What are the implications of belief in belief?

I regard belief in belief as when the focus is more on believing in god than in the actual god entity itself. I find this stance to be pervasive in the group in which I socialize. This kind of believer often insists that I should not criticize god belief at all, that I need to live and let live.

Some regard criticizing fundie beliefs as being rude to stupid people. So in a nutshell, they regard their own beliefs as being too mild to cause harm and that the extreme beliefs of fundies should not be confronted or ridiculed because such criticism would be cruel and unfair to stupid (their adjective, not mine) people.

This type of believer in belief often has a very murky idea of god, but despite that murkiness, or perhaps because of it, they seem oblivious to the dangers of non-evidential beliefs. How might one get through to/cope with these usually reasonable people? And do these people represent a big stumbling block in creating and maintaining secular societies?

Daniel Dennett has suggested to just smile at the murkies, and think 'oh how funny they are’. I just can’t do that. They drive me up the wall. And I can’t help musing on the psychological dynamics behind such a murky view.

Posted: November 26th 2009

flagellant www

Speaking personally, I find it interesting to hear how people justify beliefs for which there isn’t the slightest evidence. Instead of dealing with the matter of whether or not there is a god, particularly when a belief is neither qualified nor nuanced, why not ask to be given reasons for the belief? You might find this approach useful: get your group to explain why they believe; then pick holes in their reasons.

Because there is no evidence, the religiosi have to resort to explanations such as 'I feel there’s a god’, 'This book tells me there’s a god’, 'I want there to be a god’, or 'I hope there’s a god’. Sometimes, I hope I’m going to win the lottery, sometimes I want to win, and occasionally Mystic Meg tells me I’m going to win, but I never do…

For early twentieth century physicists and chemists, there were only three elementary particles. Subsequently, it has been discovered that particles are subdivisible and that there are many more; one in particular – the theoretical Higgs boson – has yet to be detected. If it is found, a hypothesis is justified; if it isn’t, scientists will have to devise new experiments and/or hypothesise again. That is how science works: it constantly refines and/or modifies its position in the light of evidence.

Faith is inherently close-minded: besides the weak, personal reasons given for saying there’s a god, it trivialises the need to look for further understanding in the way that science does. When the religiosi rely on texts written many hundreds of years ago – texts subject to mistakes, hyping, 'spin doctoring’, and augmentation by plagiarism – that’s worse than using a 400-year old alchemy text book to learn modern chemistry. An ancient book of alchemy offers us little but historical interest. And 'Holy’ books are far older and even less reliable than alchemical texts…

It is in the nature of the religiosi to make outrageous, but unsupported, claims for their 'product’. It is just so convenient for them to claim that belief is sacred, that it must not be attacked, and that personal beliefs (delusions) shouldn’t be criticised. I just don’t get this; religion, belief, and faith should be as open to criticism as any other idea. Just because religion has been revered for centuries doesn’t make it beyond criticism.
As we learn more, it is clear that the biblical god is a figment of ignorant man’s imagination; on a one to one-hundred scale, the evidence against 'god’ is so overwhelming that I wouldn’t give her/him/it even a one percent chance.

I hope I’ve given you a few extra ways to deal with your group without feeling like tearing your hair out.

Posted: December 3rd 2009

See all questions answered by flagellant


It’s been said that one cannot use logic to argue somebody out of a position that they didn’t use logic to get into.

I don’t think there’s much you can do to get through to the people you’re dealing with. Though I would probably note that their labelling such people as “stupid” is probably unwarranted – there are certainly very intelligent fundamentalists around.

Posted: November 30th 2009

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

brian thomson www

My understanding of the concept of “belief in belief” may be flawed, since I can’t seem to get away from the definition of “belief” as it applies to theists: that is, the blind acceptance of propositions that are not supported by evidence. In that sense, you could say that neither I nor anyone else need to “believe in belief”, because we have satisfactory evidence that other people have beliefs!

If I go back to the question, though, the concept might be more clearly restated as “belief that belief is a good thing”. I think there is sufficient evidence in the world today to disprove that statement, since we can see the implications and repercussions of such “belief” – the blind acceptance of propositions that are not supported by evidence – all around us, and these are not confined to religion. People die from their (or their parents’!) unshakeable belief in “alternative” medical practices. Pol Pot tried to run Cambodia on a strict ideology that didn’t even make sense on paper, never mind in a real-world economy, and caused the deaths of millions of people in pursuit of his beliefs, non-religious as they were.

Here in Ireland, last month, there were claims of an upcoming Virgin Mary sighting at a Catholic shrine in a little town called Knock. A bloke named Joe Coleman said so, and people believed him without (much) argument. Crowds gathered at the stated time, in search of such cures as have been reported previously. Instead, several people suffered permanent eye damage through staring at the sun, looking for herself, as they say here.

Posted: November 29th 2009

See all questions answered by brian thomson


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