To the believers...

(308 Posts)
PedroPonyLikesCrisps Tue 29-Jan-13 23:17:16

How does one justify to themselves belief in a supernatural being with literally no hard evidence? This is something I just don't understand. Without the assumption of a god or gods, we are able to explain pretty much everything in the Universe and even those yet-to-be-answered questions are being gradually chipped away at without any need for a deity.

So what makes people believe in a god? Is it fear, conditioning, laziness? Theories of the supernatural were our first attempts at understanding the world (big yellow disc moves across the sky, don't know what it is, maybe a god carries it around up there). You could say they were humankind's first attempt at scientific reasoning. But we've moved on from these archaic theories now and we can explain all these things we couldn't before, yet for some reason, religions live on and people continue to think that some guy lives upstairs and watches over us even though there's no rational way to argue his existence.

Do Christians think Muslims are insane for their differing beliefs? Does anyone still believe in the Greek or Roman gods anymore? Do the religious find Scientology to be just another religion or does anyone else see the the words 'cult' and 'religion' are pretty much interchangable?


headinhands Mon 04-Feb-13 16:38:52

sieg as you see it, what are these 'later revealed truths to the bible'?

CoteDAzur Mon 04-Feb-13 18:48:28

Good talking to you, niminy smile

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 04-Feb-13 23:56:51

Oh Cote, I am sorry if I upset you. I really didn't mean to.sad

What you said did shock me. I could not conceive of anyone believing that they are rational 100% of the time. How did they come to that conclusion? How do they feel living in a quite irrational world?

I see you have addressed some of these points unthread.

sieglinde Tue 05-Feb-13 08:08:38

hh, the way in which - say St Therese's Little Way reshapes personal morality, or Ignatius helps us comprehend prayer. It doesn't supersede the NT, but it explicates it.

hh, don't want to speak for niminy, but I have a bit of a problem with Baal too - the historical record shows a strong tradition of frequent human sacrifice of male infants to him. By contrast Yahweh only plays with the idea - it's a kind of ghost in both bits of the Bible.

CoteDAzur Tue 05-Feb-13 09:04:23

Dione - I'm not upset at all (and really wish people would stop worrying). This is normal conversation and I'm happy to be part of it.

Many if not most of us are rational beings. I have come across only a few people who let emotions cloud their judgement.

Things like drinking excessively for one night are not irrational decisions. Yes, you know that you will suffer the next day, but it is a trade-off (Econ term) - you make the rational decision that having fun with your friends tonight is worth the pain of the hangover tomorrow. For another person, it may not be worth it. These are personal preferences, determined by a person's utility function (another Econ term) and neither outcome is irrational.

In comparison, believing that the Earth is a few thousand years old while knowing for a fact that there are fossils over a million years old is irrational. When faced with such conflicting ideas, rational people abandon the belief that has absolutely no proof behind it, in favour of proven facts.

I hope the distinction is clear.

mummysmellsofsick Tue 05-Feb-13 17:08:31

"Belief and disbelief have divided mankind into so many sects, blinding its eyes
to the vision of the oneness of all life"

Hazrat Inayat Khan

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 05-Feb-13 17:54:12

Cote, you have employed the defense mechanisms of rationalization (you accept the trade off) and intellectualization (use of economic terminology) to justify drinking to excess. From what I have seen creationists use exactly the same processes to justify their belief that the world is only a few thousand years old. It's not that you haven't thought it through, you have. But just because you thought it through and accepted any consequences doesn't make your decision to drink to excess a rational one.

We are irrational beings, we may think that we are not but the fact is a myriad of unconscious processes are at work everytime we make decisions. The most rational people in our society are psychopaths.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 05-Feb-13 21:37:47

I do not in any way mean to imply that you are not a rational person Cote. We all have our irrationalities and employ defenses. This is the norm. Indeed I find you an interesting, considered poster. And certainly more rational than

You come across as an intelligent, educated person who thinks things through so you may be more rational than others. I think that the fact that it was you who posted this that lead me to wonder what do you make of this mad world?

What do you think about a world of religion, trends, war, celebrities, starvation, love, fashion, advertising, obesity and MN and stuff? Like it is a crazy place.

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 08:17:03

Dione - I think we need to agree on some definitions, because you are saying stuff that makes no sense to me.

Rational = Based on or in accordance with reason or logic: "a rational explanation"

Irrational = Without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason. Without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment. Utterly illogical (irrational arguments)

Therefore, you cannot call someone's reasoned decision based on personal preferences "irrational", no matter how much you disagree with that decision.

In contrast, it is irrational to believe that the Earth is a few thousand years old, while knowing that there are million-year-old fossils in the ground. Because the two are contradictory and accepting them both requires complete disregard for logic and reason. Hence, irrational.

I have used the terms trade-off and utility function because I have studied Economics as well as Game Theory. Both fields of study work with rational players acting in a rational way, who part with a cost (price of a restaurant meal) in expectation of the desired payoff (enjoying a pleasant evening at the restaurant).

I realize that these are alien subjects to you so understanding is not likely to come quickly or easily, but please look them up and try to familiarise yourself with these concepts. They will be invaluable tools for you to make sense of the world you live in (and understand that it is not an irrational place).

"you have employed the defense mechanisms of rationalization (you accept the trade off)"

You think so because you don't understand what the term trade-off means and how it is used in context. It is a perfectly normal term to use when talking about rational choices, as anyone who has ever studied the subject can tell you.

"From what I have seen creationists use exactly the same processes to justify their belief that the world is only a few thousand years old."

I would be surprised. Tell me, what kind of process do they used to justify this belief? Trade-off of what? "Intellectualisation" how?

"The most rational people in our society are psychopaths."

And you know that because you are intimate with so many psychopaths? hmm

You have clearly never studied nor in any way understood decision-making processes, which is fine, I don't mind sharing the information. However, you need to refrain from making silly sweeping generalisations like the above which completely undermine your credibility, imho.

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 08:21:26

"What do you think about a world of religion, trends, war, celebrities, starvation, love, fashion, advertising, obesity and MN and stuff? Like it is a crazy place."

It is not a crazy place at all, and I am a bit sad for you that you understand so little of it that you think it makes no sense.

Seriously, read some Game Theory.

DioneTheDiabolist Wed 06-Feb-13 12:24:37

Rational thinking, the ability to think and make decisions based on logic. No person has ever existed that has been able to do this free from emotions and social conditioning. Despite this fact most people believe that they are rational most of the time, even when making quite irrational decisions. In order to maintain this myth of rationality we have defense mechanisms. Everyone has them. We use them to justify our irrational actions. For most people they are not problematic and indeed are a necessary protective measure that allow us to make quick decisions.

Psychopaths experience reduced emotions therefore they are the the most rational members of our society. However not even psychopaths are free from emotions and conditioning.

Why do we make the decisions that we do? Ultimately we make our decision based on what we think will provide us with the most happiness. An emotion. Getting drunk with your friends may make you happy, but it is not rational. Also, what makes you happy may not be the same as what makes someone else happy. Therefore our society operates with the parameters of accepted irrationality.

You say that I *have clearly never studied nor in any way understood
decision making processes*. On the contrary, my field of work and study is how people make decisions. I work in MH and study psychology. While I accept that not everyone works in this field, I had mistakenly thought that most people had some knowledge of the role of the unconscious and maybe even Defence Mechanisms.blush

Cote do you have children? If so, what was your process of reasoning when you chose to have them?

CoteDAzur Wed 06-Feb-13 21:22:52

I have to insist that you learn about Game Theory and micro-economy. You must learn about how people make rational decisions.

By the way, it is deeply worrying that your background in psychology has led you to believe that people are irrational beings shock

townbuiltonahill Wed 06-Feb-13 22:42:53

Come on then, Cote.

You presumably made a considered, rational decision based on an expectation of a 'good' (for you) outcome, to join this thread.

(And yes, you are of course as entitled as any of the rest of us to be here).

May we hear the basis of your reasoning please, including the initial premises?

[off to revise my game theory knowledge]

What is the relevance of micro-economics to the conversation please?

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 17:16:04

town - That is not what we are talking about. Nobody is saying that my decision to participate in this thread was not a rational one. (What do you mean by "good outcome" from joining a thread on MN, anyway?)

We are talking about people's rational decision-making processes, which is proving to be challenging because some of us know nothing about the disciplines that study rational decisions like Economy and Game Theory.

That is the relevance of microeconomy.

And I have no idea what you just asked me - basis of which reasoning?

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 07-Feb-13 20:56:33

Cote, I unfortunately do not have the time to dedicate to Game Theory and Micro economics. Like you, my reading schedule is pretty full for the foreseeable future. Perhaps you can give me a brief synopsis and examples of usage.

I looked it up on Wiki (I know) and it seems to be a model for improving rational decision making by more than one person. Is that correct? If it is I fail to see it's relevance to your assertion that you are rational 100% of the time.confused.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 21:14:45

No, not necessarily more than one person. There are Game Theory analyses of, for example, parents' vaccination decisions.

If you are at all interested in rational decision making, you must learn about (1) Game Theory and (2) Micro-economics, and Utility Functions in particular.

Game Theory will show you that things that look irrational from the outside (like parents not vaccinating their kids, or people not cooperating even when their lives depend on it) are actually rational decisions from their viewpoints. Utility Functions show that I may make choices totally different than yours due to differences in personal preferences, although we will both be making rational choices.

Reading a bit about Economy will also teach you the importance of concepts like trade-off, opportunity cost, sunk cost, etc. All of this will be invaluable to you in seeing how rational decisions are made in the world, imho.

I guess fundamentally people cling to their imaginary friends because they are a bit gullible or a bit desperate. As long as they don't allow their superstitions to inconvenience or harm other people, it's fine. Ludicrous, but not my business unless they choose to make it so.

NotDavidTennant Thu 07-Feb-13 22:06:55

Not that I want to derail this thread, but Game Theory assumes the existence of rational actors and works from there, it doesn't offer a proof that human beings are rational actors.

In fact, it's pretty well recognised by the fields of psychology and behavioural economics that humans do not always make the decisions you would expect if they were purely rational agents.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:10:12

Did anyone say GT proves everyone is rational?

I said it shows how people make decisions and why they are rational although they might look irrational. Like in the Prisoner's Dilemma I linked to in my previous post.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:11:53

... and the reason we started talking about GT and utility functions is that some people here believe drinking a bit too much for a night or eating a bit too much once in a while are examples of irrational behaviour.

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Feb-13 22:24:42

Btw, your citing Cognitive Bias is like pointing out Logical Fallacies and saying they show nobody is logical.

sciencelover Thu 07-Feb-13 22:49:24

I can't think of a single belief that I hold that I don't consider rational.

Interesting discussion, btw. I've always found human psychology fascinating.

Picking up on an earlier point as to why us rational types are prepared to come back and argue some more with the superstitious - it's not that we object to you believing in whatever old crap floats your boat. It's of no more interest or relevance to other people than your choice of whether to fold or scrunch your bogroll/which rugby team you support/your liking for the novels of Katie Price. Enjoy, knock yourself out, believe whatever you like. BUT remember that your imaginary friend is like a penis. It's fine to have one, fine to be happy with it but NOT ACCEPTABLE to wave it about in public, expect other people to love it the way you do, and definitely not acceptable to shove it down the throats of those who have no interest in it.

Snorbs Fri 08-Feb-13 13:51:35

Oh I dunno, I think I could persuade myself that at least some of my beliefs are irrational. Eg that Heinz baked beans are better than all others.

That being said, those beliefs of mine that I suspect are possibly irrational are not so central to my idea of self and the universe that I follow an entire theology based around them. An irrational belief about something trivial is, well, trivial. An irrational belief used as a basis for a complete worldview is different.

sieglinde Fri 08-Feb-13 14:08:59

Maybe people here might find this site interesting

Also a fine study of irrationality is Thinking, Fast and Slow. Rationality is a bit like morality. Most people think their choices are moral and rational. But it's debatable whether they actually are.

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