How Faith Theoretically Makes People Less Likely To Be Trustworthy

I am learning that there are a lot of people out there who are surprisingly willful in believing whatever they want and who actively resist information or ideas that they highly suspect (or outright know) would have the power to disabuse them of their errors. We all probably do this to one extent or another with beliefs which play important roles in our lives and which we fear it would be disturbing or inconvenient to have to change. Nobody is perfect in this regard.

But obviously it is believers in the supernatural who are the most blatant about not only having normal human tendencies towards habitually protecting their prejudices but also outright embracing their prejudices on purpose. And they are the ones who most often go so far further as to shamelessly consider this tendency to be some sort of virtue of theirs—whether the alleged virtue of faith or some alleged intellectual virtue of spiritual openness and/or spiritual perception, etc.

Regardless of the whitewashing job apologists want to put on faith–whereby they falsely equivocate it with various forms of rationally defensible ways of believing–the kind of faith which is characteristic of religiosity and vital to its survival in the modern world is, at its core, the self-conscious decision to deliberately believe beyond (or against) what evidence warrants, out of willful allegiance to one’s religious community and the worldview one receives from it. And quite usually this believing is done with explicit goals of creating hope or solace within oneself and of maintaining loyalty to one’s imagined deities and fellow believers.

When the religious pray fervently for faith they actively crave the ability to make doubts go away however possible. They do not necessarily yearn for conclusive proof. Some ask for evidence, but many others outright spurn the desire for evidence as the opposite of desire for faith. They just crave a kind of belief and a kind of will to believe that are each unshakeable regardless of whether there is proof or not and regardless of whether they encounter rationally insurmountable counter-evidence for their beliefs. While some seek for evidence to make doubts go away, most would rather pray for faith that is strong enough to do the trick. They are effectively praying that God will make them more impenetrably prejudiced people. No amount of disingenuous semantics of apologists or willfully blind eyes to the actual practices, preachings, and psychologies of believers will make religious faith any less properly definable primarily in terms of this kind of willful, irresponsible anti-rationalism.

I consider beliefs in general to be to a certain extent morally assessable because of the various ways that we have choices about what sorts of information we will seek out (or endure exposure to from others) and because of the ways we can choose what sorts of ideas we will spend our time ruminating upon. In other words, at least some people, to at least some extent, are morally culpable for their erroneous beliefs.

Beliefs are morally culpable to the degree to which maintaining them means (a) actively evading certain duties to educate oneself before affirming propositions, (b) explicitly training oneself to reinforce the prejudices of one’s community and/or personal inclinations rather than training oneself to scrupulously scrutinize them, (c) self-consciously believing disproportionate to evidence, and especially when this means believing against evidence and not just beyond its warrant, and, finally, (d) deliberately avoiding uncomfortable lines of research or the implications of compelling ideas which arise either from within oneself or from the provocations of opponents.

Being properly critical or avoiding doing so is a choice. It’s not a matter that is wholly out of our control. To the extent that false beliefs stem from traceable choices to be uncritical, they are morally blameworthy as they represent some degree or another of willingness (or even outright desire) to be deceived. Self-deception is a moral failure, insofar as it is both socially irresponsible and an intrinsic failure to flourish in one’s own rational capacities for grasping and coping with truth most powerfully.

And it is a moral failure which I want to argue either stems from or leads to other related character flaws as well.

Frequently believers and non-believers alike will defend people’s supposed moral rights to believe whatever deluded things they desire by treating them as permissible “as long as they don’t hurt anyone” or “as long as they keep those beliefs out of legislation” or “as long as those beliefs don’t disrupt their overall life functioning”, etc. Depressingly few seem to recognize truth as an intrinsic good at all or to calculate all the ways in which it should trump other intrinsic goods in most circumstances. Few recognize that truthfulness about reality and values, while not absolutely valuable and not always deserving to override competing goods, should nonetheless be subordinated to other goods only rarely and conscientiously–in those cases when truly urgent and indispensable competing goods are unavoidably incompatible with it. Truth and falsity seem to so many to be merely morally equivalent potential expedients to living a pleasant life. The implicit prevailing view can be summed up as, “Wherever truth is what it takes to serve your goals, be truthful with yourself. Wherever falsehood is what it takes, lie to yourself. And don’t complain about your neighbor’s falsehoods unless they cause you tangible harm.”

It makes me seriously wonder why most people assume that this sort of crassly consequentialist, selfish, small-minded, shortsighted, cowardly, lazy, anti-philosophical, and cavalier attitude with respect to the value of truth in the supremely important matters of fundamental reality, life-purpose, and morality does not further translate into an equal readiness to lie about any other number of more “trivial” factual, moral, and political matters, or into a willingness to blithely deceive others in those matters as much as one deceives oneself with a good conscience in the most fundamental matters. In fact, given that the willful self-deceivers lie about fundamental realities and values it is likely that there are many occasions in which it is simply necessary for them to have false judgments about all other sorts of factual, political, and ethical realities in order to preserve their most fundamental beliefs to themselves and to others. To avoid cognitive dissonance, it is inevitable that they eventually will have to view at least some practical moral matters and proximate, everyday sorts of factual questions with as much tendency towards distortion as they view foundational issues, in order to make them align.

More simply put, all the “lying for Jesus” and all manner of political lying from even the most sincerely pious of politicians, which continually outrages people as hypocrisy, is actually the natural and inevitable logical outgrowth of religious believers’ decisions in the first place to base their lives and beliefs on demonstrably disprovable accounts of reality and values. No one who recognizes the transparent falseness and self-deception in religious believing should be so surprised by religious people’s capacities to lie and be hypocritical and self-serving. It is naive to trust that they will have an unusually conscientious allegiance to principles of honesty and selflessness owed to their putatively strict religious moral principles when one can plainly see that within their psychology their most basic commitments are emphatically contrary to disinterested virtue or reason and instead are, above all, oriented towards their own communal loyalties, their imagined deity (or deities), and their own self-interests as served by their religion and even at the considerable moral cost of enormous self-deception. Why would anyone expect such people to be especially morally trustworthy when they put their personal happiness and their group loyalty above self-criticism and the criticism of their received traditions? Of course some will wind up committing to their religions’ putative moral principles enough that they will become genuinely self-sacrificing or truth seeking. But why expect it to be the norm, given faith’s psychological and epistemological structure, which orients beliefs around selfishness, in-group loyalty, and systematically defensive dishonesty?

Some unbelievers approve of all this faith-based self-deception because they contemptuously and cynically assume that religious people are either uneducable or would become even worse than merely self-deceivers were they ever to be disabused of their errors. So even when they do recognize that people who deceive themselves will go on to deceive others as well, and eventually thereby harm them too, they are nonetheless unmoved, due to their apparently low estimation of their fellow human beings’ potential to do any better by each other with the truth.

In addition, or in some cases instead, such unbelievers have a lazy desire for personal truces with the particular people in their lives who they don’t want to be divided from over matters of truth. I guess they judge that it is better to placate the ones they love than to sincerely debate them and take an interest in their personal growth or knowledge. I honestly question their judgment but I empathize with the emotions it comes from.

Another reason they placate others’ self-deception is out of an overextension and misapplication of the vitally necessary legal attitude of tolerance towards others’ legal rights to believe as they wish into the realms of ethics and epistemology where it does not belong. Legally we need to be tolerant. And, of course, socially we are quite often just not in appropriate positions to properly, knowledgably, or humanely interrogate each other’s value decisions. But ethically and epistemologically—at least in the abstract, and certainly in those times where our views are asked of us or others say transparently false things that we are in a position to correct—we should feel compelled to take a stand that believing falsehoods is in most cases bad, and doing so through self-deception (however happy) is in most cases morally wrong for being irresponsible and lazy.

And we should stop falsely calling it a matter of indifference simply because we ourselves are too lazy to stand for anything inconvenient or because we perversely define being close to people as a matter of not discussing anything of actual importance about the nature of reality or values too honestly with them.

Your Thoughts?

  • http://www.twitter.com/jalyth Jalyth

    I don’t discuss religion with my family, but not out of a “lazy desire for personal truce”. It’s because it would be a waste of time. I’m not going to break thru their dissonance. I can see this as evident especially since they act more pious around me than they used to, or probably bother acting around others. In front of me, they have to act perfectly in accordance with their religion, which naturally includes ignoring anything I would even try to say.

    If I want a relationship with them, this is the way it has to be. I’m not lazy for not challenging them. Also, it allows me to refuse to accept them trying to change my mind.

    • seditiosus

      Occasionally I find myself in that situation too, but I call it “picking my battles”. There are, as you say, times when you know you won’t be able to make any difference to the other person’s beliefs – often because you’ve already tried. Now, I don’t see any reason to repeatedly bang your head against a wall when you know perfectly well you won’t achieve anything positive or worthwhile. That’s not a good use of anyone’s time.

  • seditiosus

    I’ve always been wary of committed idealists, whatever cause they support. When confronted with a choice between their beliefs and the evidence, they’ll choose their beliefs. That’s always going to end in tears at some point.

    I see self-deception as something promoted by sellers of snake oil (see religion, homeopathy, pyramid schemes) in order to get more money out of people who might otherwise notice their magic beans haven’t done anything. It also annoys the shit out of me that people will stand up with a smug smile on their faces and state that their self-imposed ignorance somehow makes them better people.

    Because I have those opinions about self-deception, I think that correcting false beliefs, or at least trying to get the believer to analyse them, is one of the ways we can all help each other to be better – and ultimately happier – human beings.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/terriaminute Terriaminute

    I often begin such discussions by pointing out all the science that tells us, in many ways over centuries of questioning and testing and repeating experiments, that we are altogether too good at self-delusion. This allows us to believe all manner of nonsense. We are very very good at rationalizing ANYTHING.

    Bravery is fighting our own tendencies toward making up shit, and instead quest for reason toward what is verifiable fact. The universe is endlessly extraordinary. We have barely scratched the surface of what we can learn. To cheapen this by shrugging and letting go of such a quest in the name of a religion or “metaphysical” nonsense is wasteful. To lure others into such things is immoral.

    One of my best friends is a believer. Some day we will launch into why I think she is wrong and why she thinks I am pushy. I hope we get to stay friends. I can tell she relies emotionally on her beliefs, so if & when, it will be hard on her no matter how carefully I tread. It will be hard on me if I lose her. This is not the sort of thing I enjoy at all.

    But I love her. And it hurts me that she is stuck.

  • Rike

    Anybody lying for Jesus will have no reason not to be lying for personal advantage. A long time ago, when I didn’t know any better, I bought a used car from a self-acclaimed christian. “I am a christian, you can trust me – this car has never been in an accident, it has been a perfect car to me. I’m a christian, I can only speak the truth, god would smite me dead otherwise…”
    The car didn’t last me very long, but to this day I know that I will always be suspicious of a christian stranger, though I do have two very christian friends who I would trust with my life!

  • Nomad

    The great majority of my friends have no faith. Those that do or did, end up losing it.

    My closest friend put it this way “Once I was a good Jewish kid. I went to Temple, I didn’t eat pork, I had morals. Since I met you, all that stuff just went down the drain.”

    He isn’t the first, nor the last to have been enlightened by my influence, or while associating with me.

    I just wish I could do the same to my grandmother, I want to put my Darwin Fish or my Flying Spaghetti Monster Magnet on the car I bought from her!

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      I’m glad to hear that someone has success with de-conversion efforts. How would you describe your approach? What factors do you think make it work or not work?

    • Nomad

      It is simple.

      Just plan fun things to do on the day and time that the religious friend has their service. Or the night before, if the service is early. Do it a lot, and then they will see that going to service is not as great as having fun, or that going to service tired all the time is not a pleasant experience.

      Or, alternatively, start with the kids, if your friends have any. I was fortunate, that, in my younger years, the girlfriend was very religious, due to her mother. By planning dates the day of her service, as she did midday services, she stopped going. Without someone to go with, her mother stopped as well. Her mother is still religious, more or less, but the appeal is slowly going away.

      Most people who I met use religion as a crutch to get past a harder point in life, and when they get past that point, they continue going as they see the other members as family, and do not want to lose their friends. By showing them that they do not need the churches and services, that takes away the need for the crutch.

  • Irreverend Bastard

    The biggest reason I don’t trust religious people (or any believer in the supernatural), is that I don’t know what world they’re living in. I can’t trust them to act rationally.

    If I need their immediate help, will they actually help me, or will they waste time trying to work through the supernatural realm?

    If the aircraft run out of fuel, will the pilots follow the emergency procedures in the manual, or will they fall on their knees and pray loudly to Allah? Yes, this actually happened. No, it did not go well.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/25/tunisian-plane-crash-pilot-prayed

    If they don’t live in the natural world, I will never trust them. They live in a different world.

    • Paul Durrant


      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuninter_Flight_1153

      It seems me to be to be a very dodgy conviction.

      Out of two simulations of the event, with pilots knowing the cause of the engine failure and that any attempt at restarting the egines was futile, only one made it to land – the other still ditched a mile short of the runway.

      Given that the pilots at the time did not know that the engines had stopped for lack of fuel, I think they made reasonable decisions. The cockpit audio certainly doesn’t sound like they’re panicking or not following procedures.

  • Ariel

    There is a lot of stuff here I take issue with. Just some examples. A tip of an iceberg.

    the kind of faith which is characteristic of religiosity and vital to its survival in the modern world is, at its core, the self-conscious decision to deliberately believe beyond (or against) what evidence warrants, out of willful allegiance to one’s religious community and the worldview one receives from it.

    The whole phrase is ambiguous. It may mean:
    (1) There are valid arguments against religion such that (believers decide to believe beyond [or against] them for inadequate reasons)
    (2) Believers think that (there are valid arguments against religion, but these arguments should be ignored)
    The first possibility is quite different from the second. In (1) we state that these arguments are valid, but we do not attribute such an insight to the believer. In (2) the opposite happens.

    The difference is crucial. (And I suspect that Daniel is equivocating here a bit.) In support of his claim he says:

    When the religious pray fervently for faith they actively crave the ability to make doubts go away however possible.

    But this is still compatible with both (1) and (2). In terms of (1), such a prayer would mean: “Dear God, please, don’t let me be misled by all this crappy argumentation of Daniel Fincke and his ilk!” :-) In other words, we have: (a) God exists; so (b) all arguments against God’s existence must be invalid; but (c) I’m fallible and I can become a victim of such a faulty argumentation; in effect (d) dear God, save me from this danger!

    In fact I think that it is (1) which is more characteristic. It accords also well with my own memories, when I was still a believer. At this time I didn’t think that atheists have valid arguments against religion. I considered them blind to religious experience; I thought that they are defining their notion of a “valid argument” too narrowly … oh my, I thought a lot of things. But nothing like (2) above.

    The problem is that in what follows it is (2), not (1), that seems to be needed. Daniel wants to make his case in terms like: the believers consciously delude themselves, consciously deluding oneself is morally outrageous, therefore the believers’ behavior is morally outrageous. Here is one of the characteristic fragments:

    More simply put, all the “lying for Jesus” and all manner of political lying from even the most sincerely pious of politicians, which continually outrages people as hypocrisy, is actually the natural and inevitable logical outgrowth of religious believers’ decisions in the first place to base their lives and beliefs on demonstrably disprovable accounts of reality and values.

    I simply can’t understand this otherwise than in the light of (2). According to Daniel (if I understand him correctly), the religious people lie, they are hypocritical and self-serving from the start; no wonder that later it shows itself in politics etc. But I can think of no way of using (1) to arrive at such conclusions. Such conclusions demand – in my opinion – the recognition on the believer’s side of the irrationality and/or inappropriateness of their reasons to reject the argumentation against religion. In effect, I think that it’s (2) that is at work here. And the problem is that (2) is rather poorly argued for in Daniel’s text. (Mere prayer for faith? Come on, give me a break!)

    The same happens later:

    The implicit prevailing view can be summed up as, “Wherever truth is what it takes to serve your goals, be truthful with yourself. Wherever falsehood is what it takes, lie to yourself. And don’t complain about your neighbor’s falsehoods unless they cause you tangible harm.”

    I don’t know whether it’s a prevailing view or not, I think however that it misrepresents the discussions in the atheist camp. It conveniently confuses two issues:
    (A) To what degree should I accept/tolerate other people(or myself) lying to themselves?
    (B) To what degree should I accept/tolerate other people (or myself) having false beliefs?
    You know Daniel, it is simply not the case that believing a falsehood = lying. In view of that, I’m interested in how exactly you would subsume religious beliefs under hypocrisy and lying. Some details, please.

    One last thing: at this moment in my country we start a one week holiday. I will be leaving soon, coming back the next weekend. Only then I will be able to read any further discussion in this thread. It’s unfortunate, but … it’s so sunny here, guys‼ :-) See you!

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

      Nice to see you again, Ariel. But the way you structured your reply is incredibly confusing. It’s bafflingly confusing with your specifications of (1) and (2) and allusions to them in weird ways.
      I don’t know if you’re trying to parse me or religious believers themselves. This is why I hate the analytics’ use of shorthand and almost never use it myself. It’s actually obfuscating and not clarifying in many cases for me. It’s harder and clunkier to spell the words out but in the end I find it clearer writing.

      The only thing that I really caught of what you were trying to say was the very good observation that sometimes there are believers who simply assume that they have the right answer and that they just don’t want their own fallibility to stand in the way. Yes, those people exist. But they’re not everyone. And psychologically self-deception exists and plays a strong role in other minds (and even in these comparatively well-meaning minds).

      But anyway, the beginning of the post incorporated qualifications that only some false beliefs were traceable to intellectual vices that make people culpable. I was not making a blanket statement that all religious beliefs are functions of self-deception. I was saying that there are specific practices people engage in (even non-believers) that give surface evidence of self-deception going on below, that those practices are epistemically and morally culpable, and that faith distinctly encourages and exacerbates those naturally occurring practices making religious people more likely to be willful self-deceivers with good consciences as they self-deceive themselves. Then I speculate that at least in theory this could explain other patterns of pathological deceptive and cognitively dissonant behavior in religious people which are all too commonly observed and much too marveled at as a matter of surprise. Much more empirical investigation would be required to see if any hard correlations can be drawn between patterns of self-deception and outright indifference to truth in supernaturalist believers and broader deceptiveness with self and others in other areas. It’s a hypothesis I throw out there based on a logical connection and familiar patterns of anecdotal evidence.

      I don’t see where you have shown any of this case to be wrong.

    • Ariel

      Hello, Daniel

      Since I’m still here, a quick comment.

      I was not making a blanket statement that all religious beliefs are functions of self-deception. I was saying that there are specific practices people engage in (even non-believers) that give surface evidence of self-deception going on below, that those practices are epistemically and morally culpable, and that faith distinctly encourages and exacerbates those naturally occurring practices making religious people more likely to be willful self-deceivers with good consciences as they self-deceive themselves.

      Thanks for this explanation. It still seems to me that the claim you made at the start:

      the kind of faith which is characteristic of religiosity and vital to its survival in the modern world is, at its core, the self-conscious decision to deliberately believe beyond (or against) what evidence warrants, out of willful allegiance to one’s religious community and the worldview one receives from it.

      is far stronger than a weak existential statement (“there are specific practices …”) which you are now making. Here it looks like you are trying to give a “characteristic of religiosity at its core”, not mere examples of what can happen (or in fact happens) to religious people.

      Also phrases like:

      Some unbelievers approve of all this faith-based self-deception because they contemptuously and cynically assume that religious people are either uneducable or would become even worse than merely self-deceivers were they ever to be disabused of their errors.

      looked to me like an attempt to vindicate the gnu’s aims (religion is self-deception, let’s get rid of it!) by presenting their opponents as “contemptuous and cynical”. It’s good to hear from you that such an interpretation was incorrect: that all of this concerns only some specific cases – that your claims are simply existential, very modest, not gnu-like at all.

      I’m still unclear about your notion of self-deceiving; but I appreciate your adding that the claim “faith distinctly encourages and exacerbates those naturally occurring practices making religious people more likely to be willful self-deceivers” is a speculation in need of further evidence.


      My misunderstanding was perhaps a question of your choice of words. That’s why I like the use of shorthands. It’s harder to give a precise and compact formulation than to spell the words out, but in the end I find it clearer (although not necessarily more entertaining) writing :-)

      Best wishes to you, and now I’m really off!

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

      I’m still unclear about your notion of self-deceiving; but I appreciate your adding that the claim “faith distinctly encourages and exacerbates those naturally occurring practices making religious people more likely to be willful self-deceivers” is a speculation in need of further evidence.

      Just to make perfectly clear, Ariel. I do think that faith inherently encourages and exacerbates natural tendencies to self-deceive in the realms about which faith is being had. The speculation in need of further evidence is the bolder hypothesis that such indulgence in self-deception creates more general condemnable habits of deception, etc. I think it’s clear that there will be cases where what the “faith” requires will expand to incorporate more and more of one’s beliefs when the real world impinges at least. But whether it will lead to self-deceptions that are not absolutely necessary for maintaining the faith belief is the interesting psychological speculation I am making that I would love to see studies explore empirically.

  • Chris

    Then you’ll like this one Dan.. at work the other day our power went out..(I work at a historic hotel in Yosemite NP.. some people like to speculate that we are haunted.) ..So, the power went out and one of the porters had a spooky happening- the doors slammed shut on him. All of them- at once. So, one of our mutual friends was convinced it was ghosts.. then the maintenance guy explained that when the power goes out the doors slam shut in case of fire. So- not ghosts- but she basically out her fingers in her ears and went lalalalala I want to believe it was ghosts…
    grrr

  • http://www.phatjmo.com Justin Zimmer

    I have a pet theory that much of what these believers are experiencing is a chemical dependency on Oxytocin. They join a group every Sunday, and, in the pentacostal tradition at least, are riled up with feelings of “Love” and “God”, which, in a group setting, is hypnogogically amplified. In this state of mind, a preacher stands at the front of the room and proceeds to staple religious “truths” to these emotions, including such things as the Bible is the inerrant word of God (which is associated with the Oxytocin high) and that he happens to hate gay people (or whatever hateful thing that they want to reinforce with scripture). They are, in effect, in love with their religion. If you were in love, and someone came to you and began explaining, even if in a kind and reasonable manner, that the object of your affections was in anyway less than perfect, or, in fact, deeply flawed, or is somehow deceiving you, your immediate reaction would be defensive. You’d have a tendency to trust the sweet nothings from your lover’s lips over the cold facts of their deception. You might even lie to protect them. (Think of this when a Muslim describes their love for Mohammed.) Imagine then if you were a member of a group whom agreed with your rosy view of your lover, who cherished them in the same way, who raised the same ire over this nasty skeptics warnings that your love is not true. Your convictions would be reinforced. Your reality and worldview would reflect this external validation and shun the skeptic, hate the skeptic. If your love is your religion, and the skeptic is science, how hard would it be to deny every scientific truth, even the quantum mechanics which both derail your creation myth but also powers the computer on which you champion your anti-science crusade? It is entirely irrational, yet occasionally positive, which provides biased examples for pro-religionists to point to and say “see, religion is good!” This is the ultimate form of emotional manipulation. Motivational speakers thrive on it, con-men live off of it, mentalists subtly tease it for entertainment, and nationalists use it to move whole countries to war.

    Some people do this to themselves, I’ve met those who oppose organized religion yet clutch their Bible like a teddy-bear, but in the case of mega-churches and political/religious leaders, this practice is blatant and immoral. We are right to object and point this out, if not to dissuade the delusional, then to at least thrust a splinter into their mind, and pull those down off the fence who might not entirely believe, but whom society has told that they should.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      “As it turns out, dopamine receptor genes may play a role in religious belief as well. People who have inherited the most active form of the D4 receptor are more likely to believe in miracles and to be skeptical of science; the least active forms correlate with ‘rational materialism.’ Skeptics given the drug L-dopa, which increases dopamine levels, show an increased propensity to accept mystical explanations for novel phenomena.” – The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris, p.128

  • John M

    I think its worthwhile to state that individual scientific minds have historically shown strong willingness to adhere to their pet theories , against the build-up of new contradictory evidence. Whether groups of scientists show similar behaviour or not, I don’t know how true this may be also .

    Well the point here is why then single out the religious? It seems to me that its human nature at work in each case. People are not half as objective as they ought.

    Daniel, was I morally culpable as a former youngish believer for not fact-checking before commitment? And (in hindsight) for continuing with that attitude for far too long? Maybe so. As we say in Ireland “sense does not come ahead of maturity” (translation).

    Your POV makes great sense to you and me, but backstepping into the mind of the true believer, a lot less so.

    What prompted me to put my faith to the test? Why, belief it was true, and that truth would win out!!! Too darn right:)

    Yet there are people who continue to bless the baby skull smashing soldiers of yore, and see no problem with that, because Gawd commanded it. It makes us sick to think of it. In fact it sickened me when once a believer, but I pushed it away into a dark corner, and it only came out again when I had time and inclination to question stuff more. The power of faith, eventually broken by wear and tear upon the psyche I guess.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      While I agree with a lot of this, there still seems to be a difference between religion and other irrational behavior. Partisans, conspiracy theorists, global warming deniers, and scientists with their pet theories that have little following all seem to be less powerful, less enduring, and less contagious forms of “failures to seriously entertain that you might be wrong about this.”

      It seems to me that religion satisfies so many social and emotional needs, and might even have been a useful meme for serving group cohesion and in-group identity back in humanity’s more tribal period. It seems also to correlate strongly with conservative views, and these too strike me as well-suited for a war-wary tribal environment, and poorly suited for a secure and prosperous civilization with an increasingly global focus.

      Probably also an outcropping of our brain’s inherent tendency to see effects as more likely to be caused by actors, and to anthropomorphize everything.

      I suspect in the end that a lot of indoctrinated minds will lack the capacity to ever engage their shackles with enough honest curiosity to shed faith. Perhaps with atheism being such a vocal presence in the world now, and with ridicule being heaped upon superstitions, the young people will be less likely to submit to that indoctrination in future generations.

  • Bruce Gorton

    My take on it is very simple:

    Most people tend to offset the bad they do with the good they do (ie: moral license).

    Faith and being religious are considered good – without actually doing anything good.

    That means a lot of these deeply devout people are offsetting very real bad things they are doing, with good that is in effect, pretty non-existant.
    :-P

  • http://www.facebook.com/philcyandel philyandel

    Dan, I was a bit surprised by your not citing your references for the statements you make in your article. While you sound quite confident in your assertions, I am a bit leering of just trusting your word on this. Maybe it’s because I learned the hard way with my 20+ years as an Evangelical Christian…

  • SayNoMore

    “How Faith Theoretically Makes People More Likely To Be Trustworthy”

    They might believe they will burn in hell if they are not trustworthy.

    “How Faith Theoretically Makes People Less Likely To Be Trustworthy”

    As above (but ignoring the fact that believers may well have an overpowering reason not to lie)

    “How Atheists etc etc.”

    “I am learning that there are a lot of people out there who are surprisingly willful in believing whatever they want and who actively resist information or ideas that they highly suspect (or outright know) would have the power to disabuse them of their errors. We all probably do this to one extent or another with beliefs which play important roles in our lives and which we fear it would be disturbing or inconvenient to have to change. Nobody is perfect in this regard.

    But obviously it is materialists who are the most blatant about not only having normal human tendencies towards habitually protecting their prejudices but also outright embracing their prejudices on purpose. And they are the ones who most often go so far further as to to shamelessly consider this tendency to be some sort of virtue of theirs—whether the alleged virtue of believing the null hypothesis is always true in the absence of evidence (“faith”) or some alleged intellectual virtue of intellectual openness and/or rational perception, etc.

    Regardless of the whitewashing job apologists want to put on this faith–whereby they falsely deny that they believe it without evidence, and claim it is equivalent to various forms of rationally defensible ways of believing–the kind of faith which is characteristic of atheist materialism and vital to its survival in the modern world is, at its core, the self-conscious decision to deliberately believe beyond (or against) what evidence warrants, out of willful allegiance to one’s inclinations and community and the worldview one receives from it. And quite usually this believing is done with explicit goals of being rational or solace within oneself and of maintaining superiority over one’s imagined enemies and sheeple.”

    “When the atheists cogitate fervently for a justification for believing without evidence they actively crave the ability to make doubts go away however possible. They do not necessarily yearn for conclusive proof. Some ask for evidence, but many others outright spurn the desire for evidence as the opposite of automatically believing in the null hypothesis. They just crave a kind of belief and a kind of will to believe they are rational that are each unshakeable regardless of whether there is proof or not (or even any evidence) and regardless of whether they encounter rationally insurmountable counter-evidence for their beliefs. While some seek for evidence to make doubts go away, most would rather rely on the un-evidenced null-hypothesis and attack believers to strengthen their own resolve. They are effectively praying that sufficient abuse and demonisation of the religious, or sufficient scholarly deconstruction (in your case at least Daniel) will make them more impenetrably prejudiced people. No amount of disingenuous semantics of apologists or willfully blind eyes to the actual practices, preachings, and psychologies of atheists will make the faith of the non-religious any less properly definable primarily in terms of this kind of willful, irresponsible anti-rationalism.”

    Yep. That fits nicely. You’re an eloquent writer Daniel, it’s a pity you put it to such… simple and a-rational uses.