To the believers...

(308 Posts)
PedroPonyLikesCrisps Tue 29-Jan-13 23:17:16

How does one justify to themselves belief in a supernatural being with literally no hard evidence? This is something I just don't understand. Without the assumption of a god or gods, we are able to explain pretty much everything in the Universe and even those yet-to-be-answered questions are being gradually chipped away at without any need for a deity.

So what makes people believe in a god? Is it fear, conditioning, laziness? Theories of the supernatural were our first attempts at understanding the world (big yellow disc moves across the sky, don't know what it is, maybe a god carries it around up there). You could say they were humankind's first attempt at scientific reasoning. But we've moved on from these archaic theories now and we can explain all these things we couldn't before, yet for some reason, religions live on and people continue to think that some guy lives upstairs and watches over us even though there's no rational way to argue his existence.

Do Christians think Muslims are insane for their differing beliefs? Does anyone still believe in the Greek or Roman gods anymore? Do the religious find Scientology to be just another religion or does anyone else see the the words 'cult' and 'religion' are pretty much interchangable?

Discuss!!

CoteDAzur Mon 11-Feb-13 11:51:53

Dione - Nobody is disputing that there are factors that affect perception. These are inputs into the decision-making process. What we are talking about is the rationality of the decision-making process itself - i.e. what exactly our brain does with those inputs. Does it use logic to come up with an answer, or emotion & chance?

It is fine if you don't understand this distinction or even consider yourself to be irrational. Just please refrain from broadening that unfortunate judgement to the human race in general and myself in particular.

sieglinde Sun 10-Feb-13 12:30:38

tuffie, it's that his wildlife programmes uphold the entirely wrong idea that animals are het by cutting out scenes of gay animals. A good part of the ridiculous argument against gayness is that it's not natural - but it IS - for many species - dolphins, penguins, bonobos, giraffes - yes, there are queer giraffes...

tuffie Sat 09-Feb-13 18:41:20

headinhands - I can only speak for myself and my church community, but not at all is our whole thrust in converting . We tend to walk the walk rather than talk the talk ie visit the old, sick, homeless and help the police in our street pastor roles. But we do not talk about our religion unless specifically asked to.

SGB - Just as many of my atheist friends are homophobic as are my Christian friends. I, by the way am not, and do not have a problem with gay people getting married.

sieglinde - I did not realise that David Attenborough was such a homophobe, that is worrying as he holds such authority.

sieglinde Sat 09-Feb-13 11:01:18

I LIKE Bronze Age mythology. Why is Bronze Age a term of disapprobation? The Bronze Age invented science and astronomy and decent agriculture. Smacks of white supremacism.

Of course it's all pointless if you don't believe in God - except for all the charities, and the moral code, and the intellectual inheritance (yes, that's what I said).

SGB, are you really saying that a few harmless quirks should disqualify you from a role in public policymaking?

Or are you saying that anyone who is - say - strongly homophobic should have no role in government? In my experience, not everyone with religious beliefs is homophobic, and not everyone without religious beliefs is tolerant. I get your point that a few people think religion insists they act homophobically, but since not everyone with religious views thinks this, religion may not be the decider here.

IME, homophobia is very irrational. People suffering from it should be made to reads the excellent Biological Exuberance. David Attenborough, self-professed atheist, still refuses to show gay and lesbian animals in his programmes. You don't find much about them in the Dawkins oeuvre, either.

Agree v strongly btw that the c of e should be disestablished, but in part because it's only ONE religion, despite its ridiculous pretenses.

Look, the main problem with the superstitious (not necessarily any individuals posting in this discussion) is the privilege they demand for their bullshit. Like being entitled to discriminate against women, and gay men and lesbians, because their imaginary friend doesn't like the idea of gay people having sex or women having bodily autonomy. Your right to believe whatever bullshit you choose is worthy of respect in the same way that your right to shave your head, call yourself Hairy Butterfly, eat fish with strawberry jam on it and sleep in the bath is worthy of respect ie no one should stop you doing it.
However, the bronze age mythology, misogynist bullshit and sheer pointlessness of religion - well, it's not worth of respect. There is no reason anyone else is obliged to take any of it seriously, and it should have no place in public space or policy making. That's why rational people argue against it and feel obliged to keep pointing out that it's bullshit and irrelevant to non-enthusiasts.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 08-Feb-13 19:54:28

Cote, thanks for this conversation, before this I was unaware that there were still clever people who were unaware of the unconscious dynamic in decision making and maintained such a stance after considered thought. This discovery rocked my world has really given me food for thought.smile

headinhands Fri 08-Feb-13 16:56:43

* but otherwise it is kept pretty much private.*

If you're keeping it private you're not doing it right. I thought the whole thrust of christianity was converting people?

tuffie Fri 08-Feb-13 15:10:13

SGB - I feel you must have had a bad experience with a Christian at some point, or live in some sort of strange Bible Bashing Belt.
I have asked every one of my atheist friends- of which I have many- and not a single one of them has a problem with anyone of any faith. They have never been "bothered" by a Christian, certainly don t feel their lives are affected in any way by people with faith, and in fact agree that the vast majority of Christians are great people whom they love to be around. Just as I enjoy being around them.
I, and none of my Christian friends, have ever "waved it about in public or expect other people to love it the way they do." Nor do we have any intention of doing so. Yes, we talk about how much our faith means to us when we are out at Christian social get togethers, but otherwise it is kept pretty much private.

sieglinde Fri 08-Feb-13 14:08:59

Maybe people here might find this site interesting www.freefaith.com

Also a fine study of irrationality is Thinking, Fast and Slow. Rationality is a bit like morality. Most people think their choices are moral and rational. But it's debatable whether they actually are.

Snorbs Fri 08-Feb-13 13:51:35

Oh I dunno, I think I could persuade myself that at least some of my beliefs are irrational. Eg that Heinz baked beans are better than all others.

That being said, those beliefs of mine that I suspect are possibly irrational are not so central to my idea of self and the universe that I follow an entire theology based around them. An irrational belief about something trivial is, well, trivial. An irrational belief used as a basis for a complete worldview is different.

Picking up on an earlier point as to why us rational types are prepared to come back and argue some more with the superstitious - it's not that we object to you believing in whatever old crap floats your boat. It's of no more interest or relevance to other people than your choice of whether to fold or scrunch your bogroll/which rugby team you support/your liking for the novels of Katie Price. Enjoy, knock yourself out, believe whatever you like. BUT remember that your imaginary friend is like a penis. It's fine to have one, fine to be happy with it but NOT ACCEPTABLE to wave it about in public, expect other people to love it the way you do, and definitely not acceptable to shove it down the throats of those who have no interest in it.

sciencelover Thu 07-Feb-13 22:49:24

I can't think of a single belief that I hold that I don't consider rational.

Interesting discussion, btw. I've always found human psychology fascinating.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:24:42

Btw, your citing Cognitive Bias is like pointing out Logical Fallacies and saying they show nobody is logical.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:11:53

... and the reason we started talking about GT and utility functions is that some people here believe drinking a bit too much for a night or eating a bit too much once in a while are examples of irrational behaviour.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:10:12

Did anyone say GT proves everyone is rational?

I said it shows how people make decisions and why they are rational although they might look irrational. Like in the Prisoner's Dilemma I linked to in my previous post.

NotDavidTennant Thu 07-Feb-13 22:06:55

Not that I want to derail this thread, but Game Theory assumes the existence of rational actors and works from there, it doesn't offer a proof that human beings are rational actors.

In fact, it's pretty well recognised by the fields of psychology and behavioural economics that humans do not always make the decisions you would expect if they were purely rational agents.
e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias

I guess fundamentally people cling to their imaginary friends because they are a bit gullible or a bit desperate. As long as they don't allow their superstitions to inconvenience or harm other people, it's fine. Ludicrous, but not my business unless they choose to make it so.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 21:14:45

No, not necessarily more than one person. There are Game Theory analyses of, for example, parents' vaccination decisions.

If you are at all interested in rational decision making, you must learn about (1) Game Theory and (2) Micro-economics, and Utility Functions in particular.

Game Theory will show you that things that look irrational from the outside (like parents not vaccinating their kids, or people not cooperating even when their lives depend on it) are actually rational decisions from their viewpoints. Utility Functions show that I may make choices totally different than yours due to differences in personal preferences, although we will both be making rational choices.

Reading a bit about Economy will also teach you the importance of concepts like trade-off, opportunity cost, sunk cost, etc. All of this will be invaluable to you in seeing how rational decisions are made in the world, imho.

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 07-Feb-13 20:56:33

Cote, I unfortunately do not have the time to dedicate to Game Theory and Micro economics. Like you, my reading schedule is pretty full for the foreseeable future. Perhaps you can give me a brief synopsis and examples of usage.

I looked it up on Wiki (I know) and it seems to be a model for improving rational decision making by more than one person. Is that correct? If it is I fail to see it's relevance to your assertion that you are rational 100% of the time.confused.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 17:16:04

town - That is not what we are talking about. Nobody is saying that my decision to participate in this thread was not a rational one. (What do you mean by "good outcome" from joining a thread on MN, anyway?)

We are talking about people's rational decision-making processes, which is proving to be challenging because some of us know nothing about the disciplines that study rational decisions like Economy and Game Theory.

That is the relevance of microeconomy.

And I have no idea what you just asked me - basis of which reasoning?

townbuiltonahill Wed 06-Feb-13 22:42:53

Come on then, Cote.

You presumably made a considered, rational decision based on an expectation of a 'good' (for you) outcome, to join this thread.

(And yes, you are of course as entitled as any of the rest of us to be here).

May we hear the basis of your reasoning please, including the initial premises?

[off to revise my game theory knowledge]

What is the relevance of micro-economics to the conversation please?

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 21:22:52

I have to insist that you learn about Game Theory and micro-economy. You must learn about how people make rational decisions.

By the way, it is deeply worrying that your background in psychology has led you to believe that people are irrational beings shock

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 06-Feb-13 12:24:37

Rational thinking, the ability to think and make decisions based on logic. No person has ever existed that has been able to do this free from emotions and social conditioning. Despite this fact most people believe that they are rational most of the time, even when making quite irrational decisions. In order to maintain this myth of rationality we have defense mechanisms. Everyone has them. We use them to justify our irrational actions. For most people they are not problematic and indeed are a necessary protective measure that allow us to make quick decisions.

Psychopaths experience reduced emotions therefore they are the the most rational members of our society. However not even psychopaths are free from emotions and conditioning.

Why do we make the decisions that we do? Ultimately we make our decision based on what we think will provide us with the most happiness. An emotion. Getting drunk with your friends may make you happy, but it is not rational. Also, what makes you happy may not be the same as what makes someone else happy. Therefore our society operates with the parameters of accepted irrationality.

You say that I *have clearly never studied nor in any way understood
decision making processes*. On the contrary, my field of work and study is how people make decisions. I work in MH and study psychology. While I accept that not everyone works in this field, I had mistakenly thought that most people had some knowledge of the role of the unconscious and maybe even Defence Mechanisms.blush

Cote do you have children? If so, what was your process of reasoning when you chose to have them?

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 08:21:26

"What do you think about a world of religion, trends, war, celebrities, starvation, love, fashion, advertising, obesity and MN and stuff? Like it is a crazy place."

It is not a crazy place at all, and I am a bit sad for you that you understand so little of it that you think it makes no sense.

Seriously, read some Game Theory.

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 08:17:03

Dione - I think we need to agree on some definitions, because you are saying stuff that makes no sense to me.

Rational = Based on or in accordance with reason or logic: "a rational explanation"

Irrational = Without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason. Without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment. Utterly illogical (irrational arguments)

Therefore, you cannot call someone's reasoned decision based on personal preferences "irrational", no matter how much you disagree with that decision.

In contrast, it is irrational to believe that the Earth is a few thousand years old, while knowing that there are million-year-old fossils in the ground. Because the two are contradictory and accepting them both requires complete disregard for logic and reason. Hence, irrational.

I have used the terms trade-off and utility function because I have studied Economics as well as Game Theory. Both fields of study work with rational players acting in a rational way, who part with a cost (price of a restaurant meal) in expectation of the desired payoff (enjoying a pleasant evening at the restaurant).

I realize that these are alien subjects to you so understanding is not likely to come quickly or easily, but please look them up and try to familiarise yourself with these concepts. They will be invaluable tools for you to make sense of the world you live in (and understand that it is not an irrational place).

"you have employed the defense mechanisms of rationalization (you accept the trade off)"

You think so because you don't understand what the term trade-off means and how it is used in context. It is a perfectly normal term to use when talking about rational choices, as anyone who has ever studied the subject can tell you.

"From what I have seen creationists use exactly the same processes to justify their belief that the world is only a few thousand years old."

I would be surprised. Tell me, what kind of process do they used to justify this belief? Trade-off of what? "Intellectualisation" how?

"The most rational people in our society are psychopaths."

And you know that because you are intimate with so many psychopaths? hmm

You have clearly never studied nor in any way understood decision-making processes, which is fine, I don't mind sharing the information. However, you need to refrain from making silly sweeping generalisations like the above which completely undermine your credibility, imho.

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