Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Comment #13: -- I Get It (Religious Beliefs)

This mini-essay was originally inspired by a now-quite-old video, by FactVsReligion:

In it, she explains her attempts to conceive the position of Religionists, who profess belief in things that are nothing less than fantastical; often non-sensical; usually incoherent; and always superstitious. How can they really believe such nonsenses?

I do get it -- i’ve been in that world, and i’ve tunnelled my way out, so i have some appreciation of what’s going on in their minds -- they don’t really believe what they say they believe. What they call “beliefs” are not really beliefs – they don’t determine actions, unless those actions are politically persuasive.

When i say i believe in dogs and trees, i have a reliable, testable idea of what dogs and trees are, so that i can recognise them. This is what makes it meaningful to say that i believe in dogs and trees.

When they say they “believe” in something - a god, a heaven, whatever - all they are really saying is “i have been inculcated with a will to believe that this notion ‘X’ is true”. They don’t actually believe it. And, of course, with many of the things that they say they believe in, they can’t (but that subject's for another mini-essay), which is why they so easily get emotional in an attempt to defend their ‘belief’ in it.

Religious people really don’t believe what they say they do. Real beliefs inevitably determine behaviour; and people care whether what they believe is true. Is there anyone in the world who does not mind being thought stupid/deluded? A belief is something that is thought true, so if your belief turned out not to be true, you’d care.

But Religious people seldom care.
I, for example, worked out that i should no longer propone Christianity by my affiliation with it, because its claims are falsehoods, and it does great damage to society. But, initially, i turned against it because i realised that the only thing about any Religion that is true, is that it’s false.
In comparison, you can debunk a Jehovah’s Witness’ crazy shit till you’re blue in the face, and they’ll still leave your doorstep with that stupid psycho-killer grin, tell you Jesus loves you, and that they’ll pray for you, and go on their merry way.

These people are not retards. Seriously. They’re not. Well, maybe a bit. But Antitheists like myself are often tempted to think that all of the Religious must just be plain retarded in order to claim all the rubbish they do, and to conduct all the egregious rituals that they conduct. But it’s not illogicality that causes them to do such things – their actions are not based on beliefs – they are based on associations with the behaviour – emotional associations.

They call it ‘spirituality’.
This is how superstitions usually work. And it’s also how indoctrination works (but that’s for another mini-essay, too). Superstitions continue to see people side-step ladders and genuflect (whatever’s your mental poison) even when they know there’s no logical means by which their behaviour could influence their experiences.
They are borne of desperation – “we’ve got to try something”. And so they repeat the ritual – sometimes merely an inherited cultural habit – indefinitely.
The most striking example of this desperation is prayer - people get down on their knees, clasp their hands together, shut their eyes, and mumble incantations, in a pathetic attempt to prostrate themselves before a superior power that just doesn't exist.

But here’s the crux of the matter – the element that causes the trouble – people treat their superstitious behaviours as if they really are beliefs, rather than things they would like to believe. There are all kinds of superstitionistic charlatans ‘selling’ hope (I’m thinking of quacks, specifically). But hope doesn’t get anyone anywhere, unless it’s hope in something real.

Emotional defence of claimed beliefs leads people to behave in extraordinary ways, to defend their superstitions. They don’t respond as if it’s something they believe – they don’t respond logically – they respond emotionally – “that offends me”, for example, or “why can’t you just let people practice their [no matter how hateful] beliefs in peace”.

These are not retaliations that employ logic – they are meant to bully the subject emotionally, to get them to back down, regardless of the cogency of their arguments.
Nobody really gets too upset when they’re told tossing salt over their shoulder doesn’t work, unless they think it really does. Or when there are tens, hundreds, thousands, even billions of people around the world who say they believe the same superstition as you do. Then, a strong feeling of favourability toward that belief is cultivated, urging you too to declare its truthfulness. Hence the fallacious sentiment “if so many people believe it, you can’t seriously say it’s not true”. Peer pressure can be a terrible thing.

This seriously brings into doubt the idea of ‘Religious beliefs’ at all. If they’re not really believed, at least by the majority (and their situation does outweigh that of the minority) then we shouldn’t call them Religious beliefs – we should call them Religious pretences. Or maybe some other name. But we should not call them Religious beliefs, because they are not believed.

A far more recent video, on the subject, by DarkMatter2525, which got this mini-essay finished and published:

Also by DarkMatter2525, on the subject of belief in heavens:

'If Heaven Really Existed'

Addendum 1:

The awful consequence of this cultural pretence of claiming beliefs that are not believed, is that the tiny minority of lunatics who do actually believe those things – the people who rise up the ranks of superstitionistic organisations, and gain the power to lobby governments, for example, can claim all the others who profess belief, as if they really do.

This is compound to the fact that people affiliate themselves to superstitions without even professing beliefs about them. The last UK census turned out a 54% ‘vote’ for Christianity, and yet only a 4% assertion of Christian beliefs e.g. ‘Jesus existed’!

Because of this, the symbolic “power-hungry,self-aggrandised bigot in the stupid fucking hat” gets to claim tens of millions more people than actually agree with them.

People who are claimed to think wine literally turns into blood as it enters the Communionist’s mouth: 1,000,000,000

People who actually believe the wine literally turns into blood as it enters their mouth: 1000? Less?

Addendum 2:

The realisation that Religious beliefs are actually Religious pretences renders the barbarism of recent acts, such as Islamists have been executing in response to criticism, as perverse as can be.

These people are clearly not behaving rationally. They are behaving like addicts, addicted to the Dawkinsian GerinOil.

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