On Stupid Beliefs

BenfromCanada
atheist
BenfromCanada's picture
Posts: 811
Joined: 2006-08-31
User is offlineOffline
On Stupid Beliefs

Move to a more appropriate forum if there is one [Mod: Moved to Irrationalities forum. Also tidied formatting. -- natural]. This is the culminations of 2 posts from my weblog. The posts are here and here. I'll also copy-paste both articles here, please follow the weblog if you enjoy and tell all your friends and such. Also, please tell me what you feel I got wrong/right, and uh, discuss the topic in general.


How To Tell If Your Belief Is Stupid

A lot of people try to push their beliefs on all of us every day, and we do the same ourselves. The big problem is that a lot of beliefs are just plain STUPID. Unfortunately, we often can't see that something we buy into is dumb or not (but since we don't really think we're stupid to begin with, we think it's everyone else who has dumb ideas, not just us). So, in order to help you, the reader, I have constructed a short guide to identifying stupid beliefs. After all, identification is the first step towards ridding yourself of stupid beliefs. If any belief you hold matches one of these 5 criteria, it is a stupid belief. If you don't agree, feel free to post a calm, rational, and well-thought-out comment in the comment section.

1: If The Belief Is Not Verifiable, It Is Stupid.

When you lack compelling evidence, you lack the ability to verify, and believing something that you can't verify is stupid. An example comes in the form of plaster casts of Sasquatch (Bigfoot) footprints. Do you have any evidence that the footprint is anything other than a fake? You only have the cast itself, and the word of the person trying to sell you the cast. You don't know that the Sasquatch is real, that the man trying to sell the cast to you is reputable, or if the cast is anything more than a fake. If he can't show you evidence aside from the cast itself, then believing you are holding a plaster cast of a Sasquatch footprint is simply an unverifiable claim...and if he can show you such evidence, then it will undoubtably be more interesting than any plaster cast would be.

2: If The Belief Is Not Falsifiable, It Is Stupid.

Falsifiability is an important principle not just in philosophy, science, and the philosophy of science, but in everyday life. How can you test any claim made by anyone if there isn't a way the claim could be proven wrong? An excellent example is David Icke's claims that the world is ruled by shape shifting aliens. If we ask why we've not seen evidence of this conspiracy, it's blamed on a cover-up. If we ask why we've not seen proof of the existence of shape-shifting aliens, it's because they can change shapes, of course. Literally nothing can disprove this notion. Meanwhile, the mainline theory ("David Icke's belief is bullshit" ) can easily be proven wrong by simply catching a shape-shifting alien changing form on tape. Granted, every attempt to do so has failed, but at least there's a test that could prove us wrong.

3: If The Belief Is Not Supported By Experts In The Relevant Field(s), It Is Stupid.

Some people study a particular thing their whole lives, or at least a significant portion of their lives. They learn from the best sources available, using the most up-to-date information to further their understanding of their chosen field, and often conduct research that furthers our collective knowledge of that particular field of study. These people are called "experts" and they know what they're talking about. Common people (you) do not. If, for example, every medical practitioner on the planet says that autism cannot be caused by any vaccine, and Jenny McCarthy, a Playboy Playmate turned actress with no medical background, is saying they do, she is wrong. Plain and simple.

4: If The Belief Is Dependent On A Logical Fallacy, It Is Stupid.

There are several logical fallacies out there. While something is not necessarily false because the reasoning that one uses to reach that conclusion is faulty, if the only or best reason to believe something is a logical fallacy, then the belief itself is stupid. A great example is found in the Appeal to Tradition page, specifically example 2, wherein a man says that women shouldn't be equal to men in that country because that is how the country has always been. Can you think of a real-life country that also treats women poorly because of tradition?

5: If The Belief Depends On Faith, It Is Stupid.

Oh come on! You knew this was coming. The word "atheist" is right there in the URL.

Of course, I'm specifically using the biblical definition of faith, found in Hebrews 1:11, or belief in things that you can't prove. If you deduced that point 5 is very similar to point 1, you are right, however, there is a difference here. When someone simply believes something they can't verify, once it's shown that the idea is wrong, it's not hard to accept reality, since there is generally at least some circumstantial evidence. When one has faith, it is very, very difficult to admit wrongness, since things you accept on faith more often than not affect one's life in a real way. But face it, if we were talking about was anything else aside from your religious views, would you accept it on faith alone? Well, actually, yes, there is one thing that is faith-based that isn't religion, but, dear reader, I highly doubt you think that racial supremacy is anything other than a stupid idea.


Stupid Beliefs Part 2: How to Know When to Care

Not long ago I posted a handy method of telling if your beliefs are stupid.

However, I have been told that we all have at least a few beliefs that are stupid, and I agree...however, having dumb beliefs doesn't always matter. The fact is almost all people have a few stupid beliefs that they still hold onto. To determine whether you really need to exorcize a belief from yourself or pressure a friend or loved one to change their beliefs, one should use the following 3 related criteria:

1: Sincerity

I'd wager that all people have doubts about most of their beliefs. For everything we're completely sure about, there are probably a dozen we're not sure about. (note that this is personal observation and by no means scientific). The sincerity of your belief largely determines whether you'll care enough to take any action which may be detrimental to yourself or others. For example, if you're roughly 60% convinced there is a malevolent secret society controlling the planet, chances are you won't care much, if you're roughly 85% convinced, you'll probably line the pockets of Alex Jones or sone other crackpot, and if you're 100% convinced of it, you may end up like Timothy McVeigh.

Bottom Line: If you or your friend barely believes the crackpot idea, don't worry about it.

2: Importance

Even if you fully believe something, you may not find yourself caring all that much. Maybe there are more pressing needs in your life, maybe you feel you can't change anything and deliberately stop caring, or there may be some other reason I am unaware of. Conversely, we might have some seemingly inconsequential belief that takes over one's life. How many people do you know who truly believe in the Christian god, yet routinely skip church to do something around the house? It isn't necessarily that they don't really believe, it's just that they find other things that they care more about at that point. Here are examples of people I have personally experienced that illustrate my point. All three of these people believe in a shadowy "new world order" that secretly rules the world. One friend is sure of it, but doesn't care at all. "yeah, they exist, so what?" Another hates them, but minimizes the amount he can do about it, and so it rarely factors into his life except that he listens to Alex Jones and watches documentaries like Zeitgeist. A third is a deranged man who I spoke to when I had my first YouTube channel (now banned after some abuse of the flagging system) He scoffed at my denial of a NWO, and said "I will DIE fighting the new world order!!!" (there were more exclamation points.) Clearly this is a man who takes his fictional secret societies seriously, and assuming he wasn't trolling, should be in a mental institution.

Bottom Line: If they don't care about their beliefs, neither should you.

3: Consequence

This is the most important thing, really. I will use a couple of my own dumb beliefs, and one from a former friend of mine, to illustrate my point. I am growing a "playoff beard", which is started at the end of the NHL regular season, and shaved only when your team is eliminated from the playoffs. I tried that last year, but got annoyed with it and shaved it during round 2...and the Vancouver Canucks seemed to suddenly forget how to play, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks for the second year in a row. Now, whenever I want to shave, I get the neurotic feeling that Vancouver will lose every remaining game if I shave. I know it's dumb, but I believe it. Likewise, I believe that chocolate and orange juice relieves seasonal allergies. Despite no actual proof from the medical community that this is true, I believe it. What are the consequences of these beliefs? Until (at the latest) June 15, I have a shaggy and sort of itchy beard, and whenever my pollen/dust allergies act up, I feel a craving for orange juice and chocolate (word to the wise:don't take them together).

My one friend, however, has destroyed himself through his stupid, stupid beliefs. He has become a full-blown member of Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. This is the cult that put out that retarded bit of pseudoscience What The Bleep Do We Know? into our collective consciousness. They also have regular "events" (the cheaper ones run at $1000/event, without travel expenses) and they sell a ton of books, CDs and DVDs. He went to an event every month, took a lot of time off work, and drove away his friends. He eventually went bankrupt due to this cult. Bear in mind, this is a man who made a lot of money, though I don't want to violate anyone's privacy. The man went broke and eventually moved to Washington to be closer to Ramtha. I haven't heard from him since last tie he asked my family for money and was turned down harshly.

This is an example of a belief with a real serious consequence. Adherence to this foolish cult has destroyed more lives than just his, and there are plenty of other beliefs, even nonreligious ones, that can cause severe damage to a person's wellbeing. It may cost them (or their family members) their health, hteir friends and family may abandon them, and it could even cost them their lives. You are a horrible friend for not stepping up and trying to point out the error of their ways if you see this coming. Even if you feel you're risking the relationship, you need to speak up, even hold an intervention. Granted, you need to make sure they aren't right (thus, the last post), and that the belief is serious, important to them, and potentially harmful. But if it meets all that criteria, act.

Bottom Line: When a dumb idea can cause legitimate damage, if you don't try to stop it, it's on your hands.


butterbattle
ModeratorSuperfan
butterbattle's picture
Posts: 3719
Joined: 2008-09-12
User is onlineOnline
 

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


Luminon
SuperfanTheist
Luminon's picture
Posts: 2455
Joined: 2008-02-17
User is offlineOffline
BenfromCanada wrote:Move to

BenfromCanada wrote:

Move to a more appropriate forum if there is one [Mod: Moved to Irrationalities forum. Also tidied formatting. -- natural]. This is the culminations of 2 posts from my weblog. The posts are here and here. I'll also copy-paste both articles here, please follow the weblog if you enjoy and tell all your friends and such. Also, please tell me what you feel I got wrong/right, and uh, discuss the topic in general.


How To Tell If Your Belief Is Stupid

A lot of people try to push their beliefs on all of us every day, and we do the same ourselves. The big problem is that a lot of beliefs are just plain STUPID. Unfortunately, we often can't see that something we buy into is dumb or not (but since we don't really think we're stupid to begin with, we think it's everyone else who has dumb ideas, not just us). So, in order to help you, the reader, I have constructed a short guide to identifying stupid beliefs. After all, identification is the first step towards ridding yourself of stupid beliefs. If any belief you hold matches one of these 5 criteria, it is a stupid belief. If you don't agree, feel free to post a calm, rational, and well-thought-out comment in the comment section.

This is a nice guide, when it comes to beliefs. But what about experiences? There are people who can swear they have hands-on experiences with various occult and supernatural stuff. Some even routinely. And they're not crazy, not motivated to lie, not desiring attention, et cetera. Most of your points do not apply on experiences or observations, yet these experiences are powerful sources of belief. 
For example, about 80% people in USA believes in "angels". Typically, they have problems on the road, some man appears, helps them change a tire or fix the vehicle and then just vanishes into thin air. There are cases reported in South Africa, of a hitchhiker in white, who even leaves a closed seat belt in a running car, when he vanished. Hell, even a couple of clear-headed people known to me had met such a person a few times. 

 

BenfromCanada wrote:
 My one friend, however, has destroyed himself through his stupid, stupid beliefs. He has become a full-blown member of Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. This is the cult that put out that retarded bit of pseudoscience What The Bleep Do We Know? into our collective consciousness. They also have regular "events" (the cheaper ones run at $1000/event, without travel expenses) and they sell a ton of books, CDs and DVDs. He went to an event every month, took a lot of time off work, and drove away his friends. He eventually went bankrupt due to this cult. Bear in mind, this is a man who made a lot of money, though I don't want to violate anyone's privacy. The man went broke and eventually moved to Washington to be closer to Ramtha. I haven't heard from him since last tie he asked my family for money and was turned down harshly.

Sincere condolences.
Ramtha is supposed to be a former Atlantean warrior's spirit. I don't know why that doesn't sound suspicious to people. For what we know, I might have been an Atlantean warrior or priest too, but since then I'd surely incarnate many times and add more lines to my reincarnate's curriculum vitae. Anyway, according to my books Atlantis was a fine time, but not quite rich on intellectuals and it ended pretty badly. There was a war between folks fooled by some greedy and evil leaders and the old faithful follwers of the benevolent priest-kings. I'd like to know on which side this Ramtha supposedly fought, so that since then he was afraid to stick his ectoplasmic nose out of the astral realm.

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.


BenfromCanada
atheist
BenfromCanada's picture
Posts: 811
Joined: 2006-08-31
User is offlineOffline
Luminon wrote:This is a nice

Luminon wrote:
This is a nice guide, when it comes to beliefs. But what about experiences? There are people who can swear they have hands-on experiences with various occult and supernatural stuff. Some even routinely. And they're not crazy, not motivated to lie, not desiring attention, et cetera. Most of your points do not apply on experiences or observations, yet these experiences are powerful sources of belief. 


For example, about 80% people in USA believes in "angels". Typically, they have problems on the road, some man appears, helps them change a tire or fix the vehicle and then just vanishes into thin air. There are cases reported in South Africa, of a hitchhiker in white, who even leaves a closed seat belt in a running car, when he vanished. Hell, even a couple of clear-headed people known to me had met such a person a few times.

Experiences are both harder and easier to disprove. We all have hallucinations, even if we don't use illicit substances (heat, dehydration and tiredness can cause hallucinations). We all make mistakes, too (example: if a dude helps fix your vehicle and simply walks away and you don't see where he went, you could think he vanished). On the other hand, you weren't there, and can't tell what actually happened. So while it's easy to hypothesize that it could be they were mistaken or it could be that they hallucinated, or something else, you can't prove anything. Though, the more details you have, the better chance you have of showing that it likely didn't happen. A famous example is Travis Walton. His story sounds credible at first, then you realize he was drinking AND on LSD when this happened...and aside from his friends (who later changed their story to take out the UFO) the only evidence he has is hypnosis and a polygraph test (and a failed polygraph) and you realize there's no evidence at all that he didn't make it up.

 

Luminon wrote:
Sincere condolences.
Ramtha is supposed to be a former Atlantean warrior's spirit. I don't know why that doesn't sound suspicious to people. For what we know, I might have been an Atlantean warrior or priest too, but since then I'd surely incarnate many times and add more lines to my reincarnate's curriculum vitae. Anyway, according to my books Atlantis was a fine time, but not quite rich on intellectuals and it ended pretty badly. There was a war between folks fooled by some greedy and evil leaders and the old faithful follwers of the benevolent priest-kings. I'd like to know on which side this Ramtha supposedly fought, so that since then he was afraid to stick his ectoplasmic nose out of the astral realm.

When I talked to my former friend about that, I pointed out 2 things.

1: Ramtha was apparently born in Lemuria, another lost continent, and moved to Atlantis. Lemuria was an hypothesis to explain why there were lemurs in India and in west Africa with none between them, and why both lemur species date to before sea travel. It was found to be impossible for that place to exist, and I asked his for explanation, which was essentially "nu-uh!" then "well, he didn't come from Lemuria" despite early works from Knight claiming that he did. That was sort of a "we've always been at war with Eurasia" moment.

2: Atlantis itself was a name given to a hypothetical city that grew arrogant, Socrates discussed it in Plato's Republic. Even mentioning this prior to knowing Ramtha was Atlantean really got to him...but anyway, according to what I've read, Ramtha went with the priest-kings and left Atlantis after discovering astral travel. He got reincarnated as people like Buddha and Jesus and...yeah, nonsense all around.


Luminon
SuperfanTheist
Luminon's picture
Posts: 2455
Joined: 2008-02-17
User is offlineOffline
BenfromCanada

 

BenfromCanada wrote:

Experiences are both harder and easier to disprove. We all have hallucinations, even if we don't use illicit substances (heat, dehydration and tiredness can cause hallucinations). We all make mistakes, too (example: if a dude helps fix your vehicle and simply walks away and you don't see where he went, you could think he vanished). On the other hand, you weren't there, and can't tell what actually happened. So while it's easy to hypothesize that it could be they were mistaken or it could be that they hallucinated, or something else, you can't prove anything. Though, the more details you have, the better chance you have of showing that it likely didn't happen. A famous example is Travis Walton. His story sounds credible at first, then you realize he was drinking AND on LSD when this happened...and aside from his friends (who later changed their story to take out the UFO) the only evidence he has is hypnosis and a polygraph test (and a failed polygraph) and you realize there's no evidence at all that he didn't make it up.

What you describe can be easily dismissed by using the rare quality called common sense. If there are drugs, sleep deprivation, or an easy natural explanation, then nobody with common sense will have a second thought about it. 

But the literature on "angels" is fairly extensive. Many people worldwide are on lookout for exactly such a kind of encounter and gather similar stories, which then get published in magazines. Hell, even I look behind myself after I had met some stranger, in case he'd disappear. 
Our group of people, including my parents had several encounters which all happened with many people present around and... well, it looks like the mysterious man knew things nobody was supposed to know, he could do things nobody was able to do (like walk freely between two entrance bouncers who checked everybody's tickets) and was able to be selectively visible or hearable to people standing around. (one such encounter happened at a huge esoteric festival in Slovakia)

Eventually, my mom caught up with that mysterious man and was determined to talk to him and get some straight answers. She looked up to him (he was very tall in very unusual clothes) and... nothing. The next thing she remembered was that she obediently walked to find my dad in a nearby restaurant. 
We don't even find it strange anymore, there are hundreds of such encounters worldwide, with a similar person involved.

BTW, hallucinations are not like a common cold. I saw some things you can only read about in esoteric textbooks, but in these cases I was able to verify them, like repeat the observation, get another witness or confirm what I see by other senses. Sure, there are hallucinating people walking around, but they're fucked up in one way or another (drugs, head injury, attention craving etc) and they will either claim random things or popular urban legends and can be sorted out. 

BenfromCanada wrote:
 When I talked to my former friend about that, I pointed out 2 things.

1: Ramtha was apparently born in Lemuria, another lost continent, and moved to Atlantis. Lemuria was an hypothesis to explain why there were lemurs in India and in west Africa with none between them, and why both lemur species date to before sea travel. It was found to be impossible for that place to exist, and I asked his for explanation, which was essentially "nu-uh!" then "well, he didn't come from Lemuria" despite early works from Knight claiming that he did. That was sort of a "we've always been at war with Eurasia" moment.

2: Atlantis itself was a name given to a hypothetical city that grew arrogant, Socrates discussed it in Plato's Republic. Even mentioning this prior to knowing Ramtha was Atlantean really got to him...but anyway, according to what I've read, Ramtha went with the priest-kings and left Atlantis after discovering astral travel. He got reincarnated as people like Buddha and Jesus and...yeah, nonsense all around.

Reincarnated as Jesus and Buddha? Yeah, right, then he suffered a major astral accident and now he's unable to produce miracles. 
Well, it's clear your friend didn't read Helena P. Blavatsky. She defines Lemuria as a freakin' 6 million years period of development of pre-human species. Atlantis is the name for a subsequent 12 million years period ending 100,000 years ago. (with the last inhabited island sinking 10,000 years ago) I don't say there is nothing to the sinking continents, after all, there are underwater pyramids near Cuba and Japan. (and some giant-sized stairs, doorways, thrones and coffins) But I recognize astral gabber when I see it.

I know many people who worked for mediums. Some of the mediums treat people like shit, others are on the verge of insanity, in their private lives. People interested in esotericism either learn to compare sources and distinguish inconsistencies, or they'll get screwed. The claims must stand up to comparison, or they're just astral gabber. There are independent sources who agree with each other and sources which disagree. The latter may be safely thrown into paper recyclation, like the books of Urantia, Agartha, I AM movement and countless others.

So what you get is a huge new age community who believe fairy tales and trust voices talking in people's heads. And aside that, small groups of esotericists, who have critical thinking and orderly life style. They are mostly middle-aged people. I hope to be one of a new variety of esotericist, who also has some scientific knowledge, college degree and knows english language. 

 

 

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.