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← What do you say to your faith-based neighbors?

What do you say to your faith-based neighbors? - Comments

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 1 by Sean_W

I can't approach the situation from exactly the same vantage point as you because I can't assume that why some person is religious and I'm not is down to a difference in our abilities to reason.

Also, I am curious to know if you've measured your progress? If Mike is not becoming less religious, isn't it possible that you're improving his reasoning for the exact opposite purpose of what you hoped i.e. he is becoming better able to justify his beliefs to himself? Or is there an expected trade off in there: Mike is better able to defend the more reasonable aspects of his beliefs, but he must abandon the nastier elements in order to do so. -making Mike a keen moderate

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 15:31:43 UTC | #925632

mjr's Avatar Comment 2 by mjr

I think you have the right approach. You can't reason a man out of a position he didn't reason himself into*. Actually, my colleagues at work don't seem to be very religious when I pin them down although many are Italian. Even there, it seems, the church is losing its hold. I often mention that I am an atheist and few seem interested. They are just culturally catholic as RD (peace be upon him) would say!

I just like others to know that atheism is quite common and normal and I encourage them to talk about it.

*Swift

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 15:56:13 UTC | #925637

eljeffe's Avatar Comment 3 by eljeffe

"For me, that is like ridiculing someone's computer because it has been loaded with faulty software."

i suppose that is true, but i find myself having a hard time not ridiculing someone for clicking on an obvious phishing link or effectively installing the virus themselves.

skepticism and science make a great anti-virus software for religion!

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 16:43:35 UTC | #925645

Aguazul's Avatar Comment 4 by Aguazul

I don't know how you can significantly expand their world without taking away what attracted them to their faith, which is likely the simplicity and safety of having everything explained for them. Perhaps you could introduce simple, easy to digest, practical ideas that are unlikely to challenge their doctrine? If an idea has practical application and obvious worth to them, then they are more likely to retain it. I have to say your patience is incredible, to process all their beliefs as you do. This is like the cold war with teddy bears. You must really care about your neighbours.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 16:45:33 UTC | #925647

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 5 by MilitantNonStampCollector

"I don't need them to drop their faith and come to reason in a grand moment of epiphany."

Yes, reason takes time to chip away. People have invested so much time and energy into the god-business that they just can't bring themselves to ditch faith in one foul swoop. It's too painful, emotionally. What happens, rather, is a gradual flowering to unbelief, through little seeds of reason until one day they wake up and realise it's all a load of make-believe.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 17:10:16 UTC | #925655

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 6 by Schrodinger's Cat

So, how do people in this modern world talk to people who believe that faith is a virtue?

I think one has to start by realising that there's a good deal more to religion that just 'faith'. To the religious person, what he believes in actually makes perfect sense. It's all too easy to see 'blind belief', when in fact there is an underlying rationale ( even if it is wrong ) behind much of religion.

Thus for a Christian, there's nothing irrational about observing that maybe people need 'saving'. Indeed, the more one argues that we live in a cold, heartless, indifferent universe......the more the Christian will argue that that merely exemplifies the point. The 'someone will get us out of this mess' sentiment covers most religion.....and even extends into all the new age stuff, with the gods being replaced by our 'space brothers' who are keeping an eye on us.

Once you expand the basis of religion like that, it's clear that there's more than just blind faith going on. Most people aren't so stupid as to just blindly believe things. They believe within an overall context and framework that has provided a storyline that at least makes some sort of sense to them. It is the story itself that needs questioning, rather than simply observing that the person is silly to believe in it.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 17:35:04 UTC | #925662

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 7 by Sean_W

Comment 6 by Schrodinger's Cat

Yes, I like to focus on the narrative. For example, I like to talk about the importance of people, and how people respond to each other in much more useful ways than god has. Still, a clever Christian knows that Jesus spoke more about our relationships with one another than the one we are supposed to have with god.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 17:56:17 UTC | #925668

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 8 by Functional Atheist

I prefer affirmative phrasing, saying things like "my views are based on evidence and reason," or "I find scientific approaches and methods more convincing," or "I believe there are natural explanations for the universe and everything in it."

Your "I am not a person of faith" immediately puts you on the defensive, in that you are defining yourself by what you are not, using the assumptions and language of your opponents as the starting point. It is similar to the problem with the term "atheist"--as Julia Sweeney put it in her monologue about losing her faith, she prefers to think of herself as a "naturalist". Those who embrace faith are, in Ms. Sweeney's phrasing, "anaturalists" in that they reject natural explanations for what we observe in favor of supernatural explanations.

If the conversation starts with the assumption that you are the one with the "natural" point of view, in contrast to the faithful's supernatural point of view, I find it puts the faithful in the position of having to defend their assumptions rather than you having to defend your assumptions.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 18:58:07 UTC | #925677

Vitalic's Avatar Comment 9 by Vitalic

Most people aren't so stupid as to just blindly believe things

Could have fooled me.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 19:14:49 UTC | #925682

Liminal's Avatar Comment 10 by Liminal

Faith is not just "belief without evidence." You can have faith (as in remaining faithful) in a person too. For many Christians, i think faith is of that kind in "God". That's hard to shake, and maybe it gets them through the night...

However, two things I can never understand, and would be curious to hear explained are:

1) How can a loving God condemn all non-believers to Hell for eternity? Isn't that more like Saddam Hussein or Hitler who imprisoned and tortured anyone with a different view, rather than Jesus or Ghandi or Martin Luther King who taught tolerance and forgiveness? What do they really think of the morality of the Entity they worship?

2) How do Christians justify the callous cruelty of Nature, if made by an all good and caring creator? Predators must kill to survive, parasites must cause suffering and disease, the strong victimise the weak to keep themselves strong. None of this can be explained as a result of any "Fall" caused by man, For the simple reason that the "design" of claws, teeth, barbs, fangs, venoms etc., were integral to these species, yet must predate the first "Man" (even if Mike takes Genesis as literal truth). So, who put the cruelty into Nature?

I would not want to convert this guy, his religion is his own business, but I would be genuinely curious how he justifies it.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 19:37:54 UTC | #925691

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 11 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 10 by Liminal

2) How do Christians justify the callous cruelty of Nature, if made by an all good and caring creator? Predators must kill to survive, parasites must cause suffering and disease, the strong victimise the weak to keep themselves strong. None of this can be explained as a result of any "Fall" caused by man, For the simple reason that the "design" of claws, teeth, barbs, fangs, venoms etc., were integral to these species, yet must predate the first "Man" (even if Mike takes Genesis as literal truth). So, who put the cruelty into Nature?

But the Christian would turn the whole thing round and argue that its the atheist who is promoting a cold, cruel, and indifferent universe. And would equally as well argue ( and I've had this argument many a time ) how does one explain that. Even Dostoevsky could not resolve the absurdity of it all, despite arguing from all sides of the matter in books such as The Brothers Karamazov

There's a 'rationale' that gets built around the metaphysical script. It is lacking complete consistency, but it has enough to keep religion going. That is why I've increasingly come to the conclusion that arguments against God are pointless.......and that the best approach is quite simply to point out the absence of positive evidence.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 20:02:56 UTC | #925695

zengardener's Avatar Comment 12 by zengardener

Never mind religion. If he wants to believe that he should give to the poor and turn the other cheek because Jesus said so, and it is a good idea, it doesn't really matter if Jesus is real or not. The goodness is self evident.

It is the faith that is at issue. When faith would have you take an action that cannot be defended without faith, you have gone too far.

Comment 10 by Liminal

Faith is not just "belief without evidence." You can have faith (as in remaining faithful) in a person too.

We try to keep faith separate from trust. I trust my wife because I know her. When a person speaks of religious faith, they are talking about something that rests on thin air.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 20:17:03 UTC | #925698

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 13 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 2 by mjr

You can't reason a man out of a position he didn't reason himself into*.

The quote is actually...."It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place."...and it's a load of pish.

A terrible quote from Jonathan Swift the Protestant minister and Master of Divinity? Great!...Tell me this, how many people do you know that reasoned themselves into religion?

BTW,

Swift had early set his sights on the Church, and in 1694 took his orders and was ordained Anglican priest, obtaining the small prebend of Kilroot in Northern Ireland where he remained for about a year.

Which is about a mile from where I'm sitting and which the locals are particularly proud of, mind you, Andrew Jackson's homestead can be found in the same area and he was a bad ass too.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 20:21:42 UTC | #925700

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 14 by Functional Atheist

Comment 13 by Ignorant Amos :

Comment 2 by mjr

You can't reason a man out of a position he didn't reason himself into*.

The quote is actually...."It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place."...and it's a load of pish.

A terrible quote from Jonathan Swift the Protestant minister and Master of Divinity? Great!...Tell me this, how many people do you know that reasoned themselves into religion?

BTW,

Swift had early set his sights on the Church, and in 1694 took his orders and was ordained Anglican priest, obtaining the small prebend of Kilroot in Northern Ireland where he remained for about a year. Which is about a mile from where I'm sitting and which the locals are particularly proud of, mind you, Andrew Jackson's homestead can be found in the same area and he was a bad ass too.

And should we sneer at Isaac Newton because of his unfortunate fascination with alchemy? Swift was imperfect, as we all are, but your condemnation goes too far. A Modest Proposal stands up centuries later as a brilliantly dark and pithy--and funny and humanistic--document. Context matters, and so does longevity, and given the context of his times and the impressive durability of his finest writing, Swift fares far better than most.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 21:01:12 UTC | #925712

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 15 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 14 by Functional Atheist

And should we sneer at Isaac Newton because of his unfortunate fascination with alchemy?

No, but we should sneer at Isaac Newton for his fascination with alchemy, or at least the woo woo parts of the discipline.

Swift was imperfect, as we all are, but your condemnation goes too far.

My condemnation is with the quote, which is patently inaccurate.

A Modest Proposal stands up centuries later as a brilliantly dark and pithy--and funny and humanistic--document.

Indeed....as is the parable of the good Samaritan.

Context matters,....

And in the context of the OP, the Swift quote is bollocks.

..and so does longevity,

That'll be the 'Appeal to Antiquity' fallacy then? We all know about books and longevity.

...and given the context of his times and the impressive durability of his finest writing,

Again, I agree....but the quote I was criticising is not his finest writing because it is inaccurate

Swift fares far better than most.

As an author, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer and poet, I've little to say. I always enjoyed Gulliver's travels. As a cleric, his history was less than respectable. A bit of a lothario with the young ladies and a close involvement with the treasonous Tories of the time is a bit of a blot on his copybook....just my opinion. They reckon Swift went insane, not that that matters.

My point originally, is that the quote doesn't stand...in the context....and as a 17th century Priest, he was peddling bullshit as true. But I accept your points and perhaps the ad hom was unnecessary, I just thought that that particular quote was a bit rich coming from the highly religious Swift, that's all.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 22:24:31 UTC | #925727

J-P123's Avatar Comment 16 by J-P123

I recently stayed in the household of an Ecuadorian family in Quito (before an amazing month on Galapagos but that's irrelevant) who don't speak much English. As I speak no Spanish the conversations were very basic. The mother found me on Facebook while I was in their home and I added her as a friend. She was looking through my photographs and found some of me at the Protest the Pope march in London in 2010. I knew that the family were Catholic and when she asked me what the pictures were about I found it very difficult to try and explain to her, not just because of the language barrier but also because I was trying to word it in a way that didn't sound either defensive or aggressive. I don't think she could read the banners that people were holding up but I think she got the idea. It was frustrating as I would genuinely have liked to talk to her about it.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 22:30:48 UTC | #925729

tboulay's Avatar Comment 17 by tboulay

Lol, you can tell I'm a unix sysadmin, first thought was "of course I'd ridicule them". But when I thought about it a little, a computer full of crap usually tells me that the person thinks they know what they're doing, but in reality they're computionally ignorant. They probably don't put much thought into what they click on either "a full 6 inches!!!" I'm IN!!!

Comment 3 by eljeffe :

"For me, that is like ridiculing someone's computer because it has been loaded with faulty software."

i suppose that is true, but i find myself having a hard time not ridiculing someone for clicking on an obvious phishing link or effectively installing the virus themselves.

skepticism and science make a great anti-virus software for religion!

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 22:53:02 UTC | #925734

nick keighley's Avatar Comment 18 by nick keighley

why not leave them alone? Once they know your view and you know theirs why do you have to afflict anything on them? Seems to me pretty much like evangelism and I /don't/ like evangelism or missionaries.

Why do non-theists feel they have to imitate the worst features of theists?

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 23:20:37 UTC | #925740

canadian_right's Avatar Comment 19 by canadian_right

I know very few religious people who are even willing to discuss their faith and the reason, or lack thereof, for their faith.

I never try to "win" these discussions, but merely plant seeds that may lead them see reason on their own. It is the rare person who will admit that a closely held belief is wrong in the middle of a discussion. They are much more likely to come around on their own, and take credit for it, on their own.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 23:54:37 UTC | #925749

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 20 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 4 by Aguazul

I don't know how you can significantly expand their world without taking away what attracted them to their faith, which is likely the simplicity and safety of having everything explained for them.

How many religious people are attracted to there religion?

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 00:06:14 UTC | #925754

DefenderOfReason!'s Avatar Comment 21 by DefenderOfReason!

Comment 10 by Liminal :

Faith is not just "belief without evidence." You can have faith (as in remaining faithful) in a person too. For many Christians, i think faith is of that kind in "God". That's hard to shake, and maybe it gets them through the night...

Even if you have "faith" in a person its because there is evidence to believe in them or trust them. Religious faith is different than "faith" in a person.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 00:58:47 UTC | #925760

Quine's Avatar Comment 22 by Quine

Religious people will often say to me, "But, you have faith too ...." so I have trained myself to cut them off before they can finish the mischaracterization with, "I have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence." I can now rattle that off in about three seconds. What usually happens, then, are several seconds of blank silence while that sinks in. It would be nice if I had a single term that had a definition that most people would recognize as the same thing as saying that whole sentence, so if you know such a word, please tell me.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 01:11:42 UTC | #925761

papa lazaru's Avatar Comment 23 by papa lazaru

Comment 22 by Quine : It would be nice if I had a single term that had a definition that most people would recognize as the same thing as saying that whole sentence, so if you know such a word, please tell me.

Sorry, nothing that would not generate mass knee-jerking... Something gravitating towards Scientist would be reasonable (among skeptic, rationalist, critical thinker, all pretty horrible for light hearted topics), although 'scientist' can conjure up the wrong images to some people. Darwin, monkeys, global warming...

I think your pre-packaged phrase is pretty neat. Any other single denomination would be ambiguous or obfuscating.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 02:18:05 UTC | #925770

Free2011's Avatar Comment 24 by Free2011

I have gotten away from telling people why I don't believe. Now I approach this by first asking them why they do believe. The answer always come down to The Bible. Then I ask a number of questions about the Bible to hopefully get them thinking critically.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 03:33:17 UTC | #925781

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 25 by susanlatimer

"I have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence." I can now rattle that off in about three seconds. What usually happens, then, are several seconds of blank silence while that sinks in. It would be nice if I had a single term that had a definition that most people would recognize as the same thing as saying that whole sentence, so if you know such a word, please tell me.

I'm not sure a single word would be as effective. If you have a three-second phrase that is met with several seconds of blank silence, then you have made progress. The trouble with a single word is that it will usually be shape-shifted by theologians or even by the missionary's personal psychology.

That phrase is the perfect length. How much more brevity could the subject bear? I prefer phrases to single words. Or we just end up with single words like "meaning" and "consciousness" and "nothing" that demand whole disciplines just to interpret.

A well-phrased question or statement is a beautiful thing, and difficult to come by.

"I have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence." Stick with that. That's what good discussions are made of.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 03:58:25 UTC | #925787

Sample's Avatar Comment 26 by Sample

I agree, Quine's three-second phrase is a show stopper. Sounds like candidate for the title of his forthcoming book if you ask me.

Mike

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 04:58:52 UTC | #925792

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 27 by susanlatimer

Comment 26 by Sample

I agree, Quine's three-second phrase is a show stopper. Sounds like candidate for the title of his forthcoming book if you ask me.

Not a bad title at all. Although, an old showbiz (back before sound bytes) guideline was, "Never open with your showstopper."

I'm not sure that applies anymore, (although, it still should.) Ask an editor.

And then, let Quine decide. He doesn't waste many words.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 05:04:46 UTC | #925794

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 28 by DocWebster

The question that irritates me the most is "Where did you come from if you don't believe in God?" I used to answer "Some Sperm and Egg my parents threw together" just to piss the questioner off. Then I heard "The Universe from Nothing" on Youtube a couple years ago and now my answer just drives them to hysteria. I start out with " Well, there were some atoms floating around" and they jump on Evo-denial. I smile and hold up a hand and say "I haven't even got to our sun forming yet, we've got billions of years to go before we even start talking about the formation of the Milky Way. I then start back into free floating atoms exerting gravitational pull on one another to eventually start forming the first molecules and glaze goes the eyes along with a few surly comments about scientism and they never bother me again

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 05:30:47 UTC | #925799

Quine's Avatar Comment 29 by Quine

I tend to be picky about words, not because I want to lord it over anyone's bad usage, but because our language both helps and hinders us. It helps us when it gets our meaning across, but hinders us when sloppiness keeps us from thinking deeply about what we say. Here is an example. Today while walking with my neighbor he told me about one of his African friends who changed from being a Muslim into a "follower of Jesus." Now, most may have let that go, but I then asked if his friend was a follower of Jesus as the Muslim prophet prior to Muhammad, or did he mean a Christian. Many don't realize that there are non-Christian followers of Jesus (I neglected to tell him about Atheists for Jesus), but he did go on to state that the bright line definition (according to him) is that Christians must believe in the divinity of Jesus and the Virgin Birth, so he actually meant a Christian, not just a follower of Jesus. I was interested to go more deeply into why that "bright line" is what it is, but it will have to wait for another day.

So far, I have yet to meet a Christian, in my day to day life, who understands that Christianity came into existence substantially after the life of Jesus (even granting that there ever was such a real person). Does helping Christians find out more about their own history make any difference to them? I am thankful for all that readers here have to add to this discussion.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 05:57:13 UTC | #925802

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 30 by Sean_W

I've tried to come up with a way in which reason may help Mike strengthen his beliefs. It needed to be better than just saying something like "don't push for reason, you'll just drive him to find more reasons to believe". Why that doesn't matter to us is apparent when we consider that his new found drive could also cause him to seek reasons for his reasons, and so on. (There is a question as to whether it is reasonable or not to expect Mike to always find at the end of such a pursuit nothing to believe in. But given the alternative is to accept that some reason for believing the hooey may exist, we needn't worry about that.)

Long story short, it hasn't been easy. I know, that means my opening comment appears rash -oh well.

It seems, as Quine himself has said, and S. Cat, and many others too, that evidence is the problem. Or for my questions in particular, it is how reason relates to evidence. Or more specifically, how sure can I be that reason can determine with certainty what is and is not evidence for a claim.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 06:06:44 UTC | #925804