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Old 19th March 2019, 03:23 PM   #201
IanS
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
Okay, here's an example description (one of many along the same lines) of someone I know well and personally. Middle aged woman, mother of 4 very kind and well-adjusted children, married ~20 years, medical doctor, generous, kind and considerate towards people of all sorts. Raised in a Christian home, became more involved in and committed to her faith as a young adult. Knows that faith and science are sometimes at odds, but has found intense peace, comfort, joy, hope, inspiration etc. in times of prayer and other expressions of her faith, both privately and within her community. As such, she is not concerned about trying to define her belief in ways that are congruent with "all current knowledge and understanding of reality", but is very happy to continue to explore and express her faith within the context of Christianity.

So back to the earlier definitions; in my opinion, she is not naive, uneducated, silly, or crazy.

Well it's "uneducated" if she believes that evolution is untrue and that an invisible God really made humans.

And it's a "silly" belief to think that Jesus really could have been dead for 3 days and then rose from his grave and floated off to heaven.

And in common every-day language it's "crazy" to believe that Jesus walked on water, fed 5000 people with just a few loaves and a couple of fish, commanded other dead people to come back to life and walk away etc.

In biblical times it seems that almost everyone on Earth believed that things like that happened almost daily in various towns and cities all around them. But they had a good excuse, because in the 1st century AD almost nobody had the faintest idea of what caused things like thunder & lightning, or earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, famine, disease, or how any stars could have been "put" into the night sky. So with that almost total lack of any scientific knowledge at all, it certainly would have seemed to everyone that a supernatural creator and constant miracles were probably the only possible answer.

But we are not in the 1st century AD any more. And educated honest people should know now that science has provided completely convincing answers for all those things ... with no hint of any God ever found anywhere in any of the many millions of explanations we now have for almost everything that surrounds us all every day and which we all rely on every day in our daily lives. We expect all of that vast environment from science to be absolutely perfectly correct and to work all day every day, absolutely perfectly every time, - and it does all actually do that! But in stark contrast, wherever we have ever been able to make a genuine investigation of any religious claims about miracles, faith healing (including anyone rising from the truly dead), visions etc., or even claimed "personal experiences", all of those claims have turned out to be completely false; every last one of them!

The other point about your doctor friend, is this - what she believes from her faith may indeed give her comfort, and it may indeed persuade her to help others in need, etc. But her beliefs, like the beliefs of all her millions of fellow Christians, do have real consequences. And those consequences also include some of the faithful attacking abortion clinics, praying for sick children instead of calling for medical help, attempting to get creationism officially taught in schools, in the US it also includes the fact that it's almost impossible to get elected to political office unless you swear that you are a Christian believer, and along with that it includes all sorts of church groups then requiring tax favours from all those elected "Christian" politicians. Of course in the Muslim world it also includes a shockingly large number of people who think it's actually their religious duty to wage a holy war in order to exert the supremacy of Islam and establish an Islamic Caliphate etc.

Now you might think that your doctor friend is a Christian "moderate" who would never do any of those things, and that it's only fundamentalists who do all of that. But the truth is it's a sliding and very fluid scale from moderate to extremist; where, just because at one time the believer is entirely benign, certainly does not mean they cannot change their views quite rapidly to become seriously dangerous to themselves and to others around them. IOW, religious moderates can quite easily and quickly become dangerous extremists for all sorts of reasons ... and if you doubt that then just look at how many young Muslims from the UK and other EU countries have left to fight for IS in Syria and elsewhere, and look at their earlier background where almost all of them were former moderates who very quickly changed their minds and decided to cross that line into lethal extremism.

In short - the problem is that religious beliefs are dangerous. In fact, it's often said that all beliefs rooted in fantasy are potentially dangerous, and perhaps in the end that's true.
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Old 19th March 2019, 04:16 PM   #202
Minoosh
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Originally Posted by ynot View Post
A person that knows there’s conflict and contradiction between their strongly held and committed life-long Christian God beliefs and their educated intellectual knowledge chooses to compartmentalize them rather than honesty facing and addressing their cognitive dissonance.
Do you believe it's a choice?
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Old 19th March 2019, 04:28 PM   #203
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
Do you believe it's a choice?
As much as anything is a choice.
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Old 19th March 2019, 04:32 PM   #204
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Well it's "uneducated" if she believes that evolution is untrue and that an invisible God really made humans.
I would say "intellectually dishonest of an educated person that favours emotional god beliefs".
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Last edited by ynot; 19th March 2019 at 04:36 PM.
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Old 19th March 2019, 04:48 PM   #205
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
I was trying to remember where I had seem some esteemed astrophysicist saying that we knew but a little, and that we therefore could not rule out things that we would call supernatural. Then I remembered it was Brian May. He's esteemed, all right, but for his guitar playing and songwriting, not his science.

Maybe he was just being polite to legions of fans who want to believe Freddie Mercury still exists.
Well, maybe, but maybe he's just being scientific about it. As the saying goes, you can't disprove a negative. (Well, most of the time, anyway.) As such, most of us not believing in X, Y or Z, are simply falling back on the default hypothesis until evidence is presented to disprove it, rather than believing that X, Y and Z are absolutely disproven or anything.

I'm quite open myself to the idea that magic exists, or a god exists, or hell, that elves exist in my fridge. As gods go, I'm not even asking for omnipotence or anything. If anyone can do the stuff that has been ascribed to Pharaohs for example -- since a Pharaoh was supposed to BE a god, not just a messenger or something -- I'll gladly pull stones for his pyramid.

But, you know, until evidence is presented, I'll stick to the null hypothesis that there is no such thing happening.

UNFORTUNATELY, instead of evidence, I tend to get the same old rationalizations over and over again. I wish someone would at least come up with an original stupidity, really, but I'm kinda jaded at this point
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Last edited by HansMustermann; 19th March 2019 at 04:49 PM.
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Old 19th March 2019, 04:52 PM   #206
attempt5001
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Originally Posted by ynot View Post
Thanks. Well there’s a lot of unnecessary warm-fuzzy emotional “chaff” in that, so I’ll edit it down to what I believe is the relevant “wheat” of the matter . . .

But first, here’s a reminder of what Thor 2 and myself collectively said and which you took exception to and ridiculed - “God beliefs are silly for the educated and intellectually honest in modern times”.

My abridged edit . . .
A person that knows there’s conflict and contradiction between their strongly held and committed life-long Christian God beliefs and their educated intellectual knowledge chooses to compartmentalize them rather than honesty facing and addressing their cognitive dissonance. Their reason for doing this is to preserve and protect the comforting and desirable “rewards” they get from their God beliefs. In other words, they are willfully choosing to be dishonest to their intellectual knowledge in favour of their comforting God beliefs. From this person’s perspective they aren’t being silly because they aren’t being intellectually honest. From an intellectually honest person’s perspective however they are being silly (to put it mildly).

So back to the earlier definitions: Whether she is naive or not is irrelevant because nativity isn’t one of our definitions. She is certainly educated but she's also being intellectually dishonest. She chooses to compartmentalize her educated intellectual knowledge from her comforting emotional God beliefs and favours the beliefs. From an intellectually honest persons perspective intellectual dishonesty in favour of comforting emotional god beliefs is silly, crazy and potentially dangerous for humanity.

So ““God beliefs are silly for the educated and intellectually honest in modern times” is neither condescending nor insulting, it’s merely true.

Please let me know if there’s anything there you take exception to (I imagine there will be ).
I understand what you mean, but you're right, I disagree with your use of the word dishonest. As I mentioned in a different post, I think many people honestly look at science in a rational way, then honestly examine their feelings and experiences with faith in an emotional way. I think it's quite possible to honestly decide that denying the science is impossible, but equally so is denying the experiences encountered exploring faith. In such a case, the only honest position is to acknowledge the challenge. One may then proceed to try to work through the challenge, perhaps eventually reinterpreting their religious experiences and thoughts in non-supernatural terms, however it is not incumbent on them to do so, nor necessarily dishonest if the choose not to.

Also, the purpose of the emotional chaff is to give you a context of things I consider to be strong evidence of someone being neither uneducated, naive, silly or insane. Much better metrics, in my opinion, than what religions beliefs someone holds.

One last point. I wouldn't do this, but I could contend that you are being dishonest by not acknowledging that it's reasonable for someone to have both scientific understanding and religious beliefs as helpful models for understanding different aspects of their existence. I make no such claim because I don't believe you are being dishonest. I believe you when you say you can't understand how that is possible. I think you are attempting to understand and finding that it remains incomprehensible. Perhaps you could try a different approach, or try harder, but it is not incumbent on you to do that, and it is not dishonest if you choose not to.
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Old 19th March 2019, 04:58 PM   #207
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
Do you believe it's a choice?
I would argue that it HAS to be, because it's neither logical, nor the natural way the brain files information. In fact, quite the opposite, the brain has mechanisms in place like cognitive dissonance to try to force you to have ONE world model and keep it coherent.

But, really, think about it. If you believe X, which again is shorthand for believing X is true, then why wouldn't you apply it all the time? E.g., if you think that those mushrooms over there are poisonous, exactly why and how would you apply it, say, in church, but not in the kitchen? If you believe that that snake over there is poisonous, why would you only use that information in the back of the garden, but not in the front of it?

Why would something like that even evolve? Exactly when would a caveman need such a mechanism?

It seems to me like it's ONLY used for religion, and at that it seems to be a rather modern phenomenon. Far as anyone can tell, in ancient times, or for every tribe we encountered, they just believe that their religion is true and it applies full time.

So, yes, I think that at that point of bending over backwards to work around the very biology of one's brain, you kinda have to choose to do it. It doesn't just happen naturally.
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Old 19th March 2019, 05:27 PM   #208
attempt5001
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Well it's "uneducated" if she believes that evolution is untrue and that an invisible God really made humans.

And it's a "silly" belief to think that Jesus really could have been dead for 3 days and then rose from his grave and floated off to heaven.

And in common every-day language it's "crazy" to believe that Jesus walked on water, fed 5000 people with just a few loaves and a couple of fish, commanded other dead people to come back to life and walk away etc.

In biblical times it seems that almost everyone on Earth believed that things like that happened almost daily in various towns and cities all around them. But they had a good excuse, because in the 1st century AD almost nobody had the faintest idea of what caused things like thunder & lightning, or earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, famine, disease, or how any stars could have been "put" into the night sky. So with that almost total lack of any scientific knowledge at all, it certainly would have seemed to everyone that a supernatural creator and constant miracles were probably the only possible answer.

But we are not in the 1st century AD any more. And educated honest people should know now that science has provided completely convincing answers for all those things ... with no hint of any God ever found anywhere in any of the many millions of explanations we now have for almost everything that surrounds us all every day and which we all rely on every day in our daily lives. We expect all of that vast environment from science to be absolutely perfectly correct and to work all day every day, absolutely perfectly every time, - and it does all actually do that! But in stark contrast, wherever we have ever been able to make a genuine investigation of any religious claims about miracles, faith healing (including anyone rising from the truly dead), visions etc., or even claimed "personal experiences", all of those claims have turned out to be completely false; every last one of them!

The other point about your doctor friend, is this - what she believes from her faith may indeed give her comfort, and it may indeed persuade her to help others in need, etc. But her beliefs, like the beliefs of all her millions of fellow Christians, do have real consequences. And those consequences also include some of the faithful attacking abortion clinics, praying for sick children instead of calling for medical help, attempting to get creationism officially taught in schools, in the US it also includes the fact that it's almost impossible to get elected to political office unless you swear that you are a Christian believer, and along with that it includes all sorts of church groups then requiring tax favours from all those elected "Christian" politicians. Of course in the Muslim world it also includes a shockingly large number of people who think it's actually their religious duty to wage a holy war in order to exert the supremacy of Islam and establish an Islamic Caliphate etc.

Now you might think that your doctor friend is a Christian "moderate" who would never do any of those things, and that it's only fundamentalists who do all of that. But the truth is it's a sliding and very fluid scale from moderate to extremist; where, just because at one time the believer is entirely benign, certainly does not mean they cannot change their views quite rapidly to become seriously dangerous to themselves and to others around them. IOW, religious moderates can quite easily and quickly become dangerous extremists for all sorts of reasons ... and if you doubt that then just look at how many young Muslims from the UK and other EU countries have left to fight for IS in Syria and elsewhere, and look at their earlier background where almost all of them were former moderates who very quickly changed their minds and decided to cross that line into lethal extremism.

In short - the problem is that religious beliefs are dangerous. In fact, it's often said that all beliefs rooted in fantasy are potentially dangerous, and perhaps in the end that's true.
Thanks for the thorough response IanS. I understand what you're saying and agree with some of it. I just have time to reply to the highlighted bit right now and am picking it because I think many people agree with you, whereas I disagree. I think it's very unreasonable to expect the degree of social change you are describing within the timelines given. I know you're using hyperbole when you says "1 AD", but when do you really think scientific thinking began to become sufficiently mainstream such that "educated, honest people" should have discarded their faith and belief? I would say somewhere around the 1980s this sort of expectation began to emerge and become more popular. I think the pace of the social shift since then has been enormously fast (in historical terms) and that the resistance and "blow-back" seen in places like the US is a typical and predictable result of rapid social change. I think the expectation that thousands of years of established cultural mentality should change entirely in half a lifetime, such that anyone who fails to keep up is uneducated and/or dishonest, is very unrealistic.
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Old 19th March 2019, 06:46 PM   #209
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Given the thread subject, shouldn't posters be practicing ways of reaching out to theists amicably? Save all the accusations of stupidity, dishonesty, mental illness, etc., for all the threads not devoted to atheists amicably approaching theists?

Unless, of course, this is in fact relatively amicable compared to how some of you usually describe us theists...
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Old 19th March 2019, 06:57 PM   #210
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Originally Posted by epeeist View Post
Given the thread subject, shouldn't posters be practicing ways of reaching out to theists amicably? Save all the accusations of stupidity, dishonesty, mental illness, etc., for all the threads not devoted to atheists amicably approaching theists?

Unless, of course, this is in fact relatively amicable compared to how some of you usually describe us theists...
Yeeeahhh, you've hit the nail pretty much right on the head here. This is the friendliest thread on this subject I've seen in literally years.
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Old 19th March 2019, 08:09 PM   #211
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Originally Posted by Sideroxylon View Post
I don't believe in an interventionist god
But I know, darling, that you do...
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I AGREE
I wasn't familiar with Cave's work and at first I thought this song was going to be a joke - the opening lyrics sounded so heavy. I looked him up and ended checking out Johnny Cash's cover of The Mercy Seat. Plus Cave's version of course.

Thanks for that.
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Old 19th March 2019, 10:01 PM   #212
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I would argue that it HAS to be, because it's neither logical, nor the natural way the brain files information. In fact, quite the opposite, the brain has mechanisms in place like cognitive dissonance to try to force you to have ONE world model and keep it coherent.
OK. If it's not natural, and not logical, where did it come from?

I think there's a good chance that the ability to hold dissonant views had some survival value in our species. Otherwise only logical people would have lived to reproduce and we'd all be Vulcans.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
But, really, think about it. If you believe X, which again is shorthand for believing X is true, then why wouldn't you apply it all the time? E.g., if you think that those mushrooms over there are poisonous, exactly why and how would you apply it, say, in church, but not in the kitchen? If you believe that that snake over there is poisonous, why would you only use that information in the back of the garden, but not in the front of it?

Why would something like that even evolve? Exactly when would a caveman need such a mechanism?
If it didn't evolve, where then did it come from?

In another thread someone said religion existed solely for the benefit of privileged members of society who figured out how to manipulate people with it. But I didn't find that theory terribly persuasive. Somewhere along the way dualism became embedded in the human psyche, and I think it's more primitive than you give it credit for - otherwise religion would not have taken hold to the extent that it did.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
It seems to me like it's ONLY used for religion, and at that it seems to be a rather modern phenomenon. Far as anyone can tell, in ancient times, or for every tribe we encountered, they just believe that their religion is true and it applies full time.
IMO, the truth is, we don't know how it developed. We don't where the concept of "souls" came from. We don't know when funeral rites became sendoffs into the realm of an afterlife, or why such ceremonies exist. It would be interesting to know, but in the meantime I'm not buying that it is a recent phenomenon, except in the sense that civilization itself is a recent phenomenon.

My guess is that magical thinking is the more primitive trait, and it's rationality that is a recent addition.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
So, yes, I think that at that point of bending over backwards to work around the very biology of one's brain, you kinda have to choose to do it. It doesn't just happen naturally.
Everything that human beings are is the accretion of natural processes so I would argue that yes, it does happens naturally. Because what's the alternative? Even if someone 25,000, even 50,000 years ago devised a scheme to increase their own power and status and exerted their intellect to make that happen - that's still a process that happened naturally. Why did it succeed? Who knows? Perhaps because an instinctive drive to follow dominant members of the tribe had survival value for the species.

Holding the view that humans are fundamentally rational beings who can and should use reason to eradicate erroneous beliefs is IMO already positing dualism. As far as I know there is no biological basis for believing that our minds tell our brains what to think. It may feel like that's what is happening, but I'm not sure it's true.

Last edited by Minoosh; 19th March 2019 at 10:23 PM. Reason: Deleting an ETA
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Old 19th March 2019, 10:04 PM   #213
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Originally Posted by ynot View Post
As much as anything is a choice.
Then I would ask, to what extent is anything a choice?

Maybe that's a derail, but as the OP seems to have disappeared I'm not sure it matters.
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Old 19th March 2019, 11:13 PM   #214
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Actually the "key point" is that ideas of the supernatural are no longer credible in the light of what we have now discovered from science about this universe.

The entire notion of anything supernatural never had any credible evidence or genuine reasoning in the first place. It was just an idea that people had in times before we had made real progress in science (although many people still persist with the idea today). But as far as we can tell from all of science (and that is a huge amount), there is no reason to think there is any such thing as "the supernatural".
As usual, I nod in agreement with what you say in this and your previous post, also with Delvo's. I think there are still far too many stumbling blocks on the way to belief in anything supernatural becoming an overall minority belief, such as the right to believe whatever one likes, and the absence* of a need, a willingness, to follow where the logic leads because this might, well, would, bring the whole system tumbling down. . And of course, that wouldn't work without a stronger, more enduring replacement, background, stable system. Ah, well!

*It is not a refusal, or a denial, or a direct objection exactly, but I can't think of a better word.
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Old 19th March 2019, 11:24 PM   #215
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
Okay, here's an example description (one of many along the same lines) of someone I know well and personally. Middle aged woman, mother of 4 very kind and well-adjusted children, married ~20 years, medical doctor, generous, kind and considerate towards people of all sorts. Raised in a Christian home, became more involved in and committed to her faith as a young adult. Knows that faith and science are sometimes at odds, but has found intense peace, comfort, joy, hope, inspiration etc. in times of prayer and other expressions of her faith, both privately and within her community. As such, she is not concerned about trying to define her belief in ways that are congruent with "all current knowledge and understanding of reality", but is very happy to continue to explore and express her faith within the context of Christianity.

So back to the earlier definitions; in my opinion, she is not naive, uneducated, silly, or crazy.
No, but by not taking the understanding of science, evolution etc to their clear conclusion that all this has been thought of by humans, she has chosen- or, by her personal incredulity, has ignored - an important truth, presumably, preferring the falsehood. Okay, fine, but my concern is that this is passed on as truth to children. I can do so very little but will continue to do the little I can for the improvement of this situation.
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Old 19th March 2019, 11:46 PM   #216
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
Everything that human beings are is the accretion of natural processes so I would argue that yes, it does happens naturally. Because what's the alternative?
Cultural learning is usually opposed to natural impulses.
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Old 20th March 2019, 12:16 AM   #217
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
I understand what you mean, but you're right, I disagree with your use of the word dishonest.
Perhaps if I said “intellectually unfaithful” you might be more likely to agree? Intellectual dishonesty is believing something is true when you know it’s false. Essentially it’s ignoring what you know is true so you can protect and preserve more desirable emotionally comfortable beliefs with "alternative truths".

Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
As I mentioned in a different post, I think many people honestly look at science in a rational way, then honestly examine their feelings and experiences with faith in an emotional way. I think it's quite possible to honestly decide that denying the science is impossible, but equally so is denying the experiences encountered exploring faith. In such a case, the only honest position is to acknowledge the challenge. One may then proceed to try to work through the challenge, perhaps eventually reinterpreting their religious experiences and thoughts in non-supernatural terms, however it is not incumbent on them to do so, nor necessarily dishonest if the choose not to.
Sorry but I can’t see how what you say even relates to this debate. We’re debating “God beliefs are silly for the educated and intellectually honest in modern times”. We’re debating whether it’s intellectually dishonest and silly to ignore what you know to be true and believe paranormal/supernatural god beliefs are true instead. To believe both can be true at the same time is the stuff of cognitive dissonance and logical paradox fallacy. You could argue that some of the educated might prefer to believe their god beliefs are true because they prefer the emotional comforts this provides over the truths that intellectual knowledge provides, therefore it’s not silly for them to do so. We’re specifically talking about the intellectually honest however, not the emotionally desperate.

Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
Also, the purpose of the emotional chaff is to give you a context of things I consider to be strong evidence of someone being neither uneducated, naive, silly or insane. Much better metrics, in my opinion, than what religions beliefs someone holds.
Once again I can’t see how this relates to what we’re debating.

Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
One last point. I wouldn't do this, but I could contend that you are being dishonest by not acknowledging that it's reasonable for someone to have both scientific understanding and religious beliefs as helpful models for understanding different aspects of their existence. I make no such claim because I don't believe you are being dishonest. I believe you when you say you can't understand how that is possible. I think you are attempting to understand and finding that it remains incomprehensible. Perhaps you could try a different approach, or try harder, but it is not incumbent on you to do that, and it is not dishonest if you choose not to.
Obviously some people have both scientific knowledge and religious beliefs. I challenge whether that’s a reasonable position however, given it’s a position of conflicting and contradicting positions. Is it reasonable to have the knowledge that The Universe is millions of years old, and at the same time believe it’s only 6000 years old? Is it reasonable to have the knowledge that the Noah story is impossible, and at the same time believe it’s true? Is it reasonable to respond to such contradictions with “God does magic and miracles” or “God works in mysterious ways”?

I had to write that quite quickly so E&OE.
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To make truth from beliefs is to make truth mere make-believe.

Last edited by ynot; 20th March 2019 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 20th March 2019, 01:02 AM   #218
David Mo
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Originally Posted by ynot View Post
Obviously some people have both scientific knowledge and religious beliefs. I challenge whether that’s a reasonable position however, given it’s a position of conflicting and contradicting positions. Is it reasonable to have the knowledge that The Universe is millions of years old, and at the same time believe it’s only 6000 years old? Is it reasonable to have the knowledge that the Noah story is impossible, and at the same time believe it’s true? Is it reasonable to respond to such contradictions with “God does magic and miracles” or “God works in mysterious ways”?
There is no contradiction to suppose that man is a link in the evolutionary chain and that a) God made the evolution laws and b) in a certain moment he insufflate the spirit into him.

It can be incorrect or false to think so, but not contradictory with science.
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Old 20th March 2019, 01:20 AM   #219
HansMustermann
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@Minoosh
I wasn't talking about the concept of "soul" and whatnot, even though even that has rational explanations for how natural mechanisms got hijacked for something stupid. I was talking about "compartmentalizing."

Which is more parsimoniously explained by the ability to lie, basically, than by assuming that the brain can maintain and use two different world models at the same time. In fact, again, there is evidence that it can not.

What I'm basically saying is that it's the same reason a stereotypical racist uncle can crack jokes about lazy and/or criminal minorities at the xmas table, but not to the <insert minority> receptionist at work. There's no reason to assume that he stops believing the exact same racist views when he goes through the front door at work. What he can learn though is something more mundane like, "damn bleedin' heart PC nutjobs will fire me if I say what everyone thinks". So he'll PRETEND to compartmentalize.
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Old 20th March 2019, 01:24 AM   #220
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But basically doing the evo-psych thing of assuming that any modern fad is some evolutionary thing is just bogus all around. That a-way lie such nonsense as assuming that humans evolved to like chocolate ice-cream.

In reality, it's the exact other way around. Someone figured out what you're pre-programmed to like for completely other reasons -- e.g., sugar from fruit, and fat from seeds and lean game meat -- and tweaked their own product to fit that. It's not humans evolving to like ice cream, it's the guys who made ice cream figuring out how to fit it to the stuff you actually evolved for.

Same with religion, really.
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Old 20th March 2019, 02:20 AM   #221
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
Thanks for the thorough response IanS. I understand what you're saying and agree with some of it. I just have time to reply to the highlighted bit right now and am picking it because I think many people agree with you, whereas I disagree. I think it's very unreasonable to expect the degree of social change you are describing within the timelines given. I know you're using hyperbole when you says "1 AD", but when do you really think scientific thinking began to become sufficiently mainstream such that "educated, honest people" should have discarded their faith and belief?


Well the sentence you highlighted from my previous post, says that we are no longer in the 1st century AD. It's talking about how educated people today should know that we have very clear and totally convincing scientific explanations for things like earthquakes and thunder and lightening and the stars in the sky etc.


Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
I would say somewhere around the 1980s this sort of expectation began to emerge and become more popular. I think the pace of the social shift since then has been enormously fast (in historical terms) and that the resistance and "blow-back" seen in places like the US is a typical and predictable result of rapid social change. I think the expectation that thousands of years of established cultural mentality should change entirely in half a lifetime, such that anyone who fails to keep up is uneducated and/or dishonest, is very unrealistic.

When you say " I would say somewhere around the 1980s this sort of expectation began to emerge and become more popular " we are talking about what science has explained as the cause of things like thunder & lightening, earthquakes, the stars and planets in the night sky, Evolution, medical advances to cure diseases that in biblical times were believed due to demons, etc. That scientific understanding, and the news of that presented to the public, has not just happened only since the 1980's. Most of that's been known from science for 100 to 200 years.

However, if you mean that it's only since the 1980's that many people in the USA, the EU nations, and in other educated democracies (Canada, Japan etc.) have only then (since the 1980's) begun to appreciate how rigorously science has shown the natural non-supernatural answers for all those things, then that may be true for people without much scientific education (or at least say, from the 1960's if not the 1980's).

Even so, two things about that - (1) I'm talking about what any of those people as adults should have come to understand accept by now, ie today in 2019 ... where now (21st century) they do know that almost everything surrounding their lives has been developed from science (their phone, laptop, TV, car, aeroplanes, everything in their homes, offices and factories etc etc .... they are totally submerged in the accuracy and success of science, and they can see for themselves that it all works and is in fact absolutely vital in their own everyday lives ... so they should realise from that, that science is very VERY accurate and reliable as the truth of how things are explained and understood.

(2) If you mean that despite the obvious explanations from science which should convince any honest person that science is correct and that different explanations from religious miracles are wrong, those people have been raised in homes where their parents, grand parents, and their great grand parents before that, have all preached religious beliefs to their children and effectively indoctrinated them with a belief in ancient superstitious Gods and miracles, such that people growing up today emerge from that sort of family background with highly religious beliefs that actually oppose or hinder their own scientific understanding, then I agree, of course many people are still very religious especially as Christians in the USA and as Muslims in many non-democratic parts of the world. But what I am saying about that is - if those people are educated and know about the discoveries of science, and if they have eyes to see what is all around them as the unarguable success of science which is so important to their own every-day lives, and if they are honest with themselves about how and why science has been so successful with all of that, then it's really not possible for them to believe that contrary to all of that, the actual explanation for things like the existence of humans and the creation of the universe, and for what they themselves believe as miracles and prayers that are answered etc., and a belief that Jesus rose from the dead or that Mohamed flew up to heaven on a horse etc. etc., to believe the actual explanation for all of that is that it's all true because of miracles from an invisible undetectable God believed from biblical times of educational ignorance thousands of years ago ... or more precisely, it's not possible for them to continue believing that for very long if they are educated adults being intellectually honest with themselves.
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Old 20th March 2019, 02:42 AM   #222
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Originally Posted by SusanB-M1 View Post
As usual, I nod in agreement with what you say in this and your previous post, also with Delvo's. I think there are still far too many stumbling blocks on the way to belief in anything supernatural becoming an overall minority belief, such as the right to believe whatever one likes, and the absence* of a need, a willingness, to follow where the logic leads because this might, well, would, bring the whole system tumbling down. . And of course, that wouldn't work without a stronger, more enduring replacement, background, stable system. Ah, well!

*It is not a refusal, or a denial, or a direct objection exactly, but I can't think of a better word.

Hi ... thanks Susan.

Well I suppose the stumbling block is just religion, isn't it? That is - if we did not have organised religions such as Christianity and Islam, then I don't know why the vast majority of people would not accept that the scientific explanations are entirely convincing ... without religion, why would they be opposed to those discoveries & explanations at all?

The YouTube program Atheist Experience is a bit of an eye-opener in this respect - that program has been running for over 14 years now, with thousands of religious callers offering all sorts of evidence for their belief in God and the holy books. But what I think comes out very clearly from all of those thousands of religious callers, is that they simply refuse to be intellectually honest with themselves about how and why those ancient religious beliefs have now been shown to be entirely false and nothing more that superstitions from an age of what was relatively quite enormous educational ignorance (that was not their fault ... in the 1st century AD they did not have any of the fantastic educational opportunities we have today).
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Old 20th March 2019, 03:10 AM   #223
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Exactly. In the same way, faith in the religious sense is believing without logic, without a demonstration and proof. That's how religion works. If you can't stand to think that way, then fine, don't -- you're not the religious type. But other people are, and expecting them to stick to logic is as unreasonable as it would be for the religious to insist you stick to faith and not use logic. It doesn't mean the religion itself is right about the universe, but it is the right way to do religion. Your demand for logic is asking the religious to hold their religious beliefs in a nonreligious way, which won't happen.
Problem is that many religious folk mistake their faith for reason, and will mistakenly try to use the tools of rationality to support their beliefs. That is when there is argument (using the tools of rationality) with those that don't share their beliefs. Many of the long established regions have internalised a lot of their pseudo-rationality to be part of their doctrines, many of the believers in such religions are indeed "fooled" into thinking their particular religion is therefore based on rationality not "merely" faith. There is nothing wrong or inappropriate in demonstrating that what they believe to be rational arguments are not rational arguments using such tools as logic, evidence and the like.
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Old 20th March 2019, 06:47 AM   #224
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Originally Posted by ynot View Post
Perhaps if I said “intellectually unfaithful” you might be more likely to agree? Intellectual dishonesty is believing something is true when you know it’s false. Essentially it’s ignoring what you know is true so you can protect and preserve more desirable emotionally comfortable beliefs with "alternative truths"....

I had to write that quite quickly so E&OE.
No problem, except I don't know what E&OE means.

Originally Posted by IanS View Post
... or more precisely, it's not possible for them to continue believing that for very long if they are educated adults being intellectually honest with themselves.
Hi guys. Sorry for the snips. I appreciate your thorough responses, but have to just reply quickly for now. We are actually very much on the same page for the most part, but have significantly different ideas of what represents a reasonably expectation for a time-frame for personal/population change. Also, I think you both consider that change towards atheism should be a smooth, one-way street (i.e., the more scientific data and education one has, the more inevitable and rapid that transition should be). I think firstly, that for some people, a change in thinking from "the bible is 100% literal" to, "some things in the bible must not be literal because of scientific understanding, but other things may still be literal" is a reasonable amount of progress to have over a lifetime. Consider for example, a Christian who learns the earth is not 6000 years old for the first time. They could respond by immediately rejecting their entire faith, but that's a pretty unlikely scenario. They may well begin to question other aspects of their faith though, which is reasonable. However, also consider that this person prays later on and feels a familiar encouragement and peace of mind; perhaps they hear in the media about chronic loneliness, depression, greed, hate etc. and for them, their faith and community represent the antithesis to these things. The result would likely be that they are again drawn strongly towards faith. So they (honestly, and reasonably) conclude, there is clearly truth in science, but there is also wisdom and value in faith. And so there is a process of balancing and very likely a process of net change over time. This is a very personal process for which the pace and influencing factors are unique to any individual. For me, I've been conscious of the change for about the last 10 years, and more keenly aware for the last 5. This process, and all the points along the way, are not dishonest, silly, unfaithful, or in any other way trivial, except by someone else's external perspective (judgement), which has zero bearing. Someone on the outside may expect, hope, yearn, wish, that the process be simpler and faster for any individual or for the population as a whole. They may even be able to influence that through relationships, communication, and advocating for public policy, which is reasonable and important. But I think it's valuable to consider this perspective lest one become impatient to the point of incredulity, which leads to frustration and anger and conflict.
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Old 20th March 2019, 07:26 AM   #225
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
Do you believe it's a choice?

Of course they have a choice in what they believe ... people often change what they believe about all sorts of things ... each year many thousands of Christians do change their mind about believing in the existence of God.

However, it does seem that once people reach adulthood they become very resistant to changing their minds and/or very resistant to admitting they are changing their minds. And that seems to be because they think they would look foolish in front of everyone if they admit that what they felt certain about last month, is something they no longer believe is true after all.

Children (below the age of, say, 12) change their minds about things all the time. To them it doesn't seem to matter if others know that they have now changed what they believe ... young children are in that respect far less concerned about a loss of intellectual credibility, but that seems to change completely by the time they are just a few years older.

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Old 20th March 2019, 08:17 AM   #226
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
Cultural learning is usually opposed to natural impulses.
That seems like a pretty broad statement and I would have to think about whether I believe that's true. If I take table manners as an example - maybe our natural impulse is to bolt down our food and throw the bones over our shoulders, but it's (probably) also our natural tendency to crave fitting in and having the approval of our social group. Even chickens exhibit this behavior in the "pecking order" that allocates group resources in a way that avoids the high social cost of violence and aggression. Same with dogs. In a stable pack they all know where they fit in, which reduces the expensive behavior of fighting. At least that's the theory. A dog dragging away a bone is natural but so is a submissive dog waiting for its turn to eat.
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Old 20th March 2019, 08:31 AM   #227
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
@Minoosh
... There's no reason to assume that he stops believing the exact same racist views when he goes through the front door at work. What he can learn though is something more mundane like, "damn bleedin' heart PC nutjobs will fire me if I say what everyone thinks". So he'll PRETEND to compartmentalize.
I wouldn't automatically assume that he's pretending in order to keep from getting fired. I believe it's possible that his racist views apply to an abstract "them" but not to people he knows, likes and depends on. He genuinely accepts people he knows; he genuinely is bigoted against strangers he categorizes as the "other." No pretending required.
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Old 20th March 2019, 08:46 AM   #228
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
No problem, except I don't know what E&OE means.

Hi guys. Sorry for the snips. I appreciate your thorough responses, but have to just reply quickly for now. We are actually very much on the same page for the most part, but have significantly different ideas of what represents a reasonably expectation for a time-frame for personal/population change. Also, I think you both consider that change towards atheism should be a smooth, one-way street (i.e., the more scientific data and education one has, the more inevitable and rapid that transition should be). I think firstly, that for some people, a change in thinking from "the bible is 100% literal" to, "some things in the bible must not be literal because of scientific understanding, but other things may still be literal" is a reasonable amount of progress to have over a lifetime. Consider for example, a Christian who learns the earth is not 6000 years old for the first time. They could respond by immediately rejecting their entire faith, but that's a pretty unlikely scenario. They may well begin to question other aspects of their faith though, which is reasonable. However, also consider that this person prays later on and feels a familiar encouragement and peace of mind; perhaps they hear in the media about chronic loneliness, depression, greed, hate etc. and for them, their faith and community represent the antithesis to these things. The result would likely be that they are again drawn strongly towards faith. So they (honestly, and reasonably) conclude, there is clearly truth in science, but there is also wisdom and value in faith. And so there is a process of balancing and very likely a process of net change over time. This is a very personal process for which the pace and influencing factors are unique to any individual. For me, I've been conscious of the change for about the last 10 years, and more keenly aware for the last 5. This process, and all the points along the way, are not dishonest, silly, unfaithful, or in any other way trivial, except by someone else's external perspective (judgement), which has zero bearing. Someone on the outside may expect, hope, yearn, wish, that the process be simpler and faster for any individual or for the population as a whole. They may even be able to influence that through relationships, communication, and advocating for public policy, which is reasonable and important. But I think it's valuable to consider this perspective lest one become impatient to the point of incredulity, which leads to frustration and anger and conflict.


Oh, I don't doubt that for most Christians (or Muslims, or others) who end up saying they have lost that faith and finally arrived at an atheist or agnostic view of things, that is a long and slow process and I would not expect to change the views of any individual Christians just by having a few conversations with them (although just in passing it's perhaps worth noting that it is also sometimes very sudden - British World Record holding Olympic Triple Jumper Jonathan Edwards is a famous case in point - he was an extremely devout & very public Christian (his father was a Vicar), and he even spent years on UK BBC TV presenting a religious worship program ... and then one day, literally one single day, he woke up that morning and suddenly realised that his entire God belief was not credible ... he lost his faith in that instant).


But that's not because their Christian or Muslim beliefs are actually reasonable or making sense. There are many reasons why they persist with a faith that is really not credible any more in the 21st century. The first reason is (1) that as adults who have told friends and family and everyone else they know, that they are so sure of God and the holy faith, that it's then very hard for them to admit to those people, or even admit to themselves, that they are now seriously doubting everything they believed about God and the bible ... because that would be a very public loss of intellectual credibility for them if they admitted that to everyone ...

... but (2) there's is also a great deal of peer pressure to persist with the belief, especially because people who are practising Christians and practising Muslims almost always surround themselves with others who hold the same beliefs (e.g.they go to church regularly, where they find only others with the exact same beliefs ... they make friends with those people from the church and socialise with them outside of church hours... and of course they are often from religious families so that the beliefs are reinforced and preached in the family home too).

Confirmation Bias plays a huge role here too. Not just for Christians and Muslims, but for all of us. And we need to be constantly on "high alert" to guard against that. That is - for theists of all religions there is a huge danger of seeing everything that happens around them as confirmation of how their religious beliefs are correct.

And lastly, and this may sound arrogant or unfairly critical, but if you watch the YouTube program called Atheist Experience, which has been running for over 14 years now with thousands of Christian callers, it becomes inescapably obvious than a huge number of them have very little eduction in science - they actually do not know how overwhelmingly the discoveries of science are in complete contradiction with beliefs about gods and miracles etc. Many of them of course do not want to know (and that's part of their confirmation bias), and that leads them to rejecting a whole mass of established science as if it were no better than anyone else's opinion on how we understand the truth of the universe around us.
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Old 20th March 2019, 09:14 AM   #229
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
But basically doing the evo-psych thing of assuming that any modern fad is some evolutionary thing is just bogus all around. That a-way lie such nonsense as assuming that humans evolved to like chocolate ice-cream.
From where I sit you are assuming just as much or more than I am, by assuming I'm following some modern fad.

We didn't evolve to like chocolate ice-cream - we don't evolve "to" do anything, IMO - but quite possibly we did develop a preference for certain high-value foods as part of our drive to survive. Which may be why many people would rather eat french fries than kale. Grease, salt and carbs promote short-term survival more than fiber and micro-nutrients do.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
In reality, it's the exact other way around. Someone figured out what you're pre-programmed to like for completely other reasons -- e.g., sugar from fruit, and fat from seeds and lean game meat -- and tweaked their own product to fit that. It's not humans evolving to like ice cream, it's the guys who made ice cream figuring out how to fit it to the stuff you actually evolved for.
But I never argued that humans evolved to like ice cream, or indeed that we evolved to do anything. Evolution IMO does not have a desired endpoint.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Same with religion, really.
And my position is that you do not actually know why human culture evolved the way it did. What came first, belief in magic or schemes to exploit belief in magic? And if it's the former, did that belief (or, rather, behavior associated with the belief) have survival value? IMO, it very well may have. I don't think I'm assuming that it did but then I may be blind to my own invalid assumptions. As you may be blind to your own.
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Old 20th March 2019, 09:48 AM   #230
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Of course they have a choice in what they believe ... people often change what they believe about all sorts of things ...
"People's minds change" does not equal "people choose to change their minds." It may feel like that's what happens, but I'm not sure it's true. There is an element of incredulity to my argument, which is this: If I accept that everything I think and feel is determined by chemical/energy states within my CPU, how then do I change that by an act of "will"? Essentially "I" would be overriding my own biology.

Originally Posted by IanS View Post
However, it does seem that once people reach adulthood they become very resistant to changing their minds and/or very resistant to admitting they are changing their minds.
And I repeat, I don't see how their resistance to change necessarily implies a choice. Just as I suspect that your atheism is not a choice.

Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Children (below the age of, say, 12) change their minds about things all the time.
"Their minds change" does not equal "they cause their minds to change." Sorry, I'm repeating myself but I think it's important. Exposure to more views may have been taken on board - which as far as I can tell is a biochemical process, because what else could it be? Some kind of non-material enlightenment that adults are resistant to?

If adults are more resistant, then I speculate it's also do to with biochemistry. They are not necessarily choosing to keep the scales on their eyes. They may experience the scales falling or they may not. But I suspect every single thing we think, do or believe arises from biological processes not under the control of this executive "I" some of us experience so vividly.

When I see atheists saying they can override biological processes with reason, I see them positing dualism - believing their "minds" can change their brains. Any firm materialist who takes credit for his/her own thought processes is IMO exhibiting cognitive dissonance of their own.
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Old 20th March 2019, 10:37 AM   #231
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
And my position is that you do not actually know why human culture evolved the way it did. What came first, belief in magic or schemes to exploit belief in magic? And if it's the former, did that belief (or, rather, behavior associated with the belief) have survival value? IMO, it very well may have. I don't think I'm assuming that it did but then I may be blind to my own invalid assumptions. As you may be blind to your own.
Actually, when I said "same with religion", I really meant same. It wasn't just a side-track. We have a pretty good idea by now of what mechanisms it exploits, and it doesn't start with belief in magic. In fact, the mechanisms were in place long before there was any animal sentient enough to have a culture or a notion of "magic", and unsurprisingly evolved for entirely other things.

E.g., it starts with just having a memory. Even a cat doesn't forgot it has kittens, just because it doesn't see them at the moment, nor assume that there is nothing to hunt in the woods just because it doesn't see a mouse right now. Fast forward to humans, and we still can conceptualize mom being somewhere else even if we haven't seen her in a while. It's nothing different if mom is 6 ft under. You can still conceptualize her as being away.

E.g., having a hyperactive agency detection. (HADD) Simply put, if you assume that there might be a tiger in the bushes when you hear the leaves rustles, and there was none, you just got a scare. If there is one and you assume it's just the wind rustling the leaves, you're lunch. So we evolved to assume agency first.

E.g., minimally counter-intuitive claims and notions. (MCI) We're provably built to believe mundane claims more but forget them really fast, while MCIs are the most remembered. Turns out it's just a very efficient way of storing and organizing information in the brain. You essentially build a tree of notions that are like the previous one, except for one attribute. E.g., a tricycle is like a bike except it has three wheels, while a motorbike is like a bike except it has a motor. Again, there's no reason to believe that it evolved just in humans, but rather we're just the product of a billion years of producing increasingly better brains that are more effective at storing increasingly complex world models.

That said, I never said it started with those exploiting it, either. (In fact, it probably didn't even start with humans, since the Neanderthals already had ritual burial, grave goods and for that matter bringing flowers to a grave some hundreds of thousands of years before H Sapiens even existed.) More likely someone had to first believe that someone was watching them in the woods, before someone else had a market, so to speak, for their spirit of the woods story.

I'm not sure if it makes it any better, though. The end result is the same that, somewhere along the way, some people discovered that they can make a good living by peddling bullcrap to gullible people. And have been perfecting their trade ever since.
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Old 20th March 2019, 10:44 AM   #232
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
No problem, except I don't know what E&OE means.
Errors and Omissions Excepted.
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Old 20th March 2019, 10:50 AM   #233
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Oh, I don't doubt that for most Christians (or Muslims, or others) who end up saying they have lost that faith and finally arrived at an atheist or agnostic view of things, that is a long and slow process and I would not expect to change the views of any individual Christians just by having a few conversations with them (although just in passing it's perhaps worth noting that it is also sometimes very sudden - British World Record holding Olympic Triple Jumper Jonathan Edwards is a famous case in point - he was an extremely devout & very public Christian (his father was a Vicar), and he even spent years on UK BBC TV presenting a religious worship program ... and then one day, literally one single day, he woke up that morning and suddenly realised that his entire God belief was not credible ... he lost his faith in that instant).


But that's not because their Christian or Muslim beliefs are actually reasonable or making sense. There are many reasons why they persist with a faith that is really not credible any more in the 21st century. The first reason is (1) that as adults who have told friends and family and everyone else they know, that they are so sure of God and the holy faith, that it's then very hard for them to admit to those people, or even admit to themselves, that they are now seriously doubting everything they believed about God and the bible ... because that would be a very public loss of intellectual credibility for them if they admitted that to everyone ...

... but (2) there's is also a great deal of peer pressure to persist with the belief, especially because people who are practising Christians and practising Muslims almost always surround themselves with others who hold the same beliefs (e.g.they go to church regularly, where they find only others with the exact same beliefs ... they make friends with those people from the church and socialise with them outside of church hours... and of course they are often from religious families so that the beliefs are reinforced and preached in the family home too).

Confirmation Bias plays a huge role here too. Not just for Christians and Muslims, but for all of us. And we need to be constantly on "high alert" to guard against that. That is - for theists of all religions there is a huge danger of seeing everything that happens around them as confirmation of how their religious beliefs are correct.

And lastly, and this may sound arrogant or unfairly critical, but if you watch the YouTube program called Atheist Experience, which has been running for over 14 years now with thousands of Christian callers, it becomes inescapably obvious than a huge number of them have very little eduction in science - they actually do not know how overwhelmingly the discoveries of science are in complete contradiction with beliefs about gods and miracles etc. Many of them of course do not want to know (and that's part of their confirmation bias), and that leads them to rejecting a whole mass of established science as if it were no better than anyone else's opinion on how we understand the truth of the universe around us.
Thanks again for the thorough and thoughtful reply IanS. I agree with all your points and I think that a well-articulated response like that could go a long way towards opening doors for open and respectful discussion between theists and atheists, which I find encouraging. I could understand how a theist may read that, and even agree with it, and yet still feel that the sum total of their theistic experience can still not be satisfactorily explained or cast away entirely. However, it's certainly expressed in a way that gives someone the opportunity to consider it without taking knee-jerk offense, which I think is critical.
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Old 20th March 2019, 11:12 AM   #234
Minoosh
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I don't think I've said this so here goes. In my experience some atheists can have a "holier than thou" attitude. Only it's "more rational than thou," "more intellectually honest than thou" or "less deluded than thou." This necessarily casts religious people as irrational, dishonest and/or deluded and the atheist as superior.

But to repeat myself as I attempt to frame my thoughts more clearly: when people say they rationally took stock of a situation, applied reason to their beliefs and consequently chose to abandon some of their old ideas, I think they may very well be experiencing an illusion. What I think might happen is that at an unconscious level, some combination of nature (genetic, fixed) and nurture (environment, always changing) alters their convictions, and that change trickles up to the rational/rationalizing layer of consciousness, which goes to work explaining the shift as a function of reason.

I am not saying reasoning is invalid; it's a quite powerful process, but it's not exactly a novel idea that it's sometimes used to rationalize "decisions" we have made at an emotional or "gut" level.
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Old 20th March 2019, 12:06 PM   #235
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually, when I said "same with religion", I really meant same. It wasn't just a side-track.
I knew it wasn't a sidetrack.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
That said, I never said it started with those exploiting it, either. (In fact, it probably didn't even start with humans, since the Neanderthals already had ritual burial, grave goods and for that matter bringing flowers to a grave some hundreds of thousands of years before H Sapiens even existed.)
I consider Neanderthals more human than not, and this use of ritual is a key reason.

At any rate, as far as we can tell this treatment of death was quite a radical shift away from how other animals behaved. You implied earlier that cavemen would have no use for cognitive dissonance. But believing that Og is both dead and not-dead strikes me as cognitive dissonance. Cavemen knew that the normal fate of dead bodies is to become food, yet their behavior indicates a belief that the dead carry on living in some other realm. I don't think other animals do that.

To me this signals the birth of dualism, which I see as the beginning of religion, which may have endured because it had some value to survival. Yet you believe that cognitive dissonance is not "natural," leading me to wonder exactly when this break with nature occurred.
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Old 20th March 2019, 12:28 PM   #236
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
And my position is that you do not actually know why human culture evolved the way it did. What came first, belief in magic or schemes to exploit belief in magic? And if it's the former, did that belief (or, rather, behavior associated with the belief) have survival value? IMO, it very well may have. I don't think I'm assuming that it did but then I may be blind to my own invalid assumptions. As you may be blind to your own.

I think the overwhelmingly obvious answer to why thousands of years ago people came to believe in superhuman gods, is that at the time it seemed the only possible (credible) explanation for why humans & animals existed, why the planet actually existed, why there were stars in the sky, why thunder and lightening suddenly appeared, why volcanoes suddenly erupted for seemingly no reason, why there were sudden floods & famine & droughts & crop failures etc. etc. ... they knew that no ordinary human person could cause such things to happen, so it would surely have seemed like the only possible explanation was that a superhuman God was causing it all ...

... these were all things that were vital to the welfare of peoples everyday lives, so they were immensely interested in that belief. And that leads straight to what we now recognises as a religion, because the people had a clear reason to ask the gods to produce what would be the best results for them ... to ask for rains and sun for the crops, to ask for floods & disasters to fall only upon their enemies etc.

And since the gods could not actually be seen, and could not actually be spoken to, the only option was to engage in what we now call "praying". They prayed to the gods for the outcome that would most favour them and their communities.

But that obviously does have a kind of survival value. Because they are praying to the superhumanly powerful gods to ensure the peoples survival.

That praying was of course of no actual effect or use at all in actually bringing the outcome they wanted. But it was giving them all hope, and it probably would have meant they all worked harder and were as a group or society more focussed together on specific ways of ensuring that the gods were pleased.

The was an obvious and very direct survival value where those who believed in one particular god (lets say it was Yahweh), would attack and kill other minorities who worshipped some other different god ... so your own survival was favoured if you supported the God with the most physically powerful followers.
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Old 20th March 2019, 12:58 PM   #237
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Originally Posted by attempt5001 View Post
Thanks again for the thorough and thoughtful reply IanS. I agree with all your points and I think that a well-articulated response like that could go a long way towards opening doors for open and respectful discussion between theists and atheists, which I find encouraging. I could understand how a theist may read that, and even agree with it, and yet still feel that the sum total of their theistic experience can still not be satisfactorily explained or cast away entirely. However, it's certainly expressed in a way that gives someone the opportunity to consider it without taking knee-jerk offense, which I think is critical.

OK, thanks for that. I do try!

And I don't think religious people are stupid (you won't any posts of me actually saying that).

I don't think they are uneducated either. Or least no more so than atheists or agnostics in general.

But there is an important difference between scientific education and any other academic subject of education. For example – you can have the most fantastic education in something like music or art, or economics or many other things, and none of that teaches you anything at all about how natural processes work in the world around us, i.e. none of it will teach you about evolution, quantum explanation of matter, molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles/fields, or what planets & stars are & how and why they formed etc. etc.

You really don't learn about any of that even from subjects like geography or history. You only really learn about these things in core science, i.e. physics, chemistry, biology and directly related subjects such as astronomy.

And of course that's vital in any comparison with religious belief, because religion also claims to explain how the universe and the Earth was formed and how humans first appeared on the earth (and originaly claimed to explain what caused thunder and lightening and disease etc.). And that's really why science and religion have found themselves in such direct conflict with one-another.
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Old 20th March 2019, 02:23 PM   #238
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
I think the overwhelmingly obvious answer to why thousands of years ago people came to believe in superhuman gods, is that at the time it seemed the only possible (credible) explanation for why humans & animals existed, why the planet actually existed, why there were stars in the sky, why thunder and lightening suddenly appeared, why volcanoes suddenly erupted for seemingly no reason, why there were sudden floods & famine & droughts & crop failures etc. etc. ... they knew that no ordinary human person could cause such things to happen, so it would surely have seemed like the only possible explanation was that a superhuman God was causing it all ...

... these were all things that were vital to the welfare of peoples everyday lives, so they were immensely interested in that belief. And that leads straight to what we now recognises as a religion, because the people had a clear reason to ask the gods to produce what would be the best results for them ... to ask for rains and sun for the crops, to ask for floods & disasters to fall only upon their enemies etc.

And since the gods could not actually be seen, and could not actually be spoken to, the only option was to engage in what we now call "praying". They prayed to the gods for the outcome that would most favour them and their communities.

But that obviously does have a kind of survival value. Because they are praying to the superhumanly powerful gods to ensure the peoples survival.

That praying was of course of no actual effect or use at all in actually bringing the outcome they wanted. But it was giving them all hope, and it probably would have meant they all worked harder and were as a group or society more focussed together on specific ways of ensuring that the gods were pleased.

The was an obvious and very direct survival value where those who believed in one particular god (lets say it was Yahweh), would attack and kill other minorities who worshipped some other different god ... so your own survival was favoured if you supported the God with the most physically powerful followers.
I accept all that. Since you bring up Yahweh maybe that's a good place to start. It's not hard, IMO, to make the case (prove, if you like) that Yahweh-God doesn't exist. Once you've proved enough Gods don't exist, you may employ inductive reasoning: "All posited Gods have been disproven, therefore the overwhelming evidence shows that no Gods exist."

This is not quite as solid as a deductive proof, IMO. Until someone can demonstrate that God can't exist, my own personal brain is probably going to harbor reservations.
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Old 20th March 2019, 02:56 PM   #239
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
I knew it wasn't a sidetrack.

I consider Neanderthals more human than not, and this use of ritual is a key reason.

At any rate, as far as we can tell this treatment of death was quite a radical shift away from how other animals behaved. You implied earlier that cavemen would have no use for cognitive dissonance. But believing that Og is both dead and not-dead strikes me as cognitive dissonance.
Did I? My communication skills must be under par, then.

Cognitive dissonance is just a mechanism for resolving a broken world model to a consistent one. You can probably see why that would be important to any organism with a brain that can hold a wold model at all. You run into new pieces of information every day, and it's a major advantage to have them all fit into a coherent whole. Even my cat does it, far as anyone can tell. Humans are just able to resolve it to some BS model if they really don't want to let go of some belief.

Mind you, I don't think it evolve towards THAT end, but rather that it's yet another one of those mechanisms that we humans can pervert to other ends than what the original evolution pressure was. You know, kinda like masturbation

But I have no real reason to believe that cavemen would be unable to do it.

Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
Cavemen knew that the normal fate of dead bodies is to become food, yet their behavior indicates a belief that the dead carry on living in some other realm. I don't think other animals do that.
Well, we don't really know what the animals think, because their language isn't up to snuff, and we don't really understand it anyway. I can tell you though that a cat will keep looking for its kittens for about 3 days even if they're dead, and they're also known to just steal someone else's kitten instead. Mind you, I don't believe that their world model is complicated enough to allow for souls and whatnot, but there is somewhat of a similarity in grief mechanisms, is all I'm saying.

Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
To me this signals the birth of dualism, which I see as the beginning of religion,
It may well be.

Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
which may have endured because it had some value to survival.
Lots of things have endured without having much of a survival benefit. It just has to not be much of a disadvantage.

I think I've already mentioned masturbation. But probably the best example is that you can't produce your own vitamin C, even though most mammals can. But for primates that ate a lot of fruit, that gene breaking just wasn't much of a problem.

Plus, survival doesn't always work at a single individual level. If the other guys for example start kicking you out of the tribe or even outright murder you (it's been known to happen) if you disagree with the shaman, then the actual evolutionary pressure is to conform.

Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
Yet you believe that cognitive dissonance is not "natural," leading me to wonder exactly when this break with nature occurred.
No. What I believe is not an evolutionary pressure is the ability to keep a broken model. But that may just be a side effect of having enough imagination, something which was actually a benefit.
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Last edited by HansMustermann; 20th March 2019 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 20th March 2019, 03:19 PM   #240
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
I accept all that. Since you bring up Yahweh maybe that's a good place to start. It's not hard, IMO, to make the case (prove, if you like) that Yahweh-God doesn't exist. Once you've proved enough Gods don't exist, you may employ inductive reasoning: "All posited Gods have been disproven, therefore the overwhelming evidence shows that no Gods exist."

This is not quite as solid as a deductive proof, IMO. Until someone can demonstrate that God can't exist, my own personal brain is probably going to harbor reservations.

It's interesting that the strength of belief, and number of followers, is enhanced by the undetectability of the god. Yahweh, although called different names, is arguably the same god worshiped by Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and He is equally undetectable in all.

The Yahweh of old was out there all the time. Speaking from burning bushes, parting seas, providing flying horses, and so on, and so on. People were tripping over God everywhere.

Now the interesting thing for me is the lack of belief people seemed to have when they we treated to all this display. The Hebrews who observed God's might when they were lead out of Egypt for example. As soon as Moses climbed the hill to get God's instructions they made a golden calf .... huh?

Then when Jesus was strutting his stuff. Walking on water, raising a guy from the dead, turning water into wine, etc, etc, we have Judas calling him out. Doubting Thomas then becomes famous for having doubts, after being witness to all these miracles.

Perhaps God thought - "Well bugger this, I show them all my stuff and they still won't go for it. Maybe I'll become invisible and see what happens."

No doubt this was a stroke of genius given the number of believers in Him today.
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