How many people believe in the belief of God, but necessarily believe in God?
Daniel Dennett, an American philosopher and prominent atheist claims that many religious people are actually agnostic, but they believe in the value of believing in God. Because they feel it’s good for them. They are part of something bigger. There’s a supporting community. There’s purpose and meaning. This is why there’s belief in belief.
Daniel Dennett – From the Guardian (July 2009): As I explain in the chapter by that title in Breaking the Spell, “belief in belief” is a common phenomenon not restricted to religions. Economists realise that a sound currency depends on people believing that the currency is sound, and scientists recognise that the actual objectivity of scientific studies on global warming is politically impotent unless people believe in that objectivity, so economists and scientists (among others) take steps to foster and protect such beliefs that they think are benign. That’s acting on belief in belief.
Sometimes the maintenance of a belief is deemed so important that impressive systems of propaganda are erected and vigorously defended by people who do not in fact share the belief that they think is so important for society to endorse (...).
Religion offers an extreme case of this. Today one of the most insistent forces arrayed in opposition to us vocal atheists is the “I’m an atheist but” crowd, who publicly deplore our “hostility”, our “rudeness” (which is actually just candour), while privately admitting that we’re right. They don’t themselves believe in God, but they certainly do believe in belief in God. It’s not always easy to tell who just believes in belief, since the actions motivated by believing in belief (while not actually believing in God) are – with the exception of those rare sotto voce confessions – well-nigh indistinguishable from the actions of genuine believers: say the prayers, sing the hymns, tithe, proclaim one’s allegiance, volunteer for church projects, and so on. Sometimes I wonder if even 10% of the people who proclaim their belief in God actually do believe in God. I am particularly unimpressed by those who proclaim the loudest; they demonstrate by their very activism that they fear the effect of any erosion of religion, and they must think that erosion is likely if they don’t put their shoulders to the wheel. If they were more confident and secure in their religious convictions, they probably wouldn’t waste their time trying to discredit a few atheists.”
What are your thoughts?