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Thread: Pseudo-religions

  1. #1 Pseudo-religions 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Let me start by saying that I am not sure that the term "pseudo-religion" is the best and I am open to suggestions for a better word.

    I have noticed, over the years, that there appear to be two ways people can be 'religious'. The first way involves belief in deity. This is not what I want to talk about.

    The second way is to believe in something irrational, but believe in it with fervor, and be utterly resistant to changing their views, even when good data is supplied as a counter argument. I think this, which I call pseudo-religion, has in common with deity religion, that is is based on Act of Faith rather than good data, and may even have an attitude of extreme hostility to those who do not adopt that faith, similar to the attitude of conventional religion towards those who commit 'blasphemy'.

    For example : I once had the misfortune to sit down at table with a bunch of ultra-feminists, who treated me with hostility. When I asked them why, one told me I was a rapist. The "logic" is this.

    All men are rapists.
    I am a man.
    Therefore I am a rapist.

    I explained that I had never committed rape, never would commit rape, and was, in fact, temperamentally incapable of committing rape. My reasoning had no effect, since they were convinced. It is this blind, based on faith belief that makes me think this is very akin to religious belief.

    I recently got into an argument on a forum about cannabis. I pointed out the scientific data showing that smoking cannabis can be hazardous to health, and the "true believers" in the idea that smoking cannabis is harmless went apeshit.

    You see the same thing with assorted political beliefs, extreme environmentalism, and even loyalty to sports teams.

    So, do you guys agree with me that this is a kind of variation on religion?
    What is it about the human mind that drives people into over acceptance of such things, even to the point of total irrationality?


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  3. #2  
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    I'm not sure that it's religion or pseudo-religion (if there even is such a thing).

    This is in the same family of total, unreasoning, unshakeable conviction that you are Right!, and you know you are Right!, because you've changed your whole life by

    a) giving up smoking
    b) giving up religion
    c) giving up alcohol or any other addiction
    d) taking up religion - any flavour - whatever it is, it's Right! ..... and ......

    everyone - in your family, at your workplace, unfortunate enough to sit beside you in the bus - would be better off if they did the same. 'Cos then they'd be Right! too. If they don't need to do this, they'll benefit from your example of stalwart commitment to your new way of life. Unfortunately, all but a very few with the patience of a saint will be bored rigid, uncomfortable or annoyed by your persistent, repetitious, self-obsessed monologues.

    You can only exemplify this Right!ness if you're completely oblivious to any and every social, conversational or body language clue that "ur doin' it rong".

    You see the same thing with assorted political beliefs, extreme environmentalism, and even loyalty to sports teams.
    I'm not so sure that I'd put loyalty to sports teams or political parties in quite the same category. To me, that's more about finding a community where you know you're always welcome - and it's easy to share enthusiasm and have unwavering mutual support for disappointments.

    I'll think some more about the right way to approach the idea of extremists of any stripe.


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  4. #3  
    The Enchanter westwind's Avatar
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    Hi adelady. QUOTE "" ...you know your always welcome- and it's easy to share enthusiasm and have unwavering support for disappointments...END QUOTE.

    Maybe same motivation for joining a church?

    Or adopting a Religion?

    I mean not ncessarily being a believer in the beginning...but it seems a good idea now.

    This need to belong rears its head again.

    Iwant to belong. I've always wanted to belong. I'm normal that way. The trouble being, that in the first place I belong to myself. And, if belonging to something else means that I can't belong to myself at the same intensity as before, then I don't want to belong to any other belief. westwind.
    Words words words, were it better I caught your tears, and washed my face in them, and felt their sting. - westwind
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  5. #4  
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    OK.

    It is always good to get an alternative view of things, and this is different to how I see it, which is great!

    I tend to see the belief based on faith, instead of belief based on evidence, but then, I am the skeptic. We now have two alternative views - the unshakable conviction of being right, and the need to belong. Could be that both are a big part of the story.
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  6. #5  
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    the unshakable conviction of being right, and the need to belong. Could be that both are a big part of the story.
    I think they may be a merging of two stories. The big, more or less universal one is the need to belong.

    The other one is about the variability of people. One variation leads to stubborn dogmatism and some of those go all the way to obsession or to violence. Soccer hooligans are more about hooliganism than the cosy embrace of shared social values regardless of their claimed 'commitment' to a team or a town.

    I'm still thinking about extremist views of other kinds.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  7. #6  
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    I wouldn't consider most extremist views religion in any form....no church or places of worship, no recognition of life events in the eye of community, no scriptures with deep historical roots--even to prehistory, no structure in most cases and no attempts to answer philosophical or metaphysical questions.
    Meteorologist/Naturalist & Retired Soldier
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  8. #7  
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    Skeptic
    (just a curiousity)

    You have never smoked, ingested, nor imbibed marijuana?

    as re irrationality
    it seems to be quite common in the species when we look at group activities
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  9. #8  
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    It comes down to psychology, people can become invested in ideas. People have different reasons for believing what they do but one thing holds true, the more invested they become in a particular belief or idea the harder it is to get them to change their mind. Also you have to consider that what might you see as logical or evidence that supports a more rational explanation, than a particular idea someone else may have, that person may not see it like you do, may not trust it or simply may not understand it. So what it comes down to when trying to get someone to change their mind or opinion is how good you are at explaining your point in a way they can understand, understanding why they hold the view they do in the first place and finally how much effort your willing to put in to get them to change their minds. Something you also need to consider is it is far easier to get someone to accept something from someone they like or respect this is an important aspect as if you ever want someone else to accept your way of thinking they first have to accept you as a person they are willing to listen to. Finally people need to feel good about changing their mind after all how many of us are going to accept new ideas that make us feel bad?
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  10. #9  
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    Does no one else see the link with religion that appears to me to be so certain?

    It is the blind adherence to a belief system that is based on ideas and an act of faith, without empirical data to support it. That seems to me to be quite religious in nature.
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  11. #10  
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    Most religions ask you to invest your belief of your eternity after death in their religion. This is why it has such a strong hold on people, also they don't believe because of evidence they believe because they want to. In this way it could said to be the same as your example of cannabis, if you think about you are asking them to give up their view of the world's most popular recreational drug to the unpopular idea you are trying to present to them with evidence it might be dangerous. People can and do ignore truths they don't want to hear just like with religion.
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  12. #11  
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    I think your term pseudo-religion is a good one. The absence of exhaustive thinking that typifies many believers is common to both. It also works, though here we may differ, in the same way science and pseudo science differ - real religion does possess serious adherents who have considered and studied the issues in detail with sound logic. Not so the butters and the cranks.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The second way is to believe in something irrational, but believe in it with fervor, and be utterly resistant to changing their views, even when good data is supplied as a counter argument. I think this, which I call pseudo-religion, has in common with deity religion, that is is based on Act of Faith rather than good data, and may even have an attitude of extreme hostility to those who do not adopt that faith, similar to the attitude of conventional religion towards those who commit 'blasphemy'.
    The bolded part would apply to me, regarding my atheism. I decided that the probability of my own mind playing tricks on me is higher than the probability of a God, therefore no reasoning or observation can change my belief: The clouds may part to reveal an awful face of God urging me to reconsider, but I wouldn't believe it. That's an Act of Faith.

    Capital "F" Faith is really valuable socially. It makes people consistent and predictable; it is closely related to vows. How can you trust a person who promises only to rationally reconsider his position as life unfolds? That's not what wedding vows are made of. I speculate that the capacity for Faith is a social adaptation, where groups who had it tended to keep their agreements and therefore prospered as a group.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  14. #13  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    by and large
    faith sucks
    faith sucks the unwary into all sorts of insanity
    know "GOD"
    but leave "faith" to the loonies and crazies and flim flam men
    have faith in yourself
    love the ones close to you
    let "GOD' do what "GOD" does best
    and appreciate all that follows
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The second way is to believe in something irrational, but believe in it with fervor, and be utterly resistant to changing their views, even when good data is supplied as a counter argument. I think this, which I call pseudo-religion, has in common with deity religion, that is is based on Act of Faith rather than good data, and may even have an attitude of extreme hostility to those who do not adopt that faith, similar to the attitude of conventional religion towards those who commit 'blasphemy'.
    Yet Sculptor, at least, expresses hostility at people having any Faith. Go figure.


    Skeptic, you've watched fish. Have you noticed that in life it's often more important to make any decision - decisively - than to remain uncommitted?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    Skeptic, you've watched fish. Have you noticed that in life it's often more important to make any decision - decisively - than to remain uncommitted?
    I have encountered this view, in my reading, in relation to military action. I cannot say I agree. Stupid action is nearly always worse than no action.
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  17. #16  
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    I was thinking more mice in mazes than damn the torpedoes. Your picked cherry vs. mine. Granted there are pitfalls in life. To test "Stupid action is nearly always worse than no action" we need a more basic metaphor. Plankton?

    Or would you accept at least the social value of commitment?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  18. #17  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Oh, commitment is important. But true commitment carries costs as well as benefits, and we must do our homework first, and make the decision to commit into a smart one.
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  19. #18  
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    You're advising organisms - including humans - to consider more before committing. I guess you believe intelligence would not encumber a turkey?

    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    What is it about the human mind that drives people into over acceptance of such things, even to the point of total irrationality?
    I hope my anecdotal explanation helped.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The second way is to believe in something irrational, but believe in it with fervor, and be utterly resistant to changing their views, even when good data is supplied as a counter argument. I think this, which I call pseudo-religion, has in common with deity religion, that is is based on Act of Faith rather than good data, and may even have an attitude of extreme hostility to those who do not adopt that faith, similar to the attitude of conventional religion towards those who commit 'blasphemy'.
    I don't see the difference between religion and pseudo-religion. They are both irrational. They don't accept fact, if it is in conflict with the teachings. People who believe Cannabis is harmful may be irrational, but what about a Muslim believing pork is dirty? Is he rational? Or a Christian fundamentalist who believes earth is less than ten thousand years old?

    Could you explain how you tell the difference?
    If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism
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  21. #20  
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    When people ignore that which does not support their preconceptions
    when scientists ignore that which does not support their preconceptions
    when good new field data disproves all existing climate models

    when lunacy and hyperbole are the new norm

    should those precious few who are still rational
    still
    attempt to engage the lunatics in meaningful conversation?
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  22. #21  
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    At least there's a strain of logic to not eating pork--- swine and humans share more pathogens than most other animals-human combinations.
    Meteorologist/Naturalist & Retired Soldier
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  23. #22  
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    Religion is that which involves belief in a deity.

    Pseudo-religion is a belief that flies in the face of known data. For example : those who believe GM foods are harmful, in spite of the known fact that billions of people have eaten GM foods over more than 15 years, and there is not a single scientifically confirmed case of a person suffering any harm, no matter how small, due to the fact that their food is GM.

    Economics is a discipline that seems to involve a lot of pseudo-religious beliefs. Like believing in the 'trickle down' effect. Like believing that the market is rational. Politics likewise. Belief that a particular political system will solve the world's problems has to be pseudo-religious.
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  24. #23  
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    Pseudo-religion is a belief that flies in the face of known data.
    Yeah. All those political ideologies claiming that everything would be unicorns and rainbows if only everyone in every society adhered to some set of 'idealistic' rules. Those rules invariably violate just about everything we know about how people do and don't behave in families, workplaces and anywhere else. These utopias where no-one will ever feel the need to steal or be violent or neglect children or get drunk or endanger co-workers or name-your-social-evil just because social and political arrangements are structured on obviously right principles - all of them display ignorance of or disdain for ordinary human variety, talents, failings, preferences and spontaneity.

    At a personal level, individuals are absolutely certain that if we all ate/refused to eat certain things, everyone will be healthy forever. Or did/didn't get married society would be better off. Or did/didn't have children they'd be better people. Or planted trees ..... or ..... All magical thinking. All totally unrealistic. All making the same mistake as those 'big thinking' utopian idealists. Libertarians, communists, anarchists, theocracy advocates - all entirely missing the point.

    We all learn as we grow up that there is no Father Xmas or Easter Bunny or tooth fairy or any other of the fantasies that adults create to make childhood magical. All but a few of us learn that there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden. (Personal note. I read a really uplifting article by a woman who'd created, with her husband, a truly magnificent garden after a rich life working around the world in high-level positions. They welcomed visitors to this garden. Terrific! But people were not to smoke as they walked around ..... because ..... it upset the fairies in the grotto near the pool. Oh dear.)

    And there is no magic universal formula to make a whole society move to the same beat like a giant line dancing display.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Religion is that which involves belief in a deity.
    How do you categorize those religions that have no deity, but most of the other trappings such as scriptures, churches, life event ceremonies and overarching life-philosophies etc? Theravada Buddhism for example.
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  26. #25  
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    Theravada Buddhism is an interesting example. I tend to regard it more as a philosophy than a religion.
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post

    You see the same thing with assorted political beliefs, extreme environmentalism, and even loyalty to sports teams.
    Skeptic, your reference to sports teams made me think of a recent conversation that has parallels to your thoughts. In South Africa, the white Afrikaner minority (of which I'm one) have in recent decades lost (voluntarily given up) political power. This has been accompanied by a much wider loss of cultural power that puts us in a lower social position than we were used to in the old racist dispensation that unfairly advantaged us. During this same period, one of the main "white" sports in our country, Rugby, grew to unprecedented heights with some absolutely fanatical supporters. There might be many reasons for this, but it could be argued that some whites here feel so oppressed in regions where they used to be strong (political, social etc), that the only place where they can safely live out their need for "belonging" etc is in sport. This example therefore seems to somewhat support the view that people have an inherent need to "belong" somewhere and that they will get very passionate and will sometimes blindly follow something to achieve that.
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  28. #27  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    What is it about the human mind that drives people into over acceptance of such things, even to the point of total irrationality?
    I'd have to think there is most definitely something going on in the mind. Is it mania, depression or a mixed state of the two? Are we talking mood disorders with varying levels of severity or intensity?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  29. #28  
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    I'd have to think there is most definitely something going on in the mind. Is it mania, depression or a mixed state of the two? Are we talking mood disorders with varying levels of severity or intensity?
    I think it's very much a cultural thing. It's very appealing to think that you, personally, are unique, an individual. That you have insight denied to others or that you're cleverer or better than other people in significant ways.

    Just look at how often the crank anti-vaccine, anti-chemotherapy sites talk about people who accept scientific, epidemiological evidence as "sheeple". They're dupes or conformists or stupid, unlike me, I can see through all the lies of government/corporations/professionals.

    Quite often people who are, by any usage of the word, cranks can attract others and their cash, just by telling them they're privy to some important information or insight or attitude that misleads more conventional or fearful people. The crank makes money. The believers gain psychological benefits from having their view of themselves as special and unique constantly reinforced.

    The problem with this is that it kills people.
    One more example of the price of refusing science-based cancer therapy – Respectful Insolence Reading the comments is well worth the time.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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  30. #29  
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    That is a very good lesson, Adelady.

    There is a complete web site that looks at the harm done by a wide range of alternative medical practitioners and crackpots.
    What's The Harm?

    Well worth a good look.
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  31. #30  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    With respect to religion and the mind, how often have we heard the terms mass hysteria or brainwashing associated with indoctrination? Although there may be some truth to it, one might ask why some people are not swayed or how some eventually opt out. I guess the same can be said for the subtle seduction of advertising or the pressure to conform to a group.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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