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Thread: Can We Really Trust Each Other?

  1. #1 Can We Really Trust Each Other? 
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    Found this quote in the Richard Dawkins thread, and would like to discuss this a bit further.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    I think we have to recognize that what the atheist means by God when he says that God does not exist is very different than what the theist means by God when he says that God does exist.
    I think that this is entirely possible. In fact, my main reason for being on this forum, and a couple of other religious forums, is to gain some insight into what the theist means when he says he believes in God.

    I specifically want to know what a theist means when he says believe, because I have over the years come to suspect that a lot of people, not just theists, use the word to mean something quite different than what I mean when I say believe. When I say I believe something, that has consequences for me; it helps define actions I can take and responses I can have, and also helps define actions I cannot take and responses I cannot have. But an awful lot of people say they believe something but don't seem to take on board the obvious consequences of their belief.

    I am with Voltaire on this in that I would defend to the hilt their right to do this, but it confuses me no end. Are they even aware that they are doing this, are they contradictory on purpose or do they just not understand the logical connection between belief and obligation?

    Or are they simply saying believe when they really mean hope?

    I also want to know what theists mean when they say God.

    However, questions on this subject usually get the deep, philosophical answer "everyone must find his own definition of God", or the mystical, "peel back the layers of mystery for yourself" or something equally as unenlightening.

    At one time I thought this was because theists genuinely didn't know how to describe either their God or their belief. But having met and talked to quite a few of them I realise that it is not that they lack the tools for the job, but the motivation to get the job done.

    I think the real problem is that we do not trust each other sufficiently to be honest in our dialogue. When I ask, "What do you mean by God?", the theist suspects some hidden motive and is cautious about giving an answer that will come back to bite him. So these pseudo-philosophical responses that reveal nothing and say nothing are not even an attempt to answer the question, they are self-defence mechanisms designed to incur the least damage.

    What do you think?


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  3. #2 Re: Can We Really Trust Each Other? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    I specifically want to know what a theist means when he says believe, because I have over the years come to suspect that a lot of people, not just theists, use the word to mean something quite different than what I mean when I say believe.
    "Believe" is a generic word for the whole spectrum that runs from opinion to knowledge. Thus I think the question that is more to the point is: what do people mean when they say "know". And this is not something that theists agree on, and it has a big impact on what degree they can support a pluralistic view of their religion. For if knowledge means "true belief" to them, then there is no gap between their belief and reality itself. I find this understanding of knowledge to be unrealistic.

    For example suppose we have someone who truly believes that there are fairies. They will say that they know that fairies exist. If we equate knowledge to true belief then, since we believe that fairies don't exist, we have to deny that this person knows what he claims. But how can we say that we understand what this word "know" means if we basically have to deny that the particular person using the word is using it correctly?

    Therefore I am a pragmatist in regards to epistemology and that means that knowledge is nothing more than those beliefs which we act upon and rely upon for the living of our lives. Anything else is just a bunch of self serving rhetoric to say how we are better than other people - how we are right and everyone else is wrong.


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Or are they simply saying believe when they really mean hope?
    No. Hope is something entirely different. We can hope for that which we do believe and for that which we do not believe at all. Perhaps we can say that when we hope but do not believe then this represents something we want to believe.


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    I also want to know what theists mean when they say God.
    Well that can be a long explanation for this is something that develops over time and so I think for now I will just begin with where I began when I first had an answer to this question.

    I am a Christian as well as a scientist, but not only was I not raised a Christian, I was a scientist before I became a Christian. Thus it could never have been a choice for me between science and religion. The question was always one of whether there was any value for religion or a belief in God when the value of science is a given. Modern science had become a fundamental part of my perceptual process by which I see the universe which I inhabit for what it is and so I could no sooner disregard or reject it than I could choose not to see or hear. In any case, I had no answer to this question of what is God, handed to me on a platter, certainly no answer that was very coherent.

    I remember comparing the ideas of many different religions on the topic. But what finally gave the word meaning to me for the first time was a decision that a "faith in God" was somehow equivalent to a faith that life was worth living. What this means is, that you cannot have a faith in God without a faith that life is worth living and more importantly that if you have a faith that life is worth living, then in some sense, no matter what words you might use for it, or what you might call the object of your faith, you essentially have a faith in God.

    You see being raised in a non-theist family, I became very aware that a part of the problem was that the word "God" had a history of use and abuse and thus that there were situations where an individual has been forced to repudiate "God" with all the life-denying baggage it has been loaded down with in their life, in order that they could make a real and effective affirmation of life. Thus it became my conviction that an affirmation of life was an affirmation of the real God. And so I came to believe that life is God's creation and you might say His "obsession". It is for life that God created the physical universe and it is for life that God has always worked and acted, encouraging living things to reach out for the potentiality that is within them and for life in general to reach out for the infinite potential that it is ultimately capable of. Thus I have come to see God as the infinite being whose perfection and lack of limitation provides Him with only one rational motivation and that is to give of His abundance to others in perfect self-less love.


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    Would it be right to say, mitchellmckain, that for you God follows from faith?

    For me, an atheist, faith is central. And yeah it's faith that life is worth living. But something else follows.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Would it be right to say, mitchellmckain, that for you God follows from faith?
    Your analysis would seem to be flawless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    For me, an atheist, faith is central. And yeah it's faith that life is worth living. But something else follows.
    And so I would tend to see the so called theistic-atheistic differences between us to be largely semantic and window dressing. We visualize, enact and flesh out the same truth in a different way. I choose to see this truth hidden within all the garbage of Christianity while you choose to see it as time to clean house and "take out the garbage."
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    In my OP I asked a question. I said that I have asked this question before but received answers that are unenlightening. I explained why the answers are unenlightening and I explained where the question was coming from. Your response to this is to tell me that it would be more to the point to answer some other question. Which, to put it bluntly, is unenlightening in the extreme.

    There are some important consequences that follow from saying, "I believe" that do not follow from saying, "I know". Because there is a difference, your answer most definitely is not more to the point, it has completely missed the point altogether.

    I believe you can do better.
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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    In my OP I asked a question. I said that I have asked this question before but received answers that are unenlightening. I explained why the answers are unenlightening and I explained where the question was coming from. Your response to this is to tell me that it would be more to the point to answer some other question. Which, to put it bluntly, is unenlightening in the extreme.

    There are some important consequences that follow from saying, "I believe" that do not follow from saying, "I know". Because there is a difference, your answer most definitely is not more to the point, it has completely missed the point altogether.

    I believe you can do better.
    This is nonsensical.

    I did answer your question in the best way possible.

    I told you that belief ranges from the weakest sort of belief, opinion, to the strongest sort of opinion, knowledge. I then explained what the strongest form of belief is, and I even distinguished it from hope in answer to your suggestion. Do you require an explanation of the weaker sort of belief? An opinion is a belief that one might say in answer to a question but not neccessarily act upon or invest ones life in.

    What is your problem? You need a definition? Look in a dictionary.

    But if you need something physical/metaphysical, ok dokey.

    The human mind is a living organism which means that it is a self organizing dynamic structure in a far from equillibrium environment, in this case that environment is the flow of information in the human brain. The dynamic structures which performs a lot of the soft roles in processing this information include what we call concepts and beliefs. Thus in answer to your question, a belief is a part of the dynamic structure of the human mind that plays a role in the processing of information which we call human perception.

    How are beliefs formed? Well they are formed in a large variety of ways but they are easily classified in one of two categories. They are either inhereted via human communication or they are constructed by the individual himself. Any attempt to define a process of belief in a more specific way that this is all too likely to be just plain nonsense because every sort of human experience imaginable and unimaginable can be a part of the process.

    Now why did I not say this before? Well because it is a little peculiar to explain what a belief is in terms of what can only be described as my own beliefs, and because this is far less likely to be of help to you since it very well may not fit into your own system of beliefs, which in fact may be so peculiar that you may be the only one to explain the meaning of the word "belief" in a way that would be meaningful to you.

    So if what I say doesn't do anything for you, guess what? You are on your own. It is time for you to explain what "belief" is so we can tell you what a waste of space your post is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    For me, an atheist, faith is central. And yeah it's faith that life is worth living. But something else follows.
    And so I would tend to see the so called theistic-atheistic differences between us to be largely semantic and window dressing. We visualize, enact and flesh out the same truth in a different way. I choose to see this truth hidden within all the garbage of Christianity while you choose to see it as time to clean house and "take out the garbage."
    Hey! I'm no anti-theist. I also see it hidden in the garbage of Christianity and other religions and orangutans picking ticks off each other and in direct counterbalance to entropy. In short, I see it everywhere. So Christianity is one narrow focus... if you like that flavour: fine.


    @numbers. Bait and switch? Had a bad day?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    @numbers. Bait and switch? Had a bad day?
    Hey no kidding! First he talks about trust and then he does a squat and poo on someones attempt to answer his dumb questions.
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    One only has to read the words you actually put in your answer:

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Thus I think the question that is more to the point is: what do people mean when they say "know".
    You then provide a theoretical understanding of knowledge which, you conclude, to be unrealistic.

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with what you mean when you say believe. You have completely redefined the question.

    Next, you posit some hypothetical third person who "truly believes" in fairies, and you discuss the theoretical implications of this hypothetical third person's "true belief". This, similarly, tells me absolutely nothing about what you mean when you say believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    ...that means that knowledge is nothing more than those beliefs which we act upon and rely upon for the living of our lives.
    If you really think that this makes sense then that does at least explain a lot. Knowledge are those things you know to be true. Beliefs, on the other hand, are those things you do not actually know, but which you believe. It therefore makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to say that knowledge are beliefs we act upon. You either know it or you believe it, but you can not do both.

    If I know it, there is no sense in which I would be required to believe it, because I already know it; no belief is necessary. I am really struggling here to understand why this even needs to be explained.
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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    One only has to read the words you actually put in your answer:
    Did you miss my second post answering your question?


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Thus I think the question that is more to the point is: what do people mean when they say "know".
    You then provide a theoretical understanding of knowledge which, you conclude, to be unrealistic.

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with what you mean when you say believe. You have completely redefined the question.
    Incorrect. Knowledge is the strongest form of belief. And just saying this says something about both knowledge and belief. But again you can look at the answer in my second post if you like.


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    ...that means that knowledge is nothing more than those beliefs which we act upon and rely upon for the living of our lives.
    If you really think that this makes sense then that does at least explain a lot.
    Yep, it makes sense.


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Knowledge are those things you know to be true.
    Now that is a bit circular. Or do you mean, "knowledge are those things you believe to be true"? But if you think that is not strong enough, I agree which is why I add that it something we actually live and act as though it were true.


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Beliefs, on the other hand, are those things you do not actually know, but which you believe.
    This is getting so circular, I am getting dizzy. All you have managed to say is that belief is not knowledge. But what does that mean? SEE you clearly need to explain what knowledge is first. We can see that you want to say that knowlege is not any kind of belief at all which leaves you in a deeper ditch than the knumbskulls who define knowledge as true belief. Your program of trying to question the meaning of "belief" while pretending that the meaning of "knowledge" is obvious is one of the most hilarious approaches to epistemology that I have ever seen.


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    It therefore makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to say that knowledge are beliefs we act upon. You either know it or you believe it, but you can not do both.
    That sounds like the biggest load of bull I ever heard. So do you know that 1+1=2? I assume you do.

    HEY! EVERYONE, LOOK, numbers DOESN'T BELIEVE THAT 1+1 = 2!!!!


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    If I know it, there is no sense in which I would be required to believe it, because I already know it; no belief is necessary.
    Ahhh.... confusing belief with faith a bit? Perhaps you have yourself all tangled up in complete nonsense because you want to make the ridiculous claim that knowledge doesn't require any faith. You have my sympathies and I wish you good luck because you are going to need it. LOL


    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    I am really struggling here to understand why this even needs to be explained.
    You might start by thinking things through a bit more before you start redefining the words of the english language to suit your agenda.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    ...someones attempt to answer his dumb questions.
    I subscribe to the view that there is no such thing as a dumb question, though there are occasionally dumb answers.

    The person who has no questions is ignorant.
    The person who has questions but does not ask them is stupid.
    The person who answers correctly might be your friend.
    The person who answers incorrectly is mistaken.
    I have frequently met people who have no questions but I have never met anyone who admits he has no answers.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    ...that means that knowledge is nothing more than those beliefs which we act upon and rely upon for the living of our lives.
    If you really think that this makes sense then that does at least explain a lot.
    Yep, it makes sense.
    Consider the question: Are morals absolute or relative?

    Now, I have no idea whether there is a definitively correct answer to this question. I have heard people argue quite persuasively that they are absolute, and I have heard other people argue equally as persuasively that they are relative. I do not know the answer but personally, I believe that they are relative and I act accordingly. This is just one example that the beliefs which we act upon and rely upon for the living of our lives do not have to be knowledge, they are just beliefs.

    I do not say that in a derogatory way, it is simply an observation of how things have, in my experience, worked.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Now that is a bit circular. Or do you mean, "knowledge are those things you believe to be true"?
    At this point I am beginning to see the point you are making. You are saying that I can't say, "I know the sky is blue" because whether I know that or not depends on what the hell "blue" means, and how do I know the sky even exists and what does the word "is" mean and so on. Yes, I get this. In fact I got this before I asked my original question. Which is preciely why I asked what you mean when you say believe. I did not ask you to give me a philosophical interpretation of what Kierkergaard would have said if I had asked him the question; if I had wanted that I would have asked it in the philosophy forum. A personal interpretation rather than an intellectual discourse.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Your program of trying to question the meaning of "belief" while pretending that the meaning of "knowledge" is obvious is one of the most hilarious approaches to epistemology that I have ever seen.
    I don't have a program. Neither do I pretend that the meaning of "knowledge" is obvious. I just want you to answer the question, personally, for yourself.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    HEY! EVERYONE, LOOK, numbers DOESN'T BELIEVE THAT 1+1 = 2!!!!
    You're right, I don't believe. I know that according to the axioms of mathematics it is true. No belief is required, and I am still struggling to understand why you think that is in the least bit funny. Okay, you would probably argue that "according to the axioms..." depends on faith that they are true, a "belief" in the ultimate truth of mathematics. Yes, but there does come a point, when trying to actually live our lives that we have to draw a line in the sand and get on with it, otherwise no one would ever be able to get in their car and drive to work. They would be standing on the side of the road asking themselves whether their car exists, and what exactly does "exists" mean and so on. Which is precisely why I want to know what you mean when you say believe, where in the sand do you draw the line?

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    ...because you want to make the ridiculous claim that knowledge doesn't require any faith.
    I am not aware of having made a claim. We are discussing your interpretation of the word belief. In order to help you understand why I don't think your response answers my question I gave some examples of how I see the difference between knowledge and belief. I am perfectly well aware that not everyone else sees things the same way; if they did there would be no point asking the question, would there?

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    You might start by thinking things through a bit more before you start redefining the words of the english language to suit your agenda.
    I don't have an agenda, and neither am I trying to redefine the words. I am simply trying to understand your personal interpretation of the word belief. What it means to you when you use the word in everyday speech.
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    The way this thread has panned out is just more evidence in support of my original supposition; which is disappointing.

    I asked: What do you mean when you say believe?

    I explained that I have asked this question many times before and received answers that were unenlightening. I said that I suspected that this type of response was motivated by a lack of trust, and I also suggested that this was inspired by the theist suspecting some hidden motive and being cautious about giving an answer that will come back to bite him.

    So, bearing that in mind, let's look at what happened in the thread.

    User mitchellmckain replied with a philosophical response rather than a personal one, in which he redefined the question from being about belief to being about knowledge.

    I replied that this was not really an answer to my question. But mitchellmckain insisted not only that my correction is nonsense, but that he was right. In insisting this he implies that I don't know which question I asked and that he is so much cleverer than me that he can read my mind from five thousand miles away and tell me which question I meant to have asked. Forgive me if I find this insulting.

    I reply that notwithstanding his insistence, he has asnswered some other question.

    User mitchellmckain now resorts to attempts to ridicule me. Instead of demonstrating the trust I questioned he accuses me of having a program, he accuses me of having an agenda, he accuses me of an "approach to epistemology" that is the funniest he has ever seen; all I did was ask what do you mean when you say belief?

    These accusations are clear indications of the lack of trust I spoke of.

    Not content with his arrogant insistence he now resorts to attempts at ridicule with capital letters, in bold, with multiple exclamation marks. All of which are considered shouting, and rude.

    I riposte with a re-wording of my question that makes it perfectly obvious that I did know which question I asked, and I did ask the right question, and that the response I got was not an answer to the question I asked.

    Since when, nothing. Which I interpret as mitchellmckain being chided into admitting even if only to himself that his interpretation was incorrect and that he did answer the wrong question.

    All I have to do know is ask myself whether it was his christian humility that made him insist I was wrong. Or maybe it was his adherence to the tenets of gentle Jesus meek and mild that prompted his attempts to ridicule me. Or maybe the shouting was a demonstration of that good old-fashioned christian virtue of turning the other cheek?

    From this, it would seem that we still have some considerable way to go before a question asked of a theist about his belief can receive an honest, open and sincere answer. Whether that lack of honesty and openness is motivated by a lack of trust must remain an open question.
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    bait and switch.

    I shall continue to let you talk to yourself.
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    In the United States you have a common principle known as the separation of church and State. This means that town councils cannot have religious icons built into public buildings and monuments, it means you don't have compulsory prayers in schools, it means lots of things, most of which are fair and democratic even if they are completely secular.

    Over here, we are not so lucky. We have unelected persons representing our interests in the executive branch of our government who are there precisely because they are members of some religion or other. They sit in our House of Lords and vote on which laws are passed, which budget amendments go through, which government intitiatives to enact or reject; they have real power over the way our country is run purely because they are religious.

    Our elected representatives, the members of parliament, they go on the stump and tell us what they believe, how they feel about the issues of the day and how they will represent us in parliament. They subscribe to a party and its policy, which guides us in knowing who will best represent our interests. But the Lords are not elected, do not go on the stump and do not tell the country where they stand, and neither do they join a party or subscribe to any particular political doctrine. They have the power, but we have no way of knowing, beyond their profession of religious faith, how they will represent us.

    I have felt for over twenty years that this is a ridiculous situation. I think we have a right to know where they stand on the important issues and the only way to know is to ask them. I have, therefore, been asking theists of all persuasions for a little over twenty years what they mean by belief. In all that time, not one of them, not a single solitary one of them, has been able to give me an honest, open, sincere answer. If asking the same question for over twenty years is what you mean by "bait and switch" then I am guilty as charged.

    I, however, sincerely believe that if after asking hundreds of religious people this very simple question and getting nothing but utter nonsense from them in answer, I am entirely justified in concluding that they are either lying to me because they are scared to tell me what they really mean, or alternatively they have no idea what they believe and so the answer is completely beyond them.

    So, I am being represented in government by a man who sincerely believes that if he puts his hands together and mumbles under his breath the creator of the universe will listen to him, but at the same time he can't even tell me what he means by belief. And, he still expects me to take him seriously and treat his "beliefs" with respect!

    I am surely not the only person who thinks that is ridiculous.
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    mitchellmckain,
    pm'ing me so that you can call me names doesn't do your christian credentials a whole lot of good. It is also considered poor form to respond to the person rather than to their argument.

    If a man walked up to you in the street and asked you where the town hall is, would you automatically assume that he was trying to convince you that the town hall is in fact somewhere else?

    No. So why is it that when I ask you what you believe, you automatically assume:
    • That I want to convert you to the things I believe
      That I don't even know that I believe the things I believe
      That I think my beliefs are better than your beliefs

    ...or anything else.

    I am perfectly well aware that the things I believe are just beliefs. I have absolutely no expectation whatsoever that anyone else will share them with me. I have no interest whatsoever in converting anyone else to my beliefs, and I do not think my beliefs are in any measureable or discernable sense whatsoever, better than anyone else's beliefs.

    I just want to know what a theist means when he says: I believe.

    That's it. End of story. No agenda.

    Why is that so hard to understand, and answer?
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  17. #16 Re: Can We Really Trust Each Other? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Found this quote in the Richard Dawkins thread, and would like to discuss this a bit further.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    I think we have to recognize that what the atheist means by God when he says that God does not exist is very different than what the theist means by God when he says that God does exist.
    I think that this is entirely possible. In fact, my main reason for being on this forum, and a couple of other religious forums, is to gain some insight into what the theist means when he says he believes in God.

    I specifically want to know what a theist means when he says believe, because I have over the years come to suspect that a lot of people, not just theists, use the word to mean something quite different than what I mean when I say believe. When I say I believe something, that has consequences for me; it helps define actions I can take and responses I can have, and also helps define actions I cannot take and responses I cannot have. But an awful lot of people say they believe something but don't seem to take on board the obvious consequences of their belief.

    I am with Voltaire on this in that I would defend to the hilt their right to do this, but it confuses me no end. Are they even aware that they are doing this, are they contradictory on purpose or do they just not understand the logical connection between belief and obligation?

    Or are they simply saying believe when they really mean hope?

    I also want to know what theists mean when they say God.

    However, questions on this subject usually get the deep, philosophical answer "everyone must find his own definition of God", or the mystical, "peel back the layers of mystery for yourself" or something equally as unenlightening.

    At one time I thought this was because theists genuinely didn't know how to describe either their God or their belief. But having met and talked to quite a few of them I realise that it is not that they lack the tools for the job, but the motivation to get the job done.

    I think the real problem is that we do not trust each other sufficiently to be honest in our dialogue. When I ask, "What do you mean by God?", the theist suspects some hidden motive and is cautious about giving an answer that will come back to bite him. So these pseudo-philosophical responses that reveal nothing and say nothing are not even an attempt to answer the question, they are self-defence mechanisms designed to incur the least damage.

    What do you think?
    Well you obviously can't be trusted--you are too open-minded. LOL!

    "Belief" to me is not hope but an opinion I have formed. I like to tie my beliefs to something real if I can. Sometimes though I want stretch my consciousness while meditating, so I will believe in something ideal, the purpose of which is not to succeed in reaching said fictional ideal but merely to improve myself. An example: reach for an unreachable star and believe you can do it. Or solve what seems like an impossible problem and believe you can do it. I actually succeed in some cases because I have a tendancy to underestimate my abilities.

    That is the main disadvantage of being a purely evidentiary type of person. What you think you are capable of is based on evidence which may have misled you. Perhaps someone told you you have no talent so don't even try...or that can't be done it is impossible...etc. So you defy the apparent logic, evidence and reasons which seem to make perfect sense to you and to your surprise you will sometimes find you can do what you formally believed impossible.

    What I have expressed here is the power of faith. Sometimes to find the truth and your true power, you must believe in something that lacks evidence, keeping in mind that evidence can be misinterpreted, or even be hearsay.

    My definition of god has evolved quite a bit over the years. Being raised in Christian culture I first defined God as the Bible describes and such a person did not seem worthy to me since he made so many a faux pas: he created Satan, for instance and yet seems to hate evil. This is why I was an Atheist originally.

    Then I took my first baby step. I realized that there are powers greater than myself. The next step was to develope an understanding of what those powers are and what they mean to me. I felt a connection with the universe as though I was communicating with it. I felt my mind mingling with its cosmic mind.

    I have asked myself lately what exactly is God. I did a thought experiment. I reasoned that if you removed everything material in the universe, what would remain would be God--the soul of the universe. Spacetime coordinates and physical laws are two non-material things I can think of. Are these intelligent? I think so because they can create/evolve wondrous, and complex things that no human engineer or artist can come close to matching. How do I know a human is intelligent? I judge him by his fruits. If I judge the natural laws by their fruits, I infer they are intelligent. I have found my god.
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  18. #17  
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    Can I start by saying thank you. Unlike mitchellmckain, you have made a serious attempt to answer the question and I appreciate that, thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    ...solve what seems like an impossible problem and believe you can do it.
    This is at the heart of my difficulty. I just cannot get my head around the idea that someone can simultaneously think a problem is impossible, and believe they can solve it. If you know the problem is genuinely impossible then there is no sensible definition of believe that would make me think you can believe you can solve the problem. On the other hand, if you genuinely believe you can solve it, and you say that in some cases you have solved these problems, then it clearly wasn't impossible to start with.

    There is an apparent disconnect here between what you think you said, and what I understood you to mean. I am not going to try to persuade you to change any of your beliefs, but I would like to understand the cause of this disconnect. Did you mis-speak, or have I mis-understood?

    When I say "I believe" it has to be representative of some proposition about the reality I perceive as the world in which I live. To me, this means exactly what you said here: I like to tie my beliefs to something real if I can.

    So we agree on that; we can't believe that Superman flies, or that goofy Australian kid actually understood what Flipper was talking about.

    I like my beliefs to be logically coherent, one with another. I can't simultaneously believe I went to the beach today, and also believe that I spent the day in bed. These contradict each other and my beliefs are not allowed to do that, they have to be internally and logically consistent. You didn't mention this requirement, and I wonder whether that was because it didn't occur to you or whether your beliefs are not required to do that. Maybe you subconsciously included it in saying they must be tied to something real.

    I like my beliefs to be semantically coherent, one with another. If I believe the 747 is the best aeroplane ever built then I must simultaneously believe that aeroplanes exist and that the 747 is better than the 757. You didn't specifically mention this either.

    The logical and semantic constraints are effectively two sides of the same coin. If my words are to mean the same thing from one moment to the next then I cannot believe both that "my mother was born in Rome" and that "my mother was born in Nevada". There might be a town called Rome in Nevada, of course, or it might even be that I meant natural mother in one case and adoptive mother in the second, but those exceptions just prove the rule. To know what a given belief is about I must know what my words mean; to know what my words mean my beliefs must be consistent. You just can't get away from the fact that there is a close relationship between the words we use, the type of thoughts we can think and what we can believe to be true about the world.

    Behavioural constraints also apply. If I am driving I cannot believe both that my destination lies to the North, and to the South, and then act on my belief. Logic determines that I cannot drive in two directions at once.

    Personal identity also needs to be considered. Imagine if you can a person who believes that he spent the day on the beach and that he stayed at home and painted the bedroom ceiling, that his name is Jim and that it is George, that he is a father of three children and that he is a bachelor. Any sense that this could be a single person has entirely disappeared. There is a degree of internal inconsistency in our beliefs that is incompatible with our idea of who we are.

    It is by believing various propositions about the world that we predict events and consider the likely consequences of our actions. Beliefs are, therefore, principles of action, by which our understanding (and mis-understanding) of the world is represented and made available to guide our behaviour. "I believe a car is coming" helps us decide not to cross the road.

    So we each have a collection of beliefs that are logically and semantically consistent in the sense that they form a coherent and faithful view of some state of the world. They guide both our behaviour and our emotions (what would happen to you emotionally if you suddenly believed your daughter had been hit by a train?). In short, you are what you believe.

    But this is only the way I think of it, this is clearly not universal (and probably not even common). By this criteria, a person cannot be both a scientist and a theist, but such persons do exist, so they obviously have different requirements of their beliefs.

    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    What I have expressed here is the power of faith. Sometimes to find the truth and your true power, you must believe in something that lacks evidence...
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but what you seem to be saying is this: The world we think we experience might not be real (we cannot necessarily believe our senses) so what we think of as "evidence" might not be credible, so it's okay to step outside the box and believe things for which there is no evidence.

    Assuming I have read that correctly, does it not cause you a problem that it appears to contradict what you said about tying your beliefs "to something real if I can" ?

    I guess the words: If I can, give you a bit of wiggle room, huh?

    Once again I want to stress that I am not being judgemental. I am not telling you to wise up because this is not logically possible, I am asking you if I have understood you correctly. (If I have, it is, interestingly, a consequence of the Cartesian philosophy I have been discussing in another thread).

    Okay, so assuming that I have followed you correctly to this point, and assuming that you are not bothered by that apparent contradiction, then we have you realising that our senses may deceive us, so you ignore them, the evidence we think we perceive may deceive us, so you ignore it, and you step right outside the box and give yourself philosophical permission to believe things which cannot be detected by the senses or verified with evidence.

    How do you decide which undetectable thing is the "truth and your true power"?

    And, back to the beginning, how does that marry to your requirement that you like to tie your beliefs to something real if you can? If reality means anything at all it is that which we can detect with our senses (or machines). So if you have stepped outside the sensory perception box, what does real mean now?

    This is another disconnect: You want your belief to be real, which requires your senses to establish reality, and yet you don't trust your senses and so abandon them, thereby disallowing yourself any opportunity of determining reality.

    Does that mean that "believe" means: I can construct a philosophical position that, irrespective of any reference to reality, permits me to posit the existence of?

    Note: I am not mocking you here, I am genuinely trying to understand this, because that is no longer remotely close to your opening statement that your beliefs be tied to something real. To me, that is indistinguishable from hope.

    Conclusion: You would like your beliefs to represent reality, but if they don't that doesn't seem to matter. You admit the possibility that your senses decieve you, so abandon them. When, at the point where Descartes detected nothing but the thinking "I" that prompted him to write, "I think, therefore I am" you instead detect the soul of the universe, which you call God.

    But you still haven't explained any criteria by which you choose to believe this.
    Everything the laws of the universe do not prohibit must finally happen.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers
    Can I start by saying thank you. Unlike mitchellmckain, you have made a serious attempt to answer the question and I appreciate that, thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    ...solve what seems like an impossible problem and believe you can do it.
    This is at the heart of my difficulty. I just cannot get my head around the idea that someone can simultaneously think a problem is impossible, and believe they can solve it. If you know the problem is genuinely impossible then there is no sensible definition of believe that would make me think you can believe you can solve the problem. On the other hand, if you genuinely believe you can solve it, and you say that in some cases you have solved these problems, then it clearly wasn't impossible to start with.

    There is an apparent disconnect here between what you think you said, and what I understood you to mean. I am not going to try to persuade you to change any of your beliefs, but I would like to understand the cause of this disconnect. Did you mis-speak, or have I mis-understood?

    When I say "I believe" it has to be representative of some proposition about the reality I perceive as the world in which I live. To me, this means exactly what you said here: I like to tie my beliefs to something real if I can.

    So we agree on that; we can't believe that Superman flies, or that goofy Australian kid actually understood what Flipper was talking about.

    I like my beliefs to be logically coherent, one with another. I can't simultaneously believe I went to the beach today, and also believe that I spent the day in bed. These contradict each other and my beliefs are not allowed to do that, they have to be internally and logically consistent. You didn't mention this requirement, and I wonder whether that was because it didn't occur to you or whether your beliefs are not required to do that. Maybe you subconsciously included it in saying they must be tied to something real.

    I like my beliefs to be semantically coherent, one with another. If I believe the 747 is the best aeroplane ever built then I must simultaneously believe that aeroplanes exist and that the 747 is better than the 757. You didn't specifically mention this either.

    The logical and semantic constraints are effectively two sides of the same coin. If my words are to mean the same thing from one moment to the next then I cannot believe both that "my mother was born in Rome" and that "my mother was born in Nevada". There might be a town called Rome in Nevada, of course, or it might even be that I meant natural mother in one case and adoptive mother in the second, but those exceptions just prove the rule. To know what a given belief is about I must know what my words mean; to know what my words mean my beliefs must be consistent. You just can't get away from the fact that there is a close relationship between the words we use, the type of thoughts we can think and what we can believe to be true about the world.

    Behavioural constraints also apply. If I am driving I cannot believe both that my destination lies to the North, and to the South, and then act on my belief. Logic determines that I cannot drive in two directions at once.

    Personal identity also needs to be considered. Imagine if you can a person who believes that he spent the day on the beach and that he stayed at home and painted the bedroom ceiling, that his name is Jim and that it is George, that he is a father of three children and that he is a bachelor. Any sense that this could be a single person has entirely disappeared. There is a degree of internal inconsistency in our beliefs that is incompatible with our idea of who we are.

    It is by believing various propositions about the world that we predict events and consider the likely consequences of our actions. Beliefs are, therefore, principles of action, by which our understanding (and mis-understanding) of the world is represented and made available to guide our behaviour. "I believe a car is coming" helps us decide not to cross the road.

    So we each have a collection of beliefs that are logically and semantically consistent in the sense that they form a coherent and faithful view of some state of the world. They guide both our behaviour and our emotions (what would happen to you emotionally if you suddenly believed your daughter had been hit by a train?). In short, you are what you believe.

    But this is only the way I think of it, this is clearly not universal (and probably not even common). By this criteria, a person cannot be both a scientist and a theist, but such persons do exist, so they obviously have different requirements of their beliefs.

    Quote Originally Posted by williampinn
    What I have expressed here is the power of faith. Sometimes to find the truth and your true power, you must believe in something that lacks evidence...
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but what you seem to be saying is this: The world we think we experience might not be real (we cannot necessarily believe our senses) so what we think of as "evidence" might not be credible, so it's okay to step outside the box and believe things for which there is no evidence.

    Assuming I have read that correctly, does it not cause you a problem that it appears to contradict what you said about tying your beliefs "to something real if I can" ?

    I guess the words: If I can, give you a bit of wiggle room, huh?

    Once again I want to stress that I am not being judgemental. I am not telling you to wise up because this is not logically possible, I am asking you if I have understood you correctly. (If I have, it is, interestingly, a consequence of the Cartesian philosophy I have been discussing in another thread).

    Okay, so assuming that I have followed you correctly to this point, and assuming that you are not bothered by that apparent contradiction, then we have you realising that our senses may deceive us, so you ignore them, the evidence we think we perceive may deceive us, so you ignore it, and you step right outside the box and give yourself philosophical permission to believe things which cannot be detected by the senses or verified with evidence.

    How do you decide which undetectable thing is the "truth and your true power"?

    And, back to the beginning, how does that marry to your requirement that you like to tie your beliefs to something real if you can? If reality means anything at all it is that which we can detect with our senses (or machines). So if you have stepped outside the sensory perception box, what does real mean now?

    This is another disconnect: You want your belief to be real, which requires your senses to establish reality, and yet you don't trust your senses and so abandon them, thereby disallowing yourself any opportunity of determining reality.

    Does that mean that "believe" means: I can construct a philosophical position that, irrespective of any reference to reality, permits me to posit the existence of?

    Note: I am not mocking you here, I am genuinely trying to understand this, because that is no longer remotely close to your opening statement that your beliefs be tied to something real. To me, that is indistinguishable from hope.

    Conclusion: You would like your beliefs to represent reality, but if they don't that doesn't seem to matter. You admit the possibility that your senses decieve you, so abandon them. When, at the point where Descartes detected nothing but the thinking "I" that prompted him to write, "I think, therefore I am" you instead detect the soul of the universe, which you call God.

    But you still haven't explained any criteria by which you choose to believe this.
    When I say I like to tie my beliefs to something real it is with the understanding that my perceptions, logic and the evidence may be flawed. Additionally, reality is not always logical. Logic is simply the way our brains are wired and making sense of things is prefered. Logic is not god and should not be treated as such.

    As far as the value of making a leap of faith is concerned, you can measure the value by how much potential risk and reward is involved. Believing you can jump off a tall building and fly would be foolhardy. If you are right, you gain very little compared to what you lose if you are wrong. Better to perform the test jumping from a soapbox. On the other hand, if you believe the Earth is round when all the available evidence suggests that it is flat, you will be the one to discover a new world.

    Imagine where we would be if Columbus was a reasonalble man? Imagine if he looked at the available evidence and decided not to give it a second thought. Sure, he saw "new" evidence that the Earth might be round, but only after he decided to take that leap of faith, only after he decided to buck the status quo.

    Hindus and Budhists have a practice of clearing their thoughts when they meditate. This allows all preconceptions to be removed and allows a new truth to enter the mind. The new truth can be the reality that you can tie your beliefs to. Note that the belief is imagined first before it becomes real.

    All human invention requires a leap of faith. We first must imagine, then we create that which we imagine. We don't wait for evidence of what we imagine before we try to create.
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