A defense of religious moderation.

Strafio
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A defense of religious moderation.

Hi. I've wandered over from the Infidel Guy site. (some of you might recognise me)
I'm an agnostic (as in, have no fixed opinion on God's 'existence' so I believe whatever I feel like) and always put myself in the 'neutral' position, arguing against any position I consider to be extreme. (be it a theistic one, an atheistic one... etc.)

So you could say my position is promoting true agnosticism when it comes to questions of God.
"My guess is as good as yours so let's neither of us claim to know better."
Obviously I have more argument with fundies than strong atheists as "you're irrational for disagreeing" is nowhere near as nasty as "you'll burn in hell for disagreeing!" and the former is probably right anyway! Laughing out loud

Anyway, introduction through, here's the argument:
This ought to defend the rationality of believing in moderate religious doctrine, especially mystical religions like Buddhism.
The way I see it there are two main forms of rationality.
I call them Pragmatical rationality and Truthful rationality.
Pragmatical rationality is working out what is beneficial/valuable.
Truthful rationality is working out what is true.

Someone whose main concern is Pragmatic Rationality might decide to choose to be Truthfully Irrational if they consider it valuable/healthy. Obviously, most correct truths will be valuable to a pragmatic rationalist. They wouldn't deny scientific facts for example. However, certain beliefs (e.g. Karma and Rebirth) are not provable and not falsifiable so are irrelevent to science. They would then chose to believe depending on whether it was good for them or healthy. Karma and Rebirth offer a moral wager and encourage people to be rational with their actions ("Will I regret doing this later?") so Buddhists choose to believe in them.

Because beliefs are believed in based on their usefulness, any concepts that cause trouble will be let go and forgotten about. Obviously you can't just ignore bad news if it's true but if it's not rationaly justified to be true then why let it bother you? So the pragmatic rationalist would only accept bad news from rational sources like science, e.g. "using fossil fuels like this is destroying the environment" etc.

This attitude towards irrational beliefs is what separates the moderate from the fundy.
The fundy disregards what is practical because they believe that what they have is an absolute truth. This means they will promote damaging doctrines because 'being useful' isn't their priority.
That'll do to get the topic going...
Thoughts? Smiling


gdon
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Strafio wrote:The fundy

Strafio wrote:
The fundy disregards what is practical because they believe that what they have is an absolute truth. This means they will promote damaging doctrines because 'being useful' isn't their priority.
That'll do to get the topic going...
Thoughts? Smiling

I would say that a lot of fundies think that they actually have rationality on their side, e.g. creationists believe that the science shows they are right. If they hold a faith position, it is only because it is empirically supportable.

Fundies have 3 characteristics:
1. A belief that the Bible is either the literal word of God or it is rubbish. It has to be one or the other.
2. Moderate Christians are wishy-washy hypocrites.
3. A strong conviction that science/modern scholarship supports their position. But if it doesn't support their position, it is because those scholars have some kind of agenda, or they are somehow "threatened" by the fundy's position.

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into." -- Author unknown


todangst
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Strafio wrote:Hi. I've

Strafio wrote:
Hi. I've wandered over from the Infidel Guy site. (some of you might recognise me)

I'm an agnostic (as in, have no fixed opinion on God's 'existence' so I believe whatever I feel like) and always put myself in the 'neutral' position, arguing against any position I consider to be extreme. (be it a theistic one, an atheistic one... etc.)

Dude.. you're a druid!

Thanks for stopping by, glad to see you.

Quote:

Anyway, introduction through, here's the argument:
This ought to defend the rationality of believing in moderate religious doctrine, especially mystical religions like Buddhism.
The way I see it there are two main forms of rationality.
I call them Pragmatical rationality and Truthful rationality.
Pragmatical rationality is working out what is beneficial/valuable.
Truthful rationality is working out what is true.

My only concern here is regarding pragmatic truth is this: that people tend to overestimate what pragmatism evaluates.

If believing that I have a parachute on my back, as I fall from the empire state building brings me peace, then the pragmatic value of the belief only speaks to the value of HOLDING to the belief.

When I say that my belief in X provides a pragmatic truth, all that means is that my holding to the belief provides a benefit.... X need not be true.

I'm not sure if you are saying this or not...

Quote:

Someone whose main concern is Pragmatic Rationality might decide to choose to be Truthfully Irrational if they consider it valuable/healthy. Obviously, most correct truths will be valuable to a pragmatic rationalist. They wouldn't deny scientific facts for example. However, certain beliefs (e.g. Karma and Rebirth) are not provable and not falsifiable so are irrelevent to science. They would then chose to believe depending on whether it was good for them or healthy. Karma and Rebirth offer a moral wager and encourage people to be rational with their actions ("Will I regret doing this later?") so Buddhists choose to believe in them.

Because beliefs are believed in based on their usefulness, any concepts that cause trouble will be let go and forgotten about.

You remind me of what Nietzsche wrote.... "man only has to have a need of a belief to hold it to be true.... man has no love of truth, only a desire to avoid pain.... as far as 'truth' helps him avoid pain, he will hold to it...."

I'm paraphrasing a bit, but that's the gist of it... and that's the problem with using pragmatism as a guide for the truth... sometimes the truth ain't all that useful, and sometimes it's just painful.

Of course, there is a problem on the other extreme as well.... a person can be biased towards believing that "this is painful, so it must be true!" Sometimes the truth ain't so bad after all...

Quote:

Obviously you can't just ignore bad news if it's true but if it's not rationaly justified to be true then why let it bother you?

Because holding to belief X may preclude you from considering belief Y, which is actually true. I think it might be better to simply withhold belief altogether... if possible.

Quote:

So the pragmatic rationalist would only accept bad news from rational sources like science, e.g. "using fossil fuels like this is destroying the environment" etc.

This attitude towards irrational beliefs is what separates the moderate from the fundy.


I'm not sure it's so clearly delineated as that....

Quote:

The fundy disregards what is practical because they believe that what they have is an absolute truth. This means they will promote damaging doctrines because 'being useful' isn't their priority
.
That'll do to get the topic going...

It certainly did. Thanks for posting.

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.


todangst
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gdon wrote:I would say that

gdon wrote:
I would say that a lot of fundies think that they actually have rationality on their side, e.g. creationists believe that the science shows they are right. If they hold a faith position, it is only because it is empirically supportable.

I agree with you, in fact, they'd likely say that there's only ONE truth, and that this sorta talk about 'pragmatic truth' just sounds like post modern rubbish....

Quote:

Fundies have 3 characteristics:
1. A belief that the Bible is either the literal word of God or it is rubbish. It has to be one or the other.

Yes, you see this in the "lord, liar or lunatic' argument too... either 'jesus' was 'god' or 'the son of god' ( or homoousion) or .... he was a raving lunatic to be ignored. The idea that he didn't exist at all, or that he existed as a man with enough reasonable things to say to inspire people to write about him, must be cast aside.

Quote:

2. Moderate Christians are wishy-washy hypocrites.

You see this from strong atheists in regards to 'agnostics' too

Quote:

3. A strong conviction that science/modern scholarship supports their position. But if it doesn't support their position, it is because those scholars have some kind of agenda, or they are somehow "threatened" by the fundy's position.

Yeah, I love that contradiction myself....

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.


Topher
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Strafio wrote:The way I see

Strafio wrote:
The way I see it there are two main forms of rationality.
I call them Pragmatical rationality and Truthful rationality.
Pragmatical rationality is working out what is beneficial/valuable.
Truthful rationality is working out what is true.

Someone whose main concern is Pragmatic Rationality might decide to choose to be Truthfully Irrational if they consider it valuable/healthy.


I see what your trying to say, but to be honest I see it as nothing more than trying to justify being irrational… trying to repackage irration as rationality.

The bottom line is rationality is rationality. Either you have good logic/reason/evidence or you do not.

I understand that truth may not always be what one wants, and it may not always be useful, however it would still be the truth and therefore cannot be ignored. We use truth, even ‘bad’ truth to make advancements.

Fundies (and often moderates), ignore many truths because they consider their alternative faith-based belief to be more valuable/healthy/pragmatic. Are we to no longer call them what they really are: irrational, but rather “pragmatic rationalists?”

Often, especially in the case of religion, people don’t consider a truth valuable/healthy/pragmatic simply because it doesn’t correspond with their desires. So the problem is not with the truth, it’s with the irrational desires of the individual.

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


Strafio
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Toph, I'm saying there's

Toph, I'm saying there's different things you can use rationality for.

You can use rationality to analyse truth and you can use rationality to analyse what's useful (pragmatics).
Someone who puts pragmatism as their first priority might call an excessive desire of truth irrational, if this excess of truth wasn't useful in some way. So I'm saying that choosing something 'true' over something 'useful' is a matter of priority/taste rather than rationality.

Perhaps you can argue that there's no such thing as a false belief being more useful than a true one?

todangst wrote:
Dude.. you're a druid!

Thanks for stopping by, glad to see you.


Thanks for the welcome. Smiling
I notice they've named a forum after you an Chaos here!
I'll be a bit scarce over the next two weeks because my Nottingham Student house isn't set up for internet.
I'm using a public computer at the mo and haven't got a lot of time so I'll make this brief:

The questions seem to be whether an irrational belief, or even a false belief can really be more useful than a true one. In most cases I'd agree that it wouldn't be, but I'll be thinking about what I perceive to be 'useful' irrational beliefs and work out reasons why I make exceptions.
Until then... Eye-wink


ShaunPhilly
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Quote:The questions seem to

Quote:
The questions seem to be whether an irrational belief, or even a false belief can really be more useful than a true one. In most cases I'd agree that it wouldn't be, but I'll be thinking about what I perceive to be 'useful' irrational beliefs and work out reasons why I make exceptions.

Rational beliefs are true beliefs. Useful beliefs may or may not be true, but they are only rational when true.

I do like Pragmatism to some extent, but I don't see it that we decide what it true based upon what is useful, but what works. What works is rational thought based in experiment, and thus evidence.

The reference to Nietzsche above is pertinent because he shows us that much of our physchology, and therefore philosophical history, is made up of things taht are not true.

I love this quote in particular:

Quote:
"To translate man back into nature; to become master over the many vain and overly enthusiastic interpretations and connotations that have so far been scrawled and painted over the eternal basic text of homo natura; to see to it that man henceforth stands before man as even today, hardened in the discipline of science, he stands before the rest of nature, with Oedipus eyes and sealed Odysseus ears, deaf to the siren songs of old metaphysical bird catchers who have been piping at him all too long, “you are more, you are higher, you are of a different origin!”—that may be a strange and insane task, but it is a task"

Nietzsche goes on to talk about how we have a "metaphysical need" taht drives our liking untruth. It is useful for us because it gives us answers we like, rather than ones that make sense when compared with the real world.

So yes, untrue and irrational "truths" can be more useful, but they are never rational.

Shaun

I'll fight for a person's right to speak so long as that person will, in return, fight to allow me to challenge their opinions and ridicule them as the content of their ideas merit.


Strafio
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todangst wrote:My only

todangst wrote:
My only concern here is regarding pragmatic truth is this: that people tend to overestimate what pragmatism evaluates.

Yes. One of the things I'll be looking it is where an irrational belief can be pragmatically justified, the boundaries of pragmatic irrationality.

Quote:
If believing that I have a parachute on my back, as I fall from the empire state building brings me peace, then the pragmatic value of the belief only speaks to the value of HOLDING to the belief.

When I say that my belief in X provides a pragmatic truth, all that means is that my holding to the belief provides a benefit.... X need not be true.

I'm not sure if you are saying this or not...


That's pretty much what I'm saying.
Even if a belief isn't true, it can still be beneficial to hold it. You gave examples in a IG thread ages ago, like believing you're good looking because that makes you more confident and more likely to score. (ofcourse, my belief in that wouldn't just be pragmatic! Eye-wink)

Quote:
Because holding to belief X may preclude you from considering belief Y, which is actually true. I think it might be better to simply withhold belief altogether... if possible.

I think this marks our first boundary:
A pragamatic belief shouldn't be in the face of a rational belief.
For example, global warming beliefs require us to take inconvenient measures which some would rather ignore. Rejecting the rational belief in this case is actually un-pragmatic in the long run.

There are some situations where an irrational belief in the face of reason would be justified but this topic is about more general theological beliefs. Theological beliefs ought to be unfalsifiable or atleast unfalsified.


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Strafio wrote:I'm an

Strafio wrote:
I'm an agnostic...

Me too. I think you'll recognize the name "Buckster" as the author of this piece: Am I agnostic or atheist?

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Strafio
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Hehe! The reason I use

Hehe!
The reason I use agnostic in this way is because if I say atheism or theism then it implies I have a consistent belief or lack thereof.
So saying I'm an agnostic is like answering the question:
"Do you believe in God?" with "somtimes... when I feel like it..."


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Indecisive might be a better

Indecisive might be a better word than agnostic in that case.....


Strafio
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Probably, but that's what

Probably, but that's what the common use of agnostic has come to mean. Tracing it to greek origins and saying that most agnostics mean atheist... it's kind of like saying that everyone's gay at somepoint, if you trace back to the original meaning of 'gay'...

So back on topic... Smiling


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Strafio wrote:Hehe! The

Strafio wrote:
Hehe!
The reason I use agnostic in this way is because if I say atheism or theism then it implies I have a consistent belief or lack thereof.
So saying I'm an agnostic is like answering the question:
"Do you believe in God?" with "somtimes... when I feel like it..."

There's a position I can relate to! I'm not like that anymore, but I used to be. Of course in reality this means that sometimes you're a theist and other times you're an atheist, but considering that you're an agnostic all the time, it's simpler to just say "agnostic."

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Strafio wrote:Tracing it to

Strafio wrote:
Tracing it to greek origins and saying that most agnostics mean atheist...

Tracing the origins of the words doesn't lead it to meaning atheism. It means lack of knowledge, which is not atheism.

Moving on…. I hold that everyone in the world is agnostic since no one can have knowledge of the supernatural. So everyone is either an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist. Very few theists however admit the agnostic part. And a lot of atheists fail to acknowledge their atheism, thinking that stating their position as agnostic presents them as more open-minded. They are instead incorrectly defining the term.

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