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mattbrowne's avatar

How many people believe in the belief of God, but necessarily believe in God?

Asked by mattbrowne (31595points) February 24th, 2010

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?

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81 Answers

Silhouette's avatar

Me, I don’t believe in God but I believe in belief. People need to believe in something. Love, family, self, decency, something.

Jennifries's avatar

I’m agnostic, but I have enough religious friends and family members to believe in the power of belief… That is, the strength they receive from their belief in their God, however ‘God’ manifests to them.
As for how many of them believe purely in the belief itself? I have no idea, but I would be willing to believe it’s a fairly high number. Something along the lines of ‘God’ is so hard to really put into ideas that I think it’s easier for some to simply believe, without specifying what that belief is of.

Great question, btw!

ragingloli's avatar

What if this is true and they believe in the belief of god, but believe that this belief in the belief of god is actually a genuine belief on god, does this turn the belief in the belief of god into a belief in god?

Jennifries's avatar

@ragingloli I think my head just exploded.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ragingloli – Do you know that I know that you know the answer to your question?

cookieman's avatar

I’d buy that. Many people I know fit that description, including my wife.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I do not. Obviously religion can potentially have positive effects on the human psyche, otherwise it would not have survived natural selection of memes. Belief can be a very powerful tool, and people can become much stronger and better people in the light of their beliefs. However I do not think this is enough to justify defence of religion, because it is not the only memeplex that can provide such benefits.

In my personal experience, I think I did many things the way I did because of my beliefs, but that does not justify those beliefs. I still believe myself to be a good person, even a better person, now that I have rejected the idea of a god. I would be quiet and allow religion to go uncontested, but the benefits of belief in a higher power can become much more pure and stronger when you lose that belief and begin to believe in yourself.

I think that humanity should be gradually weaned off religion, and learn to live without it. It has brought us a long way and aided our rise to dominance, but hopefully we are reaching an era where we are advanced enough to recognise the world for what it really is and act accordingly. I credit humans with the ability to rise above religion, and I find any statement that we ‘need’ a particular set of beliefs insulting.

Oh, and then there are the not-so-desirable effects of religious beliefs.

davidbetterman's avatar

These are what you call hypocrites.

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – Do you think that humanity should also be gradually weaned off aggressive forms of atheism?

LostInParadise's avatar

Belief in belief sounds a bit cynical. It seems that these people are saying, “It is okay if I don’t believe in God, but things are better off if others believe, so I will help them by going through the motions.” What we need is a secular spiritualism.

Cruiser's avatar

I agree with what Daniel is saying, and I myself am kinda in between what he is saying. I don’t believe in the God almighty or even a higher power but being raised stout Catholic I do understand the value of believing in a God or higher power. It brings a sense of purpose to an otherwise unpredictable life in a chaotic world. This belief in believing also enforces a skill set of morals that helps create balance in ones life and community. All good. But I do not think you need to believe or even believe in believing to have a good quality of life.

I do not pay attention to the loud mouth hand wavers as they tend to believe you gotta believe or burn in hell. I’ll take my chances thank you.

ragingloli's avatar

I know that you do not know if I know if their belief that their belief in the belief of god is genuine belief in god turns it into a belief in god because I myself do not know if their belief that their belief in the belief of god is genuine belief in god turns it into a belief in god. You would know that I do not know if you knew if I know or not.

Trillian's avatar

@mattbrowne Is it possible that these non-believers experience such a complexity of belief/non-belief that they themselves are not entirely cognizant of their lack of belief? I can tell you from personal experience that I have a difficult time figuring out exactly what it is that I believe.
I want to believe in a god. On the other hand, there are Christians that I know who dismiss evidence of the dinosaurs, which to me seems ludicrous. I believe that we as humans are hardwired to need to believe in something. Is it possible that the ones you’re talking about started out believing as children because that’s how they were taught, and now it’s simply force of habit? Maybe over the years they’ve been given pieces of evidence that contradicts what they believed so strongly as children, and they even “accept” the evidence as incontrovertible, but maybe think ‘OK, but this at least can still be true.” “Maybe the bible isn’t completely accurate, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t here, or that this philosophy is invalid.”
Do you see what I mean? Is it possible that they are unaware of the contradiction, and if questioned, would they cling to the statement of belief?

BoBo1946's avatar

Personally, believe in God and His Holy word, the Bible. Personally, do not put my faith in the hands of loud, money seeking TV evangelist, or any Church. My walk with God is a personal daily walk. Those who want to believe in a belief as Matt stated, people who are atheists, agnostics, etc., that is their business. There are a lot of wonderful people in this World that are not Christians. So many so called Christians, with their hypocrisy, turn off Christianity too so many people. See it all the time. Some of the meanest and most obnoxious people on “God’s Green Earth,” are people in the Church. Bottomline, never put your faith in people. They will disappoint you eventually, or in most cases, often.

Today, after so many years of being disappointed with religion, the Church, evangelists, preachers, etc., my faith is more spiritual rather than religious. I’m not an All-American Christian, by any means. Probably, would be classified as a good “water boy” on the team.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I believe that there are people who strongly believe in a deity. I personally do not. There are those who go through the motions and claim to believe; some are doing this for social or political reasons, others are following Pascals Wager. Pascal contended that if one believed and was wrong, a bit of time was wasted; but if one refused to believe and was wrong, an eternity was lost. I consider that flawed logic, since any omniscient deity could see through any such gambit. I prefer to be any honest non-believer and live my life as harmlessly and ethically as I can. If there is an afterlife, I rest my case on that.

DarkScribe's avatar

I have never met anyone who truly believes in a god. I have many many who pay lip service and those who invest in “just in case” insurance, but no true believers. A true believer would be immediately apparent in their day to day actions and interactions with society.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Trillian – I don’t think many of the young-earth creationists just believe in a belief. They really seem to believe in a magical God without any kind of critical thinking. At the other end of the spectrum I also think that the intellectual believers like Russell Stannard, Alister McGrath, Ken Miller or Paul Davies seem to believe in God after decades of critical thinking. To me the belief in the belief applies to people who don’t really want to think about it too much. Or have opportunistic motivations. If you want to become a Republican state senator you better show up at church.

Faith is not just about ancient texts. Theology evolves in the same way as science does.

mattbrowne's avatar

@DarkScribe – Most intellectual atheists I know don’t truly disbelieve in a god, because the non-existence of a god is not a fact. They don’t believe in a God, but are not 100% sure.

wundayatta's avatar

As a theory, this is thought-provoking. As a practical matter, it is ludicrous. There is no way of ever verifying externally whether people believe or believe in belief.

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”...

In other words, this theory means nothing in the real world. It explains nothing. It predicts nothing. It is unverifiable. In short, it is like the concept of God, itself. I think this is just an intellectual joke. Are you having us on, @mattbrowne?

As it happens, I do not believe in belief. Or, since that is a ridiculous, self-contradicting statement, I have no idea what belief is or what it does or how it is useful. Kind of like the premise of this question.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@DarkScribe said: “I have never met anyone who truly believes in a god.”

We’ve met, and I believe in God, not god. But the problem arises when Atheists try to hold me to a god of their own description, or one as described by a particular religion. I probably don’t believe in that god any more than you do.


Excellent discussion prompt. I think the concept of a “belief in a belief” is called dogma. And that beast wags its tail in every endeavor of humanity.

Zaxwar91's avatar

I agree with @mattbrowne. I myself am not an athiest because i believe in something, its just not what alot of other people believe in. Should it matter what someone believes in, or does it matter that they just believe in something. Just because i dont believe in God, as most Christians believe him to be, does not mean that i dont believe at all. Usually the belief in belief is not even considered believing in some religious circles but is immediatley classified as Athiest. But thats not true. Because the belief in belief is still believing in belief and that in itself is believing in something, even if its not the same God that everyone else believes in.

kevbo's avatar

This question reminds me of (college football coach) Lou Holtz’s quote about the four things everyone needs. and David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech (part of which I just used in another response) stating:

”... in the day to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing… or some inviolable set of principles is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.”

Personally, I don’t know where I fit on that spectrum. I was a hard core Catholic until the dogma stopped making sense in my life. I can’t say I ever felt like there was no g/God, but surely lost faith in the Jesus narrative. Now, I believe pretty solidly that there’s a spiritual component to our lives, but it’s more about exchange of “energy” for lack of a better term and religions mainly serve to dress up that energy.

I can say for sure, though, that Catholicism is very much about belief in belief. Catholic priests talk all the time about how it is the one, true faith and the only way to Heaven. People get nutty about “keeping it Catholic” when it comes to schooling and other prominent Catholic institutions that parallel secular ones. On the flip side, “belief in belief” also helps explain for me why so many Catholics pick and choose the dogma that suits them (e.g. discarding abstinence until marriage) while still claiming a Catholic faith.

This also makes me think of “The Golden Compass” and the majesterium’s role of telling people what to think. I believe (ha!) there’s a parallel to that in real life, and that we are given certain chants (consumerism e.g.) which help manifest our current reality.

stump's avatar

I believe in God. I also believe that living a religious life (i.e. attending regular services, observing religious holidays, trying to adhere to convictions of right and wrong) is good for you generally. I know studies have shown that people who go to church regularly tend to live longer. So I guess I believe in belief.

kevbo's avatar

Obviously, I haven’t put as much thought into this as Dennett, but I think the last criticism you cite misses the mark. I don’t think evangelicals believe in God any less and are insecure in the presence of athiests, but I do think they are threatened by lack of belief in the worship of God. If the evangelical’s God is one of judgement, this to me better explains evangelical behavior.

CMaz's avatar

My hand is raised. :-)

I think more would see it that way. If they were not so programed to believe that there was a bolt of lightning with their name on it.

mattbrowne's avatar

@BoBo1946 – I like your approach :-)

mattbrowne's avatar

@wundayatta – A joke? Well, I think Daniel Dennett is quite serious about it.

fireside's avatar

I think that far more than 10% of people who profess a belief in God are being honest about their feelings. But I think that most people naturally come to this belief after first believing in belief.

I can use my own belief as an example, I grew up believing in God, but not knowing what that meant and just seeing that others around me seemed to be uplifted by their belief so I studied the writings and grew to a personal understanding of what it meant to believe in God.

Then I got older and started seeing a disconnect between what I felt should be the actions of someone who believes in God and the actions of people in my community that professed the same beliefs.

So I went on my own path of disinterest and found that i never lost a feeling of connection with my soul. There are many ways that people practice opening the connection with their soul whether it be dancing or music or meditation or praying or serving others.

That led me back to my belief in my soul and, necessarily, back to my belief in God.
Like @BoBo1946 said: never put your faith in people. They will disappoint you eventually, or in most cases, often.

My belief is even stronger now that it no longer has to do with the actions of others because we are all fallible and can forget to act in accordance with the teachings of religion and our own personal understanding of ethical behavior.

BoBo1946's avatar

@mattbrowne thank you Matt!

mattbrowne's avatar

@kevbo – Thanks for sharing the link. Yes, there is a spiritual component to our lives and more and more atheists seem to discover this too. Spiritual voids create emptiness and depression.

Berserker's avatar

Well yeah, organized religion itself proves that the belief, or the concept thereof, does exist. I always figured that long before I ever even considered any actual deity in which to believe, and I still don’t.
Believing in something often compliments some other need rather than the defined belief itself, and it doesn’t just have to be the Christian god.

evandad's avatar

The question was so confusing I spared myself the story behind it. Anyone can believe what they want as long as they don’t try to force it on others.

CMaz's avatar

You can force it on me if it includes this.

candide's avatar

You wrote an awful lot of words, but after reading them all, I am still not sure I understand your question… Some things you seem already to have answered and somewhere I have missed what thing you want answered

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mattbrowne Do I think people should be weaned off aggressive forms of atheism? That depends on what you call aggressive. My dream for the future is for all religious views to diminish though, because religion does not need to be an issue. It is quite possible, and in my opinion easier, to live an ethical, fulfilling, valuable life without religion. As people are weaned off religion active atheism will naturally decrease, because there will be nothing left to argue against. When you ask a person from my version of the future if they believe in gods, they would respond “believe in what?”

I honestly don’t think religion needs to be a part of any life, although losing your religion is a traumatic experience and I do not wish every believer to go through that. I participate in religious discussions to promote a successful and satisfying lifestyle through a lack of belief. Once this is recognised by the general public, there will be nothing left to discuss.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@mattbrowne you said ”...weaned off aggressive forms of atheism?”
um, when were we on this formula to be weaned off of?
because I think humanity should be weaned off clinging on to religion.

Trillian's avatar

@mattbrowne that would explain about some people that I’ve wondered about before. But I feel like you’re leaving some of the people out of the equation. I think the confusion and ambuguity I was thinking about applies to a lot of people just because of all the alternate information with which we are all bombarded. We have the History channel all up in our grills day in and day out showing us archaeological evidence to the contrary of what we were taught in sunday school, and other shows that validate some things. I can well understand the desire to cling to something from the early belief system and at the same time being unable to reconcile it with empiric evidence being presented. I think this is contributing to the spiritual hunger that I mentioned in another post, and ultimately a lot of people may fall into despair and depression, maybe even be compelled to acts of desperation.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@mattbrowne Most intellectual believers I know don’t truly believe in a god, because the existence of a god is not a fact. They believe in a God, but are not 100% sure. (I just reversed your statement and now I sound exactly like the guy in your details, which means that his statements have about as much merit as yours do a.k.a. if you are having issues with his ideas, you should examine yours.)

flo's avatar

Whatever helps people to not do bad things is fine.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@flo there’s a vote of confidence for religion ~

ChaosCross's avatar

I’m too tired to enter a typing party with anyone, but as far as my opinion goes I believe in a very literal God.

candide's avatar

Initially I thought this a rather inane question, and I still do, but the discussion is far better.

@ChaosCross I have read some of your comments on other threads and just wanted to ask, do you mean “literal God” as in a big guy with a long beard who floats on clouds in a white robe and has angels about him, or do you simply mean a dictionary definition of what a god means, i.e. omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

My karma ran over your dogma?

wundayatta's avatar

@mattbrowne I guess I didn’t understand. Is he saying that people use belief as a strategy to get folks to take political action or to bind folks together? Further, that people do this because they believe that this strategy will work?

Well that’s a hypothesis that is testable. You could use two different methods of persuasion to get people to take an action. One encourages people to believe, and the other simply uses data to persuade people. You would randomly assign people to each group, and see who is more active after the interventions.

You’d have to define the nature of belief very carefully. There would be a number of analytical problems to solve, but I bet it could be done.

That way you don’t have to sort out whether people believe or believe in belief as a kind of normative thing. Hmmm. Maybe the experiment wouldn’t work. You still don’t know if the people in the belief group believe or believe in belief, and you can’t tell it the people in the control group don’t also have beliefs that motivate them to action even though they didn’t receive the belief intervention. I suppose you could design a questionnaire designed to tease out these issues.

I still think it’s a concept verging on the absurd, and I can’t see how it really helps anyone do anything.

mattbrowne's avatar

@candide – I’m a bit puzzled by what you mean by an awful lot of words. I summarized Dennetts claim and then added a quote from his interview with the Guardian. He speculates that perhaps less than 10% of the people who proclaim their belief in God actually do believe in God. I find that hard to believe. I think perhaps only 10% of the people who proclaim their belief in God just believe in the belief. So how many are there really? I was asking for other opinions. This is what Fluther is about. And sometimes it involves more than a few words. Does this help?

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – How do explain the extremely low depression and suicide rates of the Amish communities? How could atheism work the same way?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I think humanity should be weaned off clinging on to fanatic forms of religion as well as clinging on to fanatic forms of atheism. Both slow down human progress. And sure, not being sure goes both ways. Only fools believe in absolute truth. Religious or atheist.

CMaz's avatar

As long as we need each other. We will always have the need to not feel alone.

Even when we are alone.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Trillian – As I said earlier theology evolves in the same way as science does. Some sunday schools however seem to remain stuck in the past.

mattbrowne's avatar

@wundayatta – In one of the videos on Daniel Dennett tells Robert L. Kuhn that nonbelievers told him confidentially that they just believe in the belief in God asking him not to mention their names publicly. I’m not sure where the 10% figure comes from, but perhaps he was talking to 100 people and only 10 told him that they really believe in the existence of God. Daniel Dennett is a very smart guy and a non-militant atheist which I really appreciate. We need to be careful with statistics, though. I guess a real scientific study is required to come up with more reliable numbers. There seem to be none. Therefore I was asking for your opinions.

Trillian's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m not exactly sure what you mean by theology evolving. Do you mean like how the Catholics can now eat meat because the Pope said it was ok? I haven’t been in Sunday School for 40 years, but this thread has been making me remember lots of things from then. I don’t know how much thought is put into the lessons they give children, or how they would decide “We won’t teach that any more.”
I remember hearing the Old testament stories as a child and being afraid for myself because the men in them killed children. When I asked my mom about it, she was very complacent and had a kind of “that’s what they get” attitude.
I won’t go into all my own baggage her, but I can remember from a very early age knowing the concept of the word “hypocrite” long before I knew the actual word. I can remember thinking about lots of the people in church who were mean and crabby and I always thought stuff like; “Why are they even here? they don’t act happy and joyous, the way Christians are supposed to act.” When I asked my parents they tole me basically that I wasn’t allowed to question adults.
I wonder now if they were the people you spoke of, if it were a a matter of form for them, or something else. I think they’re just a much bad press for Christianity as the over the top nut jobs looking for sin to point a finger at. Just going to church no more makes one a Christian than standing in a garage makes one a car.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Trillian – Giving up rain gods or tribal gods in favor of a cosmic lawmaker or divine wisdom would be one example of evolving theology. Giving up a god of the gaps is evolving theology. Another example would be the search for new answers to why questions as a result of new scientific findings, like why does God play dice with the universe? Since you mention the Pope (I’m not a fan of him by the way) he endorses big bang theory and evolution. Compare this to the house arrest of Galileo. Something must have changed. I see this as evolving theology. There are some interesting books written by about the subject.

Trillian's avatar

*told me. I can’t believe that got by me.
@mattbrowne ok. Yes, that makes sense.

CMaz's avatar

I am God.

josie's avatar

Since so many believe that God exists, then I guess it would be foolish to deny the existence of the belief. But lots of folks believe stuff that in fact is not true. The human consciousness is capable of holding a “belief” without proof or evidence of its validity. But the question is sort of like saying “Do you believe in the belief that there are Martian aliens in our midst”. Some people think so, thus the belief exists. It happens, however, that the belief is false.

BoBo1946's avatar

@ChazMaz Loll.. “two rules in my household: number one, I’m God! Number two: when in doubt refer back to rule number one!” Actually, a friend of mine dad is a preacher and he has that on his wall.

CMaz's avatar

That’s the way I role!

We have to stop the redirection. We control our future. And our faults are not in the stars but within ourselves. That points back to me. Me being God. :-)

fireside's avatar

@ChazMaz – That reminds me of one of the teachings from the prophet of the Baha’i religion:

“Success or failure, gain or loss, must, therefore, depend upon man’s own exertions. The more he striveth, the greater will be his progress. We fain would hope that the vernal showers of the bounty of God may cause the flowers of true understanding to spring from the soil of men’s hearts, and may wash them from all earthly defilements.”

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 81)

mattbrowne's avatar

@ChazMaz – If you get along with Jim Carrey you should audition for his sequel called Bruce and Chazmaz Almighty. You’d make a wonderful team. And I thought polytheism disappeared.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Luke 17:20–21

fireside's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies – And you could go back even further (2500–4000 years ago):

“1. Some wise men, deluded, speak of Nature, and others of Time (as the cause of everything); but it is the greatness of God by which this Brahma-wheel is made to turn.
11. He is the one God, hidden in all beings, all pervading, the self within all beings, watching over all works, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver, the only one, free from qualities.

12. He is the one ruler of many who (seem to act, but really do) not act; he makes the one seed manifold. The wise who perceive him within their self, to them belongs eternal happiness, not to others.”

(Upanishads vol. 2, Svetasvatara-Upanishad)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Are you familiar with my favorite philosopher… Bhartrihari?

I think he’s got a very good handle on how we relate to Brahman. It’s fascinatingly similar to Biblical principles of the Word.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mattbrowne I’ll hazard a guess that the low depression and suicide rates of the Amish are a product of the simplicity and lack of societal pressures in their lifestyle. I find that visiting modern farming communities can be peaceful and relaxing, and I imagine it would be the same there.
They live the way they do because they think the outside world holds temptations and evil, and God wants them to live in the manner they do. Obviously this works for them, but I don’t think it is a good reason because it is false. An atheistic outlook would encourage them to look beyond a simple wish or command of a higher power to recognise the values of their style of living and use that as the focus for maintaining their lifestyle. When the teens head out for their Rumspringa, they would return for family, the relaxed lifestyle, and the simplicity rather than having any guilt about succumbing to the world etc to bring them back.

candide's avatar

@mattbrowne I meant no offence, I just could not understand where it went and how it formed a question – you have summarised it more clearly; and it has fostered a good discussion. There are only so many words the brain can interpret in the course of an evening, you know….

As for God, do you think it matters to him whether people believe in him or just the belief? I don’t think it matters to me, but then, I’ve never been one to go and tell people what to do, they usually don’t listen anyway

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – I agree, there are other factors explaining the relative health of the Amish and spirituality is only one of them.

fireside's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies – that was a very interesting link. I want to spend more time looking at it, but there was one part that struck me:

The Brahminic view of the cosmos put forth in the Vedas is one of constant and cyclical creation and dissolution. At the dissolution of each creative cycle a seed or trace (samskâra) is left behind out of which the next cycle arises. What is significant here is that the nature of the seed from which each cycle of creation bursts forth is expressed as “Divine Word”

This is very similar to something from the Baha’i writings:
Each of the Divine Manifestations has likewise a cycle, and during the cycle his laws and commandments prevail and are performed. When his cycle is completed by the appearance of a new Manifestation, a new cycle begins. In this way cycles begin, end, and are renewed, until a universal cycle is completed in the world, when important events and great occurrences will take place which entirely efface every trace and every record of the past; then a new universal cycle begins in the world, for this universe has no beginning.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 54)

It is also strikingly similar to Toynbee’s view of history as a rise and fall of civilizations.
He related this rise and fall of civilizations, and their phases from genesis through decay, as though humanity was a wheel traveling up an ever increasing slope. I can’t find a reference for it right now, but remember that his view of this ever increasing slope was of a spiritual nature.

flo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, I see how it looks like it it is a vote of confidence for religion. But would you like a serial killer or all kinds of practicers of smaller crimes or just non- criminal, unethical activities become better human beings or not? I do, even if it has to take religion to bring it about. I don’t care if a person starts worshiping a tree, and that makes her change her ways. If she says it is because of the tree, who cares? I don’t.

flo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir and everyone else,(is there a way of addressing everyone with one word btw?)
re. the questions that get an answer, get to the list of “new activity” right? Are you finding anything unusual in last few days?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Yes, I’ve noticed more questions dealing with a spiritual nature recently. I actually predicted such a thing more than eight months ago HERE

DarkScribe's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Yes, I’ve noticed more questions dealing with a spiritual nature recently

I have been away for a few months and since returning have noticed less than when I left last year. There will always be debate between God Botherers and atheists.

flo's avatar

I think you are in the wrong thread, my latest whispered posting is about the “new activity” list.

essieness's avatar

Oh geez. I didn’t even read all the details, but I feel like you read my mind. I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately. It’s like, even though all signs point to “no” as far as the existence of God is concerned, I just can’t let go yet. I want to believe.

mattbrowne's avatar

Which raises the questions of course

How many scientists believe in the belief of the non-existence of God, but are not atheists (or agnostics)?

Suppose you’re an ambitious junior physicist at some university where more than 95% of the senior physicists are known to be atheists. I think peer pressure goes both ways.

seazen's avatar

Late, as usual – but count me as one of them – I think. More or less.

flutherother's avatar

I don’t know what people mean when they say they believe in God. I don’t think that anyone with knowledge of the reality of God could utter the phrase, it would be as stupid as saying I believe in the sun. What they may mean is simply I am one of the tribe which is almost the opposite of what they think it means.

mattbrowne's avatar

Thanks for your comments. I’ve decided to no longer get involved in any of Fluther’s questions about religion or atheism. I had a huge fight with the Fluther moderators with a very disappointing outcome.

seazen's avatar

Wow – really? That’s news to me…

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, very disappointing story. See my PM.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Sorry to hear that Matt. I can think of countless users who have been less respectful and thoughtful than you with their responses.

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