Social Question

liminal's avatar

What is important, to be aware of, when struggling with apparent conflicts in one’s religious beliefs?

Asked by liminal (7756points) April 12th, 2010

I was looking over a question posed by Prolificus that has me wondering about things one needs to be aware of when faced with dissonance over clashing beliefs or interacting with someone in such a place.

Given I am someone who ponders ideas around Divinity and faith I often find myself wrestling with things that appear to be a paradox or in conflict with my currently held beliefs. I also ponder how to navigate this well.

While certainly this question holds room for expressing specific things that point to why certain beliefs are dissonant (Theism vs Atheism, for example) I am particularly curious about the “what” and the “how” of managing such dissonance, not the why of it’s happening.

For example, some Amish practice Rumspringa, here I don’t refer to the stereotypical shenanigans that are sometimes hyped in the media, I am referring to the underlying process an Amish youth faces when determining whether or not to stay a part of the culture they were raised in.

A more general example would be an adult who grows up believing certain things about sacred texts, proper religious practices, and specific theologies and as they meet with differing attitudes and understandings about belief (or lack of it) they may find themselves questioning things they once knew.

What sort of emotional and psychological things would be important for such individuals to be aware of and sensitive about? What would they want others to understand? How would they want people to respond them?

Maybe you can remember a time, in your own life or that of another person’s life, when you saw the pangs of reconciling or even eliminating beliefs. As you look upon those remembrances are there words of kindness or gentle insight that you would offer, not only to the one facing dissonance, but to those engaging with people facing dissonance?

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76 Answers

unique's avatar

i don’t believe in the divinity of christ, but sometimes i go to church. i go there to connect with the cultural community of my forebears.

for me, acknowledging my anti-christian and anti-religious leanings has allowed me to (mostly) quiet my own judgment and better observe, participate, and even enjoy this way of worship. it is a challenge, but one that is worthwhile, i think.

Strauss's avatar

There was a period in my life when I struggled with the dissonance between tenets of the religion in which I had been raised, and the sense that was made to me by new doctrines, theories or beliefs I came across in my journeys and explorations. At first, I was filled with judgmental and resentful feelings; I was also fearful, for a short time, for the fate of my eternal soul. The judgment and resentfulness were eventually replaced by affection as I came to realize that this was a personal decision on my part, and those who tried to dissuade me were doing this out of a true concern for me. I remember my childhood days in the church with great affection, much the same way that people who leave home at a young age remember the things of their youth with affection.

Cruiser's avatar

I think it all comes back to what is it in your heart and soul that is nourished and strengthened by the beliefs, teachings and mentoring of said religion. A religion can be more than words in a book as I found it was the association to the church and the pastor and neighbors that I found my grounding at that time of my life religion was still able to provide support and answers to my many questions about life. I soon saw that religion ultimately provided more questions than answers and I found the peace and solitude I sought elsewhere outside formal religion. So I offer to look at what is most important to support your spiritual and emotional needs and if they are not being met…move on and keep looking.

nebule's avatar

I often think that humility is one of the highest virtues and could be practised a great deal more in this area. For me, at the moment I have no resolve on where my beliefs lie and whilst this puts me in a…perhaps, unsettled state of mind it also allows me to see that I am humble in my beliefs and I’m not pretending to ‘believe’ in something by committing my hand to the washes of blind faith.

wundayatta's avatar

For me, it always came down to evidence. What is the evidence for this belief or that belief. That was my standard for choosing between ideas. Of course, when I was younger I didn’t have so clear an idea of what I was doing. Back then, it was what makes most sense to me. What explains the world the best and most convincingly.

I would imagine that people who believe have a different standard for making such choices. When faced with contradictory beliefs, I’m sure many of them adopt scientific reasoning as a standard. It seems to be independent of belief, and therefore more trustworthy.

For true believers, it seems like there wouldn’t be much of an issue. What they believe is what they believe and they will believe no matter what. They use the holy book of their religion in order to know what to do in various situations.

I was once researching the issue of why people change religions. I was looking to see if beliefs made any difference in their behavior. Most people who change, it turns out, do so because they marry someone of a different religion. I was mostly interested in those who changed because of belief, not for any other reason. Unfortunately, I never finished the analysis, so I don’t know what I would have concluded. I don’t even remember the research question at this point.

My guess is that most people don’t really struggle with beliefs. They are what they grew up with, unless they drop them entirely. Religion is so much more than belief. Primarily, it is community. I think the role of belief is way overstated. I don’t think many people spend much time thinking about their beliefs. It’s just not all that important to everyday life. Therefore they don’t have to think too much about why they change. Religion has a different basis. It’s not really about theology.

I suspect that people on fluther will feel differently because people here are more intellectual and care more passionately about philosophical and religious and political issues.

Fyrius's avatar

For people facing dissonance and for people facing people facing dissonance alike, I think it’s important to be aware of all the people who exemplify that you can be a good person and lead a happy life whether or not you hold in the beliefs in question.
Compassion, humility, solace, peace of mind, gratitude to be alive – none of these things require you to believe anything that requires faith. There are belief-independent ways to find each. Renouncing a belief does not have to mean saying goodbye to any of those things.

Don’t let religious armchair philosophers tell you otherwise. As a godless heathen who resolves to be as faith-free as humanly possible, I can personally attest to all of the above.

In addition to that, here’s a thought for people worried about losing certain beliefs of theirs.
A man named P.C. Hodgell once said: “That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be.”
I think making the truth your prime ambition makes this sort of crisis a lot easier to handle. It’s okay. You don’t have to hold onto faith, you don’t have to worry about finding new reasons to believe something if the old ones don’t convince you any more. You can question away, and if you break anything, it needed replacement anyway.
Your only concern then becomes: what is actually true?
And if you can detach your feelings from your beliefs that way, you can be content with whatever the answer will turn out to be.

zophu's avatar

It’s important to have an intuitive understanding of how complex existence is.

The problem begins when a child’s perception of existence is simplified with fundamentalist ideas or in some other way. As the child grows, their perception expands, they glimpse the complexity that was hidden to them. But they are not prepared for it.

Their sanity, their functionality, their compatibility with their community—their survival depends on the simplistic view that they no longer truly have. That’s where false-faith comes in . . . in the form of beliefs as stubborn as brain cancer.

There is no gentle way to deal with this; or I should say, there will be great suffering. Because there has to be. It’s a part of coming to terms with complexity. It’s something a healthy person goes through during adolescence, when the mind is more naturally ready for it. If it’s too late for that, there’s going to be damage.

crankywithakeyboard's avatar

We need to be aware that our Creator (however you perceive it) made us with brains and wants us to think and reason through our beliefs.

I have struggled with the idea of the devil, virgin birth, etc. in my Christianity. And I came to the conclusion that I am meant to think about these things and reconcile them with my brain and my interpretation of scripture. And I realize that I don’t have to know the answers.

There is beauty in the questioning.

zophu's avatar

Your “Creator (however you perceive it)” is a simplifier. Don’t you see that?

Humans are the only creators I know of. They are the only creators I believe in. They are the only creators I have faith in.

“I faced rationality, and I defeated it. There is beauty in this.”

Really, @crankywithakeyboard ?

How badly do you need your simplicity? Because it’s those around you that are going to pay for it. Your friends and family, your children—anyone else you effect. They must contend with the complexity of nature if they are to adapt to it. At best, they will forget you; at worst, you will impede their survival.

Find the beauty in questioning that.

evandad's avatar

Most folks come to this fork in the road. Deciding which path to take is something you have to do on your own. Listening to the advice of others is what brought you here. You seem smart and sensitive. You’ll be fine.

Storms's avatar

Pray and don’t hold anything back in your search for the truth. Try to be aware of your desires and how they may be affecting your perception of the evidence at hand.

Trillian's avatar

I struggled for a long time about this. I grew up in a Pentecostal home and at first never questioned what I was taught, though I knew the concept for hypocrisy long before I knew the actual word. I began questioning when I was around 6 or 7 I think. I was beaten severely when I asked if maybe the Indian’s “Great Spirit” were the same god as ours but came to them in a way they could understand. I got another beating for saying that it wasn’t fair that all those people went to hell because they never even heard of Jesus Christ.
I learned about a lot of different religions before I settled on Wicca, which I practiced for 25 years.
I Converted to Christianity about three years ago, but I don’t really fit the mold of “Christianity” either. I believe that creationism and evolution are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I told my mom that if God made the universe, then he neccessarily laid down the laws of the universe and abided by them. (That didn’t go over too well.) I believe that the more we learn about the super string theory, the more clearly we can understand biblical texts. I believe that we are on this earth to evolve to a higher state of consciousness.
I kept all this to myself as I struggled, but I remained convinced that there was a truth to be found and that what the church believed was not necessarily all wrong, or all right. I believed then and now that we can only grasp a small part of the truth. I don’t waste time trying to convince others who believe that we are only here once. I don’t engage in name calling, nor do I let their disbelief shake me from mine. I’m still not clear exactly what I do believe other than I believe we come back again and again. I take nothing for granted and I believe that every religion has a capacity for at least a grain of the truth.
Remember that all the religions were conceived by imperfect men, and as such are themselves imperfect. Remember that you are exactly where you are supposed to be spiritually. Take careful note of those around you and follow up on your intuitions and coincidences. You will be led to hear what you need to hear if you do this.

SABOTEUR's avatar

For me, the most important aspects concerning religion or spirituality is that which can be applied to your life. You can believe whatever you choose to believe, but if the belief has no practical application to your life or serves no useful purpose, what’s the point?

zophu's avatar

@SABOTEUR

You’re right but for one thing. It’s not just one’s life one’s beliefs must be practical for. Others may suffer for your delusion while you benefit. Especially your children. . .

mattbrowne's avatar

That patience is a virtue. Critical thinking takes time. Good insights take time.

Fyrius's avatar

@Trillian
“I began questioning when I was around 6 or 7 I think. I was beaten severely when I asked if maybe the Indian’s “Great Spirit” were the same god as ours but came to them in a way they could understand. I got another beating for saying that it wasn’t fair that all those people went to hell because they never even heard of Jesus Christ.”
Holy noodles, that’s downright child abuse.
Thoughts like that should be encouraged, or at least permitted.

Trillian's avatar

@Fyrius I promise you, I do a lot better with my own kids. My son may be a bit over the top, but he’s coming ‘round, and my youngest, who is ten, just got into a private magnet type school by writing an essay. She’s creatively gifted…
As in @wundayatta question, at the age of three or four she was holding roomfuls of adults captive with her voice alone..

Fyrius's avatar

@Trillian
That’s wonderful. :)

Storms's avatar

OP asked how to think, not what to think. That’s how much of a Simplifier god is.

Fyrius's avatar

You’re the one who suggested praying.

Storms's avatar

@ Fyrius How can you objectively search for answers about faith if you use only secular methods of inquiry?

“I searched for the truth about god, really, I just rejected the idea of utilising anything supernatural outright before I began…”

ninjacolin's avatar

@Storms There aren’t any non-secular methods available for inquiring about faith.

Storms's avatar

@Fyrius What I meant is that the OP asked how to deal with the conflicts in his faith and then people started proselytizing and evangelizing for their own beliefs. Suggesting prayer as a tool doesn’t even make my own beliefs clear let alone push them on anyone—you don’t have to adopt my belief system to try prayer..

ninjacolin's avatar

@Storms said: “How can you objectively search for answers about faith if you use only secular methods of inquiry?”

which suggests that there are non-secular ways to inquire about faith.
but there aren’t any.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ninjacolin – There are non-secular methods available for inquiring about faith. Here’s one example

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_criticism

and a great Dutch Renaissance humanist and a Catholic priest and theologian:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderius_Erasmus

Fyrius's avatar

@Storms
“How can you objectively search for answers about faith if you use only secular methods of inquiry?”
A whole lot easier than you can objectively think about a religion with methods that require you to assume as a starting point that the religion is right. Surely you must see that that doesn’t work.
“Secular” does not mean “anti-religious”. ”Secular” is just a label for everything that is not religious. Traffic lights are secular too.

“What I meant is that the OP asked how to deal with the conflicts in his faith and then people started proselytizing and evangelizing for their own beliefs.”
Yes, that’s bad. Let’s not do that.
You were right just now when you said the OP asked how to think and not what to believe. Yes. This thread calls for belief-independent advice.
And of course your prayer suggestion was a while ago, so I don’t really blame you for the inconsistency. I’m just here now to point out why it is an inconsistency.

“you don’t have to adopt my belief system to try prayer..”
Of course you do. If you try praying without first convincing yourself – or at least imagining – that someone is listening, it feels like you’re wasting your time. In order to take prayer seriously, you need to take the underlying fundament of a god seriously too, at least for the moment.
You can pray to other deities than yours of course, but it doesn’t work without some deity or another.

You can, of course, learn things about yourself from prayer that are still valid when you drop the assumption that anyone was listening. However, you can also learn these things from non-religious forms of introspection, or by just talking to yourself (that’s my own preferred method), and then you wouldn’t have to bias your thinking by using a method that already presupposes an answer to the very question you want to think about.

And can you imagine saying “dear Allah, I’ve been wondering if you exist or not and I don’t know how to find the answer” without feeling just a bit silly?

zophu's avatar

fuck it, I’m Rastafari now.

WHAT’S THIS? MY RELIGION IS NOT RECOGNIZED BY FLUTHER’S SPELLCHECKER!? JAH DAMN YOU! . . . AHHHH!

mattbrowne's avatar

@Trillian – Thanks for sharing your personal story with us. I think your kids got a great Mom!

And by the way, all thinking people struggle all the time. Whether it’s about faith or science. Only narrow-minded people know they won’t change their mind for the next 80 years and everything they think is true now will always be true and they never have any doubts.

Scientific progress isn’t possible without questioning ‘truths’. I think the same holds for the realm beyond science. But even this is just a belief and I might think differently about it in 30 years.

Well, 20 years ago I thought atheism was wrong. I changed my mind. I think it’s the right thing for people who live a good fulfilling life because the answers atheism offers works for them. Different people will find different answers to the ultimate questions of reality and ethics. We should appreciate and understand the differences. Unfounded intolerance is wrong.

Here’s another great Dutch philosopher

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinoza

and once he said: ‘I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.’

So when it comes to evolution deniers for example I really try hard to avoid ridicule. Although I have not yet succeeded in changing the mind of even one creationist, I have learned a great deal during some of the debates. It has helped me to get a better understanding. A few things I learned. Many creationists think

1) Unexplained means inexplicable
2) Evolution is an atheist theory
3) Accepting evolution will force them to give up their religion and their belief in God
4) Humans lose their special place in the living world
5) We can’t observe evolution today, for example in a lab

All 5 statements are wrong.

Fyrius's avatar

@mattbrowne
Did any of this religious inquiry about faith ever cause anyone to actually change their mind about faith?

I have my suspicions that there’s more rationalisation than rationality involved in that sort of enterprise.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – You mean academic religious inquiry about faith, like higher criticism?

zophu's avatar

You should do what my people do when they discuss faith and religion. Pass the Ganja.

zophu's avatar

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari#Ceremonies

It’s called a Reasoning. Didn’t make that shit up.

zophu's avatar

I believe that may be one of the very few effective non-secular methods of questioning religion, @Fyrius

Fyrius's avatar

Getting high on cannabis?
I’ve never had cannabis, but if a drug-induced epiphany leads you to reject religion, I’m going to go out on a limb and suspect it’s for all the wrong reasons.

zophu's avatar

Cannabis doesn’t always blow your logic out of the water. Generally, the most valuable thing about getting high on whatever, is the change of consciousness or state-of-mind. It allows a fundamental new perspective on just about everything. Don’t bash getting high. It may be how our species evolved from simple primates.

zophu's avatar

http://www.scribd.com/doc/9730417/Hallucogenic-Mushrooms-and-Evolution-by-Terence-Mckenna

If this is possible, then true epiphanies from drug-highs are possible.

zophu's avatar

Probably the best thing you’ll ever read that has an illustration of a horny shrew demon on the cover.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – The answer is yes: many people actually changed and change their mind about faith. And even this can be studied in an academic way. We just need to read texts of people like Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Marin Luther or Desiderius Erasmus. Or take Immanuel Kant’s book ‘Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason’ and its immense and lasting influence on the history of theology and the philosophy of religion. One of his most prominent works is the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, an investigation into the limitations and structure of reason itself. Kant (a Protestant) suggested that metaphysics can be reformed through epistemology. He suggested that by understanding the sources and limits of human knowledge we can ask fruitful metaphysical questions. The grand questions of speculative metaphysics cannot be answered by the human mind, but the sciences are firmly grounded in laws of the mind. (see Wikipedia).

Here’s the example of Noah’s Ark outlining the influence of higher criticism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_criticism#The_influence_of_higher_criticism

zophu's avatar

It’s more correct to say that there are always good ideas within non-secular ways of thought than to say that there are nothing but good ideas in secular ways of thought. I’m sure good reasoning can exist there.

The most dangerous aspects of religion aren’t for the individual that believes it; it’s in the communities that are unreasonably moved by it. I don’t see why people couldn’t find ways to believe in a holy trinity while at the same time understanding the limits of reason, I guess….

mattbrowne's avatar

@zophu – Switching off critical thinking is dangerous everywhere whether it’s religion, metaphysics, new age spiritualism or alternative medicine. There are good and bad examples everywhere.

Fyrius's avatar

@zophu
“Don’t bash getting high.”
Point taken.
Despite being a Dutch person, I know very little about getting high.

@mattbrowne
I see… well, that’s good.
But here I’m going to be stubborn again: if what these “higher critics” use is reason, then even though they’re religious themselves, the methods of inquiry they use are not religious methods, as you implied. Maybe it would be too much to call them completely secular, since it’s still a field that concerns itself with how to read the bible right, but at the very least, higher criticism blurs the distinction. I certainly wouldn’t put it forward as a “non-secular method for inquiring about faith”.

As a footnote, since “secular” is defined as ‘not specifically religious in nature’, “non-secular” is effectively a double negative. I’d rather just say “religious” instead, it means the same thing.

zophu's avatar

@Fyrius Well, it’s 4/20 so today’s the day to do some weed if you’re going to do it anytime soon :)

ninjacolin's avatar

@Storms and @mattbrowne oh! i misunderstood. Storms meant that you have to get involved/participate with a religion in order to examine it fully. Which would be an impractical amount of work.

Storms's avatar

@ninjacolin No.

@Fyrius No.

When you come home and your door is ajar, you don’t have to presuppose the presence of an intruder to venture a concerned “Hello?”. Neither do you have to determine the identity of the person you suspect may be there before you do so. It could be your mother, a sweaty-toothed madman or it could be a breeze that left your door open.

Thus, you don’t have to accept any specific reality to try prayer as a tool in your search.

ninjacolin's avatar

hi fyrius

prayer is a specific reality to try.

Fyrius's avatar

hay ninjacolin.

@Storms
Cool story bro.

To be fair, it’s true that in both situations, most people would be biased towards the statistically improbable presence of someone invading their privacy. But that’s pretty much where the parallelism ends.

Prayer, as it is usually done, takes you quite a bit further down the rabbit hole than a concerned “hello” does. Serious prayer would be the equivalent of entering your house, seeing no one there, and without knowing if there’s really anyone there or not, having an extended one-sided conversation with an imaginary burglar you assume to be hiding somewhere. You can’t do that without some part of you assuming there’s someone listening.

I must say that if, unlike the religious people, you can pray with the same honest curiosity of someone exploring a house, you have my heathen blessings to go for it. Concentrate on the phrase “is anyone there?”. If you experience anything that can reasonably be interpreted as an indication that someone heard you, raise your assessed probability of a listening god accordingly. If nothing happens, reduce your assessed probability of a listening god accordingly.

But if you’ve always been told and have always believed it’s normal for burglars to be in your house at all times, burglars who are so good at hiding you can never see them, who are so good at picking locks they never damage your door, who are so good at tampering with records no security camera can capture them, who only ever steal things you’ll never notice are missing, and who will kill you if you stop believing in them, and you’re finally starting to think all of that might not have been entirely true, then talking about it to the same hiding burglars whose presence you’re reconsidering is not exactly the most sensible course of action.

Now let’s drop this metaphor, because making it resemble the subject is way too much work.

Ron_C's avatar

I think struggling with a religious faith is normal. The only danger is rejecting a false belief with one that is even further removed from reality for example a Mormon becoming a Jehovah’s Witness.

I was born, raised and attended Catholic school. The only true thing that I remember the nuns teaching me is that if you graduate and go to a secular university your faith will be tested and you may loose it. I can attest to that, my faith is completely wrong. It was satisfyingly replaced by the scientific method of hypothesis, theory, and revision until a statement can unequivocally be stated as law. I would rather have science and reason over blind faith any day.

ninjacolin's avatar

okay, a few things that are important to know while paradigm surfing:

1 – There’s a real danger of being wrong. Really, it’s worth it to take figuring things out seriously.
2 – To “know” something is true doesn’t prove that what we believe is true is actually true. Just because I think I’m right, doesn’t mean I actually am. And just because I have a feeling something is true, doesn’t mean it is. See #1.
3 – All intentional human behavior (essentially all the stuff we’re commonly judged for) is the result of the things we believe. This means that as long as we really don’t know how to do better, we won’t. Unless by complete fluke, of course. What I’m trying to say with this is: relax, we’re not expected to “know” the truth. We’re expected to be searching for it’s semblance.

Fyrius's avatar

@Ron_C
Congratulations! :D

zophu's avatar

@Ron_C I’m not even sure what blind faith is, exactly. I have faith that I go with without proving it’s correct, but then I question that faith constantly—that’s what keeps it so reliable. (Reliable not so much in coming to conclusions about the world, but in causing me to have useful tendencies when trying to come to conclusions.) I guess blind faith is just a belief that you keep no matter what? That seems so obscure but I guess that’s what people do. we are sick…

Ron_C's avatar

@zophu blind faith is when you belief something that is without proof and is proven to be wrong, the ideal that the earth is only 6000 years old or that the earth is the center of the universe. A sure sign that a person is operating on blind faith is when they resort to prosecuting people that disagree or try to show the error.

That’s who early scientists were burned as heretics or why apostasy is a capital offence in Islam.

ninjacolin's avatar

another important thing to be aware of when struggling with apparent conflicts in one’s religious beliefs, I would say, is that blind faith doesn’t really exist. It’s a misnomer.

Faith = Confidence, that’s all. If you have faith in something, you simply believe and/or have confidence in that something. It could be a complexity of things or a single thing. For example: “I have faith that god is on my side” = “I believe god is on my side” = “I have confidence god is on my side.”

@Ron_C said: “blind faith is when you belief something that is without proof and is proven to be wrong, the ideal that the earth is only 6000 years old or that the earth is the center of the universe”

It’s not possible to believe something that is dis-proven to you. That is, if you believe some weird notion like that the earth is 6000 years old, you believe it for reasons: You’ve been convinced by the evidence you’ve personally observed about the matter.

All beliefs are the products of evidence we’ve individually taken in. To believe or have faith in something that isn’t real is simply a matter of mistake or fallacy, not free will.

zophu's avatar

@ninjacolin Thanks, I was having trouble with that.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin “You’ve been convinced by the evidence you’ve personally observed about the matter.” I believe that the earth is much older than 6000 years because I have been to a museum. If a person believes otherwise it is either because he has lived a sheltered life and never heard of carbon dating or the effects of water and erosion or, he has been completely brainwashed buy fundamentalist and is probably beyond redemption. (Redemption in he intellectual sense, not the biblical)

zophu's avatar

@Ron_C I don’t think there’s such a thing as intellectual damnation.

Ron_C's avatar

@zophu “I don’t think there’s such a thing as intellectual damnation.” What would you call being locked in to a set of beliefs and never open to anyother information. I once told my company president that I believed that anyone that rejected an idea “because we never did it that way before” should be fired. If you do not progress in your understanding and learn new things you can only regress, There is no such thing as being able to hold your place and never change. You change whether you try or not, the question is in which direction will you go?

zophu's avatar

@Ron_C I’d call it neurosis, or some kind of mental sickness.

Ron_C's avatar

@zophu o.k. you use the scientific term. I grant myself a little literary license.

zophu's avatar

@Ron_C Well, what I mean is, you don’t condemn a sick person. I guess within a business environment, you do based on their incompetence. But that’s not something to apply to society as a whole.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C i’m going to pass on a compliment I received a weekend ago for something that got me in a good bit of trouble just minutes later: I like the cut of your jib!

“If a person believes otherwise it is either because he has lived a sheltered life and never heard of carbon dating or the effects of water and erosion”

Exactly the case. A brain will believe anything it is taught. It doesn’t discriminate between the things it was taught. It just believes it. For example that Evolution should be banned from schools. If a brain learns this is true, it runs with it.. The brain will cease to believe it if and only if it begins to believe the opposite. Without that conversion (and the processes that lead up to it) beliefs stay the same.

Education is the cure for ignorance. Those who disagree with us are simply not informed. Christianity spread so far exactly for the reason that it was based around conversion. Allegedly it all started with just one guy who decided to try to change people’s minds about stuff and he was successful.

I agree @Ron_C that since conversion requires time, energy, and focus there will always be many who avoid it all together and remain in ignorance to the latest trends in thinking. Let’s just keep in mind that every individual has the capacity for change.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin that reminds me of what the nuns told us. They said that we had to be on guard because when we leave school and go to secular schools and college “our faith will be tested”. That is probably one of the few things they said that were true.

I learned that much of the religion and history they taught were either outright lies or a whitewash of events. Things like popes were infallible when addressing religion and that the crusaders were saints trying to free the holy land.

I got education and changed my mind about the whole thing. I am now a successful former Catholic.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
Once again, I have a feeling you’re oversimplifying.
Beliefs are not only determined by acquired information, at least not for people who are not perfect rationalists (read: practically everyone, but to different degrees). There are also biases, and the many ways in which those find expression, that keep people from being convinced by one sort of evidence and make them jump to conclusions based on another.

There is a cartoon stereotype of creationists who say transitional fossils are hoaxes, who dismiss carbon dating as too unreliable, and who insist genetic and physiological similarities could mean anything, but who then hear of a diver who found something that looks like a chariot wheel on the bottom of the Red Sea and are immediately convinced that this is conclusive evidence that every word in the bible is true.

Of course that’s exaggerated, but us humans really are capable of that sort of irrationality. Sometimes people just set their minds to believing that P, for reasons that have nothing to do with evidence. And then all the information in the world is going to fall on deaf ears.

This isn’t limited to religious fundamentalism, either.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you were lied to in catholic school. You were taught what others believed to be the truth. I think this is really important to keep in mind. Otherwise, you can become very bitter against those who seem to have lead you down a garden path when in actuality they were trying their best to teach you what they really believed was accurate, good, important and best.

Their incompetence is what leads you astray, not their evil intent. Just like you, they would abandon their beliefs if only they were convinced that it was a good idea. Lacking that conviction, however, they are incapable of making that choice.

It’s hard to blame someone for not knowing better than they did sooner. Otherwise, you too would be considered equally as “guilty” for believing them in the first place.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Fyrius, I don’t think I’m oversimplifying this time. :) I count biases as pertinent acquired information. Forming a fresh opinion at 1:27pm requires focus on a set of premises that generate a conclusion. At 1:26.9pm, if that brain happens to be focused on it’s biases, then the decision reached at 1:27pm will be colored accordingly. If at 1:26.9 that brain happens to be focused on bias cleansing information, then the decision reached at 1:27pm will be colored accordingly.

Brains are opportunists about forming conclusions. They’ll form any conclusions based on the most readily accessible information. If that happens to be your biases then so be it. That’s the nature of Fallacy: To ignore (whether intentionally or not) pertinent premises. It’s your job as a thinker to get your brain thinking as clearly as possible, otherwise your conclusions will be very creative but not necessarily inline with reality.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin I think you must be a very nice and forgiving person. The issue I have with the nuns is they may have believed what they said but they should not have tried to indoctrinate children.

We never mentioned religion with our kids until they had questions and were old enough to understand. I think things like the bible, Koran, and religious studies should be rated R for mature adults.

zophu's avatar

@ninjacolin I agree.

I feel like the contempt people hold for religion feeds it more than works towards extinguishing it. It’s not until “blind-faith” is considered a mental illness (or a product of mental illness) that cultures will leave it behind. It is something to be treated with patience and understanding, not anger and passionate debate.

To argue against it directly, no matter how logical your points, gives it more credence than it is naturally worthy of. You give it the power of defense, like a child denying his bedtime. Once the conflict is dropped by the parent the child feels unattended, loses all motivation and quickly falls asleep.

Not that there aren’t places for the logical points of argument, but they should be conveyed in similar ways logical truths are conveyed to any other delusional person. Very rarely with anger, always with patience and understanding.

We have to move beyond religion. Create widespread levels of health that are only possible without religion. That’s the whole point of moving against religion anyway, right? To move away from it? Beyond it. People will either keep up or be left behind.

There will be countless victims of foolishness caused by religion, there have been for thousands of years, but to fight religion directly only fuels the sickness. Even if some religion tries to convince the world that the Apocalypse has descended upon us all, thus inspiring actual global catastrophe, to rebel aggressively would only be met with crushing counter-aggression.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just trying to make peace with the fact that I’m fucking surrounded by these insane people. got to get out of Bible Belt

ninjacolin's avatar

@Ron_C just as you have become convinced through your life experiences that children should not be indoctrinated by nuns, every nun has become convinced through their life experiences that children should be indoctrinated.. specifically by their opinions. And yes, opinions regarding the bible and koran and other religious studies.

For all we know maybe they’re ultimately correct. There are many cases of people who left various religions for such-and-such excellent reasons only to rejoin those very same organizations even more fervently in later years.

Conviction is a binding force. Those nuns can’t help but believe that they’re doing the very best thing for children just as you can’t help but believe the opposite. You’re both bound to your convictions by the weight of the evidence you’ve been exposed to and comprehend. You’re both innocent and potentially way wrong in your behavior towards children.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin I don’t believe that there is a comparison between teaching children how to think and teaching them what to think. I submit that a strict religious teaching especially along with the famously cruel discipline of the nuns is child abuse. There is a vast difference between the way I handled my children’s “philosophical” versus my own “religious” education. If my children were punished, it was for what they did, I was punished for what amounted to “thought crimes”. No comparison.

ninjacolin's avatar

what kind of crazy nuns were you dealing with?!

Ron_C's avatar

Oh, you must be either non-catholic or under 60.

ninjacolin's avatar

That’s a very emotional circumstance that you came through and while I don’t at all wish to minimize the damaging effects of misguided guidance, as you were receiving from those nuns, misguided guidance is still exactly what it amounts to.

They thought they knew what was best for you, so they acted on it. What else would you have them do? If someone is truly deceived and convinced into believing that a ridiculous form of “tough love” is the right way to treat a child, they can’t just pretend they aren’t deceived. They have no choice at that point but to act according to what they believe is best.

Ron_C's avatar

@ninjacolin a priest asked me if I was going to send my kids to the local catholic school and I said, “no, I’ll beat them myself”. He said,“we don’t do that anymore we have secular teachers, no nuns anymore”. I told him, that’s not good enough, we have a fine public school were we live. My kids turned out fine although they did have to move from Missouri where the schools are in the hands of right wing idiots that seem to believe that only white, christian kids can do well in school. Some areas of the country are really backward.

zophu's avatar

Sucks when you can’t hate something you really, really want to.

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