Disambiguating Faith: Faith There's A God vs. Faith In God

Recently I posted a brief overview of my “Disambiguating Faith” series in which I root out each equivocation used to justify faith one by one. In the overview I defined faith over the course of several paragraphs with links to previous posts in the series. But the core of my definition was as follows:

Faith is deliberately believing a proposition more strongly than evidence warrants (either when you think that the proposition is not strongly supported by evidence or is even undermined by the best evidence). Faith is the willful treatment of one’s most cherished notions as though they were impervious to evidence. Faith is hostility to genuine, open-ended doubting.

Thinking about faith in terms of this definition the once devoutly believing Libby Anne (of Love, Joy, Feminism) came to conclude that she never actually had faith. Her belief was grounded on what she perceived to be the best evidence. When she was confronted with overwhelming counter-evidence she changed her beliefs. She was always essentially committed to reason, she just had been misinformed prior. She then dabbled for a brief time with believing on faith—willfully choosing to accept Christianity as true more than she perceived the evidence to support it—and realized she just couldn’t keep that up. And she became an atheist.

Others of her readers also claimed not to have had a faith that fit my definition. So is there something wrong with my definition? No. But it needs to be fleshed out and some parts that come later on in the longer version not quoted above need to be reiterated.

The first key thing to note is that there is no reason to assume that just because someone belongs to a faith or has an unjustified belief that we must interpret their beliefs as matters of “faith”. I don’t, for example, think that every truly believing superstitious person throughout history (whether religious or not) was a “faith-believer”. If the common sense of the world which surrounds you simply takes it as a basic fact that there are invisible agencies manipulating human affairs and you never question it, you have a false belief (for sure) but not one that involves any decision to be a “believer”. You just accept the world as your culture presents it to you. You have no cognizance of believing anything more extravagant than modern people believe when accepting invisible forces reported to them by scientists.

Yet there are distinct phenomena of wittingly believing more than you perceive that the evidence warrants or believing specifically contrary to the evidence. This does not happen for all believers but it happens for at least some. Possibly many. I have had believers admit to me things like that they will refuse to abandon their faith regardless of whatever evidence is presented to them. These people exist and their way of believing exists. It is an importantly distinct way of believing which deserves its own word. It’s not necessarily “blind” faith since it’s sometimes at least partially informed by a perception of evidence. The key is the will is choosing to go beyond evidence. I think this is a vicious way of believing. It is morally and epistemically wrong and needs to be specifically denounced. So I designate faith to tag this distinct phenomenon.

But other religious people mean by faith something which intends to be more rational? That’s fine. They shouldn’t use the word faith as it’s misleading. If all they mean is that they believe an uncertain and yet evidentially supported proposition and that they believe proportionally to the actual evidence for the proposition, then I am not accusing them of willful irrationalism. I accept that some religious people are not deliberately rejecting a commitment to evidence. I accept that some religious people think their beliefs are based on evidence and perceive themselves as open to changing their minds if strong enough evidence is shown to them. Of course, I expect them to probably be biased against fairly assessing such evidence and usually lazy about even looking for such evidence. But I grant that, nonetheless, they do not have faith in the culpable sense I want to blame them for.

I also do not think that only religious people can have faith in the sense of willfully believing disproportionate to evidence. People in other contexts besides religion can make this mistake too. Faith is especially a problem in religions not because it is unique to them but because for the most part only religions actively encourage people to commit to beliefs even against evidence.

Now, there are still three ways that someone could have faith in the sense I am criticizing and still not yet be covered by my snippet of definition quoted above.

There is a difference between believing that there is a God on faith and trusting in God on faith. We can cast both beliefs about the existence or non-existence of entities and beliefs about the trustworthiness or untrustworthiness of people in terms of propositions. There is the proposition “There is a God.” and there is another proposition “God can be trusted to do what is best for me.” Someone could hold either of these beliefs either as a response to her perception of evidence or despite their perception that the evidence is insufficient.

So, someone who believes that there is a God based on a perception that all (or the preponderance of) the metaphysical and experiential evidence points that way may be (at least consciously) an evidence-based thinker on this point while at the same time she feels strong doubts that God truly will bring the best possible outcome from a tough situation in which she finds herself and yet deliberately opts to make herself trust that he will and to (essentially) affirm the proposition “God can be trusted to do what is best for me.”

Instances of trusting beyond perceived rational warrant are distinctly instances of trusting by faith, rather than according to reason. Not all trust is inherently done contrary to evidence. Again, as with belief in general, we need a distinct word for those specific cases of trust which eschew evidence and go out on a limb. When someone trusts a reliable person it is a distinctly different thing than when they trust an unreliable (or invisible and untraceable!) one.

Many people have a much easier time reasoning that there must be some creator of some kind and calling it God and assuming it’s the God of their particular faith than they do trusting in that invisible being to come through in real world binds where actual consequences are at stake for their lives. This often requires much more practical commitment than assent to a bare, seemingly common sensical, low-cost/high-pay off metaphysical proposition does. This is why biblical characters, who never seem to doubt the existence of God, are preoccupied with faith anyway. It’s God’s reliability that is deeply uncertain. And then sometimes it’s God’s character that is in doubt, as a consequence of all his perceived failures to come through on promises or to be just.

So someone who has what they perceive to be an evidence based belief in God can nonetheless have numerous cases for faith in the trust beyond perceived evidence sense. And this involves both willfully assenting more than evidence warrants to propositional beliefs (like “God is absolutely trustworthy” and “God loves me enough to do what is best for me”.)

Now there is another sense in which people who perceive themselves as evidence based thinkers may yet be willful believers who assent beyond the perception of evidential warrant. They may be latently and potentially faith-believers who have not yet been forced to make this choice. Even though they currently perceive the evidence to be on their side, when challenged with unsettling counter-evidence, they may suddenly find that when actually confronted with the possibility of losing their religion they deliberately cling to it as a matter of principle and appeal to the legitimacy and primacy of faith as a conversation stopper (“this is why you must just have faith!”). In such a case, this person either reveals a buried will to believe against evidence that was always there or maybe just goes from someone who had not been determined either way to someone who becomes a faith-believer at that moment. That’s an interesting psychological question. It is possible that the answer even differs from faith-believer to faith-believer.

It is important that we clearly disambiguate the word faith to distinguish it as a specific kind of vicious thinking not to be confused with numerous identifiable morally and epistemically approvable practices of believing uncertain propositions only proportionally to their warrant and of trusting people only proportionally to their rationally expected reliability. This is because believers constantly want to muddy the waters such that the justification there is in believing with restraint in some things which are uncertain becomes permission to believe without restraint in other things which are not merely uncertain but highly improbable. This equivocation is completely illogical and needs to be opposed by restricting faith to a specific meaning that only covers its vicious instances. The other things called faith which are actually rational can be admitted to be at least rational in form (if not true in fact) and so not cases of “faith” in the criticized sense.

In short, just because two kinds of believing are both traditionally called faith does not mean that the one’s rational justification transfers to the other. When one is believing in a way that is self-consciously attentive to perceived evidence, it is formally morally and epistemically approvable to that extent (even if there are other intellectual or moral vices involved). And this kind of believing properly lends none of its justification to other cases of believing that involve self-consciously putting identity and deliberate bias over responsiveness to evidence.

For this reason, we need two words. One for what is good and another for what is bad. Anything else is an attempt to confuse the bad for good by a false equation of the bad’s essential characteristics with the good’s.

 

Your Thoughts?

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For more on faith, read any or all posts in my “Disambiguating Faith” series (listed below) which strike you as interesting or whose titles indicate they might answer your own questions, concerns, or objections having read the post above.  It is unnecessary to read all the posts below to understand any given one. They are written to each stand on their own but also contribute to a long sustained argument if read all together.

Faith in a Comprehensive Nutshell

How Faith Poisons Religion

What About The Good Things People Call “Faith”? (Or “Why I Take Such A Strong Semantic Stand Against The Word Faith”)

How Religious Beliefs Become Specifically *Faith* Beliefs

Faith There’s A God vs. Faith In God

Trustworthiness, Loyalty, And Honesty

Faith As Loyally Trusting Those Insufficiently Proven To Be Trustworthy

Faith As Tradition

Blind Faith: How Faith Traditions Turn Trust Without Warrant Into A Test Of Loyalty

Faith As Tradition’s Advocate And Enforcer, Which Actively Opposes Merely Provisional Forms Of Trust

The Threatening Abomination Of The Faithless

Rational Beliefs, Rational Actions, And When It Is Rational To Act On What You Don’t Think Is True

Faith As Guessing

Are True Gut Feelings And Epiphanies Beliefs Justified By Faith?

Faith Is Neither Brainstorming, Hypothesizing, Nor Simply Reasoning Counter-Intuitively

Faith In The Sub-, Pre-, Or Un-conscious

Can Rationality Overcome Faith?

Faith As A Form Of Rationalization Unique To Religion

Faith As Deliberate Commitment To Rationalization

Heart Over Reason

Faith As Corruption Of Children’s Intellectual Judgment

Faith As Subjectivity Which Claims Objectivity

Faith Is Preconditioned By Doubt, But Precludes Serious Doubting

Soul Searching With Clergy Guy

Faith As Admirable Infinite Commitment For Finite Reasons

Maximal Self-Realization In Self-Obliteration: The Existential Paradox of Heroic Self-Sacrifice

How A Lack Of Belief In God May Differ From Various Kinds Of Beliefs That Gods Do Not Exist

Why Faith Is Unethical (Or “In Defense Of The Ethical Obligation To Always Proportion Belief To Evidence”

Not All Beliefs Held Without Certainty Are Faith Beliefs

Defending My Definition Of Faith As “Belief Or Trust Beyond Rational Warrant”

Implicit Faith

Agnostics Or Apistics?

The Evidence-Impervious Agnostic Theists

Faith Which Exploits Infinitesimal Probabilities As Openings For Strong Affirmations

Why You Cannot Prove Inductive Reasoning Is Faith-Based Reasoning But Instead Only Assert That By Faith

How Just Opposing Faith, In Principle, Means You Actually Don’t Have Faith, In Practice

Naturalism, Materialism, Empiricism, And Wrong, Weak, And Unsupported Beliefs Are All Not Necessarily Faith Positions

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Kevin

    The type of “faith” you’re defining is what I call “credulity”.

    People swallowing as true stories told by primitives who thought the earth was fixed and flat, and whose weather was controlled by angry invisible giants.

    I don’t know what to call the “faith” that’s defined as “I’ve looked at the evidence and I’m sure it points to credulity in 2500-year-old stories written by primitives…”

    But I think it’s probably a distinction without a difference.

    Without the myths, the “faith” would be nonexistent.

  • abusedbypenguins

    Faith; the ability to believe in something you know can not possibly be true.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Others of her readers also claimed not to have had a faith that fit my definition. So is there something wrong with my definition? No.

    I have to disagree. If you want to use the word “faith” to mean whatever religious believers mean by it, then you have to follow their usage — or in this case, usages. If you just “designate faith to tag” a particular thing that doesn’t match the usage of religious believers, then you invite confusing your meaning of “faith” and that of a religious believer.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’m only interested in the truth of what they are believing or not (or how they are believing or not). Their self-descriptions are irrelevant if they’re muddled and confused. If they are conflating beliefs based on perceived evidence with ones not, then their language is inherently confused on the decisive point. They are going to keep justifying their unjustified beliefs by equivocating their rectitude with their justifiable ones and that’s going to continue to be what gets them off the hook where they don’t deserve it in their own and others’ minds.

      The only proper thing to do is clearly specify what the specific vice of faith is (as I always do) when criticizing it. It’s up to them to work out whether they have faith in the relevant sense.

      But as an epistemologist, I have to develop an account of faith that accounts for a distinct kind of believing. Religious self-understanding is not at all binding on me.

    • J. J. Ramsey

      Their self-descriptions are irrelevant if they’re muddled and confused.

      If their use of their own jargon (e.g. the word “faith”) is muddled and confused, then your description of what that jargon means has to take that into account.

      Furthermore, when apologists define “faith” as a kind of reasonable trust rather than unwarranted belief, they are inoculating their audience against critics of religion, encouraging them to think, “Dawkins/Fincke/Blackford/Pigliucci says ‘faith’ is belief without evidence? Ha, they don’t know what they are talking about, so why listen to them?” If you don’t get that, then you’re begging to be as easily misunderstood as an American Atheists billboard. You can’t just put the onus on them to “work out whether they have faith in the relevant sense,” not if you want to actually communicate your message to those who need it the most.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Faith is not “their jargon”. It’s a broader word than any given religious tradition. And this is not at all comparable to the AA’s messaging problems. It’s a matter of arguing for conceptual clarifications. We are at some points to tell them they are wrong and they cut up reality wrong. And I didn’t say “‘faith’ is belief without evidence” like you said. I said it is belief disproportionate to evidence. That’s a big difference. It helps mitigate the misunderstanding. I’m not Dawkins or Blackford or Pigliucci.

    • J. J. Ramsey

      Faith is not “their jargon”.

      You can quibble about whether it’s jargon or not. The point still stands: If the believers’ use of the word ‘faith’ is muddled and confused, then your description of what that word means has to take that into account.

      And I didn’t say “‘faith’ is belief without evidence” like you said. I said it is belief disproportionate to evidence. That’s a big difference.

      Actually, it’s just more quibbling, and it doesn’t make as big a difference as you think. The apologists who describe faith as a reasonable trust are inoculating against someone saying that faith is belief disproportionate to evidence just as much as they are against someone saying that faith is belief without evidence altogether.

    • John Morales

      You can quibble about whether it’s jargon or not. The point still stands: If the believers’ use of the word ‘faith’ is muddled and confused, then your description of what that word means has to take that into account.

      You are muddled and confused.

      It’s their jargon because the in-group understands to what it refers when they employ it; you see it as muddled and confused because it doesn’t accord with your own understanding.

      (Try spending a few hours in discussion with a Scientologist, and that fact will slap you on your face!)

    • julian

      The meaning is already given. So for the sake of the argument he is providing it’s much more preferable to using, as you describe it, a muddy concept. At least with a more exact definition readers will be able to more accurately determine if they agree or disagree with Dr. Fincke’s position. It may even be a great way to bring about an ‘Ah! So that’s what you meant. Ok, I always understood it as blahblahblah.’

    • http://qpr.ca/blogs Alan Cooper

      I guess it depends on what is the point of the exercise.

      If all you want to object to is “deliberately believing a proposition more strongly than evidence warrants” then I guess it’s ok to give them an escape hatch by saying “It’s up to them to work out whether they have faith in the relevant sense.”

      But if you want to object to the delegation of moral authority (which in my opinion is the fundamental problem with religion), then you might not be so happy with them saying “Well your criticism doesn’t apply to me because my faith is not in a proposition but in a source of answers to moral questions on which evidence has no bearing”.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      John writes

      It’s their jargon because the in-group understands to what it refers when they employ it; you see it as muddled and confused because it doesn’t accord with your own understanding

      No, it’s not jargon at all. The faithful do not use it in any one clear sense. They equivocate like mad and asked to define it you’d get 100 different definitions, some of which are mutually exclusive. Some are fideists, some are more rationalistic misusing the word “faith”, etc.

      Believers are relatively competent users of the word in that they can communicate what they are trying to say to each other with it in most circumstances, but they are not competent with it insofar as they can make clear distinctions and tough choices about it.

      It’s not at all jargon though. Jargon is technical and highly specific. I am using faith in a jargon sense as an epistemologist here. Believers use it in a confused everyday sense with many ambiguities.

      My jargon is a way to clarify to them, I am criticizing this part of your believing and not that.

      This does not allow them to dismiss me it allows them to know my precise target so that they don’t go defending the clearly rational things that I wasn’t attacking but have to either own or abandon the irrationalism I’m accusing them of.

    • John Morales

      Hm. I think you’re relying on its polysemy, here, but fair enough.

      Why not just call it “religious faith”? :)

  • http://wanderinweeta.blogspot.com Susannah
    Faith is deliberately believing a proposition more strongly than evidence warrants… Faith is hostility to genuine, open-ended doubting.

    …Libby Anne (of Love, Joy, Feminism) came to conclude that she never actually had faith. Her belief was grounded on what she perceived to be the best evidence. When she was confronted with overwhelming counter-evidence she changed her beliefs.

    These two blog posts, in conjunction, clarified a lot for me. I see now; I never had “faith” in the current evangelical sense. Come to think of it, neither did my strongly Christian mother. She taught me that faith was not a thing; it needed an object, and the truth of the object was what mattered.

    So she, and I, were brought up with a carefully limited data set. Based on what I knew, I believed, acted, and, I regret, taught. When, plagued by doubts in the final year of my identification as a Christian, I begged God for help, my prayer always was, “Show me!” And he never did.

  • http://qpr.ca/blogs Alan Cooper

    Isn’t “vicious” a bit strong coming from one who just recently took offence at “fanatical”?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      No, vicious, when talking about normative ethics, just means “vice” as opposed to virtue. In other words there are virtuous and vicious ways to fulfill a given inclination. In this case there are either virtuous or vicious ways of believing, both morally and epistemically. It does not mean viciousness in the colloquial sense. You don’t really think I was accusing believers of being cruel people whenever they simply believed improperly, do you?

      All not virtuous actions or believing falls under the word “vicious”, it’s not any greater term of disparagement than any other word for a failure to be virtuous/properly excellent.

    • http://qpr.ca/blogs Alan Cooper

      ok. But to a lay reader unfamiliar with the technical usage that sounds a bit like saying “No, in my group ‘fanatic’ just means someone who fancies something or at most is an enthusiastic fan of it”

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    I actually just wrote about this and had some examples of how different mindsets will deal with things. I would have tagged you had I read this first. Plenty of people think their beliefs are evidence-based, but the evidence is a post hoc rationalization. When confronted with contrary evidence, they’ll shift their belief around it or find an excuse to disregard it.

  • Ataraxic

    The best description I have for this kind of faith is “sanctified credulity”. Not only do the faithful extend their belief beyond the evidence, but they consider this behaviour to be a righteous virtue.
    When trying to determine what a person means when they talk about their faith, I find it most useful to query their attitude towards doubt about their religion. “Moderate” believers will often tell you that doubt is a part of faith, whereas fundamentalists consider doubt a shameful and serious sin. It’s a great way of cutting through the bluster and finding out why they believe the way they do.

  • Beth

    I very much prefer the use of precise language when attempting to have civil discussions. I associate the use of more general terms with broad meanings and strong emotional connotations with attempts to equivocate and obfuscate.

    I look at your definition, and it seems more appropriate to use the more limited and precise term ‘credulity’ as Kevin suggestsed rather than the less precise and more ambiguous word ‘faith’.

    For example, the use of specific terms like abortion, spanking and circumcision conveys far more precisely what one is referring to than broad general terms such as murder, beating children, and genital mutilation.

    I seee the use of a broader term rather than a specific one as an attempt to get people (perhaps oneself, perhaps others) to perceive the argument as being of the form X is Y, Y is bad, therefore X is bad. It seems to me to be an attempt to paint the issue with a broad brush, hiding the nuances of the argument rather than illuminating them. It makes it difficult to have an indepth examination and discussion of relevant but more subtle points.

    Insisting on using the broader terminolgy (faith) while simultaneously equating that broad term to a very limited definition seems like an attempt at that sort of argument. That is, it comes across to me as X (faith) is Y (credulity), Y (credulity) is bad, therefore X (faith) is bad.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      But faith is not credulity. Credulity is gullibilty, it’s a readiness to overtrust but not on purpose.

      It’s the purposefulness of it that makes it faith. It’s turning willful believing and insistence on belief against all future evidence into a virtue that is the gesture of faith or celebrating “faith”. That IS being precise in language. It’s the normal use of faith that equivocates it with other things we have perfectly good words (like trust or belief) for. Faith always has that extra connotation of making a choice to trust or believe when the evidence is really thin. It’s conceived of like super-trust because it goes beyond rational trust. But that “super” is really the excess of a vice.

    • Beth

      But faith is not credulity. Credulity is gullibilty, it’s a readiness to overtrust but not on purpose.

      Okay. I don’t really like the term credulity either. I agree that it misses an essential component of faith as I understand it. I do agree with what you said earlier.

      we need two words. One for what is good and another for what is bad. Anything else is an attempt to confuse the bad for good by a false equation of the bad’s essential characteristics with the good’s.

      I don’t think it’s reasonable for you to claim that ‘faith’ should be the word to represent the vicious* aspects and those who wish to disagree must find another word with which to describe the good aspects. I agree that faith isn’t necessarily a virtue; There is plenty of room for reasonable discussion about what are the vicious and virtuous aspects of faith and how might we distinguish them.

      I’m not opposed to using faithA and faithB as deliminators if you wish, or even ‘good faith’ and ‘bad faith’, but a relatively neutral and equal word choice is required for me to have a pleasant discussion about it. Your definition is usurping the word to mean only ‘bad’ faith. I find that unfair. I don’t think I would enjoy the resulting conversation.

      This is your blog. You may define it as you wish. If you feel you are justified in doing so, feel free to explain why you feel that way. I’ll join in some other conversation with you on some other subject at some other time.

      It’s the purposefulness of it that makes it faith.

      Yes, I agree that the purposefulness of it is an essential charactoristic.

      It’s turning willful believing and insistence on belief against all future evidence into a virtue that is the gesture of faith or celebrating “faith”. That IS being precise in language.

      I don’t think defining into as a vice is any more rational or precise than defining it as a virtue. I see your use of the word in this manner as an attempt to demonize that action of purposefulness with a blanket condemnation while dismissing counter-examples as not counting because they are ‘good’ faith. Consider faith in such creeds as ‘all men are created equal’. That certainly fits the definition of purposeful belief. That characteristic is not sufficient to delineate vice and virtue in regard to faith.

      *That was a new use of the word for me. Thanks for adding that little bit of knowledge to current total in my brain.

  • mikelaing

    I’ve had two experiences in which a person said that even if there was irrefutable proof that God did not exist, they would still believe in Him(they were/are Christians).

    As John Morales says, “It’s their jargon because the in-group understands to what it refers when they employ it; you see it as muddled and confused because it doesn’t accord with your own understanding.
    Yes. It is kind of a sliding scale – the definition of the word ‘faith’ can mean ‘it just makes sense’ to ‘doubt is a test and is to be overcome, whatever it takes’ and on. The importance of faith may even be seen as something that binds the devout to each other. They have faith in each other’s faith, or faith in faith. To them, it just is, and doesn’t even have specific definition, just that it’s resolute.

  • Joe_S

    “Yet there are distinct phenomena of wittingly believing more than you perceive that the evidence warrants or believing specifically contrary to the evidence. ”

    Thanks for clarifying what kind of faith I have since leaving atheism. Science does present the best evidence but it’s not enough for me – and I kinda get annoyed with fellow Christians who are clearly misinformed about science.

    “I think this is a vicious way of believing. It is morally and epistemically wrong and needs to be specifically denounced. ”

    Oh! Can’t we all just get along? Drink beer, be happy :)

  • Joe_S

    There’s another way of looking at faith…

    “Magical thinking” is part of the human condition. Like appreciation of art/music or expressions of human sexuality. Religiosity varies in strength between individuals but myth making is just one of things that all normal brains do. Societies often try to control/suppress religiosity, sexuality & art (‘rational’ communist societies try to suppress all three) but they never succeed in eradicating them – as they quickly re-emerge in other non-traditional forms.

    • John Morales

      Maybe so, but I reckon we’re still in the primitive stages of civilisation, and it’s only been a couple of hundred years since the gaps where gods fit shrank enough so that a rational person has no empirical ground to require their postulation — that is, where it takes religious faith to justify such a belief.

    • Joe_S

      How true is Beethoven or Picasso? What’s rational about falling in love? Understanding the human condition doesn’t change it.

    • John Morales

      You don’t distinguish magical thinking in general and faith in God in particular? Between human tendencies and the particular forms in which they are instantiated?

      (Human nature may not change, but the forms of belief and behaviour it takes is culturally mediated — and cultures do change.)

    • Joe_S

      Every example of magical thinking has to be something in particular. Either you are one of those rare individuals who isn’t receptive to any kind of myth making, art or love or you have to suppress your responses to particular examples of them. You can stand in front of a work of art and tell yourself its just an arrangement of pigment on a flat surface – or you can surrender yourself to the beauty of the thing. But it will always be this thing rather than that thing.

      Is there anyone who loves art but doesn’t care for (believe in) a particular example of art? Can you really say you have experienced love without there being a particular person who you loved? God as a metaphysical proposition is nuts. If you cannot ignore/escape myth making, all you can do is find the ‘truest’ example of it.

      If you want to reduce religion, art and love to the workings of the brain – fine. But that’s my point. You are and can only be human. Why fight what you are? Go with the flow. Enjoy being human.


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