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The most fun I've had on this forum has been discussing religion, and often such discussions, when distilled to their bare essentials, come down to a core difference of opinion. I personally think that any assertion lacks validity unless it can be derived from verifiable evidence by sound reasoning. Those arguing in favour of religion sometimes attempt to produce such verification, but I haven't seen any which stands up to close scrutiny (just my personal opinion; I don't want to make this topic a religious discussion). The true basis of those beliefs, IMHO, is emotional, or intuitive. It is what people claim to "know in their heart to be true". Personally I think this lacks validity because it amounts to simply being convinced of something, and is therefore just circular reasoning. People are often convinced of all kinds of nonsense, so the fact of being convinced is not good evidence. But I expect some people would consider this an incomplete world view.

There is a common stereotype of the "reasonist" as being some sort of stuffy professor living in an ivory tower of logic, not seeing the whole picture. Such a character would never be a hero in a hollywood movie. The hero would do what their heart tells them to do, go with their beliefs, guided by mysterious forces to their destiny, against all the odds. And I acknowledge that there is some value in behaving in such a way, but only because it feels good and other people respond well to it. But when it comes to forming an opinion, if we wish to maximise our chances of being correct, evidence and reason should be the only yardstick by which we measure its worth. I'd like to see if anyone can support an alternative viewpoint...

EDIT (for clarity): What I want to do here is challenge people to justify using anything other than cold hard evidence and reason (like, say intuition for example), to determine what is generally true or false. You don't need to deny the value of reason in order to argue that viewpoint, only to be of the opinion that there are other equally valid means of determining truth. It's not such an uncommon viewpoint, but nobody seems to want to take a stand on it so far :(

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I must admit, I believe in God's existence, and certain attributes about Him, without a whole lot of justification.

There are of course many things I don't know both about God and the world around me, and I try to be honest about that.

I won't go into my religious beliefs here, if you would like to discuss them with me we can do so on a other topic.

But I did want to say, when dealing with the unknown, such as the existence or non-existence of God, what else can we use besides intuition?

Yes, there is no scientific proof of the existence of God. But there's also no scientific proof that the earth will still be here when I wake up tomorrow. There a million things that could go wrong that bring about the end of the world. Solar flares, astriod impact, super novas etc.

yet, I'm not worried.

Doesn't Occam's razor kind of kill that?

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I hope nobody minds if I go off topic. I'll be reading this topic for a while likely (though, maybe not tonight) and responding in different tangents...

Believe in the teachings of a religion, you are blindly committing yourself to some unseen truth in which you place your absolute faith and trust. It must feel good, of course. And if that blanket that supports your life ever gets pulled away, it's devastating.

So those who are religious get instant hope, life happiness, contentness, etc.

Those of us who are atheists have to search, maybe our whole lifetimes, for this oneness with the universe, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe I am far along this mental path myself, but what do I know.

I've never needed nor do I want to find some "oneness with the universe."

Those with religion simply have an excuse not to look at some of the ugly facts about life - which I'll get to in a second.

Life has no meaning. You disagree with that statement, but I think our views are not so different: just because life has no meaning doesn't mean that my life doesn't not have a purpose. My purpose in life is to try to enjoy it the best I can! Call me a hedonist if you want. =P But life in general has no meaning. Everything will die, and even if you make a legacy of some sort (like Jefferson's lightbulb, or Shakespeare's plays), even that will die with enough time. Humans will likely be wiped off the face of the Earth before long (relatively speaking), and then the Earth will die, and for all we know the universe could too (if it keeps expanding ad infinitum, then eventually every individual floating particle of matter would be distanced from every other, and no form or pattern or structure of any type, or any life, could take place).

So what does this mean?

Everything we do is for nothing.

Everything.

It's depressing... or at least I thought so.

But it's something I've dealt with. I felt a little bit of depression three or four years ago (at one specific time), but eventually I sucked it up and decided there's no use dwelling on it (except for philosophical discussions, like this one) unless I plan on committing suicide, which would be abominably stupid.

Religion promises eternity.

Atheism (and thus nihilism, in a way) is the hard choice.

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I hope nobody minds if I go off topic. I'll be reading this topic for a while likely (though, maybe not tonight) and responding in different tangents...

I've never needed nor do I want to find some "oneness with the universe."

Those with religion simply have an excuse not to look at some of the ugly facts about life - which I'll get to in a second.

Life has no meaning. You disagree with that statement, but I think our views are not so different: just because life has no meaning doesn't mean that my life doesn't not have a purpose. My purpose in life is to try to enjoy it the best I can! Call me a hedonist if you want. =P But life in general has no meaning. Everything will die, and even if you make a legacy of some sort (like Jefferson's lightbulb, or Shakespeare's plays), even that will die with enough time. Humans will likely be wiped off the face of the Earth before long (relatively speaking), and then the Earth will die, and for all we know the universe could too (if it keeps expanding ad infinitum, then eventually every individual floating particle of matter would be distanced from every other, and no form or pattern or structure of any type, or any life, could take place).

So what does this mean?

Everything we do is for nothing.

Everything.

It's depressing... or at least I thought so.

But it's something I've dealt with. I felt a little bit of depression three or four years ago (at one specific time), but eventually I sucked it up and decided there's no use dwelling on it (except for philosophical discussions, like this one) unless I plan on committing suicide, which would be abominably stupid.

Religion promises eternity.

Atheism (and thus nihilism, in a way) is the hard choice.

Oh trust me man, I've been grappling with this for years now. There's a point where things started sliding into place in my mind and I began to see that I wouldn't have it any other way - life and death is a natural cycle, even for whole universes. We're insignificant on that grand scale but significant on our own scale with each other and the things we affect and are effected by, even if those things will one day be all gone. That doesn't matter. My life philosophy is all about the journey, not the destination. It's all about the quality of life, not the length of it. I realized that I can do whatever I want, really, truly, because it doesn't matter in the end. It's pretty liberating

And that's what I mean by oneness with the universe.... in the end we are all particles of the same system. For me life is all about mind and body

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...Everything we do is for nothing.

Everything.

It's depressing... or at least I thought so.

But it's something I've dealt with. I felt a little bit of depression three or four years ago (at one specific time), but eventually I sucked it up and decided there's no use dwelling on it (except for philosophical discussions, like this one) unless I plan on committing suicide, which would be abominably stupid.

Religion promises eternity.

Atheism (and thus nihilism, in a way) is the hard choice.

Wow, that sounds really grim. Allow me to offer another perspective.

Let's indulge in a little appeal to consequences and look at the added happiness value which religious belief might provide:

  • Big selling point - You get to survive your own death and live forever in heaven.

    • Life has meaning! Everything we do is not for nothing, it's all part of God's grand plan.

    Personally, I don't see any value in that at all. While the idea of your life having no overall meaning may seem unattractive on the face of it, how does the idea that it serves someone else's purposes improve on that? Would a farmed chicken be happier than a wild bird, if they knew they would be used for food? As far as our happiness is concerned, the meanings and purposes that matter are ours and those of our loved ones. Being part of someone else's plan has nothing to do with my happiness.

    [*]You don't have to worry about the idea that everything will come to nothing in the end

    We've already considered the surviving your own death bit. Given that I will die, I'm not at all worried that everything will come to nothing in the end. It will, but I won't be around to see it and neither will anybody I care about. It's irrelevant to my happiness.

    You see, it seems to me that you're buying into one of the false notions underlying religion, which is that our existence should matter in the long run, that our inability to live forever or even leave a lasting mark is some kind of a problem. When we are dead, why should we care whether our life mattered to anyone else? We should care about the impressions we make on those we love, but only because we love them. Is Shakespeare better off than Bob who lived down the road from him, because people still remember him? I doubt he's in any position to care. What's wrong with being finite, small, insignificant? What significance would you wish for? Significance to whom? Religion encourages us to consider ourselves more important than we are. It sells us on the idea of being the center of the universe, everlasting and important to God, and tells us that accepting a lesser existence is unpalatable, unacceptable even. I don't buy it, and it's not a problem. Like Unreality says, it's liberating. As soon as you realise that being important doesn't matter, you relieve yourself of the burden of having to make yourself think you are.

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You see, it seems to me that you're buying into one of the false notions underlying religion, which is that our existence should matter in the long run, that our inability to live forever or even leave a lasting mark is some kind of a problem. When we are dead, why should we care whether our life mattered to anyone else? We should care about the impressions we make on those we love, but only because we love them. Is Shakespeare better off than Bob who lived down the road from him, because people still remember him? I doubt he's in any position to care. What's wrong with being finite, small, insignificant? What significance would you wish for? Significance to whom? Religion encourages us to consider ourselves more important than we are. It sells us on the idea of being the center of the universe, everlasting and important to God, and tells us that accepting a lesser existence is unpalatable, unacceptable even. I don't buy it, and it's not a problem. Like Unreality says, it's liberating. As soon as you realise that being important doesn't matter, you relieve yourself of the burden of having to make yourself think you are.

Interesting use of the word "should." I certainly don't believe this notion, but it is something that bugs me emotionally. The prospect of death (and by death I mean the loss of life, not the death itself) is a bloody scary thing, because I don't want to die (I've got to become 80 or 90 years old first, and so decrepit that life is no longer enjoyable, and I go the way of Hemingway). If I could have a lasting effect, that would be a consolation, and one that religion proffers, and one that I must live without.

I've never felt the need to be important. Perhaps I should have used a different example, say: a married couple might leave the world children, and that leaves an effect that lasts past death, but of course, is in no way permanent.

Basically my point is that it's tough to grapple with the knowledge of death (and people have been grappling with this throughout history, in different ways, not just religion). My point was never to imply that we need some sort of "special significance" or whatever B.S.

Although, I could understand if people living in say, a poor low-standard-of-living communist country, working extremely tough or unfulfilling jobs, and so on and so forth, would want to have "special significance" in their lives, because their lives suck. My life is just jolly*, and therefore it doesn't concern me, but I could imagine wishing for some "greater plan" if my life was crappy.

* =P

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I'd like to share a quote from the movie, Contact.

"I had a vision, and it showed me just how small, and insignificant, and rare, and precious we all are!"

this is something I try to accept whole heartedly.

No, my life wont matter 1,000,000 years from now. But the fact that I'm here, that I exist, matters to me and to the people around me, more than anyone can possibly know.

I tend to agree to a point, religion tends to offer a quick fix, a warm fuzzy feeling that wears off as you pursue "mindless" chants and rituals. But I would also say that many of the ideals of religion are in the right place. Emphasising moral behaviour, proper respect, self awareness, community, etc. Not every religion does this to equal degree, and many stray in abstract paths.

None the less I tend to view religion as a healthy thing. You might be able to take God out of religion, but I don't think you can take religion out of humanity, not without some serious consequences.

I did want to comment a bit more on my last post. The specific example I offered may have been a poor choice, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. Roughly 95% of humanity believe in God in one form or another. Should we ignore this belief, or accept it?

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I'd like to share a quote from the movie, Contact.

"I had a vision, and it showed me just how small, and insignificant, and rare, and precious we all are!"

this is something I try to accept whole heartedly.

No, my life wont matter 1,000,000 years from now. But the fact that I'm here, that I exist, matters to me and to the people around me, more than anyone can possibly know.

I tend to agree to a point, religion tends to offer a quick fix, a warm fuzzy feeling that wears off as you pursue "mindless" chants and rituals. But I would also say that many of the ideals of religion are in the right place. Emphasising moral behaviour, proper respect, self awareness, community, etc. Not every religion does this to equal degree, and many stray in abstract paths.

None the less I tend to view religion as a healthy thing. You might be able to take God out of religion, but I don't think you can take religion out of humanity, not without some serious consequences.

I did want to comment a bit more on my last post. The specific example I offered may have been a poor choice, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. Roughly 95% of humanity believe in God in one form or another. Should we ignore this belief, or accept it?

A couple things:

The original purpose of the topic was not to discuss the merits of religion, so would it be bad of me to reply to what you said about religion?

Two. 95% really? There are large proportions of people who do not believe in God in many Asian countries (Confucianism, Taoism, etc.), and even lots of Westerners/Europeans have reached the point of agnosticism, so should they be included in the percentage?

Also I wasn't discussing God specifically so much as afterlife/divine plan (the latter obviously closely related to the concept of God, but not mutually interchangeable)

As for your question, well, neither. Atheists don't accept it, and believers don't ignore it. Religion freedom means freedom of religion and freedom from it...

As for your statement that you can't take religion out of humanity, well, I don't think that's true at all. If you can have a single society that is unanimously atheist, then you can extrapolate that to the entire species. There's no way to know whether or not religion will go the way of the appendix.

EDIT: Ugh, so way off topic... -.-

Problem is I don't have any ideas of how you can well, reason without reason

Edited by DarthNoob
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Taoists believe in God albeit they have a much different view of what "he" is like from western civilizations.

i'm uncertain about Confucians, but I'm quite certain that the believe in an after life; certainly a property of religion.

Japan, while vast majority not believing in God, incorporates religious practices in many things, in particular, they use Christianity for weddings, Buddhism for death.

but yes, agreed let's stop this before we go off the deep end here :-).

I'm not likely to convince you, you're not likely to convince me, let's call truce.

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I'd like to share a quote from the movie, Contact.

"I had a vision, and it showed me just how small, and insignificant, and rare, and precious we all are!"

this is something I try to accept whole heartedly.

No, my life wont matter 1,000,000 years from now. But the fact that I'm here, that I exist, matters to me and to the people around me, more than anyone can possibly know.

I tend to agree to a point, religion tends to offer a quick fix, a warm fuzzy feeling that wears off as you pursue "mindless" chants and rituals. But I would also say that many of the ideals of religion are in the right place. Emphasising moral behaviour, proper respect, self awareness, community, etc. Not every religion does this to equal degree, and many stray in abstract paths.

None the less I tend to view religion as a healthy thing. You might be able to take God out of religion, but I don't think you can take religion out of humanity, not without some serious consequences.

I did want to comment a bit more on my last post. The specific example I offered may have been a poor choice, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. Roughly 95% of humanity believe in God in one form or another. Should we ignore this belief, or accept it?

LOL, you should be a Phronist!

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I was just reading about the probability based heuristic solution to the Collatz conjecturer, and thought it was kinda related to the entire evidence/reason thing, because it's an example of a best-guess kinda reasoning not based on evidence. You can check it out just by going to "Collatz conjecture" on Wikipedia. Chances are you've heard about it or used it before, it's the thing where you have a number and if its even you divide by 2 and if it's not you multiply by 3 and add 1, and keep doing so until you hit 1.

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I was just reading about the probability based heuristic solution to the Collatz conjecturer, and thought it was kinda related to the entire evidence/reason thing, because it's an example of a best-guess kinda reasoning not based on evidence. You can check it out just by going to "Collatz conjecture" on Wikipedia. Chances are you've heard about it or used it before, it's the thing where you have a number and if its even you divide by 2 and if it's not you multiply by 3 and add 1, and keep doing so until you hit 1.

reminds me of an algorithm :P

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LOL, you should be a Phronist!

I imagine you joke when you say that, but after reading your post on the idea, I gotta say I loved it. you have one convert my friend :-)

back to the topic at hand, which we got waaayyyyy off of, here's my question, how would you deal with probabilistic events? the original poster asked why reason and logic is not enough, or what else can be used, and i would also like to submit, that an event probably being true is a factor. for example the coin toss from my conway experiment. we all agreed it was possible that someone could do this, all-be-it we disagreed to what degree. I made the argument that the coin is more likely heads, while duh puck argued that the chances are equal as far as he knows (as he doesn't know if the being is honest or not about the state of the coin). who is right? which is the truth? how can we predict the future, with what we know? all very good questions, and all above my head.

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Sometimes I'll encounter a situation in which a person made the logically or rationally correct choice or decision, but it ended up that he was wrong, just because of bad luck. Like, say, a cop shoots a criminal because EVERY clue points toward him being dangerous and needing to be shot (I'm -obviously- not a cop so don't ask me for details), but it turns out there was some random unforeseeable fluke and the criminal turned out to be completely innocent, and the explanation is just absurd. The cop was still _right_ in what he did... but he happened to be wrong. Or there was this one House episode, the alien-hand episode, where one patient had fighting going on between the two sides of his head (kind of), and there's one part where one side of the brain creates a rational explanation for something that happened to be wrong... but it was still good thinking, and over the long run, more often right than wrong. Everybody's wrong on occasion, so the "glory" of that side of the brain is not reduced by that one flaw

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