How Solid Is Belief?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released a(nother) poll about belief (pdf) in America. In this one, the conclusions reached are that people’s loyalty to their particular denomination, and even the beliefs of their denomination, are not sharply delineated, and are in fact somewhat amorphous.

There are a couple of interesting findings in the poll. One is the indication that a significant number of Christians attend services in different churches, and even in different faiths, on a regular basis, not just when on vacation or attending funerals and weddings. Only 37% claimed that they attend services only at one place, while another 35% attended regularly elsewhere, including 24% who attend services of faiths different than their own. The numbers are much higher for Protestants than Catholics (who, if I remember my childhood catechism correctly, used to be taught that it was a sin to miss Mass on Sunday).

In addition, of those who attend church less regularly, it’s more than likely that they would also attend somewhere other than their own church. 59% of those who attend once or twice a month or even yearly went church shopping, 40% of which went to churches of different faiths.

What conclusions can be derived from this? Well, I would say it’s arguable that many Christians are unhappy with their churches, and even their particular faith. They’re experimenting with other churches. Perhaps they were born into one faith, find it unsatisfying, and are actively searching for another. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of convenience (e.g. the synagogue is next door). Or maybe it’s just the transient nature of American life, with job changes, re-location, etc. Black Protestants seems to be the least loyal, for some reason. On the whole, however, Catholics are either happier with their faith, or feel more constrained, or something in between, because they’re sticking with their churches more so than Protestants.

But, either way, if belief in gods is true, if religion is the “only” way to a proper, fulfilling life, as promised by most religions and beliefs, then why is the true religion, the true denomination, the true church not more obvious? Why are people drifting, apparently aimlessly, from church to church to find the right church? Why are only 37% of all Christians attending church regularly at one stable location?

Another interesting factoid is just how far out and divergent from mainstream Christian beliefs some of their actual beliefs are.  Look at this table:

24% believe in reincarnation, a Hindu or Buddhist belief, 26% find spiritual energy in inanimate objects (animism), 25% believe in there is power in the alignment of celestial bodies to affect their lives (i.e. astrology), and 16% believe that someone can be cursed by the “evil eye”. So what does that say about Christian faith and beliefs? These are all beliefs that are antithetical to most Christian dogma.

A cynic such as myself would say that if you can convince yourself to believe in the patent, wholly unsupportable nonsense of Christian dogma, such as virgin births, resurrections and miracles, or burning bushes that talk and people that turn into pillars of salt, your mind has been tenderized to accept almost anything. Time to take it and boil it in the Superstition Stew. Frankly, I really can’t think of any other explanation for why people of faith would diverge so far from the tenets of that faith. Nothing supernatural sounds implausible.

It doesn’t help that there is a latent distrust of science, and an increasingly disturbing rise in anti-intellectualism in America. Most Churches are willing, albeit subtle, advocates of both phenomena, because science and intellectualism are threats to superstitious beliefs, and without a ready willingness to embrace superstition, no church could last long selling theology. Most theists will pay lip service to the need for science, and will, of course, bask in the increase in living standards attributable almost wholly to science, while at the same time perpetuating the religious superstitions that undermine a proper understanding of science. So it’s no surprise that these same people  might believe that their lives are affected by the alignment of the planets, karma, or the disposition of a neighbor with the evil eye.

I read these poll results and can only shake my head. It’s one thing to have a belief in something that provides a source of strength and stability to your life, and this has always been one of the selling points of religion. Believe in Christ, and have no further worries or fears, despite the hardships in your life here on earth. But when you see the almost transient nature of religious beliefs, with adherents constantly drifting around looking for the right place to hang their spiritual hat, it’s impossible to be convinced of the truth that religion asserts.  When a sizable number of Christians are blending their traditional beliefs with a mish-mash of New Agey mumbo-jumbo, in the process picking and choosing like Cafeteria Catholics, it seems  that the veracity of religious theology is questionable,  at best.

Once the Stew is boiled down, and ladled into the bowl, there’s really not much more there than the equivalent of “Step on a crack and break your mother’s back”.

91 thoughts on “How Solid Is Belief?

  1. I think it’s a result of Pluralism, and indicative that societal and individual beliefs are trumping dictated, dogmatic beliefs. We’ve seen a number of interesting beliefs expressed by Christians which is not part of the Christian canon like how people of different beliefs, even atheists, can go to Heaven. You could also argue that this has been going on for a long time. People have been twisting or ignoring altogether Christian scripture in order to fight against slavery and for equal rights.

    Now although this sounds good to us that the slavish mentality of adhering to dogmatic dictates may be eroding fast, the problem still remains that people still feel SOME belief is necessary and that belief is still esteemed so highly (which also means non-belief is looked upon so unfavorably).

  2. adherents constantly drifting around looking for the right place to hang their spiritual hat

    That’s one of the dirty little secrets that churches prefer would remain in house. Churches love getting transfers from other houses of worship, but they hate contributing to the transfer pool.

    the problem still remains that people still feel SOME belief is necessary and that belief is still esteemed so highly

    These problems will likely remain for some time yet, but more people are questioning both propositions and rejecting them.

  3. I concur with you the religious’ contribution to anti-intellectualism, but I think that as usual, you’ve unfairly pinned the blame on religion. Nearly every major cultural force today speaks a subtle message that wants us to turn off our minds and accept: consumerism, patriotism, nationalism, pop culture, political partisanism… every one of those things as practiced in America encourage anti-intellectualism, not just religion.

    ..a significant number of Christians attend services in different churches, and even in different faiths, on a regular basis, not just when on vacation or attending funerals and weddings… I would say it’s arguable that many Christians are unhappy with their churches, and even their particular faith. They’re experimenting with other churches. Perhaps they were born into one faith, find it unsatisfying, and are actively searching for another. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of convenience (e.g. the synagogue is next door). Or maybe it’s just the transient nature of American life, with job changes, re-location, etc. Black Protestants seems to be the least loyal, for some reason.

    Or, perhaps believers aren’t as closed-minded and intolerant as they’re often made out to be? Or, perhaps Jesus was onto something when He said that in the last days, many would turn away? Why does the fact that these folks are branching out automatically translate to something negative in your mind?

    I get mixed messages from the atheist community. On one hand, they criticize Christians for in-groupism and intolerance of other faiths. But then, when a study comes out suggesting that a significant number of Christians aren’t like that, the open-minded, ecumenical hypothesis is not even mentioned.

    ..if religion is the “only” way to a proper, fulfilling life, as promised by most religions and beliefs, then why is the true religion, the true denomination, the true church not more obvious? Why are people drifting, apparently aimlessly, from church to church to find the right church? Why are only 37% of all Christians attending church regularly at one stable location?

    The Bible does not make any sort of guarantee or promise that Jesus is the only way to a proper, fulfilling life, and states very clearly that suffering will accompany the believer. Even so, as we saw with Greta’s post, asking why “the true religion” isn’t more obvious is no argument against the existence of what you dub “true religion.” Moreover, these findings are consistent with the Biblical claim that in the last days, many will fall away. I think a lot of the time, atheists have a misconstrued idea about Jesus’ entire message: Jesus Himself says that the majority of those who call Him Lord do not belong to Him. To me, that makes perfect sense, and explains quite nicely many of the organized religions’ problems.

    24% believe in reincarnation, a Hindu or Buddhist belief, 26% find spiritual energy in inanimate objects (animism), 25% believe in there is power in the alignment of celestial bodies to affect their lives (i.e. astrology), and 16% believe that someone can be cursed by the “evil eye”… These are all beliefs that are antithetical to most Christian dogma.

    I agree, but,

    So what does that say about Christian faith and beliefs?

    Absolutely nothing. Again – the factoid you just mentioned says absolutely nothing about Christian faith and belief. On the contrary, it does say something about particular people who identify as Christians. More, that factoid also supports the hypothesis that the majority of those who call Jesus Lord do not belong to Jesus – which again – says absolutely nothing about Christian faith and beliefs, but does say something about a certain subset of people who identify as Christians. You gotta separate the people from the belief to make a right judgment.

    Frankly, I really can’t think of any other explanation for why people of faith would diverge so far from the tenets of that faith.

    Well, start from a neutral position, instead of looking for facts that prove a predesired conclusion that speaks negatively of the subject.

  4. But, either way, if belief in gods is true, if religion is the “only” way to a proper, fulfilling life, as promised by most religions and beliefs, then why is the true religion, the true denomination, the true church not more obvious? Why are people drifting, apparently aimlessly, from church to church to find the right church? Why are only 37% of all Christians attending church regularly at one stable location?

    The thing is, the true church is obvious to you if you believe that you are part of the true church. One of the things that some Christians do is to define the criteria of what constitutes a Christian so that the 80+ percent of the population of the US that identifies itself as Christian is much less than that.

    For instance, if you are a southern evangelical who interprets the Bible literally, then the percentage of the population in the country that is truly saved plummets.

    In trying to anticipate what a religious believer would say about why is the right church or belief not more obvious, I expect they would retort that we already know in our hearts which is the right way and that it is not the religion’s fault if a person chooses to be obstinate. True faith requires commitment, and not everyone has it in them to make that commitment.

    When you have a nation with a large population such as the United States with a diverse religious marketplace, each religious denomination will contain a spectrum of people with the die hards on the one end to the loosely committed on the other end. The true believers will always remain while those with the loosest commitment will dabble in other denominations or even in other faiths. You see the same thing with atheists and agnostics. Some formerly religious people such as myself will eventually become atheists, while others who were either raised in a non-religious environment or were formerly religious people who became atheists will turn to (or turn back to) religion.

    • Great comment, Tommykey. So true. Specifically,

      The trick is maintaining that delicate but necessary balance that enables us to all co-exist in a free society so that we do not degenerate into a collection of warring tribes.

      That’s why I love reading you. Whereas many atheists spew the same hate and dissension they criticize Christians for, you, my friend, have a truly progressive outlook that shows you’re not intolerant of those who think differently. Though it’s a consistent pattern throughout history, the “warring tribes” thing is exactly what particular members of the New Atheist movement has produced. It’s more of the same “us vs. them” mentality that’s gotten us into this mess in the first place. We are all one.

  5. The trick is maintaining that delicate but necessary balance that enables us to all co-exist in a free society so that we do not degenerate into a collection of warring tribes. The price of living in a free society is resigning yourself to the fact that you have to live with people whose beliefs and actions you might consider to be unholy or irrational.

  6. You have to remember that most theists don’t understand what it is they’re supposed to be believing, they have no concept of what they profess to have faith in, so moving from one church to another, one denomination to another, really isn’t a big deal. They’re not looking for a church to be faithful in, they want a place they feel they belong in a social sense. Since they’re really not wedded to any particular theological view, they can easily adopt a wide range of religious beliefs so long as it comes along with an emotional feel-good congregation.

    Is anyone surprised by this?

    • Absolutely not. For instance, I’ve suffered through some pretty awful drinks in the past but that’s all there was at certain events. I still managed to have fun and get buzzed, and that’s all they’re doing.

  7. Is anyone surprised by this?

    No. Not at all.

    First, it seems that a large subset of Christians (if we can stick to Christianity – this may not be true of Muslims) have very little notion of exactly what Christianity is. I’m not sure if that’s because of stereo-typical American self-indulgence that keeps them from ever thinking about the beliefs they were brought up in, being more concerned with football scores, Paris Hilton and American Idol results, or if it’s because their beliefs are not important to them, the social connection being the main thrust of their commitment to religion. So it’s very easy to find atheists who have far more knowledge of the beliefs of Christians than Christians do themselves.

    Second, if either of those are the reason, then it makes sense that they are ripe for atheism, if atheism could somehow find a substitute for the social connection. I suspect that once the logic of atheism (i.e. lack of belief in gods) is understood by people without strongly held irrational beliefs in things for which there is no evidence, and their social life is left intact, they would shed the supernatural from their lives like some snakes shed their skin.

    • Muslims don’t have the same issue, mostly because there aren’t thousands of different denominations inside of Islam like there are with Christianity. I would think that Muslims, assuming the availability of different congregations in their area, are just as likely to jump between them, but are more likely to keep to either the Sunni or Shiite side of the fence. It’s sort of like the Christian version of Catholics and Protestants.

      I remain firmly convinced that the reason the vast majority of people claim to be Christian is because they think it makes them look good to the neighbors. They are “social Christians”. Most never attend church, most have never read the Bible, they have only a vague notion of what it is they’re supposed to believe and it has little, if any impact on their day-to-day lives. In reality, they’re already atheists, just those who are terrified to admit that they have no strong commitment to their claimed religious beliefs.

      • By the same token, how many of those self proclaimed “real Americans” do you think have read the Constitution or bothered to study much of US history?

        • Probably just as few, they don’t really care about the Constitution or history, they’re satisfied to live in their own little fantasy world, believing what they want to believe whether it’s true or not.

          But isn’t that exactly what religion is for most theists? They couldn’t care less what their church teaches, they just want to believe what they believe and pretend that they’re surrounded by a bunch of other people who share those beliefs, even if everyone has, in reality, other ideas entirely.

          It’s a big group delusion, nothing more.

  8. S.I.

    I wonder if this has anything to do with believers trying to find a comfortable middle position between faith on the one hand, and rationality born of a more secular outlook on the other. Is religion becoming more and more likened to that old life insurance policy secreted away in the back of the silverware drawer? The one your crazy aunt Mabel bought for you when you were a kid, and you’re not even sure if it’s good, but…well? Just in case. My mom’s a good example of such, losing more and more of her conviction as she gets older, but there’s still that superstitious bit that she can’t quite let go of.

    I also found the part about Catholic loyalty interesting. In a way, Protestantism stripped away one layer of authority when they ousted the Pope from their theology. Perhaps Protestants feel a little more comfortable with experimentation, especially since Sola Scriptura ultimately boils down to ‘my interpretation’. It’s funny to think that Martin Luther might have been the first stepping stone on the slippery slope to secularism, isn’t it?

    • I also found the part about Catholic loyalty interesting. In a way, Protestantism stripped away one layer of authority when they ousted the Pope from their theology. Perhaps Protestants feel a little more comfortable with experimentation, especially since Sola Scriptura ultimately boils down to ‘my interpretation’. It’s funny to think that Martin Luther might have been the first stepping stone on the slippery slope to secularism, isn’t it?

      As a recovering Catholic, I can probably address this latter point better than the former.

      The RC Church really isn’t much different than it was 2000 years ago, despite the reforms of Vatican II etc. Protestantism, on the other hand, as you imply, exists because it rejected Catholicism, but in the process, created thousands of alternatives, and those that can’t stomach the rigors of Catholic dogma have so many alternatives to choose from it’s akin to shopping for beer. You can spend your whole life sampling all the micro brews throughout the world, looking for just that beer that suits your taste.

      So it’s almost natural that when you give so much choice to Protestants, they’re going to have a hard time making a decision and sticking to it. Catholics, on the other hand, have no real choice to waffle over.

      Of course, that’s much of the attraction to Catholics. They don’t have to think about it. Just do.

  9. S.I.

    That’s the problem with being able to choose your authority. It all comes down to your personal authority on which supposed ‘higher’ authority to go with- which sort of obliterates transcendent, moral absolutism, doesn’t it? At least, from a practical sense.

  10. The Protestant Reformation was the first step towards “do-it-yourself,” “cafeteria-style” religion. The anti-establishment clause, which put all religions on an equal footing in a capitalist society, was a major step in the process in the USA. Churches can compete for adherents and churchgoers can shop for churches that suit them. The religious marketplace is a buyer’s market these days and will likely continue to be so until the marketplace collapses.

  11. I’ve found that people look for what they want to find. Sometimes they’re more or less satisfied for a while, but there’s something there that they don’t like after all, or they change in some way.

    My parents were from Pennsylvania, born baptists, but they went with the Southern Baptist way as soon as the found it. There were (to them) clearly defined spaces in which one could move, or not.

    There’s a guy at the barber shop who is a great christian, he’s a church hopper, and he seems to have finally found his niche: “I know christ is my savior, and I don’t need all this f—ing ‘help the poor’, commie s–t that (the last church, and apparently every other he went to at least made a nod to) ‘preacher Joe’ is always spewin'”

    He has apparently found a place that suits him now.

  12. “There’s a guy at the barber shop who is a great christian, he’s a church hopper, and he seems to have finally found his niche: ‘I know christ is my savior, and I don’t need all this f—ing ‘help the poor’, commie s–t that (the last church, and apparently every other he went to at least made a nod to) ‘preacher Joe’ is always spewin’ ‘ ”

    Heh, well that’s fun, Sarge knows a terrible person!

    Sometimes the fact that people are so thoroughly able to miss the point of “their religion” is just… startling.

    • Actually, he’s not a “Terrible Person”. He’s pretty typical for most of the “conservative” folks around here, church is more an identity/social thing with a nod at Supreme Authority.

      Like most people “conservative” people around here, he’s a me-firster, his main terror is that someone will get for a lower price or (gasp with horror) free that he had to pay for at full price, and if people are starving in town, or going without heat, well, what’s it to him, really? You get these little pieces of paper with numbers on them, and the more you have the better off you are. The less paper, no matter what the reason, the less you SHOULD have. No paper, no heat, no eat, on the street. What happens next? Not HIS problem…them’s just the rules…

      He knows nothing of his “religion” other than his “salvation”, has no interest in it. He, and others, invoke a deity that if they actually believed and thought about it, they’d be a whole lot more careful about what they were dealing with.

  13. I know a few more than one. What’s more, the guy bears a strong resemblence to the third guy in from the lower right in the picture that Our Host has provided.

    I can’t remember, is it a Breugel or Bosch?

    • I’ve found that people look for what they want to find(Sarge)

      I’d say that’s more or less true.

      Interesting comment. So what does that say for most Atheists?

      The same as it does for most theists. But just because either one finds what they want to find, doesn’t mean that what they find is true. For that, there is much different, and better, criteria for ascertaining veracity.

    • No, I never said I did; however, you don’t need to have the truth in order to determine the value in means to it.

      Btw, could you elaborate on how truth is transient? You could elaborate on what you mean by truth as well, which might make your statement a little less confusing.

  14. What I mean is that we are constantly discovering things about our world and the universe around us and as we uncover new information it replaces much of the old information. So in essence much of the truth we claim, can and does at a later date become obsolete. Now I am not saying there is no value in those discoveries. It just seems to me that “truth” is a moving target. I wonder if it is possible to say that we have absolute truth for anything. More likely, it is better to say temporary truth.

    • Ah, well that’s quite different than what I thought you meant at first. I would say though that the mistake lies in calling things “truths” for I think most interpret that as denoting absolutes. What you’re referring to is current understandings which generally increase over time and indeed, in the last 100 years or so that growth rate as gone up exponentially.

      If I may, I’d say it’s not the truth that’s moving, but rather our proximity to it. The idea that truth moves is one of the many motivations for the religious to believe, for they want stability. Look at William Lane Craig’s infamous line of “shifting sands” referring to science. The framing of the positive nature of science to perpetually improve and self correct as a negative is ridiculous, yet it appeals to these stability seekers. Perhaps science should be framed as a process of ever improving aim at a target instead. That would probably go over much better to the masses, especially the ones here in the US since they’ll probably grasp a gun analogy right away. 😉

  15. Perhaps science should be framed as a process of ever improving aim at a target instead(Philly)

    I like this way of framing it. Lol, loved the gun analogy too. 🙂

  16. I think I know what you’re saying TfT. As we discover things in the human quest to understand our reality, (the world around us, the universe, whatever you want to call the search for ultimate truth) we make provisional decisions about the truth of any one discovery, only to find that later discoveries change the way we think about them, and even supplant them as “truth”. For instance, as our ability to understand astronomy and physics improves, our understanding of the limits of the universe changes. We used to think that the earth was the center of everything. We now “know” that’s not true.

    But your comments began with a comparison of the way atheist and theists search for truth. (“We tend to find what we want to find”). Implicit in what you’re now saying is the mechanism of science for finding that truth. It’s science that makes discoveries, provisionally accepts them as “truth” until they are supplanted by further scientific discoveries. That’s what atheists do (Well, not really, but for the sake of this simple dichotomy, let’s run with it).

    What theists do is search for truth using faith as their mechanism. Over the course of human history, faith has determined a certain truth about human reality, that has more or less remained constant since the beginning. Oh, there’s some tweaking around the edges (call it theology) but on the whole a theist worldview and understanding of what ultimate truth is has not changed much in 6000 years.

    The world was created by supernatural forces at some time in the past, and continues to be ruled by those same supernatural forces (or force) today. Everything is part of some divine plan, and the future has already been pretty much predetermined. That’s the way theists looked at reality 6000 years ago, and it’s how they look at it today. (Yes, that’s simplistic, but this is a blog, not an academic treatise, cl’s impressions to the contrary notwithstanding.)

    So when you say truth is a moving target, you are accepting science as the proper mechanism for determining truth, and rejecting faith.

    At least, that’s how I analyze your comment.

    With faith there are no moving targets.

    • Let me just chime in before numbnuts does. Atheism does not mean one is rational. They may reject god claims because that’s what their tea leaves or invisible friend told them to do. There are, sadly, faith-based atheists, and of course you have the Buddhists and Raellians.

      Most of the mainstream atheists, however, are the rational type who embrace the scientific method and critical thinking which is probably who SI is referring to. This of course is another example of why a word is necessary to denote the critical thinking, rational atheists from the ones who are nutters, but that’s a whole other discussion.

  17. With faith there are no moving targets.(SI)

    I would say this is more likely with Theism. I have faith but I cant quite hit the target. My faith stems from how I see my physical world, which leads me to believe that something of a creative intelligence is involved in our creation. My faith also leads me to believe that it is perfectly natural not supernatural. I also know enough to not try to quantify exactly what it is. I will let science do that not religion.

  18. Yeah, but faith cheats. It has this little guy behind the target who moves it around in whatever direction faith is pointing at. When science misses, it’s forced to reassess, and adjust its aim. Faith always hits the bullseye. If the big bang theory went south tomorrow, and was replaced by the old steady state theory, do you think Wm. Lane Craig would abandon the God whom the big bang supposedly pointed to? Or would he simply warp his exegesis to support the same conclusions his old theory supported? That’s religion; always leading from behind.

    • Faith doesn’t affect the target. It may make you think it’s hit when it’s not been, though. That’s sort of its point. Believe the target hit and the rest is just details.

      As far as Craig, I forget the exact wording but he argues essentially that evidence in support of what you believe is valid but if it’s contrary to what you believe, then you’re justified in dismissing it. And he’s supposedly an intellectual.

  19. “Look at William Lane Craig’s infamous line of “shifting sands” referring to science.”

    Funny, though, how Craig plants himself in those shifting sands with his little bucket and shovel, in order to support his arguments.

  20. “As far as Craig, I forget the exact wording but he argues essentially that evidence in support of what you believe is valid but if it’s contrary to what you believe, then you’re justified in dismissing it.”

    I’ve also heard him say that if his arguments don’t come across as valid, it’s only because he’s failed to deliver them properly. Funny how he’s unwilling to cross that chasm to the possibility that he hasn’t thought them out properly, either. Of course, that would mean…well, you know.

    • Oh he may well admit he hasn’t thought them out properly, but the point is he BELIEVES he’s correct, and that’s really all that matters. An argument’s failing is merely his failing, not what he’s arguing. THAT has to be right. Praise Jesus!

  21. And this is where the A club and I part ways. You believe youre correct. Though science cant and doesnt prove everything immediately. Now it is more accurate than theism. Of course. In fact, Theism misses the boat completely. But faith doesnt. I would imagine most scientific discoveries were first based on faith and then the science backed them up.

    FAITH:

    belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

    • I will believe what I believe based on the evidence for it and until given a reason to believe otherwise.

      The fatal flaw guys like you and cl have is over the warrant for your hypotheses. If I hear a noise in the house and my wife is home, then the hypothesis that she made the noise is warranted. The hypothesis that the noise was made by a yak or a ghost is not since yaks are nowhere near here, let alone in my house ever and the existence of ghosts has yet to be demonstrated. Likewise, the hypothesis of an intelligent designer for the universe is unwarranted because there’s no warrant for it. I’m sorry, but a gut feeling doesn’t count. That could just be gas. 🙂

    • My gut feeling could just be me “thin slicing”.

      OK. That is a new term for me, so I looked it up. Is this what you mean?

      FAITH:

      belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

      We had this discussion here before, and I’m not sure you were part of it, but do you think there is a distinction to be made between religious faith, and what I’ll call common, household faith?

      Using religious faith in a scientific context, as the quote above seems to, is mixing apples and oranges. While I see no reason for someone like, say, Francis Collins, to pray to his god to help him confirm a hypotheses, when it will be confirmed or disproven by the process itself, I think it’s OK to have faith in one’s abilities to conduct the process correctly, or to have faith that the equipment will work properly during an experiment.

      That’s what I mean by the difference between the two. Adding religious faith to a scientific inquiry is just dumb…superfluous.

      • See, I would separate those as faith and trust. Faith is blind, trust isn’t. For instance, faith would be to loan a small fortune to some prince from Nigeria who emails you. Trust would be loaning that money to your brother, provided you knew he was a responsible guy (at the very least, you know where he lives). I trust the light will come on when I flip the switch because that’s what always happens. It would require faith if I hadn’t paid the bill for 2-3 months.

        Now the issue of outcome has no bearing (something else cl doesn’t seem to grasp). In other words, my trust was still warranted even if the light doesn’t come on and a delinquent utility payer’s faith isn’t justified because their light turned on.

        • Trust would be loaning that money to your brother, provided you knew he was a responsible guy (at the very least, you know where he lives).

          …and he signs a mortgage to his house to you. (Sorry. It’s the lawyer in me.)

          • I wouldn’t say ignorant of science, but there’s the idiot’s view of science, there’s the educated layperson’s view of science, and then there’s the scientist’s view of science. Naturally, I’m putting you in the second category… [insert preferred emoticon here]

            I blame the media, of course.

      • . Adding religious faith to a scientific inquiry is just dumb…superfluous.(SI)

        Now, now, why would you insult moi? By the way Im not religious. Im hopeful. 😉

          • Chappy

            Youre assuming I think its “Supernatural”. I dont. I actually think whatever it is, is part of nature(all that we see). I actually believe our minds cant fully grasp the concept. But my intuition of it is strong. It is not dogmatic or religious. I dont wish to impose it on others. I do hope that I am not ridiculed for my belief though. Just to remind you if you didnt know, I was never brought up around any religious mumbo jumbo, so I dont have the same baggage that most atheists seem to have. Whenever they hear creator all they can think is Theistic doctrine. I guess I cant blame them, but it is pretty evident that many of them let their emotionally relation get the best of them. 🙂

            • T4T:
              I phrased the question in such a way as to, I thought, posit something “supernatural” as one possibility. Hence, I alluded to “whatever it is you hope for.” Not that the distinction matters much, but I wasn’t assuming “supernatural” as strongly as you seemed to think I was.

              Am I correct in taking it that the answer to my question, “Why do you hope….?” is “your intuition of it?” I’m not going to ridicule you for that, but, as you know, intuitions are not always reliable and I don’t know of any way of honing them to render them more reliable. While I don’t entirely discard intuition, I usually do further investigation of data that is verifiable before reaching any conclusions about whatever it was that I intuited.

            • Chappy

              I agree that it is prudent to find ways to verify our intuition as it isnt always 100% reliable. The thing is, even our science isnt always reliable. In fact many of our theories or suppositions dont get proven within the lifetime of the person putting it forth. So sometimes we have to “trust” or have “faith” or “hope” that we are barking up the right tree. I agree with pretty much everything most atheists propose in regards to testing and science. I just dont agree that there is no intelligence behind our existence. I dont believe it is random. I dont believe there is no purpose to life. That way of thinking just doesnt work for me. But hey, whatever floats your boat. Remember, I also dont believe that theistic doctrine is correct either.
              Come on Philly, Im waiting on ya. 🙂

            • The thing is, even our science isnt always reliable. In fact many of our theories or suppositions dont get proven within the lifetime of the person putting it forth. So sometimes we have to “trust” or have “faith” or “hope” that we are barking up the right tree.

              Can you give an example?

            • Can you give an example?(ildi)

              Hmmm, how long did it take before we could fly? I think the idea was several hundred years in the making. But I may be wrong about that. 🙂

            • The thing is, even our science isn’t always reliable.

              But that’s what’s right about science. Garbage in, garbage out. You have to be extremely meticulous to do science. That’s why it’s always propositional and conditional.

              If you discount or reject science because it’s not always 100% right, then you clearly don’t understand science.

              The fact is we live in a less than 100% world. Everything you do, from getting up in the morning to driving your car, to shopping for groceries, to investing in your retirement plan, is based on a weighing of the odds. What information you have at your disposal is based on far less than 100% certainty in everything, and you don’t ever question it.

              We make conditional decisions every day, every minute of the day. You don’t pull out of your driveway without making a less than 100% assessment of the risk.

            • Hmmm, how long did it take before we could fly? I think the idea was several hundred years in the making. But I may be wrong about that.

              I asked, because I’m suspecting that your idea of what constitutes science and the scientific method is slightly askew, and your answer verifies this suspicion. I’m not trying to be snarky, but it’s hard to discuss science with someone when this is the case.

              If you discount or reject science because it’s not always 100% right, then you clearly don’t understand science.

              What he said.

        • “Dumb” was crossed out in my comment, but I know you’re just jiving’ me.

          But in all seriousness, why add faith in the supernatural to a natural endeavor?

          Hope? That’s OK. I hope for lots of things. That Obama will succeed in fixing everything he says he wants to. That I’ll make enough money to pay my bills next year. That there will be world peace. That all theists will wake up one day as rationalists.

          Guess which one of those I have the highest hope for, the one I expect will happen?

          The one I have control over. Not gods.

  22. Philly

    Ever see the movie crash? There is a scene in which a woman is trapped and her car is burning and the only person who can help her is the police officer who accosted her earlier in the week. Do you not think faith played a role in her decision. Because if she based it on her tangible experience with him she would never have believed him.

    • And again it’s ends justify the means for you.

      Let’s try some situations, shall we?
      • Sally found in her attic her old doll, Bebe. On her way to work, she saw an ad for a new fragrance called Bebe. The temp hired to fill in for her assistant was named Bebe. At lunch she saw there was a horse named Bebe running that afternoon and she immediately had faith that her day was full of signs telling her to bet on the horse, so she bet her savings on the horse.
      1) Was her faith warranted?
      2) If she won, was it warranted?
      3) What if she lost?

  23. but you’re essentially saying that if the end was good, then the means were justified, right?(Philly)

    No actually Im saying sometimes faith is required. It doesnt mean it will go your way though. But it just might, even if there is no evidence in favour of it.

  24. You see, there’s a distinction between hope and faith as well that I believe most people to miss. Allow me to re-word the definitions to correct this:

    Faith – confidence/belief in the desired outcome occurring without evidence pointing to this outcome.

    Hope – a feeling that causes one to lean towards one conclusion over another out of preference, but with the realization that it might not be the case.

    The definition for hope needs a bit more fine-tuning but, that’s essentially the distinction between the two, and the three of you can add or take away from it.

    Hope, in my opinion, is a far better position to hold in life, rather than faith. Faith means that one is confident in ones position despite not having evidence. It leads one to develop a film of ignorance that doesn’t seem to come off very easily. In hope, there is doubt. Only a desire for things to turn out as needed or wanted.

    I’m hoping that clears a few things up.

    Other than that, I agree with Philly that Faith can never hit the target of truth. One must have doubt in order to move forward, to move towards truth. That is, after all, what fuels science.

    • It leads one to develop a film of ignorance that doesn’t seem to come off very easily.

      Don’t forget arrogance. Faith causes faith heads to stubbornly cling to their beliefs, and to often try to force them on others, despite evidence to the contrary.

      I’m hoping that clears a few things up.

      Practicing what you preach, eh? 😉

  25. SI – oh, of course. Don’t want to look like a hypocrite right off the bat. But, yes. You bring up the point I failed to mention… the arrogance. Good point.

    TitforTat – No problem. I thought it might end some lines of argument that were going nowhere. Faith, in many of our minds, is a negative trait. Hope, on the other hand, isn’t so much. I can deal with one and not the other in a discussion.

  26. I’ve never been much a WLC fan, myself.

    SI,

    (Yes, that’s simplistic, but this is a blog, not an academic treatise, cl’s impressions to the contrary notwithstanding.)

    I never got the impression that this was anything other than a blog, or that you were the type to write academic treatises. That you now acknowledge the overly simplistic nature your arguments occasionally reflect is a good thing. It might mean my constant objections have raised your awareness of your own arguments. In fact, if you’d include such disclaimers more often, I’d comment much less. For example, had you included such a disclaimer and/or reworded,

    Don’t forget arrogance. Faith causes faith heads to stubbornly cling to their beliefs, and to often try to force them on others, despite evidence to the contrary.

    I wouldn’t have to point out that that statement needs one of those “overly-simplistic” disclaimers, too. There are plenty of atheists and so-called “rationalists” who are quite arrogant and cling stubbornly to their beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. Fundamentalists come in every stripe and color.

    PhillyChief,

    This of course is another example of why a word is necessary to denote the critical thinking, rational atheists from the ones who are nutters, but that’s a whole other discussion.

    I was just thinking that earlier today. I call the rational ones atheists, and the nutters “Scarlet A-theists.”

    ..it’s not the truth that’s moving, but rather our proximity to it.

    Yes, I agree with Chaplain that that was nicely said, but guess what: such implies exactly the same type of “stability” SI seems to be criticizing theists for desiring. If the truth is not moving, then the truth is stable – like theists assert.

    The fatal flaw guys like you and cl have is over the warrant for your hypotheses.

    That’s what you keep asserting, but in science, the hypotheses precede demonstrations, which is why I’m having difficulty understanding your position, so why not help me out here:

    1) Prior to their discovery, atoms and quarks were not established, i.e. they had not been demonstrated. Was it unwarranted for scientists to propose hypotheses referencing atoms and quarks prior to their discovery? If yes, why? If no, why not?

    2) According to definition 1A of supernatural that Merriam-Webster established [an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe], since scientists are studying hypotheses like parallel universes and m-theory – with the question of whether there is evidence for the supernatural still open – are you and I at least in agreement that science *can* study purportedly supernatural mechanisms, whether they are claimed to overlap or interpenetrate this universe or not? Yes? Or no?

    • Prior to their discovery, atoms and quarks were not established, i.e. they had not been demonstrated. Was it unwarranted for scientists to propose hypotheses referencing atoms and quarks prior to their discovery? If yes, why? If no, why not?

      Your leaving a little something out. A hypotheses is proposed because we are presented with a question “How did this happen?” 500 years ago, no one would have had a warrant to hypothesize about quarks because until the discovery of atoms and their structure, quarks were inconceivable.

      An example I like to use is the discovery of Neptune. Astronomers observing the orbit of Uranus detected that some force was tugging on Uranus and since planets have gravitational pulls, it was clearly warranted to propose that another planet existed that was not yet discovered. So, they looked for it and found Neptune.

      • Your leaving a little something out. A hypotheses is proposed because we are presented with a question “How did this happen?” 500 years ago, no one would have had a warrant to hypothesize about quarks because until the discovery of atoms and their structure, quarks were inconceivable.

        Nothing in my statement “left that out.” I didn’t say anything about 500 years ago.

        An example I like to use is the discovery of Neptune. Astronomers observing the orbit of Uranus detected that some force was tugging on Uranus and since planets have gravitational pulls, it was clearly warranted to propose that another planet existed that was not yet discovered. So, they looked for it and found Neptune.

        Correct, so, in other words, once they had undeniable effects, the hypothesis that something (in this case Neptune) was producing them became warranted?

    • If the truth is not moving, then the truth is stable – like theists assert.

      The issue with theists is not their assertion that there is an actual fact of the matter about the state of affairs in the universe, a truth, if you will. The issue is that many theistic claims about what they regard as true exceed their warrants.

  27. TitForTat,

    I actually think whatever it is, is part of nature(all that we see).

    Yes; that’s exactly where I stand, too. From what I typically see, many atheists can’t sustain their arguments against “the supernatural” unless they put a convenient little box around this universe and then proclaim that “anything outside this box is supernatural.” The problem is, “supernatural” is just a euphemism for that which we don’t understand. With the caveat of man’s tinkering with physics notwithstanding (i.e. heavy elements), I’d agree with you that all that exists is part of the natural order.

    It is not dogmatic or religious. I dont wish to impose it on others. I do hope that I am not ridiculed for my belief though. Just to remind you if you didnt know, I was never brought up around any religious mumbo jumbo, so I dont have the same baggage that most atheists seem to have.

    Entirely reasonable. Me neither, and it feels great.

    I agree that it is prudent to find ways to verify our intuition as it isnt always 100% reliable. The thing is, even our science isnt always reliable. In fact many of our theories or suppositions dont get proven within the lifetime of the person putting it forth. So sometimes we have to “trust” or have “faith” or “hope” that we are barking up the right tree. I agree with pretty much everything most atheists propose in regards to testing and science. I just dont agree that there is no intelligence behind our existence. I dont believe it is random. I dont believe there is no purpose to life. That way of thinking just doesnt work for me.

    Again, spot-on. Although theistic thinking works for me, I resonate with everything you just said.

    WritingShadows,

    One must have doubt in order to move forward, to move towards truth. That is, after all, what fuels science.

    Doubt is not necessary to move towards truth; you can’t really make such a rule of thumb. Though overconfidence is often blinding in any human endeavor, that doubt fuels science is half-true at best. Science was initially fueled by faith and hope in methodological naturalism, i.e. faith in the idea that when we understand the “background code,” the universe works in a consistent and discernible manner – which had not been confirmed when science began – but has since been consistently confirmed. So, when I use “faith” and “science” in the same sentence, it’s not intended to denigrate science at all; rather, I’m just saying that faith in MN ignited science, and doubt doesn’t necessarily fuel it.

    Faith – confidence/belief in the desired outcome occurring without evidence pointing to this outcome.

    Hope – a feeling that causes one to lean towards one conclusion over another out of preference, but with the realization that it might not be the case.

    By your definition, I have hope, and not faith. OTOH, I generally define faith quite simply as “belief in that which has not been proven.” By that definition, I have faith.

    • You are a confusing man, cl.

      …I’d agree with you that all that exists is part of the natural order.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve just defined the supernatural out of existence.

  28. Although theistic thinking works for me(cl)

    But the problem with this thinking is that you are quantifying that which no one has yet been able to quantify. In other words youre making your guess an absolute. Not so sure that works buddy. 😉

  29. But the problem with this thinking is that you are quantifying that which no one has yet been able to quantify.

    Right; but you’re not when you call it an “intelligence?” I’m not so sure that works.

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