Learning the language

Dissident1's picture

When entering a foreign land, learning the native language is the easiest and most assurable method of gaining needed or desired information and services. In fact, it is more or less necessary.

Even among people who speak a common language, misunderstandings often arise. Different segments and subcultures of any given civilisation give birth to many different methods of expression. If a person who has been raised in economic disparity in a major city meets someone who was raised in an upper-class small-town area, it is very likely that the two would find a great deal of difficulty understanding each other.

In many places, if you do not speak the language, they will not help you. Even if they speak your language, the fact that you did not take the time to learn their language makes them feel disrespected.

Yet, in dealing with religious people, we are often told to be above reproach. We have to speak clearly, and be pillars of rational thought.

This doesn't work for the simple fact that the religious person is not a rational person! Reason is a foreign language, and rational thought an extremely foreign concept to them!

Christianity, for instance, expanded throughout Europe at the edge of a sword. Those who would not convert were killed, nonchristian temples destroyed. The early crusaders actively tried to erase any indication of "pagan", or nonchristian, thought from European history. The language of Christianity is filled with similar imagery. They speak of themselves as "soldiers of Christ", talk of being at "war with the world", and wait for an apocalyptic war at Ari Megiddon.

In order for someone to talk to a Christian, they have to understand this. Reasonable speech, and pleas for peace, will fall on deaf ears. They cannot understand the language. Theirs is a language of death. If we truly wish to speak to them, to get them to hear us and listen, we must speak that language. Only then will they understand.

And that is a universal truth. You must learn the language in order to gain respect and understanding. It's the only way.

I am become death, destroyer of worlds

Wonderist's picture

This is a good topic, IMO.

This is a good topic, IMO. I agree, but I would take it a few steps further. For instance, you say "Theirs is a language of death." While I understand your point of view, this is clearly an instance of not speaking their language, for they don't see it as a language of death at all.

 Religious-style thinking is very different from rational-style thinking. They are different processes, different 'algorithms' to borrow a phrase from software. 

It is not enough to learn their language. You need to also know how to translate their language into a common language that anyone can understand, and also how to translate that common language into rational language too.

To understand: Religious -> Common -> Rational 

To communicate: Rational -> Common -> Religious 

The common language I speak of does not really exist as a language in a book... yet, at least. It is the language of thoughts and memes and ideas, and just generally how the brain works.

What I'm getting at is that you have to understand how their religious language makes sense to them, and also know how it doesn't make sense rationally, and then you have to use their language to convince them that their language doesn't really make sense.

I've found recently that focusing on the concept of intuition is a very good way to understand the common language better. Specifically, I characterize religious reasoning as 'intuitive reasoning' and freethinking reasoning as 'rational reasoning'. For an intuitive thinker, fallacies such as argument from ignorance, majority rules, etc, are the basic building blocks of an intuitive argument.

The reason intuitive thinking is so appealing is because when you arrive at a conclusion intuitively, you get this nice *feeling* of truth. The Ah Ha moment. It is the feeling of revelation. It is when something that made no sense before suddenly makes complete sense. The bigger the revelation, the more intense the feeling, and I think this is where 'religious experiences' come from.

I think this gives insight into a famous saying from Hitler (I think, and paraphrased), "The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it." It is because people reason intuitively that they are susceptible to big lies.

Rational reasoning, on the other hand, gives you more accurate truths, but takes a lot more time and effort, and often you don't get that intuitive rush of revelation. It is much less appealing for those who have no prior appreciation for the wonders of rational discovery. They see it as empty and cold. 

Intuition is a natural and *crucial* capability of the brain. Even rational reasoning is merely an extension and improvement upon the foundation of natural intuitive ability we have as humans.

So, by understanding intuitive reasoning, we will get a much better understanding of the 'common' language of the brain. Using this understanding, we can now get some really sharp insights into religious language, such as the mythology of Christianity.

I remember one time listening to an Infidel Guy show where Reggie was interviewing some Christian guy who was a really nice guy, but dumb as a doorknob. He would say something, regurgitating the Bible, and Reggie would come back with a devastating rational retort. This Christian guy just could NOT understand Reggie's arguments. In effect what he ended up doing is just listening to the last few words Reggie would say, and then spew more regurgitated Bible that was somewhat related to the last words Reggie spoke. He was like an intuition machine:

Guy: "But Jesus died for our sins." 

Reggie: "Blah blah blah, Jesus sitting in heaven, yadda yadda yadda, original sin doesn't make any sense anyway, etc etc etc. And so, I don't NEED your god's forgiveness."

Guy: "But we NEED god for our morals."

He essentially didn't even hear what Reggie was saying.

The reason I bring this up is that while I was listening to this, I was quite intoxicated, having come home from a night out. As I heard this guy drone on and on about the stories in the Bible, he said something that caused a reaction in me. I'll paraphrase it, but it basically went like this: The old Jewish ways, you had to make a blood sacrifice with a lamb to pay for your sins. But now Jesus comes along, and he IS that lamb, and his blood pays for all of our sins because he IS god himself. So now the blood sacrifice has been paid and all you have to do to get saved is believe in Jesus.

Bam! Suddenly the mythology started to make a heck of a lot more sense to me (I was never Christian, it never made sense to me before), and I had an intense feeling of 'revelation'. I thought, "Holy Shit! I think I'm becoming a Christian!" Seriously. Actually, it only lasted a few seconds, but I was so drunk that I couldn't think rationally why this *intuitive* argument was wrong. Instead, the intuition got stronger and stronger, turning a mystery into a straightforward 'logic'. It was a pretty intense feeling while it lasted.

That was when I really started taking Christian 'language' more seriously, since I could now understand the real effects it causes on people who reason intuitively.

In my opinion, this conflict between faith (which is really just believing things because of the intuitive FEELING that it is true) and reason/rationality can best be solved by coming up with a very compelling INTUITIVE argument for why and how people should think rationally.

In essence, I'm agreeing with your basic idea that understanding Christian language is important, but expanding it by saying that it is more than just Christian language we need to understand, it is the common intuitive language of the human brain that we need to understand. At the core, the Christian language is based only secondarily on death; primarily it is based on untrained intuitive reasoning (lack of experience thinking rationally). 

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Dissident1's picture

Quite a bit to contemplate

It is quite a bit to contemplate, but you have thought this out very well.  It would appear that you are correct, I think. 

Thank you.

I am become death, destroyer of worlds

Wonderist's picture

Glad it was helpful. By the

Glad it was helpful. By the way, after learning about intuition over these last several months, I've been able to have some pretty awesome 'revelations' when thinking about cool ideas in science. I mean, like tears flowing down my cheeks kind of stuff. In fact, many of these revelations have even turned out to be useful to me.

I think that intuition (including the feelings of revelation) is there for a reason.... an evolutionary reason. (You thought I was going to say god, didn't ya?)

Intuition, even though it is imperfect, personal, automatic, and often-wrong, is actually a useful thing. We have it because it gave us anadvantage. Specifically, it allows us to make pretty-good decisions very quickly. It may sometimes be wrong, but on average having intuition is better than not having it, in evolutionary terms.

Even today, with our evidence and rational systems, intuition remains useful. Finding evidence and following a rational system takes time and energy. Sure, it gives more accurate truths, but what if we don't have time to get the BEST answer, and a good-enough answer right now is better than the best answer too late? In these cases, which I would argue happen many times per day, intuition can play a useful role.

Thus, as a pragmatist, I choose to adopt intuition and find out all its strengths and weaknesses so I can use it to the best of my ability.

As people who typically argue the POV "I won't believe without evidence", we probably are giving intuition a bad rap. The real problem is faith, which is blind trust in intuition without evidence. I already know that intuition is error-prone, which is why we invented rationality in the first place, so I am definitely not advocating blind faith. It's like nitro, it can make you go real fast and give you a rush, but too much of it will wreck your engine.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is that maybe intuition is the baby that theists are trying to tell us not to throw out with the bathwater. This could be the foundation of some common ground between theists and atheists. We can say things like, "I don't believe in faith, I believe in intuition," and people will say, "Hmm, I wonder what he means by that," and we can then explain that intuition is good (obvious advantages) and faith is bad (blind faith, of course). We can also say things like, "I understand and value your intuition, but intuition is often wrong (and this is easily demonstrated), so we should not have blind faith in it. What if your intuition about Jesus is wrong?" It would be ridiculous for a theist to reply with "my intuition is never wrong", which is an obvious absurdity, but today theists routinely reply to such atheist prodding (using 'faith' instead of 'intuition&#39Eye-wink with "faith is a virtue" and "you just gotta have faith" and "atheists have just as much faith as we do, so shut up you mean atheist".

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this is a good topic...i

this is a good topic...i think you should move it over to freethinking anonymous for more discussion.