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 Post subject: Episode 58: Faith Heeler
PostPosted: Fri 06 Dec, 2013 7:49 pm 
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Thanks guys; I really enjoyed the episode, it was very interesting.

Just a bit of a disclaimer, but I'm probably about to say something stupid (again):

I've felt lately that faith is less about evidence, hope, trust or belief than it is about submission. It's just that no one seems to actually want to say that. Now I'll ineptly reference a religious text despite knowing very little about it: When I think about the story of "The binding of Isaac" I feel like the act performed would have been done in spite of Abraham knowing it was morally wrong. I feel that way about faith at the moment, it is acting on a "divine will" despite knowing that something is logically or morally incorrect, and doing this as an act of submission. When you look at it from this perspective, it puts more value on "submission to group identity" than "knowing". My understanding is that many religions consider "knowing" as dangerous, and actively advise their adherents against it (among the more modern religions this may only apply to ideas which are deemed "contradictory" in some way). This makes it hard to speak with some people about faith when submission is valued and a justification for this submission is not necessarily required or even desirable. I think this is one reason why you get the "fingers in the ears" or the anger at having their beliefs questioned. The submission to the group identity requires that the individual compartmentalize in order to cope with modern life.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about all of that, and I probably am. :lol:

One reason I find stories of "abandonment of faith" interesting is that they feel like they have a narrative of liberation. Thinking in terms of what I described above, it's like tearing off the slavery of submission of the mind and finding freedom of thought, and those kinds of ideas are very appealing in western culture. It's interesting to hear from atheists because many of them have a story. I have one too, but I won't bore you with it. :)

That aside, I agree the points Peter makes about critical thinking are tremendously important, and I know I could certainly use some advice in applying them effectively. I'll pick up a copy of his book for reading over christmas. Thanks for the recommendation!

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PostPosted: Thu 12 Dec, 2013 2:11 am 
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That story was one that always sat badly with me.


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PostPosted: Sun 15 Dec, 2013 8:00 pm 
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Abandonment of faith is an interesting construct. It makes me think of the Terry Pratchet book "Hogfather" in terms of this:
Quote:
"You're saying humans need ... fantasies to make life bearable."
"NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE."
"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers?"
"YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES."
"So we can believe the big ones?"
"YES. JUSTICE. DUTY. MERCY. THAT SORT OF THING."
"They're not the same at all!"
"REALLY? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET YOU ACT, LIKE THERE WAS SOME SORT OF RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED."
- Susan and Death


Like you said, Greg, being an atheist doesn't preclude morals - but don't morals get pulled around by a group consensus? Personal morals vs. the group's determined moral compass? Isn't that a form of faith rather than something based on evidence? I've bought the book, so I'll read through it and see what it says on the subject.


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PostPosted: Tue 17 Dec, 2013 6:01 pm 
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Terry Pratchett is fantastic, I really love his wit and ability to communicate interesting ideas in clever ways. I definitely agree with the way he presents abstract concepts as "big lies" rather than truths, but I definitely would not call contemporary or historical religion a "little lie" or blanket abstract concepts like justice and mercy as "faith". That's like calling math a faith, which may be true in some sense, but seems silly in a practical regard.

One of the nice things about the point Pratchett makes in Hogfather is that you can consider abstract concepts like justice and mercy as human constructions rather than things intrinsic in the universe. This means they are not sacred and can therefore be grown and adapted as time changes. I see this anyway with most of the modern religions, but I think it happens slowly. Abandoning the sacredness of these abstract concepts just means more freedom in the end, since justice and mercy can be built to serve society rather than the other way around. You can move faster. You don't have to be a puritan to old ways of thinking and you can think more specifically about what would bring the most happiness to the most people. I think that's what religion has been trying to do for a long time, is to use these tools in this way. That being said, I like that people are more free now, we can decide these things for ourselves based on what we want the world to look like, and we can try to convince other people of our viewpoints by using evidence instead of insubstantial religious assertions. We are free to be right or wrong in western society, and that's probably why it's so important that as many people as possible have an open mind and be able to accept when they're wrong based on good evidence and sound arguments. Therefore: science education! That's the way I read that passage in Hogfather, anyway. :)

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PostPosted: Wed 05 Feb, 2014 8:59 pm 
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The book is a good one. I like the concept of the "faith/ belief" thing being a "well I don't know so I'm going to choose this answer as I don't like not knowing." It's an idea.

But, extension of this, who has watched the debate between Bill Nye and the Creation Museum’s Ken Ham?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI


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PostPosted: Fri 14 Feb, 2014 10:38 pm 
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I think you've hit the nail on the head when it comes to group identity. We're a very social ape and being a part of a tribe is crucial to our well-being. I'd probably add that fear is a strong motivator when it comes to faith. Being fearful is something unpleasant so being about to silence those fears from our conscious and overthinkey brains is a valuable ability. Dogma is one way to do that.


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