The Nature of Belief

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Khethil
 
Reply Thu 6 Nov, 2008 07:41 am
Good Morning, does everyone have their coffee yet?

I'd like to present a concept and my view of it for discussion. It has to do with Belief; specifically that flavor of belief that holds to concepts of god - whatever concept you might have.

Basis: An attempt at an honest, critically-thought evaluation of how one arrives at a conclusion.

Question: Is theological belief voluntary? Concurrently; is any 'belief' voluntary?

Clarifications:[INDENT]1. Belief, in this context, I'd describe as holding or subscribing to a notion without sufficient backup to claim as "knowledge". This is a working definition of the concept, verbalized here for the purposes of our discussion.
[/INDENT][INDENT]2. Knowledge, in this context, I'd like to define here as some fact or aspect that one can practically know. This is a vastly-divergent concept that, itself, isn't rock-solid (and indeed could be completely obliterated without much effort). But for the purpose of this thread, I'd like to define this as practical information for which enough agreement exists - between us fine thinkers - to accept as 'true' (insofar as we're able). Let's all stand 'round a table, touch it, bang on it, all agree that it's black - this is how I'd like to work with the term "knowledge" in this context.
[/INDENT]Claims:[INDENT] 1. Belief isn't voluntary; belief is a conclusion - drawn by the mind - about a condition or existence where some need or desire is so strong, that the lack of facts is ignored.
[/INDENT][INDENT] 2. Belief and Knowledge are two opposite points on a scale. Draw a straight line; at the far left put the word "belief", at the far right put the word "knowledge". You're next going to place a dot on that line that represents where in this scale your claim belongs. Next, consider what evidence and rational support you have for your postulation. The more you have, the further on that line - towards the left - you're going to place your dot. Where your dot ends up sitting, on this line, will determine how much quantifiable support exists (in your considered estimation).
[/INDENT][INDENT] 3. Whether or not you end up standing proudly and proclaiming, "I believe" or "I know" will depend on where that 'dot' (from claim 2) exists. An important point here is that where the breakpoint is; that point where belief has enough support to be subjectively called "knowledge" is different for every person.
[/INDENT]My Conclusion:[INDENT]One cannot "choose" to believe in something. Either the need/desire to believe exists or it does not. To try and consciously buy-in to a theological belief is to deceive oneself; it is disingenuous and self-deluding.
[/INDENT]This is how I see it. That belief arises in the individual based on a desire or hope. If this is true, then it stands to no reason that one could "force a fit". I'm very curious how valid or invalid others see this view.

Thanks in advance Smile
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 10:35 am
@Khethil,
Khethil,Smile

I think that the foundation of belief is emotional, certainly it is not rational, can the emotional be rational, sometimes, and if one is frightened by reality, unable to deal with the human condition as it apparently is, then on an emotional level it has a survival function. The late great mythologist Joseph Campbell once stated that, "All life[ meaning human life] is mythologically compelled". This is apparently true, it seems to be the one common idea of mankind, but also the historical human condition has always been a wretched one. So, I think our present mythologies had survival qualities in the past, today they are not only at odds with our knowledge of the world and the comos, but provide themselves, a threat to our further existence. Campbell was right however, life is mythologically compelled, we can only hope as the rate of change slows down, for things are still changing much to fast to mythologize them. Hopefully in the near future a new mythology will arise to guide us into the future. Like all conscious human actions, belief without knowledge must be willed.





Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark is the third in an annual series of conversations: an ongoing project to foster and promote the use of reason in formulating social policy. This year, we asked participants to propose a Candle -- a potential solution to a problem that they have identified in their area of expertise or informed passion.

In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan wrote:
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

At The Science Network, we embrace scientific meliorism (last year's meeting, after all, was entitled Enlightenment 2.0). We support science in its search for solutions. Can we better understand the neural underpinnings of human nature, our decision-making processes, the dynamics of trust and fear and human flourishing?

This U.S. election year, when science and reason in the nation's deliberations have been repeatedly challenged as irrelevant or elitist, and science seems to be estranged from society, Sagan's words sound prophetic -- an alarm call. Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark is our response.
 
xris
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 11:46 am
@boagie,
Are we trapped for eternity in a debate that we need to be reassured for our own satisfaction?? I am a happy agnostic with no desire for a benevolent god but it does not require me to think certain things are not possible.
 
Axis Austin
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 11:50 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
My Conclusion:
[INDENT]One cannot "choose" to believe in something. Either the need/desire to believe exists or it does not. To try and consciously buy-in to a theological belief is to deceive oneself; it is disingenuous and self-deluding.


Indeed belief and knowledge are two different things, but to say that belief lacks any knowledge is invalid, I "believe", and unfair to the religious person. A definition of faith is slightly difficult to come by, but faith as "belief without sufficient knowledge" is as good as any. This is very different from belief without ANY knowledge.

Most people (myself included) belief in a God they cannot prove. Many will say they know that God exists, as do I, but when we make this assertion we are using the word "know" differently than when we say that we "know" 2 + 2 = 4. I admit that belief does lack knowledge, to some extent.

However, to say that belief has no claim to knowledge implies blind faith, which almost every religious person will agree is a bad thing. We believe in God on the basis of some amount of evidence (the historic validity of the Bible, personal experience of miracles, etc). Thus knowledge (& rationality) do play a part in religious belief.

Even outside of religion, belief has a claim to knowledge. When I see the rock break the window five times in a row, I use that evidence as basis for my belief that rocks break windows. Can I prove beyond Humean standards that rocks break windows, no. But I can make a valid claim that I've appealed to rationality (the basis of knowledge) to form my belief.

These are examples of how belief does depend on the same criteria (evidence, rationality, etc.) that knowledge does and thus belief is not the complete opposite of knowledge.
[/INDENT]
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 12:06 pm
@xris,
xris,Smile

Nothing can stop free speculation, there is no demand that it be grounded in reality. Personally I believe in Bertrand Russell's orbiting tea pot. In the presence of knowledge, faith is redundant.





Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark is the third in an annual series of conversations: an ongoing project to foster and promote the use of reason in formulating social policy. This year, we asked participants to propose a Candle -- a potential solution to a problem that they have identified in their area of expertise or informed passion.

In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan wrote:
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

At The Science Network, we embrace scientific meliorism (last year's meeting, after all, was entitled Enlightenment 2.0). We support science in its search for solutions. Can we better understand the neural underpinnings of human nature, our decision-making processes, the dynamics of trust and fear and human flourishing?

This U.S. election year, when science and reason in the nation's deliberations have been repeatedly challenged as irrelevant or elitist, and science seems to be estranged from society, Sagan's words sound prophetic -- an alarm call. Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark is our response.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 03:12 pm
@Axis Austin,
Axis Austin wrote:
... but to say that belief lacks any knowledge is invalid, ...


Axis Austin wrote:
However, to say that belief has no claim to knowledge implies blind faith...


Who said this? :perplexed:

Perhaps I misunderstand you, but I don't claim that belief has no "knowledge" component; quite the contrary. In terms of the epistemological concept, one can place belief at one end of the "how much support"-scale and knowledge at the other. Opposing these concepts, as I've done, isn't to say they're mutually-exclusive for ever and ever amen. It's but an exercise; nothing more.

As a matter of fact, the very point that - in this model - these two concepts "mix" acknowledges the mutual-exclusivity you express; they meld together at points between the two extremes to such an extent that everyone has a different *breakpoint* at which enough evidence exists for belief to become "I know"-knowledge.

I don't think we much disagree here, but thank you for the clarification and your courteous candor.

Cheers!
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 03:56 pm
@Khethil,
Smile Khethil

Any time a belief is founded upon an object it cannot identify in the real world, but only in its imagination, it is lacking knowledge in a very real sense, perhaps it has knowledge of its imagination, but that would be to create an entirely new defination, one not applicable to the physcial world.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 05:13 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
xris,Smile

Nothing can stop free speculation, there is no demand that it be grounded in reality. Personally I believe in Bertrand Russell's orbiting tea pot. In the presence of knowledge, faith is redundant.


I don't see how faith is redundant in the presence of knowledge. Wouldn't faith just be obselete in the presence of knowledge? If I know something is then believing it is becomes moot.

Which calls upon me to disagree with the basic premise of this thread. When it comes to the most commonly held interpretations of God there is no proof whatsoever. To say that historic validity of scripture is knowledge of divine existence is simply false. All that historic validity does is verify that someone actually wrote the scripture and nothing more. Well, we already knew that someone wrote it, else we wouldn't be reading it. Miracles are a matter of personal interpretation of events. Unless and until such a miracle takes place that is scientifically verifiable it will remain excluded from any mainstay of common knowledge.

And this is how it should be. Faith should never be held up as being based anywhere in fact. There is no fact to prove faith and faith should not deny fact. When the faithful deny facts they only deny the very reality that they believe their God delivered... which is counterproductive to their own interest and a deadweight to faith.

As for the matter of choice, in that I do agree with Khethil. But as I have been a vocal opponent of free will, that should come as no surprise to anyone.
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 05:19 pm
@Solace,
Solace,Smile

redundant: More than is needed, desired, or required. I suppose you are right here, poor choice of words on my part, yet it still does apply.
 
Axis Austin
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 06:31 pm
@Solace,
Solace wrote:
Faith should never be held up as being based anywhere in fact.


Quite the contrary, faith in the absence of any verifiable evidence is blind. Of course nobody can prove God's existence. But that is not to say that there is no basis for reason or evidence within faith. As for your take on the historical validity of the Bible, I see your point. However, when biblical accounts that point toward a metaphysical being (God) have evidence for their validity (archeological, historical, etc) then one has good reason to consider them as logical reasons for belief. It is a fact that a real man named Jesus lived and did great things. Was he the son of God? Well, there is a gap between the evidence and the metaphysical (that is the whole point behind metaphysics and is where faith plays a serious role). However, it does provide some basis of evidence for belief in God.Smile

To the original poster, I guess we don't disagree so much, if you're saying blind belief and knowledge are a continuum. I misunderstood :shocked:and thought you were saying that belief had no claim to knowledge.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 06:39 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
Any time a belief is founded upon an object it cannot identify in the real world, but only in its imagination, it is lacking knowledge in a very real sense, perhaps it has knowledge of its imagination, but that would be to create an entirely new defination, one not applicable to the physcial world.


I should think this to be self-evident.
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 06:43 pm
@Axis Austin,
"However, when biblical accounts that point toward a metaphysical being (God) have evidence for their validity (archeological, historical, etc) then one has good reason to consider them as logical reasons for belief." quote

Axis Austin,

Please elaborate on this archeological, historical evidence, if there is evidence I suggest we would all become believers.
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 06:48 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
I should think this to be self-evident.


khethil,Smile

Well it certainly does not seem so to believers, and you seem to indicate that there is a foundation for their belief, that they can be in possession of knowledge that would justify such beliefs---no?






"In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan wrote:
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness."
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 08:57 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
Well it certainly does not seem so to believers, and you seem to indicate that there is a foundation for their belief, that they can be in possession of knowledge that would justify such beliefs---no?


OOhh... you're a sly one eh?

Short Version: Not really; however, if you change your last sentence in the quoted post to: "... that they can be in possession of support that could justify such beliefs", you'd be close. But beliefs generally aren't supported by "knowledge" per say, as much as a need, desire or inspiration (as I understand it).

Long Version: Although yes, there are large implications for religion, I was coming from from an epistemological standpoint: I believe the sun will come up, I believe my wife is going to cheat on me, I believe my dog didn't do that in your yard. -vs- I know the sun will come up, I know my wife is going to cheat on me, I know my dog didnt do that in your yard.

Whereas where one puts their "dot", depends on the amount of support (in any form) they have, that could culminate in them saying "I know" or "I believe".

And yea, I think this could relate to religious beliefs too. Thus the term, "Believer".

Did I take your question right?

Thanks
 
boagie
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 09:06 pm
@Khethil,
khethil,Smile

Yes I think I see you have something here, it will take a bit of time to digest---------excellent!!! Though I just may disgree later!!







Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark is the third in an annual series of conversations: an ongoing project to foster and promote the use of reason in formulating social policy. This year, we asked participants to propose a Candle -- a potential solution to a problem that they have identified in their area of expertise or informed passion.

In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan wrote:
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

At The Science Network, we embrace scientific meliorism (last year's meeting, after all, was entitled Enlightenment 2.0). We support science in its search for solutions. Can we better understand the neural underpinnings of human nature, our decision-making processes, the dynamics of trust and fear and human flourishing?

This U.S. election year, when science and reason in the nation's deliberations have been repeatedly challenged as irrelevant or elitist, and science seems to be estranged from society, Sagan's words sound prophetic -- an alarm call. Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark is our response.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 10:35 pm
@Axis Austin,
Axis Austin wrote:
Quite the contrary, faith in the absence of any verifiable evidence is blind. Of course nobody can prove God's existence. But that is not to say that there is no basis for reason or evidence within faith. As for your take on the historical validity of the Bible, I see your point. However, when biblical accounts that point toward a metaphysical being (God) have evidence for their validity (archeological, historical, etc) then one has good reason to consider them as logical reasons for belief. It is a fact that a real man named Jesus lived and did great things. Was he the son of God? Well, there is a gap between the evidence and the metaphysical (that is the whole point behind metaphysics and is where faith plays a serious role). However, it does provide some basis of evidence for belief in God.Smile

To the original poster, I guess we don't disagree so much, if you're saying blind belief and knowledge are a continuum. I misunderstood :shocked:and thought you were saying that belief had no claim to knowledge.


It is a common misconception among modern Christians that there was an historical person named Jesus Christ. Before I looked into the matter for myself, before I did some actual research rather than simply taking peoples' word for it, I believed it too. But what I discovered once I did research is that there isn't any actual evidence. Apart from the Bible, which, despite your earnest wishes, is not considered by historians to be an accurate historical record of the times, (ie: the vast majority of the gospels and letters are believed to have been written long after the actual events and not at all by the persons to whom it is attributed,) only one single, non-religious document has been uncovered that even mentioned Jesus, and the writer did not claim first hand knowledge of him, but second hand. That hardly amounts to evidence.

It is possible, and actually likely, that some government document was made concerning him, since the Romans did write things down once in a while, but since those documents would likely have been stored in the local cache, Jerusalem, they were most likely destroyed when the Romans destroyed the city somewhere around 42 A.D. (At least I think that was the date, someone correct me if my memory serves me wrong.) Either way, no government document of that era concerning him has surfaced.

Three possible candidates for historically existent persons for Jesus have been suggested, none of whom completely fit the bill, but certain elements of their stories bare similarities with the Biblical account of Christ. Whether or not any of these men was actually Jesus has never been proven. You may or may not be surprised to learn that several characters showed up during the Roman occupation years claiming to be the Messiah. And quite a few of them ended up getting crucified, since that was the prefered method of execution for the Roman Empire of that day. But again, none of this is evidence.

Now don't misinterpret my motives. I'm not hear to cast doubt upon faith, but rather to extol what faith truly is and how it should be accepted. The Bible itself says that it is an evil generation that looks for a sign. You don't need proof to justify faith; in fact, as I've pointed out, proof nullifies faith. True faith is never blind, it is knowing with eyes wide open that you cannot prove what you believe and men will call you a fool for it, but you believe it anyway. Because I'd rather be a fool with faith than the wisest atheist out there. (And believe me, there are some very wise atheists on this forum.) Now this isn't a put-down of atheists; logic and reason can fail me, but faith can never be undone.
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 07:10 am
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
xris,Smile

Nothing can stop free speculation, there is no demand that it be grounded in reality. Personally I believe in Bertrand Russell's orbiting tea pot. In the presence of knowledge, faith is redundant.
Knowledge...is it ever speculation in science? i think so, scientists are speculating theories all the time based on observations and other knowledge they have accumulated..The teapot or the flying spaghetti monster are good at revealing the stupidity of faith driven belief in a benevolent god but not so in the studied or considerd possibilities of a creative force for example..
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 07:35 am
@xris,
A demonstration, if I might.

[INDENT] I believe..............................I know
[/INDENT][INDENT]The Universe began with the Big Bang:
[/INDENT][INDENT] |------------------------------X------------|

Downstairs, the dishes are dirty:
|----------------------------------------X--|

The Christian God is real:
|-------------------------------------------|

I won $14 in the lottery yesterday, I'll win again in the next year:
|---X---------------------------------------|

There exists some god, as a single entity, that's responsible for all creation:
|-------------------------------------------|

Justin looks over the posts every day:
|--------------------------X----------------|

Adhering to the principle of any god results in a de-valuing of this life (yours and others):
|------------------X------------------------|

Justin looks over the posts on the forum often:
|----------------------------------------X--|

I will finish Chaucer's "Troilus and Cressida"
|--------------------------------X----------|
[/INDENT]Perhaps I should have posted this thread in "Epistemology". Although (as I've said before) I think this to have large implications for theology, it's probably more rightful the nature of knowledge.

Thanks
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 07:58 am
@Khethil,
When you say that you believe something, you are stating that you think that a proposition is true.

Unless one can choose what is and what is not true, then one cannot choose what to believe.

So, while someone may believe something incorrectly and may seem to be purposefully obtuse in doing so, but it is impossible by definition to choose one's beliefs.

Not a knock on religion, but a definite knock on evangelism and morality.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 09:22 am
@Mr Fight the Power,
Mr. Fight the Power wrote:
... but it is impossible by definition to choose one's beliefs.


Yes, completely.

If one is honest with themselves then there are already within their minds the belief (or lack thereof). I personally find it categorically absurd that someone can "choose" to believe. They may give in to the allure of a notion, but that is distinctly different.

I suggest that discovering what is already in ones' mind and heart (what knowledge, what need for belief) is absolutely paramount to really *knowing* oneself. Taking this step; critically and without ego, is - I think - a necessary first step in understanding ones own theology.

I've never known such peace as I have since I've taken my own journey (through all the means at my disposal). It was at times embarassing, at others pure elation. What I didn't expect was its outcome: That the distinction between belief and knowledge - that understanding - coupled with my own emotions and desires helped me to be OK with admitting the "truth" of what I always deep inside "knew". What I may learn, or how I may feel tomorrow may change my conclusions; and I have to allow that to happen. But for now, I know where I stand - that combination of my acknowledged feelings and facts.

Anyone in possession of a mind and heart owes it to themselves to "discover" the truth of their own orientation. Nothing lies so close to our perception of our world, and all its implications, as consciously being in sync with ones' own honest result. Clearly delineating between belief and knowledge, between emotion and intellect, then giving each its proper place of importance (wherever that might be for you) is, I think, the key.

Thanks
 
 

 
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