Social Question

antimatter's avatar

Is religion a figment of imagination?

Asked by antimatter (4411points) January 26th, 2010

I was told that the Bible was rewritten more than a few times and there is different versions of the Bible. The Bible got a lot of faults in it as well, the same goes for the Koran.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

80 Answers

evil2's avatar

no religion is real god is imaginary

Ria777's avatar

the Bible didn’t just get “rewritten”, it got put together from various sources written a long time apart from different sources. as far as the New Testament, the early church got together to figure out what went into it.

gemiwing's avatar

To some people yes, to other people no. Sometimes there isn’t one answer for everyone.

If you are interested in the history of the Bible, then I would suggest taking a course in biblical studies and deepening your understanding of it rather than taking snippets from what others say.

Jeruba's avatar

Religion exists.

ninjacolin's avatar

not really. well.. technically, everything is a product of our imagination. so, the definition of religion has to be more specific than that for it to be useful in language.

poisonedantidote's avatar

religion exists, however, if a god exists or not is a different question all together. i say no, but thats a blanket statement. its not that simple.

gods with names and rules are obviously a work of human imagination, 100% there is no such thing.

deist gods, that have no names and no rules, well thats much harder to tackle, i would need to say 80% sure there is no such thing (you made up your own god instead of believing in one someone else made up)

a god as in, ’‘an intelligent origin for all existence’’ a very loose definition, i say 50%-50%.

Austinlad's avatar

All religions exist, but I believe they are man-made. Spirituality comes from a much higher place.

ninjacolin's avatar

The qualities of “Spirituality” come from knowledge. In my opinion, spirituality is itself a figment of the imagination.

fundevogel's avatar

Sadly religion is all too real, its the assertions of religion that are almost certainly fabricated.

Ruallreb8ters's avatar

The bible was diffenatley fabricated from stories years after it supposedly took place, but religion is real. Churches are real..

CMaz's avatar

Religion is real.

God on the other hand. Only time will tell.

smashbox's avatar


njnyjobs's avatar

@antimatter what’s your take on your question?

For me it’s not so much that Religion is a figment of imagination, but the Faith a person puts in the doctrine that the particular religion espouses. It can also be said that Religion exists the way freedom does. If you think you have freedom, then you can have religion. In societies where there is no religious freedom, then religion does not exist in their realm.

As far as comparing the Koran and the Bible, surely there will be differences in opinion . . . as the saying goes, there’s 2 sides to a coin . . .more than one side to a story.

Snarp's avatar

There is certainly no reason to believe any particular religion over any other besides culture and tradition. Each major religion has what it claims are authoritative texts, but none of them are the same. None of them relate well enough to established facts to show them to be superior to any of the others. Most of them also claim to be the one true religion. They can’t all be right, and in the absence of any reason to think that one has a better claim on truth than another, I’m inclined to believe they are all wrong.

Ghost_in_the_system's avatar

yes Virginia, religion is real.

Qingu's avatar

@antimatter, I don’t think it’s correct to say “the Bible was rewritten several times.” Or at least that’s a huge oversimplification.

The Bible is a huge collection of documents. Broadly, it can be divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament. The earliest of the Bible’s documents—parts of Genesis and Exodus, Job, and the Psalms—come from oral poems, myths, and laws told by a tribe of bronze-age nomads called the Hebrews.

These oral poems and stories, in turn, were often based on even earlier Mesopotamian myths and laws. For example, the flood story in the Bible is modeled on earlier Babylonian and Sumerian flood stories. The god of the Hebrews, Yahweh, has many of the same traits as earlier Mesopotamian gods such as Marduk, Enlil and Sin. The cult of Sin, the moon god, practiced “Shabatu” days similar to the Hebrews’ Sabbath. The legal code in Exodus is very similar to the earlier Code of Hammurabi, supposedly given to a Babylonian king by the sun god Shamash.

So you’ve got all that stuff which evolved from Mesopotamian mythology and existed for hundreds of years mostly as spoken texts.

Then you have the “Deuteronomistic texts,” which includes the book of Deuteronomy and the historical books that follow it: Joshua, Judges, Kings and Samuel. Those were composed later, probably around the time of the early Jewish kingdoms.

Then, around the time of the Jews’ Babylonian captivity, the “prophets” section of the Bible was composed—Ezekial, Daniel, etc.

It’s not exactly clear when all this stuff was first written down. Clearly most of it was floating around as oral tradition long before it was written. Some scholars put the date of Genesis first being written down as late as 400 B.C.! We don’t know for sure. What is clear, however, is that the written Old Testament we have now is the result of multiple “editors.” If you look at Genesis, for example, you’ll notice that parts of the text have a distinctly different style than others. Genesis 1 consistently refers to God as “Elohim” and reflects a certain worldview; Genesis 2–3 consistently calls God “Yahweh” and reflects a slightly different worldview. (fyi Genesis 1 is called the “Priestly” source, 2–3 is called the “Yahwist” source.)

On top of that, there are a few sources that are included in some “versions” of the Old Testament but not others. These are called “apocrypha” and they only appear in certain Bibles because people of rival religious traditions think they don’t belong.

The New Testament contains writings pertaining to a Judean cult that resembled a cross between Judaism and Roman mystery religions, centered around the historical cult leader named Jesus. It can be divided broadly into two parts: the gospels and the letters. Oh! And almost forgot, the funnest book of them all: Revelation, modeled after earlier prophet texts in the OT.

The earliest documents in the New Testament are actually Paul’s letters. Paul co-opted parts of Jesus’ cult (he never met the guy) and his earliest letters date to around 50 A.D. None of his letters deal much with Jesus’ life or teachings; they are mostly concerned with the idea, found in many mystery religions, that Jesus died and was resurrected as a salvific act. A lot of it is theology, trying to reconcile this idea with Judaism.

Some letters, such as Hebrews, are sometimes attributed to Paul but they are actually much later and not written by him. It was a common practice in ancient times to write documents and then claim famous people (such as Adam or Enoch) wrote them—a practice called “pseudepigrapha.”

The gospels are basically legendary documents that chronicle the life and teachings of Jesus. The earliest, Mark, probably dates to around 80 A.D. Matthew and Luke both copy a lot of Mark’s text (and occasionally correct and improve his sloppy Greek prose) so scholars conclude they came later. John is completely different from Mark, Matthew and Luke and scholars think it comes even later.

The book of Acts is actually the second part of Luke’s gospel and was clearly written by the same guy.

About the gospel authors: they are not the historical Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Those names are found nowhere on the earliest documents. We have no idea who wrote them, or if any are the work of a single author at all. Rather, the idea that they were written by these people is a later church tradition.

On the Bible’s truth-value. The first part of the Bible is clearly Mesopotamian mythology. Yahweh is a standard Mesopotamian deity. The earth is described as flat; the sky is described as a solid dome that holds up an ocean. The sun, moon, planets and stars revolve around the earth. There are talking snakes and donkeys. The Babylonians, like the Hebrews, believed their ancestors and ancient kings lived for hundreds or even thousands of years, and believed in a cosmic flood that reset creation.

The Exodus story may reflect an actual movement of people from Egypt to Canaan. Just before the earliest mention of “Israel” in the archaeological record, there was a short-lived monotheistic cult in Egypt based around Aten, the sun god. It’s entirely possible that believers from this cult (which was later outlawed) emigrated from Egypt to Mesopotamia and mixed their religious ideas with the mythology found there; I personally think this is likely.

But the Exodus story is a legend at best, if not an outright myth; there is nothing in the historical or archaeological records to support its most basic claims. It’s not even clear that there were Hebrews at the time.

The laws found in the Old Testament are barbaric by any standards, even by ancient times. They promote slavery, rape, and genocide. In fact, the Bible is the only religious text to command genocide.

The New Testament’s gospels may seem like “historical” documents but they contradict each other and are unsigned, undated, and their fantastic claims are uncorroborated by any evidence from the period. It is also worth keeping in mind that “history” as we think of it did not exist back then. Even official historians who signed their documents would claim things like “Emperor Vespasian healed a cripple and a blind man” (from Seutonius) or “before the Romans attacked a cow gave birth to a donkey and there appeared a floating army in the sky with chariots” (Josephus).

Aaand I can’t believe I actually wrote all of that.

Austinlad's avatar

@antimatter, I can’t say whether your facts are right, but by golly you get a A+ for putting it all down , and it’s all damned interesting. !!! Cheers.

Adagio's avatar

@Austinlad GA for your first response, the simplicity of the approach very much appeals

nicobanks's avatar

Well… you’re not wrong, what you wrote about the Bible, but you’re not right either.

The Bible has faults. What kind of faults? What do you mean by that?

The Bible was re-written and there are different versions… I wouldn’t put it that way. But your basic point, I think, is that the Bible is constructed, right? Yes, all scientific evidence (which I believe in) points to Yes.

Is religion a figment of our imagination? Imagination, as the human creative force, yes… but figment? A thing contrived? I don’t think so. Personally, I think of religion as the human response to the eternal, the divine. Of course, were I an atheist, I would think religion was contrived. It’s a matter of faith.

nicobanks's avatar

@fundevogel The assertions of religion are almost certainly fabricated!? That’s quite the… massive statement. I would say, generalization!

Qingu's avatar

@nicobanks, do you believe that the story of Athena’s birth—bursting out of the forehead of the god Zeus clad in full armor—is fabricated?

I do. I also fail to how that story is any more fabricated than, for example, a virgin giving birth to the son of a hebrew sky god. Or Muhammad riding up into the sky on the back of a flying donkey.

Polly_Math's avatar

Religion is real unfortunately, and people are dying every day for it.

Ron_C's avatar

All religions are the inventions of man. Many claim that they were inspired by god and they may be. The point is that the inspirational god seems to share many human traits like bad judgement, nasty temper, and thirst for blood. I hope to never meet their god. It seems that you would have a better chance surviving a party at Saddam Hussin’s palace than a business lunch with god.

CupcakesandTea's avatar

Religion is very real but whether or not gods actually exist cannot be proved or disproved.

dpworkin's avatar

I think we are developing some pretty decent evidence that religion is a highly adaptive temporal lobe phenomenon that evolved in concert with our encephalization.

Another highly encephalized creature, the elephant, also seems, from observed behavior at least, to have religious impulses, in that it is clear that they mourn their dead, and return to commune with dead family members.

Whether particular religious beliefs are true or not is not a fit subject for scientific inquiry. Personally I don’t believe in the existence of an intelligent creator, nor have I a religious, as opposed to a cultural affinity for any particular complex of rituals, I think my overwhelming awe of the universe amounts to a type of religious feeling, and I think it is something we all share, theists and atheists alike.

Ron_C's avatar

@dpworkin I really liked that answer. I’ll try clicking “Great Answer” again.

fundevogel's avatar

@nicobanks I don’t see anything particularly unreasonable in saying that religious claims are almost certainly untrue. I am simply evaluating supernatural claims of all sorts to be unsupported by reality and thus all most certainly not based on reality.

As Quingu said, I am no more likely to believe in the myth of resurrection than in foreheadbirths. They’re both completely fantastical.

Blondesjon's avatar


Imagination is a figment of religion.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

isn’t everything?

Adagio's avatar

@Ron_C come on, it was the elephant that swayed you wasn’t it

dpworkin's avatar

Elephants do sway. That is undeniable.

Ron_C's avatar

@Adagio if you are on an elephant, you definately sway. We rode right out in traffic, in Tailand that’s not an unusual sight.

Ron_C's avatar

@Qingu good work on a brief history of religion especially the logical progression and mixing of myths into a couple popular religions. Of course criticisms say that what seperates the bible from a compilation of myths is the faith of the reader.

dpworkin's avatar

@Qingu Thanks for that thoughtful and fascinating post.

DrMC's avatar

All memes are real. They propagate, breed, hybridize. They have symbolic personhoods, and as we contemplate them, it activates the part of our brain that is also activated when we put ourselves in someone Else’s shoes.

Various memes confer a significant survival advantage to the host society. Other competing societies with different memes may compete less well, and the meme, along with it’s people will die out or…. be assimilated.

Although many believe that Santa is not real, merely walk into any establishment near the solstice and then ask yourself, is Santa real?

Memes are irrefutably present, and play an integral role in what humans are and do. Ants and bees are not the individual – it is the hive, the anthill that functions as a unit of tied individuals – each specialized in its function, like a cell in a body.

A human alone in the wilderness, will likely perish, but a tribe, a city, a civilization can be a terrifying and wonderful power.

As the cell is not the human. The human is not the civilization.

Civilizations have the properties of a “persona” – as do it’s memes.

If you can allow for the supernatural, then it is only a little further step to imagine the emergence of an new meta species.

dpworkin's avatar

Who wrote that, @DrMC?

DrMC's avatar

dude – it’s off my head.

there is a book that comes close but I don’t totally agree -

The science of ethics I think it was

It really could be described as the evolution of religion. Very cool concept, and there is much out there to back it up.

meta species is an old concept from sci fi

The above is actually my own meme or version of if – I don’t mean to turn it into a religion per se, but if you copy it, then it has begun replicating.

DrMC's avatar

oh, the concept of being memed, as in a computer virus infection was the heart of a short story I read several years back where a psychologist on mars was specially trained to detect and control a very dangerous meme that had taken over earth. When memed the virus would allow you to communicate with other members, your thoughts and pain would be controlled, etc. It conferred massive benefits, at the expense of autonomy. The martians feared it. I forget the title, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

to become memed in the novel, you would open your consciousness with the request that sounded a little like “abort, retry, cancel” – except more pertinent

DrMC's avatar

Oh, regarding the concept of deities generated from belief

You might enjoy Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Religion exists.

Religious beliefs are not subject to confirmation or falsification.
They can’t be proven to be true or false.

Believe or not, it is a choice.

ninjacolin's avatar

your friendly neighborhood determinist says: “it’s a determined choice, not a free choice”

Janka's avatar

Religion exists, obviously. Some of the things different religions say exist obviously do, too (say love and hate). Some of the things don’t (gods, spirits, etc).

fundevogel's avatar

@ninjacolin There you go again, always throwin blood in the shark tank. I guess you don’t have a choice..

nicobanks's avatar

@Qingu I didn’t say that no religious assertions are fabricated. Can “religious assertions” be reduced (validly, fairly, reasonably) to creation stories alone (which your 3 examples fall under)? I don’t think so.

@fundevogel My point is that a phrase like “religious assertions/claims” is extremely vague, all-encompassing, umbrella-esque. “It is bad to murder” is certainly a common religious assertion/claim: is it fabricated? Untrue? Fantastical? Unsupported by reality? I’d say it makes good sound sense! My point is, when you mean something specific, you ought to be specific. If you say “fruit” (or religion) when you actually mean “apple” (or supernatural), well, surely the problem there is obvious? Your statement about “religious assertions” is either incorrect or, if correct, reductionist.

Qingu's avatar

@nicobanks, “it’s bad to murder” is actually a tautology. Murder is defined as “bad/unlawful” killing. It’s more useful to look at the particulars of what various religions sanction as lawful killings. The Bible, for example, commands the killing of disobedient children, unbelievers, adulterers, and newlywed brides unable to prove their virginity on their wedding night, along with every single man, woman and child living in the “promised land.”

That said, I wouldn’t even call such laws “religious assertions” since they aren’t exclusive to the religion in question. You wouldn’t call the Code of Hammurabi—which, like the Bible, claims to be handed down from divine powers—“religious assertions,” you’d call it an ancient law code.

I think it’s fair to limit “religious assertions” to theological concepts like the Trinity, original sin, the Resurrection as a salvific act, the need to supplicate oneself to Allah. All of which are fabricated nonsense.

fundevogel's avatar

@nicobanks – I could go down each religion individually, but the arguments would take up a lot of time and space (you should see the margins in my copy of the Case for Christ) and I would essentially be saying the same for each religion. It would get very boring for you to read the same arguments over and over. It is because of religions’ fundamental similarity that I don’t have an issue referring to them en masse. If you’d like to look over the universal Achilles heels of religion here are a few. These are mostly specific to religions with sacred texts. Once you’re familiar with the problems it is not necessary to deeply evaluate every Mesopotamian sect to figure out they’re just making stuff up too.

They make extraordinary claims, but lack the evidence to validate their claims (to paraphrase Sagan).

They claim their holy texts are evidence of the truth of their holy texts, but aren’t able to corroborate their claims with other sources.

Texts themselves are imperfect and contradictory pointing to human error and authorship rather than the divine messages.

The authorship of the texts is unknown as is whether or not accounts are first hand accounts or written versions of secondhand or third hand accounts or even long oral traditions. An exception to this is the Book of Mormon, however that makes it very easy to show how Mormonism was fabricated. It’s actually a funny story.

The claims regarding the natural world are not supported by science and the structure of the universe as we know it, but are often contradictory to it. This of course indicates that the texts were not written by someone or something that had an even remotely accurate understanding of the universe, something you would expect it’s creator to have good handle on.

The religion reflects the culture and attitudes of the people that produced it rather than timeless truths.

mattbrowne's avatar

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.—Søren Kierkegaard

Ron_C's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence if whether to believe or not is a choice, why do members of that religion feel free to condemn non-believers or infidels? In truth is is a choice, in practice a person may need protection from those that disagree.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C see? that’s why the choice thing doesn’t make any sense.
Belief is not a choice. Belief is forced up the individual by the weight of the evidence they’ve had a chance to process.

:) sorry, @fundevogel, but it’s all so relevant and important.

Beliefs are influenced only by new evidence and/or new considerations about existing evidence. You can’t simply decide whether or not to believe a premise is true/false/uncertain, it has to be proven/disproven/un-certified to you.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin “Belief is forced up the individual by the weight of the evidence ” that is exactly opposite of what even the religious say. They say belief is a gift and you believe even if there isn’t any rational evidence behind what you believe. Beliefs are more strongly influence by strong leaders and peer pressure.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C said: “that is exactly opposite of what even the religious say. They say belief is a gift and you believe even if there isn’t any rational evidence behind what you believe.”

Yes, they do say that, I know. However, I believe they’re incorrect when you look at the facts concerning even your own beliefs. It’s not possible to choose to believe your name is something other than it is. I can’t choose to believe my username is Ron_C, for example. I can pretend it is, I can even lie about it.. but I can’t believe it. It seems quite evident to me that this is how is with all our beliefs. We have no power over whether we believe things or whether we’re uncertain of them.

Regarding leaders and Peer pressure: The way I understand it, leaders and peer pressure serve the mind as evidence. Good evidence will (and does) outweigh them, but it takes time and proper education for that evidence to become accessible to the mind and hence believed. (That is, it takes a making over of your beliefs about how to form an opinion)

It’s really important to get into the concept of Fallacy. When you understand what “fallacy” is as compared against “sound logic” you begin to realize that while evidence is the only thing that can shape your beliefs, unfortunately, evidence can also be deceptive. The unfair influence of Leaders and Peer pressure fit into this “deceptive evidence” category. Deceptive evidence, usually in the form of deceptive arguments, are know as “Fallacies.”

“I tried smoking because my friends were telling me to.”

This arguments is very very shitty or “Fallacious.” Why? Because it doesn’t necessarily follow that because friends say so, you ought to try smoking. However, we know that the emotional pressure created by peers can burden the mind and coerce ruinous behavior. That specific fallacy even has a name which it shares with the fallacy of following shitty leaders: Ad Populum

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin Douglas Adams wrote a book where the “electric monk” was a significant character. The monk was a robot designed to BELIEVE and take the burden off of people. This highly sophisticated computer was capable of deeply believing several things a day. There are people like that. They find a religion and philosophy and deeply believe until a new idea comes along.

I would bet that the majority of religious people “believe” just in case. They are not really dedicated to a particular religion as much as they are afraid of the consequences if they stop believing. Fear and religion are constant companions. There is the fear of god, fear of having the “wrong” religion, and the fear of you fellow parishioners finding out that their belief is not genuine.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C.. in my experience, I’ve found many who believe what you believe: that others can freely choose to believe whatever they want, utterly irrationally. But what I’m suggesting to you is that you’re completely wrong about this. It is not possible. It’s not possible for you, and it’s not possible for anyone you know.

People either believe something or they don’t. They can’t choose which. It’s an insult to their intelligence for you to claim that someone is believing without a cause for that belief. Do you believe anything without a “fair” reason? You would never admit that you do. Can you believe anything without a reason? No.. So, why would you think others could? Why would you think others do? (actually i know the answer to that question)

This is one of the funniest things… how people can be so quick to claim others are irrational when they themselves have never experienced an irrational belief. Your belief (non-personal, by the way) in the ability for irrational thought in others is equally as (in)valid as the belief of a religionist in their alleged all powerful deity. But its only because you haven’t seen the evidence that I have, that you go on believing that others are somehow able to magically form opinions out of thin air. (the reverse is also true: i only believe others can’t choose their beliefs because i perhaps haven’t the evidence you’ve been exposed to.)

Trust me, they can’t. Or at least, we have less reason to believe that they can than that they can’t. Beliefs only come about through evidence and reason. They never come about by sheer will power alone. Sympathy tells us so.

@Ron_C said: “This highly sophisticated computer was capable of deeply believing several things a day. There are people like that. They find a religion and philosophy and deeply believe until a new idea comes along. I would bet that the majority of religious people “believe” just in case.”

Nah, this isn’t humanly possible. They believe only what they can’t help but believe. They believe only what seems to make sense to them. They reject everything else.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin I frankly don’t understand your problem with my statements. I have an irrational belief, I have claustrophobia and believe that I will die if I go into closed in spaces like MRI machines or submarines. I know that it is irrational, but I can’t stop it. Even now, just thinking about it causes me to be short of breath. The point is that I know it is irrational, and I try to fight it, but it is there.

I think that some people are religious believers in the very same way. Somewhere deep down their beliefs make no sense, but they are there. Frankly, I have no problem with them. My problem lies in the instances where they try to infect me or others with their belief system. I know a lot of really religious people, catholics, Methodists, Mormons and get along quite well with them. I even spent an hour talking to the nice couple that were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m afraid that I might have lead them away from their church. It seems that when they explain what they believe they are quite clear. It is when you ask them why, that things get a little confused.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C When I wrote that.. I was about to edit out the words “You would never admit that you do” because I knew how easy it is for someone to simply claim: “i have an irrational belief.” But I left it in there anyway… sigh..

I have to run for now.. but consider the difference between Irrational and Illogical. There is a difference. You may see what I mean.

Your belief that you ought not enter a cloesd space is a rational decision based on your emotional experience with such places. It’s just like feeling heat and deciding not to put your hand in a fire. Sensation causing awareness of an issue, causing a belief that you may as well skip the activity.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin hurry back, I enjoy a conversation without either party resorting to insults and name calling. From irrational “not in accordance with reason; utterly illogical: irrational arguments.”

Illogical- “not logical; contrary to or disregardful of the rules of logic; unreasoning: an illogical reply.”

So I would say that the meanings are similar but illogical means that there was some thinking involved but the logic was faulty.

Am I to assume that you believe that those adjectives apply to some of my answers?

ninjacolin's avatar

i hurried! :)

@Ron_C that’s how i see it too. (i hate sometimes) The way I’m using the terms are as follows:

Belief – A reasoned conclusion about something. (always based on some kind of evidence or arguments)

Irrational – Something that is intellectually uncaused. A muscle spasm would make sense for this. It refers to mechanical, thoughtless actions and reactions.

Illogical – An intellectually faulty conclusion. A conclusion arrived at through spurious reasoning. For example, “Officer I know I ran over a dog, but it was my birthday!” lol. Bad logic. Errant logic. Fallacy. It’s an attempt at reasoning that… sucks.

So the way I’m using the terms (and i believe these to be the proper ways) beliefs can’t be irrational. People say that all the time, but it’s not technically accurate. Beliefs only ever come about via evidence and the considering of things observed. However, beliefs certainly can be illogical. You can believe something by mistake. For example, if someone lies to you. Or if you see a bun on the counter and you take a big bite only to realize it’s moldy on the other side. You believed it was good enough to eat. Your behavior isn’t irrational. It’s simply illogical.

@Ron_C said: “I have claustrophobia and believe that I will die if I go into closed in spaces like MRI machines or submarines. I know that it is irrational, but I can’t stop it.”

first of all ^^ did you see my extra comments above?

your feelings are material. they influence a logical conclusion that you shouldn’t bother trying to go into closed spaces. just as the fire example i gave above. your belief that you will die isn’t accurate. You have an emotional response that is interpreted as “a fear of death.” But it’s really just a set of emotions that you feel. It’s just like how I get anxious around certain women. I don’t interpret that as a fear of death, though I could rationalize it down to that conclusion. Instead, I just admit that I feel kinda nervous and it manifests in a few different ways.

@Ron_C asked: “Am I to assume that you believe that those adjectives apply to some of my answers?”

I hope I’ve shown what I mean now: Beliefs are always rationalized conclusions. They aren’t Irrational. They can be fallacious, or illogical.. but never irrational. Irrational would mean that the belief was uncaused by anything. But we know this isn’t ever the case in ourselves. Something always causes us to believe, disbelieve, or to be uncertain of every premise.

So, when you said this, @Ron_C: “This highly sophisticated computer was capable of deeply believing several things a day. There are people like that.”

I know that it wasn’t an irrational conclusion that you came to, that people are like that. However, yes, I do believe this is an illogical conclusion. People are never able to believe by will power alone. They need some sort of evidence, whether fallacious or sound, to coerce their beliefs.

They seem like they can. Religionists will often tell you that you can believe by choice. (which is a lie that deceives many) But it’s not actually possible. Beliefs require coercion.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin I have to admit that you lost me for awhile until I got to this part:

“Beliefs are always rationalized conclusions. They aren’t Irrational. They can be fallacious, or illogical.. but never irrational. Irrational would mean that the belief was uncaused by anything.”

I think that we probably should have delved further into the meanings of rational and irrational. So what I understand from your explanation is that people rationalize their belief, therefore, in their mind, their belief is rational. That is a conclusion where we can both agree.

The belief or set of beliefs, to them is rational because it was rationalized by them. To me, the belief or set of beliefs is irrational because, I could not logically come to the same conclusion. I am perfectly willing for people to hold those belief as long as they stay off my back porch and don’t try to have laws passed enforcing them. I also hope they don’t expect me to respect their belief or their logic system. I won’t ridicule them, as long as I am not dragged into the fray.

mattbrowne's avatar


The belief in God can be based on a reasoned conclusion, based on arguments. Let’s take a book as a metaphor and ask, Who is the author of the universe? One possible answer is God. The book contains the rules how it works (works for a multiverse as well). Another possible answer is the self-explanatory universe. The rules in the book ended by there by themselves (emergence). We don’t know which of the two are true. We can just belief one or the other.

An irrational belief would be a young planet Earth with an age of about 6000 years. Or Adam came first and Eve came later literally made out of his rib.

Circular reasoning would be an example of an illogical belief. The Bible was inspired by God. God exists because the Bible says so.

A lot of religious beliefs are neither irrational nor illogical. Like not to steal. Not to be greedy. Or to practice nonviolent resistance. Or love others as you love yourself.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C said: “The belief or set of beliefs, to them is rational because it was rationalized by them. To me, the belief or set of beliefs is irrational because, I could not logically come to the same conclusion.

Perfect. This is exactly what I’m suggesting is an improper use of the term. It’s common, yes, but not proper.

Telling someone: “Your belief is irrational” carries with it the weight of telling them: “Your belief is an idea that no one can believe.” Which is proven false by the fact that they happen to believe it.

Whereas telling someone instead “Your conclusion is illogical (ill-logical)” carries with it the weight of telling them: “I can imagine how you’ve rationally arrived at that conclusion, however, there’s an error in your logic that you’re unaware of.”

“I also hope they don’t expect me to respect their belief or their logic system. I won’t ridicule them, as long as I am not dragged into the fray.”

:) the thing is, you’re imperfect too. the preachy ones only come to your door because they believe you’ve missed out on some crucial evidence about reality that would change your opinion for the better if only you knew of it. The ones who try to pass laws are also simply illogical and deceived well meaning people.

The fray, discussion and debate, is the only place to cure the ignorant. And how can you know who is really ignorant, you or them, without hearing the opinions of others? How can you cure ignorance without knowing where the ill-logic resides?

ninjacolin's avatar

@mattbrowne said: “The belief in God can be based on a reasoned conclusion, based on arguments.”

yes, all religious beliefs are rationally derived. faith is not without reason.

“An irrational belief would be a young planet Earth with an age of about 6000 years. Or Adam came first and Eve came later literally made out of his rib.”

These aren’t irrational beliefs. They didn’t just come out of thin air. They came from that book. These beliefs were coerced. Rationalized. These beliefs are ill-logical. Not irrational. (As @Ron_C pointed out.. you can only say a belief is “irrational” if you add on the qualifier: “to me” whereas a belief can be “illogical” regardless of whether you believe it to be)

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin @mattbrowne now we all sound like lawyers parsing the difference between irrational and illogical. Here in where I stand in the argument. I have been around 63 years and have heard the arguments for these beliefs from the christian and Jewish perspective for the last 56 years. Prior to that I just believed what I was told. I also believed in Santa Claus and, for a little while, the Easter Bunny.

My conclusion after all of this time that deep belief in the truth of the bible and Torah is both illogical and irrational. Frankly, the more I hear about God and Jesus, the less logical it seems to me. I see god, if he exists,, as an irrational, immoral, short tempered mass murders. Jesus, to me, had a god complex, super-ego, and didn’t treat his mother very well. The writers attributed to the books of the bible were the equivalent to Southern preachers dedicated to hell fire preaching and power for their branch of the church.

I choose to opt-out of the controversy. How can you argue for the real truth in the Bible and Torah when they support such horrendous acts and have small truths and proverbs hidden in tales of blood.

All I know for sure is there is no absolute truth or any real logic in either sets of writings.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ninjacolin – It is irrational to confuse myths and parables with historical events. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a parable about the rise of human civilization (the discovery of knowledge and its consequences). Genesis is not a historical event either. It’s a creation myth.

“Myths are about the human struggle to deal with the great passages of time and life—birth, death, marriage, the transitions from childhood to adulthood to old age. They meet a need in the psychological or spiritual nature of humans that has absolutely nothing to do with science. To try to turn a myth into a science, or a science into a myth, is an insult to myths, an insult to religion, and an insult to science. In attempting to do this, young-earth creationists have missed the significance, meaning, and sublime nature of myths.”—Michael Shermer

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ron_C – You mean Martin Luther King got the Nobel Peace Prize because he promoted mass murder and genocide? When was the last time you received a reality check?

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne WHAT?....I’m pretty sure that I never implied anything like that!

ninjacolin's avatar

See, @Ron_C? This is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t use the word “irrational” for the message you’re trying to convey. It confuses/upsets people needlessly.

You will have more favorable results in discussion by simply using the word “illogical” where you currently use “irrational”..

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin so illogical is the politically correct form of irrational? That to me is illogical.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C said: “now we all sound like lawyers parsing the difference between irrational and illogical[...]so illogical is the politically correct form of irrational?”

haha, what i’m fighting for is clarity as well as superior debate and persuasion tactics. i don’t need atheists pissing off every believer out there. pissed off believers make for difficult converts. i’ve not bowed out of the fray. I think it’s a battle that needs to be fought and won over. militant atheists who treat believers poorly do themselves a disservice since their mean methods of dealing with believers actually contributes to the desire for believers to stay believers. All the while, better methods could be employed that would help believers to recognize the sense of our opinions. This is the logic of using this “politically correct” expression.

@mattbrowne said: “It is irrational to confuse myths and parables with historical events. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a parable about the rise of human civilization (the discovery of knowledge and its consequences). Genesis is not a historical event either. It’s a creation myth.”

says you. but those who are convinced that those myths are historical events don’t agree with you. why? because they have rationalized their beliefs in a different way than you have. For example, perhaps they have rationalized them fallaciously. So again, it is only irrational for you. but it is not irrational for them.

Are those beliefs rational? Obviously. If someone can rationalize it, no matter how poorly, as long as their opinion is formed by that effort, then it is a rational conclusion.

However, it may only count as logical if it fits within the known laws of logic. If their rationalizing fails the formal logic tests, then their conclusions are objectively “illogical.”

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin ” If their rationalizing fails the formal logic tests, then their conclusions are objectively “illogical.” I think my head is going to explode!

ninjacolin's avatar

haha, what did i do?

Consider this: Rationalizing
this may help you see what i’m getting at. :)

an example from the link: A man tries to initiate sex with his uninterested spouse, she rejects him but he continues to not respect her wishes, (he wants sex and thinks he might be able to get it) this situation turns into an argument. In an attempt to rationalise the situation, the male reflects on the state of their relationship. Times when his girlfriend could have been more compassionate take precedence in his mind. Out of this, a new rationalised account of his motivation becomes the male’s view of the incident. To avoid coming to terms with fault and to protect himself against feelings of guilt, the blame is shifted onto the female. Thoughts such as “She never shows me any affection and all I wanted is for us to be close” allow the male to have a more positive view of himself. This new synthesized motivation ignores the less palatable reason for the argument.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ron_C – I was referring to your interpretation of the Bible when you said ‘I see god, if he exists, as an irrational, immoral, short tempered mass murder.’ So if this the policy for Christian ministers like Martin Luther King to follow because it’s written in the Bible, how did he end up getting the Nobel Peace Prize? It just doesn’t make sense. If Judaism and Christianity is about mass murder and genocide, how come there are so many rabbis and ministers respected and admired by many people? Have they tricked the public and before we know it, their mass murder is about to start?

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne Two points. First MLK Jr. was more of a humanist than a christian. I know that he was an ordained minister but he was now where as strict as his fundamentalists brothers. Point two, the majority of Christians accept that most of the bible was allegorical and not to be taken as strict fact or history. Christians are notoriously famous for taking there own meaning and lessons from the bible. Dr. King chose to look at passages that favored tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.

Most Christians are very decent people. It is the literalists that we have to look out for. They insist that science is wrong, the insist on teaching the bible in public school, they think the rest of us are going to hell and feel free to tell us that. They are the ones that worship the vindictive god of holocaust and slavery. Not Martin Luther King, not by a long shot.

candide's avatar

As for religious texts, they are ALL, each and every one, written by humans and must be considered in their socio-political and cultural-historical contexts, but that is not to say that because of this they are bereft of religious or spiritual messages that people wish to take from them. Just because religious documents are not found on tablets that descended from the sky is no reason to assume religion is a figment of the imagination. Religion is a real thing; people practice religion all over the world.

mattbrowne's avatar

@candide – Yes, great answer.

WMFlight's avatar

In primitive times if the priests didn’t come through with the miracles, victory in war or a successful harvest for example they could go on the sacrificial alter next season. No wonder they came up with the “God moves in mysterious ways” ploy.
I don’t think Jesus said anything about needing a powerful business corporation to put you in touch with God or that you needed hosing down with incense or that priests needed pretty frocks and unlikely hats but this is basically organised religion. It also thought up the you can behave like a demon for all your life if just at the end you truly say your sorry. Convenient. It’s all man made isn’t it? It must have been a slice of paradise to go to church for some people who were grindingly poor and worked harder than we’ll ever know and had to have families of seven children and upward as birth control was sinful. Quiet, sweet smelling and packed with the flash and glamour of gold candlesticks and painted ceilings. No wonder they went every day.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther