It's not about truth

post by Eneasz · 2010-12-06T19:43:11.014Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 15 comments

A rather sane article about the actual purpose of religions and why they persist among the rational & intelligent.

http://blog.evangelicalrealism.com/2010/12/04/getting-religion/

A bit of a Hansonian bent as well. "Genuine objective truths can be complicated and uncomfortable, but what’s worse, they confer no particular social advantage "

15 comments

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comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2010-12-07T11:27:03.505Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The reason why we tend to want people to convert to atheism is that it will make their beliefs more correct (and hence they will make better predictions). So if they don't actually use their beliefs to control anticipation, then what's they point of converting them?

The article continues to assume that people need to be atheists, even after it's demolished its own reasons for doing so.

Teach people that objective truth really does matter, then they will have the motivation to be atheists.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-07T23:35:19.083Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I still think there isn't any good reason to be an atheist.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-12-08T04:49:45.619Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't quite follow - there isn't any good reason to be what?

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-08T04:55:09.718Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Secular. Unchurched.

comment by RobinZ · 2010-12-08T04:59:42.976Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't imagine you're talking about political secularism, so I'll mention that I find myself intensely uncomfortable attending services. It feels to me like an endorsement of belief systems and epistemologies I find false and to some extent harmful. I consider this sufficient reason to be unchurched, unless I am mistaken as to your meaning.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-08T05:12:23.003Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

\

comment by Desrtopa · 2010-12-08T00:32:25.101Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it makes more sense to ask whether there's good reason not to be.

comment by jmmcd · 2010-12-07T04:07:37.163Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Apart from the parts which are wrong, there wasn't a single sentence which isn't already explicit in Dawkins and Dennett. (I haven't read much Hitchens so can't speak for him.)

It’s a popularity contest of ideologies: whichever side can win the most votes (converts) becomes the dominant (subjective) truth. Believers understand this on at least an instinctual level.

On the contrary, most believers would strongly disagree that religion is a popularity contest or that beliefs are subjective.

People do not embrace or reject religious doctrines on the basis of whether they are objectively true, they decide almost exclusively on the basis of the social implications. People will embrace and promote the beliefs that enhance the social dominance of their religious community, and will reject arguments, factual or not, that diminish their community’s influence and/or that would threaten their own individual standing within the community.

Tell that to the Christians thrown to the lions, the heretics tortured by the Spanish inquisition, or the Christian saints who achieved sainthood through martyrdom (to choose just some Christian examples).

What people are looking for are worthwhile communities that have at least a viable and respectable position in society. More importantly, people are looking for worthwhile communities in which they themselves can comfortably fit in and be respected participants.

I hate the weasel word "people". Some people might well be looking for these things. But "people" are just not that homogeneous.

In the end though, this is easy to agree with:

This leaves us with two missions: (a) to create communities where ordinary people, not necessarily science-minded, can feel comfortable, welcome, and important, and (b) to put social pressure on believers to give them enough of a nudge that they can overcome their existing social ties and uproot themselves and become members of the new, non-superstitious communities.

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-07T13:33:41.790Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

On the contrary, most believers would strongly disagree that religion is a popularity contest or that beliefs are subjective.

They would state this, but they behave as though it's a popularity contest. Note the section you quoted explicitly says "Believers understand this on at least an instinctual level" which implies they may not on a conscious one.

Tell that to the Christians thrown to the lions

Again, you yourself quote the original as saying "almost exclusively".

Most people do not pursue Christianity with the fervour of those defending it against an oppressor. I note you are having to draw on historical examples to try to counter a statement about the present day.

comment by jmmcd · 2010-12-07T17:41:17.363Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

They would state this, but they behave as though it's a popularity contest.

I don't fully agree, but the divergence between real beliefs and stated beliefs, in religious matters, is a very important one.

Most people do not pursue Christianity with the fervour of those defending it against an oppressor. I note you are having to draw on historical examples to try to counter a statement about the present day.

Ok I'll try to stick to the present day. The fact that most people end up in the dominant religion of their community is much better explained by the parent->child influence than by the society->individual influence. If people mostly choose their religion based on societal factors, then why do we see stable religious minorities, even when it is a disadvantage to be in a minority? Why, to pick a nice uncontroversial example, don't lots of Palestinians convert to Judaism? There are good partial answers to this question, but I think it still calls the hypothesis into doubt.

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-07T17:50:26.184Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ok I'll try to stick to the present day. The fact that most people end up in the dominant religion of their community is much better explained by the parent->child influence than by the society->individual influence. If people mostly choose their religion based on societal factors, then why do we see stable religious minorities, even when it is a disadvantage to be in a minority? Why, to pick a nice uncontroversial example, don't lots of Palestinians convert to Judaism? There are good partial answers to this question, but I think it still calls the hypothesis into doubt.

OK, I'm finding that a lot more convincing :-)

What I got from the original linked post was that it was about the effects of there being minimal penalty for irrationality compared to the social (or familial) penalty for not being religious. Since rationality has won so big that Western civilisation suffers the effects of too much food, the living is relatively easy so people are freer to believe any old rubbish to fit in. (And I've lost the link to where I first found someone stating this idea, and would welcome anyone's assistance finding it.)

comment by Eneasz · 2010-12-07T18:06:18.682Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps Hanson's This Is The Dreamtime

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-07T18:12:03.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That wasn't it, but point 2 states it very well: "Rich folks like us have larger buffers of wealth to cushion our mistakes; we can live happily and long even while acting on crazy beliefs."

comment by Desrtopa · 2010-12-08T00:36:11.379Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Most people do not pursue Christianity with the fervour of those defending it against an oppressor. I note you are having to draw on historical examples to try to counter a statement about the present day.

That's because they're not defending it against oppressors. If they were, they would tend to become more fervent.

comment by Nornagest · 2010-12-08T21:39:34.963Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A large proportion of Christianity's stories about itself fit into an oppression narrative. The extent to which actual Christians take them seriously seems to vary, but at least a substantial minority of the religion's adherents really do seem to behave as if they're defending it against oppressors -- albeit perceived intellectual and cultural oppressors, not physical ones.