Author Topic: What Do You Believe In?  (Read 2794 times)

Offline SGOS (OP)

What Do You Believe In?
« on: November 06, 2016, 04:09:36 PM »
I was just starting an episode of Dexter, where he is trying to enroll his son in a preschool.  It's Catholic preschool that was recommended to him, and he's checking it out.  The nun says to him, "Then Dexter, you must be a Catholic."  He gazes at a bloody crucifix of Christ with nails and red paint dripping from his wounds.  "No, he replies," while he thinks to himself, "... but I will admit it has a certain appeal."

"So you're not Catholic," confirms the nun.  "Jewish then?"; "Nope.":  "Protestant?" ; "Ahh, nope.";  Then with a befuddled look of concern, she asks, "Muslim?"; "Nope."; "Well what do you believe in then, Dexter?"

This question has always bothered me, made me uncomfortable.  I believe it's perhaps an unintended setup that leads to a "Gotcha!"  I can never remember this part, and I waited to see what he would say.  Unlike me, "He thought pensively, and replied, "Nothing."

Great answer, I think.

The reason is, there is no real intention of inquiring if you believe the sun will rise in the morning.  Basically, it's an inquiry about your own woo, which helps the theist justify his own. ie everyone has to believing something.  All the better if it's demonstrably silly.   Even if you answer, "I think the sun will rise in the morning," or something similar, the next question is, "But how do you know for sure?"  And things invariably go no where if not over a cliff at that point.

A good answer can be simply, "I don't believe in anything," because the question hides in an equivocation.  The belief being referred to is not the same as the belief a non believer is talking about.  The two meanings are more unrelated than one definition would imply.  And it requires a bit of mental gymnastics to meet at a common ground and ends up often confusing the issue.

We've had discussions about this before, but this was like an insight for me.  "I don't believe in anything," is uncomforting, but no more so than the attempted discussion is apt to be.

You could use it to embark on the semantics of "believe", but that's really a waste of time for both parties, and accomplishes little, except with an astute theist that would try and not change the subject back to, "But there is a God.  He's real.  Bla, bla.  And if you do embark on the semantics you will know where it's going in short order.

I think this helps me because it gives me a better understanding of the dynamics of such a conversation.  The resolution of the question remains out of reach, but understanding the dynamic makes it less uncomfortable.

« Last Edit: November 22, 2016, 07:19:24 AM by SGOS »

Offline AllPurposeAtheist

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2016, 05:37:38 PM »
Yeah..I don't believe anything either..I don't even believe that I just posted what I think I did.  I'm an atheist after all.
All hail my new signature!

Admit it. You're secretly green with envy.

Offline Baruch

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2016, 06:41:03 PM »
There are three kinds of logical situation ... contradiction, tautology or contingency.  Mathematical proof is concerned about the first two, either reductio ad absurdum or axiomatic deduction or mathematical induction.  Contingency covers the empirical world.  Part of that world is the natural world (is human culture natural?).  One could argue that human culture is a separate subject from nature ... that humans are categorically different from ants (E O Wilson's analogy).  In my POV, ants are in the same category as humans, but not the same as a rock on the side of a mountain ... because we are both alive.

So there is justifiable belief ... which is knowledge.  Then we say we know something (but can casually say we believe it).  Unjustifiable belief isn't knowledge.  So a child might believe in Santa Claus, but can't know Santa Claus (at least in the literal way).  But one can know Santa Claus (when it is the guy at the mall listening to the wishes of little children, or dad is dressed up as Santa Claus ... or one speaks of the spirit of Christmas ... and we can have knowledge of that, but we have to be careful, because in fact we have changed the subject ... we aren't talking of a literal real Santa Claus.

So many of us here, don't have a belief in any god, or have any knowledge of any god.  And we know there are people who do believe in some god, just as we know there are children who believe in Santa Claus.  We can have knowledge of people's beliefs in gods, that is comparative religion studies.  What is affirmed is that the atheist not only has no belief in any god, but that knowledge of any god is impossible, both for the atheist and for the theist.  So knowledge of a god is not contingent, or a tautology (ontological proofs) but that it is a contradiction.

Of course all that presupposes that we know something of rationality, and of confirmed empirical reality.  Hence we might say that a theist is either irrational, or unreal or both.  So in regards to this, I can say informally I believe what I just wrote, but I think I also know it.  I am just as skeptical of belief claims of theists as I am of atheists ... you have to prove or demonstrate your point.  In my case, I don't have a standard or normal view of reality, compared to almost any other person ... the word theist and atheist don't mean the same thing to me, as it means to people who post here, either theist or atheist.  And there it stands, communication is only possible between two people who have shared experience, as I have pointed out elsewhere.
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Online Atheon

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2016, 06:42:48 PM »
I believe I'll have another beer.
"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." - Seneca

Offline Baruch

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2016, 06:44:13 PM »
I believe I'll have another beer.

If it is only a belief, can you get psychosomatically drunk? ;-)
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Offline doorknob

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2016, 06:56:39 PM »
I love Dexter and yes while watching this whole season I was curious as to where it was going. The authors take on it is definitely not the main stream take. But I think he does well not to alienate his fans. I never did finish watching season 8 I wont give away the ending but there is a reason it's the last season. And I Don't really want to see it end.

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2016, 07:06:01 PM »
I was just starting an episode of Dexter, where he is trying to enroll his son in a preschool.  It's Catholic preschool that was recommended to him, and he's checking it out.  The nun says to him, "Then Dexter, you must be a Catholic."  He gazes at a bloody crucifix of Christ with nails and red paint dripping from his wounds.  "No, he replies," while he thinks to himself, "... but I will admit it has a certain appeal."

"So your not Catholic," confirms the nun.  "Jewish then?"; "Nope.":  "Protestant?" ; "Ahh, nope.";  Then with a befuddled look of concern, she asks, "Muslim?"; "Nope."; "Well what do you believe in then, Dexter?"

This question has always bothered me, made me uncomfortable.  I believe it's perhaps an unintended setup that leads to a "Gotcha!"  I can never remember this part, and I waited to see what he would say.  Unlike me, "He thought pensively, and replied, "Nothing."

Great answer, I think.

The reason is, there is no real intention of inquiring if you believe the sun will rise in the morning.  Basically, it's an inquiry about your own woo, which helps the theist justify his own. ie everyone has to believing something.  All the better if it's demonstrably silly.   Even if you answer, "I think the sun will rise in the morning," or something similar, the next question is, "But how do you know for sure?"  And things invariably go no where if not over a cliff at that point.

A good answer can be simply, "I don't believe in anything," because the question hides in an equivocation.  The belief being referred to is not the same as the belief a non believer is talking about.  The two meanings are more unrelated than one definition would imply.  And it requires a bit of mental gymnastics to meet at a common ground and ends up often confusing the issue.

We've had discussions about this before, but this was like an insight for me.  "I don't believe in anything," is uncomforting, but no more so than the attempted discussion is apt to be.

You could use it to embark on the semantics of "believe", but that's really a waste of time for both parties, and accomplishes little, except with an astute theist that would try and not change the subject back to, "But there is a God.  He's real.  Bla, bla.  And if you do embark on the semantics you will know where it's going in short order.

I think this helps me because it gives me a better understanding of the dynamics of such a conversation.  The resolution of the question remains out of reach, but understanding the dynamic makes it less uncomfortable.
I think the problem, SGOS, is conditioning.  This question has bothered me, as well.  And I also came quickly to realize it was a setup.  It always ended with 'my belief is better than your belief.'.  I was conditioned in early life that it is simply accepted that all of us believe in something, even if it was just kindness.  But, I now accept the answer from me will be 'nothing'.  And when that blank look or the look of horror shows up, I simply explain that I need proof for all things.  I've heard things like--' you must believe the sun will come up tomorrow--don't you?'.  If I agree, then they point out that I believe in something.  But my answer now is that I don't 'believe' the sun will come up, I think that it will; and why?  Because it always has from the time of the formation of the planet; and if one  day it does not come up, I'll have to re-think my position.  I substitute the word 'think' for the word 'believe'.  And that proves satisfactory for me.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Offline Baruch

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2016, 07:07:24 PM »
But as a human, not everything you think (or think you know) is justifiable ... it just tends to be for mature reality based folks (a minority of humanity).
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Online Munch

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2016, 07:14:55 PM »
Belief is more the sustained dream like qualities we develop as kids that carries on into adulthood. It usually goes believing, to wanting to believe, to questioning said belief, then just no longer. Fantasies replaced by reason and logic.

However, in the fantasy aspect, that will often be the outcome, where as there are still things you can hope for happening, based on chance, well within the realms of possibility. Believing god will stick his finger down on you is what a lot of christians believe will happen, which has no basis for reality, but if you believe something good will come naturally, like doctors curing your moms cancer, or all your work put into study giving you that high grade, then having hope that these things will happen based on hard work and development, then theres no reason we should just be cynical to everything.

I believe there is life out in the universe, perhaps not like our own or any species on our planet, but theres bound to be other life out there, if it can even look to the stars itself is another matter, I base this upon the huge varied species on our own planet, and on the origins of how that came to be, making the chance of other planets having environments that coul support other life possible.

Online Munch

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2016, 07:16:12 PM »
But as a human, not everything you think (or think you know) is justifiable ... it just tends to be for mature reality based folks (a minority of humanity).

I think we need some examples of such people Baruch, anyone in history or popular media?

Offline Baruch

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2016, 07:21:09 PM »
I think we need some examples of such people Baruch, anyone in history or popular media?

There are plenty of mature people on this blog, and many of them are reality based as well.  But we aren't an Army of One ... more like squadies on leave.
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Online Munch

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2016, 07:35:46 PM »
There are plenty of mature people on this blog, and many of them are reality based as well.  But we aren't an Army of One ... more like squadies on leave.

Sorry, just thought the definition of mature reality based folks was pertaining to a certain demographic, or individuals

Offline SGOS (OP)

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2016, 07:59:11 PM »
I believe I'll have another beer.

Well, here's to ya.

Offline SGOS (OP)

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2016, 08:16:01 PM »
I love Dexter and yes while watching this whole season I was curious as to where it was going. The authors take on it is definitely not the main stream take. But I think he does well not to alienate his fans. I never did finish watching season 8 I wont give away the ending but there is a reason it's the last season. And I Don't really want to see it end.

The author does leave enough loose ends so that theists can get something out of that season.  And they can look upon Brother Sam as an icon of sincere belief.  Hell, I could even accept that.  And of course making Dexter the atheist doesn't hurt.  However, there are enough Christians in the series, especially that season, that are delusional murderers, but well... you know...  They just misunderstood the teachings.  So they can be easily dismissed using No true Scotsman logic.

And you should go all the way through to the end.  It's not happy, but it's not horrible or physically brutal.  Having said that it is chilling and very disconcerting.  I actually like the way they ended it.  I didn't expect it at all, and a few scenes from the very end there is a brief moment of unexpected motherly love that makes up for all that is given up and sacrificed, like somehow some way, things might be OK.  I was oddly touched by that part.

Offline SGOS (OP)

Re: What Do You Believe In?
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2016, 08:26:15 PM »
I think the problem, SGOS, is conditioning.  This question has bothered me, as well.  And I also came quickly to realize it was a setup.  It always ended with 'my belief is better than your belief.'. 

For me it always seemed to be headed toward,  "There see, my belief is AS GOOD AS YOUR Belief:  How can you possibly question what I believe, when you believe whatever."


I was conditioned in early life that it is simply accepted that all of us believe in something, even if it was just kindness.  But, I now accept the answer from me will be 'nothing'.  And when that blank look or the look of horror shows up, I simply explain that I need proof for all things.  I've heard things like--' you must believe the sun will come up tomorrow--don't you?'.  If I agree, then they point out that I believe in something.  But my answer now is that I don't 'believe' the sun will come up, I think that it will; and why?  Because it always has from the time of the formation of the planet; and if one  day it does not come up, I'll have to re-think my position.  I substitute the word 'think' for the word 'believe'.  And that proves satisfactory for me.

We all get conditioned to accept that we believe in something, and we do.  But somehow we managed to also get conditioned to cherish our beliefs, and to hold on to them as almost precious.  I'm not sure if we are taught this, or if it's part of our ingrained nature, but it's not necessary to do that, and can create various degrees of complication and harm.