd read more of the topic than just that one line.

It did not.

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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aiia wrote:It is not.

aiia wrote:
It is not. Running and cycling are both physical exercises and both can be performed sequentially to maintain physical health. Theism and atheism are entirely antithetic and definitely can not be applied sequentially nor parallelistically.

Theism is a belief; it is either rational or irrational. It cannot be nonpartisan to belief.


Yes. I know your opinion.
It's everyone's opinion around here.
Hence the topic to argue against it.

aiia wrote:
Since your contention to theism is about rationality, you must argue for rationality or irrationality; otherwise it appears you are saying everything is either rational or 'irrelevant'. But the argument cannot be irrelevant because it is relevant to 'rational' or 'irrational'.

Can you justify the bit in bold?

aiia wrote:
Then proceed.
Prove theism is rational.

The argument is in the original post.
I then presented it again in clear logical steps after Hamby's first post.

aiia wrote:
It did not [make sense].

It uses advanced philosophical concepts you might not have come across before and used them to question many things you likely take for granted.
We should assume that theists are the only ones with fallicious beliefs that we have taken for granted.
It used a linguistic argument to try and show that positions on rationality, like the ones you described in this post, were based on misunderstandings and over-simplifications on how we use language.
It might be difficult going, especially if you haven't studied philosophy at a school or university.
It's there if you want to take a crack at it though.

Good luck!! Smiling


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Thanks to Strafio.

Thanks to Strafio. Understanding ( love the enemy ) is the way to eliminating dogma. That is not appeasement. I think when we can all someday say, with conviction, "we are simply god", meaning nothing separate to worship, we will have made an important advancement towards universal happiness. I AM an optimist. Thanks RRS for progress ....    


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Strafio wrote:In the same

Strafio wrote:
In the same way that normal belief is supposed to be judged in terms of rational/irrational (rather than by positive results), religious faith is supposed to be judged by the effect on the person. That's the argument I'm making.

So your saying that if a belief, which we would usually regard as irrational, provided positive effects for the individual, then we should judge the belief on that basis as positive. And if it was negative then it should be judge as negative?

How are you valuing/judging the belief? Good vs. bad; beneficial vs. not beneficial; positive vs. negative; etc.

Also, why just isolated this to religion?

Also, how do we define what I good/bad, beneficial/not beneficial, etc.


The problem with your argument is that it assumes the theist is not concerned with any context by which we determine whether a belief is rational or irrational, yet, if the theist is in any way concerned with whether their beliefs represent reality, then we must be able to judge their beliefs on those terms.

If you don't think the average theist finds it important that their beliefs represent reality than I think you are simply out of touch with mainstream theism. Even if the beliefs correspondence with reality is not what is most important to them, if it is of any importance, then we have a right to judge the beliefs on those terms. In addition, if the beliefs influence or dictate their claims about reality or influences their behaviour, then we have the right to judge the beliefs in terms of how well they relate to reality.

You're going to be hard pressed to find any theists who are not concerned with reality, and/or whose behaviour is not influenced by their beliefs. I think it would even be hard to find any theist on my spectrum (below) who this doesn't apply to.

- Extreme liberal theist (e.g. believing in an intervening god without strict doctrine; the "all religions are true type" )
- Liberal theist (e.g. someone like Spong)
- Liberal-moderate theist (e.g. most theists)
- Moderate (e.g. most theists)
- Moderate-fundie (e.g. most theists)
- Fundamentalist (e.g. Fallwell; Phelps)
- Extremist fundamentalist (e.g. bin Laden; terrorists)

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Strafio wrote: aiia

Strafio wrote:

 
aiia wrote:
Since your contention to theism is about rationality, you must argue for rationality or irrationality; otherwise it appears you are saying

theism (correction: original word was 'everything') is either rational or 'irrelevant'. But the argument cannot be irrelevant because it is relevant to 'rational' or 'irrational'.

Can you justify the bit in bold?

 

It is your claim that theism is “a-rational” which you defined as being irrelevant to reason which you have failed to justify.

 

Quote:
We should assume that theists are the only ones with fallicious beliefs that we have taken for granted.

 

So then you do think theism is irrational. Good.

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


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Topher wrote:So your saying

Topher wrote:
So your saying that if a belief, which we would usually regard as irrational, provided positive effects for the individual, then we should judge the belief on that basis as positive. And if it was negative then it should be judge as negative?

Yes. And the reason it because it's not the same as normal belief.
It's a different concept with a different function and should therefore


Topher wrote:
Also, why just isolated this to religion?

Well, this different 'belief' concept is 'faith' so it would be isolated to practices where faith was involved.
I wouldn't be surprised if faith plays a part in other areas of our life as well but it's not something I care to take a tangent on right now.

Topher wrote:
How are you valuing/judging the belief? Good vs. bad; beneficial vs. not beneficial; positive vs. negative; etc.

Yeah. We'd judge religions like we judge martial arts clubs or other hobbies and the like.

Topher wrote:
Also, how do we define what I good/bad, beneficial/not beneficial, etc.

The same way we do for other hobbies and activities.
E.g. "Ever since you've joined that rowing club you've looked a lot healthier, gotten some sun, you seem to have more energy and enthusiasm for things. I think that it's really good for you!!"
or "Taking crystal meth has been really bad for you! You never want to do anything anymore or talk to anyone. You don't look healthy either..."

I'm sure you're familiar these kind of evalutions from your own everyday life.


Topher wrote:
The problem with your argument is that it assumes the theist is not concerned with any context by which we determine whether a belief is rational or irrational, yet, if the theist is in any way concerned with whether their beliefs represent reality, then we must be able to judge their beliefs on those terms.

Not really. You're trying to spring an 'all or nothing' dichotomy on here.
The theist has literal beliefs and have of story of "what happened".
However, there's many ways that we can have an attitude to such a story.
You like to deal in fact - established knowledge.
There's also an attitude of fiction which is disbelief altogether.
There's also the inbetween, a kind of 'what if' or 'it might just be...'
Theists like to compare it to dealing with the unknown as productively as possible, going with the best you can think of.
They recognise that it's not fact so they don't treat it like fact.*
When pushed for a justification they talk of "hope" or say that it's "important" to them.

If this doesn't look like a clear concise definition, here's why:
You can do clear concise definitions when a word is clearly defined in terms of other words.
After all, you weren't taught the word 'belief' through a strict definition.
You learned it by testing it out with the people you spoke with and gradually develloped a grasp for correct ways to apply it and incorrect.
Likewise, faith clearly isn't easily defined in terms of other words.
This is why an attempt to define it would give examples of ideas and experiences, to give you an idea of the correct places to apply it.
 

*yes, theists sometimes go to far in treating faith like fact.
This is an example of what I call 'religious conflation', confusing 'faith' with 'fact'.
Some theists conflate more than others.
What I am trying to point out here is that religion can potentially be conflation free, and it's the conflation that's irrational rather than the religion.


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What an awesome thread!I

What an awesome thread!

I agree with everything in your OP, Straf. I think there is a solid line between believing things that you acknowledge are outside reason and believing things that you think are scientifically true. To the extent that moderates fall into the first camp, my approach has always been to say that I don't give a shit what you believe, as long as you keep it to yourself. The problem with theism today is the way it has broken out of churches and spilled into the public square. Absent that phenomenon, I probably wouldn't even bother to post on these boards.

I also think that you can have rational grounds for holding a theistic belief that are entirely divorced from the truth or falsehood of the belief itself. Let's say you are in a trench in a war and clinging to the belief that you will go to heaven if you die is the only way you can summon the courage to fight. The irrational belief in this case has a very rational use, so it is rational to hold it rather than the reverse. So the belief is irrational, but the person remains rational.

If we ever found a moderate theist that had any inclination whatsoever to join us in confronting fundamentalists I'm sure we would welcome their assistance. But most moderates can't do that. In the first place, the arguments that separate moderate belief from fundamentalist belief are too complex and subtle for most people. Most people think that the choice is between tolerating belief in God or not tolerating belief in God. Given that moderates, in some sense, want to believe in God they think they are, in fairness, obligated to tolerate the fundamentalist's belief in God. Even arguments against the wackiest fundy beliefs make them squirm as they inevitably involve attacks on the veracity of the Bible and the philosophical underpinnings of faith. While the moderate is not the target of those attacks, he can still feel their sting and experience an unpleasant cognitive dissonance.

Remember when Harris told the atheist convention that we shouldn't use the word atheist? His philosophical and rhetorical points were bang-on, but I think a consensus emerged that the word atheist is too valuable as a well-understood label to abandon at this stage in our struggle. I would say the same thing about your post. There is no doctrinal need for us to challenge the private beliefs of moderates, but it is politically necessary for us to carry the fight against fundamentalists right to the root of the problem: faith, and the unfortunate consequences it has for the stupid.

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


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I guess I have to bow out of

I guess I have to bow out of this discussion for now.  I make a point not to get into contests of who can make their point more emphatically.  Unfortunately, that's about all that's left from my end.

Without a definitive explanation of a real difference between two conceptualizations that can both be called belief, there's nothing for me to refute.  Similarly, without a coherent explanation of what "arational" is and how it applies to theism, and why it only applies to theism (or what else it applies to and why) there's no way for me to argue against that.

Until and unless I see a more coherent argument, my opinion remains.  Your argument is invalid.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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aiia wrote:It isyour claim

aiia wrote:
It is

your

claim that theism is “a-rational” which you defined as being irrelevant to reason which you have failed to justify.


See the main topic.
If there's a flaw in there see if you can point it out.
Anyone can just say the justification failed.
Heck, theists say that everytime they don't understand our arguments.


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Ok, Strafio.  Once more, I

Ok, Strafio.  Once more, I will return to the original and show you that you aren't demonstrating anything.

Your statements, quoted directly, in order:

Quote:
A belief irrational if there is some flaw in the reasoning.

The next paragraph, about why we want beliefs to be rational is irrelevant.  I know you want it to be relevant, but it's just not.  I also know that you think this ties rationality to action, but it doesn't.  It's just a random statement acknowledging the obvious conclusion that rational conclusions are better than irrational ones at producing true results.  Duh.

Quote:
I think that 'religious belief' is subtly different to 'practical belief'.
Not completely different - they will be closely related and the differences will be subtle.

Ok... there needs to be a definition, then.  What are the subtle differences?  Quantify them.

Quote:
If I am saying that religious belief is to be evaluated differently to practical belief then I need to claim that they have different purposes.

DOES NOT FOLLOW.  This conclusion has nothing to do with what you've said so far.  You claim there are two types of belief, and then happily traipse through the crucial step of defining and demonstrating them, instead making an ad hoc assertion that the "purpose" of a belief is somehow a function of it's inclusion in these two mystery classes of belief.

It's ad hoc reasoning.  Nothing more.

Furthermore, you've subtly started using "religious belief" and "practical belief" as if you've established the categories.  You have not.  Any good thesis begins with definitions.  You're going around your asshole to get to your elbow and avoid having to start with clear definitions.

Quote:
My claim is that religious belief has a different purpose. Rather than instant practical use, the value of religious belief is the way it affects our outlook on the world.

You have not demonstrated that the "value" of a belief, whatever that might be, is linked to its inclusion in one of your mystery categories.

Quote:
So for a religious belief to be valuable/commendable it would have to:
a) Have a positive effect on our life - particularly in our morality and personal meaning and happiness.
b) NOT interfere with our practical rationality - i.e. not contradict our scientific knowledge.

This is a fine opinion, but it has not been justified in this argument.  Why should I accept that these two qualifications are accurate, or that they are the only ones by which I should evaluate beliefs?  Why am I obliged to accept this subjective evaluation method?  Why haven't you addressed and eliminated other evaluation criteria?  What is your justification for applying this methodology to religious beliefs?   What about the undefined "religious belief" category separates it from other beliefs such that this is the only correct way to evaluate it?  If it is not the only way to evaluate it, why are we even having this discussion?

Quote:
Bear in mind that other than this difference in justification/application, this belief would be pretty much the same.

Well... yeah.  The obvious response to this is... yeah, that's because they are the same, and you are just inventing distinctions where none exist.  Again (and I'm sure again in a minute) I will say, you have not given any justification for separating belief based on subjective evaluation methods into two empirically different states of mind.  A belief is a mental construct.  You must demonstrate that there are two distinctly different mental constructs.

Quote:
The only difference would be that they wouldn't "feel right" about applying religious doctrine practically in the same way we do with other beliefs and justify these beliefs by the effect that it has on their life.

This is not a justification for two categories of belief.  It's just pointing out the obvious.  Religious people often sense the cognitive dissonance inherent in religious belief clashing with objective reality.

Quote:
My belief that this is the natural state of religion and that literalists on both sides have misunderstood it, both by assuming that religious belief and practical belief are the same thing.

Naked assertion.

Quote:
One dismisses religious belief for not holding to the standards of practical belief, the other bastardizes their practical belief in an attempt to unify both together.

This has nothing to do with whether or not there are two empirically different ways to believe something.  It only deals with the way some people analyze beliefs.  It is after the fact, and irrelevant to demonstrating that the beliefs themselves are neurologically or philosophically different in kind.

Quote:
If religious practice is a different practice to normal belief to be valued in a different way then it's quite likely that the evaluation would be different too.

naked speculation, and not even a very coherent sentence.  You're bouncing between practice and belief as if you have established their equality.  You haven't given a single supporting piece of evidence.

Quote:
Rather than rational or irrational, I think that religion is a-rational and would be valued as more 'good/bad' or 'humanitarian/inhuman' rather than 'correct/incorrect' or 'rational/irrational'.

naked speculation

Quote:
The consequence of this hypothesis would be that there's such thing as 'religious belief'

Strafio, you haven't given us anything from which to draw a conclusion.  I'm practically going line by line here.  So far, all we've got is:

1) There are two types of belief (unsupported)

2) Beliefs are categorized by their subjective consequences, like happiness and moral rectitude.  (unsupported)

3) If practice is different, then it should be evaluated differently.  (normative without establishing a goal.

(Clearly, your goal is to prove your point, but that's not a good enough reason to impose this standard.)

4) You think rational/irrational is a bad way to judge religion.  (Whoop-de-do and good for you, but it's not a conclusion that follows from the arguments you've put forward so far.  To be blunt, I can't think of a single conclusion that follows from them.)

Quote:
a) The 'beliefs' are like normal belief except do not have direct practical application.

It's been pointed out often, but what the hell.  You're trying to sell me on the idea that moderates think or act as if their religion has no value when you just got through telling me that we should evaluate religious beliefs based on their value.

Let me put it to you in your own words:

Quote:
a) The 'beliefs' are like normal belief except do not have direct practical application.     AND    religion is a-rational and would be valued as more 'good/bad' or 'humanitarian/inhuman'

You have just contradicted yourself.  If a belief has no practical application, it cannot be evaluated as good/bad or human/inhuman because all of these terms are contingent upon practical application.

Quote:
b) The religious belief is to be justified by the positive effect on the person and people.

You mean... practical life application?

Quote:
c) Although they often take care to make sure that there is no direct contradiction between their religious beliefs and practical ones, they don't feel the need to scientifically justify their religious beliefs.

The observation that some people are irrational in their application of religious beliefs to the real world is hardly justification for a new system in which irrational is no longer irrational.

Quote:
My argument is simply that moderate religion be judged by it's effect on the person.

Right.  So justify this by proving that it's the only legitimate way to judge it.  If you can't do this, then you're just pissing in the wind, and we can regard your entire thesis as a really nice opinion piece.

Quote:
I've made two claims about moderates regarding their religious belief, that they don't treat it like practical knowledge and that they justify it by the effect that it has on their lives.

Right.  And you have neither defined nor demonstrated two different kinds of belief, so all you've claimed is that moderate theists are irrational in their evaluation of religious beliefs because they don't judge it the same as any other belief.  We've been saying that all along.

Quote:
I can justify this by picking out typical behaviours and phrases that we expect from them and show that they fit my theory.

To be thorough, I'm going to go through each piece of evidence you present, and after each one, I'm going to say, "Right.  You're demonstrating that theists are not consistent in their use of reason."  I don't want to be accused of omitting anything, or I would just skip over the whole thing, since it doesn't do a damn thing with regard to your unsupported claim that there are two empirically different ways of believing something.

Quote:
First see if you can even get out of them a belief that has practical application.
I mean, they do base practices on their religion but not with direct consequences.
The religious practice is justified as a whole for other reasons.
In the meantime, individual beliefs do not have individual applications.

Right.  You're demonstrating that theists are not consistent in their use of reason.

Quote:
If you were to ever make the claim "If Christianity was true then God would X and Y - after all, that's the character of the God described!" then they are likely to say that "Religion doesn't work like that", or "You're missing the point" or "The lord works in mysterious ways" or "It's not your place to understand God's plan, just trust."

Right.  You're demonstrating that theists are not consistent in their use of reason.

Quote:
They are fond of the 'God of Gaps' (both unsupported and uncontradicted by science)
Even where contradictions appear between their scientific and religious beliefs, they try to brush them aside as if they didn't matter.
They clearly see their religiousness as a-scientific, living out the NOMA split as described by Gould.

Right.  You're demonstrating that theists are not consistent in their use of reason.

Quote:
They often consider their religion to be an integral part of their moral practice too.
Whether religion really is a help in these things is up for debate - my point is that it's these things that justify or discredit religion.

Right.  You're demonstrating that theists are not consistent in their use of reason.

Quote:
Another evidence is how they judge differing beliefs.
Moderates tend to be happy that other faiths can lead to God while others who claim to be of the same faith are 'false'.
How do they judge who is close to God and who it not?
Once again it's the character of the believers.
Those religious sects that do bad (e.g. the inquisition, the terrorists, extortionists) etc are those who have lost their way.
(The cheeky bastards even call them atheists!!)
Those of other religions who do good (e.g. peaceful Buddhists) are often seen as being close to God in the eyes of the moderate.

Right.  You're demonstrating that theists are not consistent in their use of reason.

You have presented a great case for the conclusion that moderate theists do not use reason consistently.  None of this has any bearing whatsoever on whether or not an actual distinction exists, in which the belief is literally believed differently in kind than another belief.  You are proving compartmentalization, which is well established in psychology.

Quote:
You see, religious belief can often mean what you want it to mean at that moment in time.

Right.  You're demonstrating that theists are not consistent in their use of reason.

Quote:
The religious believer's interpretation of their Holy Book will depend on the Zeitegeist of their time and place.
Fundamentalists do this to a higher degree than anyone.

Right. You're demonstrating that fundamentalists are less consistent in their use of reason than moderates.  It's a great argument that moderates and fundamentalists are different in degree.

Quote:
In the same way, they will play the "This is the hard truth - not what you want God to be..." when arguing with moderates and then pull out the "You rationalists want to take all the mystery of life and turn love and feeling into some mathematical equation" when the sceptics start challenging them on the facts.

Right.  And moderates only do it on more obscure things, like faith being valid only when it applies to believing in god.  You said it yourself:  "Although they often take care to make sure that there is no direct contradiction between their religious beliefs and practical ones, they don't feel the need to scientifically justify their religious beliefs.
(Hence the employment of 'faith' and the 'God of Gaps')"

You're demonstrating a difference in degree, not kind.

Quote:
That's why I see moderates as an ally against fundamentalism rather than a cover for it.

You've clearly lost touch with reality if you believe this.  You go door to door to all the moderate churches you can find and get back to me about how many people you can sign up for the "End Fundamentalist Religion With Science and Reason and Atheists" campaign.

Anyway, that's the whole thing.  Practically line by line.  There simply is no argument.  Just naked assertions.  You have not constructed a single valid conclusion.  Not one.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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I think the difference

I think the difference between religious belief and other beliefs is in the fact that religious beliefs are held through faith. They are an act of will rather than a natural consequence of brain function. Think of Winston seeing five fingers under torture when O'Brien was really only holding up four.

Dennet questions whether this kind of belief even exists or not, saying it is possible that these are only professed beliefs that do not act in the mind in the same way as real beliefs at all. I suppose one could argue that moderates only profess belief and do not really have it, if beliefs must be about one's real opinion of how the world really is.

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Quote:Dennet questions

Quote:
Dennet questions whether this kind of belief even exists or not, saying it is possible that these are only professed beliefs that do not act in the mind in the same way as real beliefs at all. I suppose one could argue that moderates only profess belief and do not really have it, if beliefs must be about one's real opinion of how the world really is.

I agree with Dennett's skepticism.  I'm not ready to categorically deny the existence of truly dissonant beliefs, but moderates who practice religion without adhering to the more loony notions give all the outward signs of believing in belief more than in the things they say they believe in.

This doesn't qualify as a different kind of belief, only belief in a different concept.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Tilberian wrote:What an

Tilberian wrote:

What an awesome thread!

I agree with everything in your OP, Straf. I think there is a solid line between believing things that you acknowledge are outside reason and believing things that you think are scientifically true. To the extent that moderates fall into the first camp, my approach has always been to say that I don't give a shit what you believe, as long as you keep it to yourself. The problem with theism today is the way it has broken out of churches and spilled into the public square. Absent that phenomenon, I probably wouldn't even bother to post on these boards.


Thanks. To be honest I wasn't expecting much of that kind of reaction.
I was figuring that I was challenging a position held by almost everyone here.
I guess it can be too easy to assume a conformity and underestimate the diversity within a community.
I remember people commenting about that time when Dawkins, Harris, Dennet and Hitchens got together for a discussion and people were saying stuff like:
"What was really surprising was on how much these fellow atheists disagreed on various subjects.

Tilberian wrote:
If we ever found a moderate theist that had any inclination whatsoever to join us in confronting fundamentalists I'm sure we would welcome their assistance. But most moderates can't do that. In the first place, the arguments that separate moderate belief from fundamentalist belief are too complex and subtle for most people. Most people think that the choice is between tolerating belief in God or not tolerating belief in God. Given that moderates, in some sense, want to believe in God they think they are, in fairness, obligated to tolerate the fundamentalist's belief in God. Even arguments against the wackiest fundy beliefs make them squirm as they inevitably involve attacks on the veracity of the Bible and the philosophical underpinnings of faith. While the moderate is not the target of those attacks, he can still feel their sting and experience an unpleasant cognitive dissonance.

I don't know. In England, the biggest criticism against Dawkins is that he treats moderates too much like fundamentalists.
They claim he doesn't understand moderate religion.
The way I see it, moderates are as willing to stand up to fundamentalists as much as atheists and agnostics, it just depends on whether they are apathetic or find themselves in debate.
I think with atheists, because their beliefs are more likely to be attacked, they find themselves more likely to be in debate.
In my experience, moderates have always fought their corner once debate is thrown upon them.
I've seen my parents debate with my grandad over his religious views, be disgusted at certain things a priest has said in a church.
(They didn't like it when one said that Hinduism is the religion of the devil and that they will burn in hell.)
Many of the biology teachers who fought against having to teach intelligent design where moderate Christians.
Do you watch West Wing? President Bartlet is a faithful Catholic, but he demonstrates on many occasions his ability to lay into a fundie.


In the same way, many atheists and agnostics out there are pretty apathetic.
They see religious nuts as the odd minority that no one takes seriously anyway and just shrug and leave them to it.
So I think that if we develloped the right rhetoric and right arguments we could make.
Ofcourse, it's one thing to say all these ifs and maybes, another for it to work in real life.
 

Tilberian wrote:
Remember when Harris told the atheist convention that we shouldn't use the word atheist? His philosophical and rhetorical points were bang-on, but I think a consensus emerged that the word atheist is too valuable as a well-understood label to abandon at this stage in our struggle. I would say the same thing about your post. There is no doctrinal need for us to challenge the private beliefs of moderates, but it is politically necessary for us to carry the fight against fundamentalists right to the root of the problem: faith, and the unfortunate consequences it has for the stupid.

Perhaps.
Having said that, I think there's plenty of potential for arguments that damn fundamentalists without touching moderatism, it's just not the sort of arguments we've been develloping here.
Anyway, cheers for the comments.
I wouldn't come here if I didn't enjoy hard debate but it's nice to sometimes get a compliment too! Smiling


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You'll notice that I only

You'll notice that I only answer a few of the points.
Partly because other points you made rested upon them so in answering them I'd be answering them all.
Partly because a fair few of your points were like this one:
 

Strafio wrote:
My belief that this is the natural state of religion and that literalists on both sides have misunderstood it, both by assuming that religious belief and practical belief are the same thing.

Hambydammit wrote:
Naked assertion.

I wish you'd stop naming fallacies just for the sake of it.
A fallacy is when an argument is invalid.
Was I even making an argument here?
Did I state this 'claim' as a fact to try and prove my point?
Is my communication so bad that that's how it came across?

Hambydammit wrote:
You claim there are two types of belief, and then happily traipse through the crucial step of defining and demonstrating them, instead making an ad hoc assertion that the "purpose" of a belief is somehow a function of it's inclusion in these two mystery classes of belief.

Again, I wish you'd stop calling what was clearly stated to be an hypothesis an assertion.
And making a distinction isn't ad hoc if you intend to justify and demonstrate it.
You're right that I hadn't done such a demonstration up to this point, but seeing as I had said that I'd be demonstrating it soon enough, that I just wanted to explain more what I was demonstrating first, it's like you're criticising me
This is why I dislike line by line criticisms. Missing important context is almost garaunteed...

If you want to take a strictly logical argument I've still got the first premises waiting for you in post 9.
Seriously, taking it one or two premises at the time would allow for a proper discussion of the issues rather than a post full of shallow one liners.
These one liners don't acheive much and often miss the entire point being presented.


Hambydammit wrote:
The next paragraph, about why we want beliefs to be rational is irrelevant.  I know you want it to be relevant, but it's just not.  I also know that you think this ties rationality to action, but it doesn't.  It's just a random statement acknowledging the obvious conclusion that rational conclusions are better than irrational ones at producing true results.  Duh.

You say that the reason why we value rationality is irrelevent?
The thing is, that reason determines the entire point of rationality.

I'm making an obvious argument here.
A spade is good at being a spade but useless as a vacumm cleaner.
Showing the point of reason was necessary to show where it's appropiate to apply our practice of rational evaluation.
 

Hambydammit wrote:
Furthermore, you've subtly started using "religious belief" and "practical belief" as if you've established the categories.  You have not.  Any good thesis begins with definitions.  You're going around your asshole to get to your elbow and avoid having to start with clear definitions.

I did define them.
Practical belief is what people here usually refer to as just 'belief'.
It's the most common and obvious way to conceptualise belief.
To define religious belief, I said that they had a different function/purpose.
That might have been a step too far given that most people here haven't studied philosophy of mind where acknowledging that side to mental concepts is common.
It's things like this we could work on if you were to take the challenge of addressing the arguments on post 9, premise by premise.