Intelligent People Less Likely to be Religious

Robear wrote:
Phoenix Rev wrote:

Nevin73 wrote:

More intelligent people tend to question things more. Religion tends to fall apart under questioning and scrutiny.

Oh, yeah??

BRING IT!

*puts on vestments and pulls a switchblade*

Oh, cool, a challenger! First, explain which religion you will defend, and why none of the others are rationally defensible to the degree that the one you chose is. :-)

I find your lack of bladed weaponry disturbing.

Nomad wrote:

I find your lack of bladed weaponry disturbing.

I find your lack of bladed weaponry disturbing.

You've never been to my house, clearly. But there's no need for weapons in a dispute of the mind.

And make no mistake, PR is one of the best of us. I just wanted to bring up one of the problems that crops up when examining religion - which one do you believe, and, crucially, why? Because I can't see any more reason to believe in Christianity than in any other religion. In the process of laying out the *rational* arguments to discriminate between religions, it'll become clear that they are not all rational. I've never seen a convincing objective argument from apologetics, just a lot of stuff that appeals to believers because it's "facty".

Belief is something that is necessarily outside the observed world. Religion cannot reliably explain the world, otherwise there would only be one, that fits the observed facts everywhere, having evolved from earlier religions, winnowed by reality. Religion is a social thing, spiritualism is personal and internal, but neither are anything like accurate at explaining why the world is the way it is. (Nor is science a religion, it's got no social elements and it's spirituality is limited to a sense of wonder.)

Nomad wrote:

I find your lack of bladed weaponry disturbing.

He's carrying a main gauche right under his username.

(left handed dagger used in fencing)

Ooooo.... Good catch...

Phoenix Rev wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

More intelligent people tend to question things more. Religion tends to fall apart under questioning and scrutiny.

Oh, yeah??

BRING IT!

*puts on vestments and pulls a switchblade*

Actually I've also seen those intellectuals who do have faith tend to focus on the overall message and not get bogged down in the petty (and usually hateful) minutae.

Robear wrote:

And make no mistake, PR is one of the best of us. I just wanted to bring up one of the problems that crops up when examining religion - which one do you believe, and, crucially, why? Because I can't see any more reason to believe in Christianity than in any other religion. In the process of laying out the *rational* arguments to discriminate between religions, it'll become clear that they are not all rational. I've never seen a convincing objective argument from apologetics, just a lot of stuff that appeals to believers because it's "facty".

Belief is something that is necessarily outside the observed world. Religion cannot reliably explain the world, otherwise there would only be one, that fits the observed facts everywhere, having evolved from earlier religions, winnowed by reality. Religion is a social thing, spiritualism is personal and internal, but neither are anything like accurate at explaining why the world is the way it is. (Nor is science a religion, it's got no social elements and it's spirituality is limited to a sense of wonder.)

In all fairness, though, there is a bit of a disconnect for me when someone says something akin to "Prove your faith." (I am not saying that you are saying that, but a lot of people want to see that.)

Of course religion has a problem because it based on faith, that crazy notion that we believe in something despite the fact that we don't have something tangible to prove it. There are "facts" about my Christian faith that are not in dispute. But one can never present facts about one's faith outside of asserting that what they believe is what they believe. I know those who are not religious want something more and, unfortunately, I will have to disappoint them. Of course, I know that anything I say that may faith has done for me or brought to me can be dismissed as anything from overaggressive hope to acute mental illness.

But I can't deny what my faith has brought to me. And, I fully admit that in Christian circles, I am every bit an odd duck. I find solace in my faith through the humanity of Y'shua, not his divinity. While most Christians look to Easter as the apex of the Christian calendar, I find it in Good Friday. I celebrate my humanness because it is what Yahweh has given me. I see God and Christ as my dearest of friends and companions who hold my hand and enjoy the world with me, and realize there's a lot of bullcrap in it as well.

I wish I had more answers for everyone. I wish I could "prove my faith" because I have found pure ecstasy in my relationship with Y'shua and I want others to experience that same joy that I have.

But, I fully concede my faith is not rational or logical nor can I say definitely that the "facts" support the notion that Christianity reigns supreme over all religions.

All I can do is stipulate that my faith has made me a better human being.

That alone is worth a lot.

I am not a theologian.

That said, I've been given to understand that Catholic theology is, by nature, logical and rational. By these I do not mean the kind of "rational" that gets used in the forum (and in Western media) a lot. I don't mean it in the colloquial sense, in other words.

Like most things, Catholic theology starts off from postulates or assumptions - things that you take on faith and should not question. This is the same as 1+1 = 2. We don't try to prove that in math, generally speaking. We just accept it as true and work things out from there. So long as the assumptions are true, the conclusions are logically provable.

My geometry teacher and my philo professor both told me something it took me a long time to understand: You do not question assumptions. You question the logical process, possibles fallacies, maybe the conclusion - you test them all to see if they're rigorous and properly done. But assumptions are always binary - you either accept them as true, or you do not.

LarryC wrote:

Like most things, Catholic theology starts off from postulates or assumptions - things that you take on faith and should not question. This is the same as 1+1 = 2. We don't try to prove that in math, generally speaking. We just accept it as true and work things out from there. So long as the assumptions are true, the conclusions are logically provable.

The thing is that a sum is self proving. It has it's own basic confirmation built it. If you tell me 1+1=2 and I look at you sceptically you can pick up one stone and place it in my hand. Pick up another one stone and place it next to the first and say, "count them." Bigger sums can be proved in the same way (it may just take longer and we might need a sack or two.) Maths is built on a solid demonstrable bed rock.

LarryC wrote:

My geometry teacher and my philo professor both told me something it took me a long time to understand: You do not question assumptions. You question the logical process, possibles fallacies, maybe the conclusion - you test them all to see if they're rigorous and properly done. But assumptions are always binary - you either accept them as true, or you do not.

The problem is that Christianity's unquestioned assumptions lead you to Jesus dying for our sins. The assumptions of the Jewish faith say that Jesus did nothing of the sort and the assumptions of the Hindu faith accept that there are multiple gods, including one with an elephants head and a lady with six arms.

In that context, you could conclude that it isn't a good idea to rely on your assumptions.

I suppose it depends on context, but in general you absolutely have to question assumptions. St. Thomas Aquinas tautological proof for the existence of God, for example, is a wonderful bit of work but it completely relies on the idea that existence is a quality and that existence is "better" than nonexistence. The only way to challenge the proof is to challenge its assumptions.

In general, all logical conclusions are totally reliant on every asssumption used to prove them. That's kind of the point of logic, and influences the nature of "proof" in rational reasoning. You don't really challenge the proof by changing the assumptions. We don't say that Euclidean theorems are challenged by Non-Euclidean geometry, for instance. They're simply entirely separate ways of thinking.

I find this sort of colloquialism sloppy and, more to the point, irrational. Asking someone to "Prove your faith" in the logical sense is itself illogical, since proofs are made to validate conclusions, not assumptions. Once you move to trying to prove an assumption, it is no longer an assumption.

I unfortunately find this sort of muddy thought process commonplace. It's sobering to think that people who engage in this sort of thing are the more intelligent members of the population.

You don't really challenge the proof by changing the assumptions.

Actually any proofs can be discarded if you reject the assumptions/axioms it is built on. If you reject the truth of some axiom then it follows that any conclusion that arises from that axiom must not hold.

Take the Tautological Proof. The true axioms given are "existence is a quality" and "existence is 'better' than nonexistence" from that Aquinas derives a proof for the existence of god. If you reject either of the 2 initial axioms, either holding them to be false or meaningless, then his following proof no longer holds or is rendered meaningless. A proof for the axioms would of course be meaningless because they are the axioms. That's pretty much what complexmath is talking about here.

LarryC wrote:

We don't say that Euclidean theorems are challenged by Non-Euclidean geometry, for instance.

The universal truth of euclidean theorems are completely challenged by the existence of non-euclidean geometry that's a fundamental observation about the nature of non-euclidean geometries. Simply euclidean geometry is false in a non-euclidean space. In fact it was by changing the axioms that euclidean geometry is built on (to find out if euclidean geometry would still hold true if you changed those assumptions) that we discovered non-euclidean geometries and discovered that different geometrical theorems arise from different geometrical spaces. There's a really nice discussion of this and it's history in Penrose's 'Road To Reality'

LarryC wrote:

I find this sort of colloquialism sloppy and, more to the point, irrational. Asking someone to "Prove your faith" in the logical sense is itself illogical, since proofs are made to validate conclusions, not assumptions. Once you move to trying to prove an assumption, it is no longer an assumption.

This however is true. Axioms are after all axiomatic.

DanB:

I have no disagreement. I'm just saying the same things in a different way. It's weird to say that a proof is challenged by discarding the axioms. It follows that discarding the axioms invalidates any proof from them. That's hardly much of a challenge.

Re: Universal Truth.

Eh. It's always been difficult for me to accept the universality of anything that relies on axioms. You either choose to accept the axioms or not, but it felt weird to assert that everyone was always going to agree on everything. I've never known that to be true about any sufficiently large group of people.

The frequent instances of "My Truth is the Only Truth," I see around here and in American media is bizarre to me, no matter who says it. I'm not sure I understand it entirely.

LarryC wrote:

In general, all logical conclusions are totally reliant on every assumption used to prove them. That's kind of the point of logic, and influences the nature of "proof" in rational reasoning. You don't really challenge the proof by changing the assumptions. We don't say that Euclidean theorems are challenged by Non-Euclidean geometry, for instance. They're simply entirely separate ways of thinking.

I find this sort of colloquialism sloppy and, more to the point, irrational. Asking someone to "Prove your faith" in the logical sense is itself illogical, since proofs are made to validate conclusions, not assumptions. Once you move to trying to prove an assumption, it is no longer an assumption.

I unfortunately find this sort of muddy thought process commonplace. It's sobering to think that people who engage in this sort of thing are the more intelligent members of the population.

Except religious faith isn't (just) about assumptions, it's about things like the belief in the accuracy of testimonial evidence. It's even in one of the names for the two parts of the Bible: the Old and New Testament. I think you misunderstand the use of the word 'prove': it's not meant in the sense of *a* proof. It's meant in the sense of 'show me the evidence for your premise'. Of course it's illogical to ask someone to prove their assumptions, but that's the thing: religions don't treat the existence of god or the authority of their scripture as just an assumption.

It seems like your teachers explained validity while not explaining soundness. Religions don't just claim their beliefs to be valid, they also claim them to be sound. And of course, if they don't, they need to make P-Rev's admission that "But, I fully concede my faith is not rational or logical nor can I say definitely that the "facts" support the notion that Christianity reigns supreme over all religions."

tl;dr: when people say "prove your faith" they are not asking if your religious beliefs are logically valid; they are asking why you've chosen one set of assumption over another, or why you've chosen to make assumptions in the first place.

Oh, and one nitpick: the tautological (I've heard it called the ontological) proof is actually Anselm. Aquinas is the cosmological proof dude.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/#SH2c

This is just more of the same. If soundness is under discussion, then other reasons for choosing certain assumptions over others are on the table. These reasons may or may not make sense to everyone and they're not bound by logic rules. Moreover, many discussions centered around "prove your faith" do not seem to accept these reasons and then criticizes the rationality of a discussion that's not calling logic into the picture.

"Because I was raised that way," "Because I choose to," "Because it comforts me," and "Because I like it," are all considered acceptable reasons to have opinions, apparently except if those opinions are going to be used as logical assumptions, or for reasons of personal faith.

Once again, I am NOT a theologian.

As far as I know, Catholic faith explicitly labels certain things to be assumptions - ideas to be accepted as truths if you're to remain in the church. Denying the truth of Catholic assumptions simply leads to excommunication, which is kind of beside the point if you're already an atheist or a Protestant.

Other movements aside from religions simply assume and insist on the soundness of their stated beliefs. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."

TLDR: I challenge that characterization on a purely empirical basis. I've observed many instances, even on the forum, that do not correspond to what you're saying.

Phoenix Rev wrote:

Of course, I know that anything I say that may faith has done for me or brought to me can be dismissed as anything from overaggressive hope to acute mental illness.

See, that's not the point. Religion has a lot of strong points, and social utility. The point is that it no longer is really good at informing us about the world, but many if not most popular religions were in part intended to do that. And when people carry that on into the modern world, it creates a lot of issues. (There are other issues inherent in belief that are not unique to religion, but are common in it, that I'm leaving out.)

As a simple start, I'd love politicians to say things like "Hey, if someone's not religious, that's their business, I'm not going to tell them they are wrong or damned to eternal flames or that they can't be good citizens". Strikingly, American Christianity, in it's political and public policy influences, can't even live up to that basic respect.

I don't think believers are mentally ill because they believe. I think they have issues when they imagine that religion can inform their views on how the world actually works outside of society and the like. The Bible gives a Bronze Age view of the natural world (and one that defies the more advanced understandings which had come into play in some civilizations the Jews had contact with), and yet it's incredibly common for Christians today to argue that it somehow contains or prefigures or can be completely reconciled with what we've learned in the last 2500 years.

And for me, why should I worry about someone who tells me that a big invisible guy wants me to behave a certain way, when his Book can't even describe the world correctly? We'd never do this in real life - "Your car won't run, first I'm gonna charge you for a ceremony to restore it's spirit, then I'm gonna charge you for gas and new battery." Say what? I'll go straight to the guy who doesn't want to charge me to restore the car's spirit, even if that's not how my daddy raised me, because, well, outside of religion that's how everything else works.

I'm honestly glad religion works for you. It'd be nice to get it fixed so that it doesn't work *against* me, though. I know that your goal, too.

Actually I think that in the 1+1=2 analogy, the numbers are an assignment not an assumption. The assumption is further down the line in that, 1 - we exist and 2 - what we perceive exists.

So that when we have quatities of what we perceive, we assign them a number which is nothing more than a name given to a quantity from a numerical system which is a set of rules for distinguishing quantities and relationships between them.

edit: just in case the tone and brevity is misunderstood, this is not snark or an attack

LarryC wrote:

This is just more of the same. If soundness is under discussion, then other reasons for choosing certain assumptions over others are on the table. These reasons may or may not make sense to everyone and they're not bound by logic rules. Moreover, many discussions centered around "prove your faith" do not seem to accept these reasons and then criticizes the rationality of a discussion that's not calling logic into the picture.

"Because I was raised that way," "Because I choose to," "Because it comforts me," and "Because I like it," are all considered acceptable reasons to have opinions, apparently except if those opinions are going to be used as logical assumptions, or for reasons of personal faith.

The issue is the contradictions that come from those reasons. If someone backs up their belief in their god with "because I was raised that way" then how can they tell someone else they are wrong if they believe in a different god if that person was also raised that way?

It's not about having an opinion, it's what someone believes the status of that opinion is. If someone is willing to concede that their religious opinion is as subjective as what you're talking about, you're right. But they often treat their opinion as being much more objective than what you describe.

TLDR: I challenge that characterization on a purely empirical basis. I've observed many instances, even on the forum, that do not correspond to what you're saying.

Ha, I know what you're talking about and I would guess I have just as much of an issue with that kind of thing as you. But you get what I'm trying to get across is that at least *some* of those people correspond to what I'm saying, right? And that a lot of the religious don't act as if their assumptions are just assumptions?

One of the things I've noticed, Robear, is that religion almost always just validates what the people already want to do. This goes so far that Christian leaders signed off officially on a movement meant to violate one of the Ten Commandments - Thou Shalt Not Kill.

It makes a lot of sense and usually bears better fruit to look to the prevalent cultures and traditions for the ultimate source of what "religions" do.

CheezePavilion:

It's not about having an opinion, it's what someone believes the status of that opinion is. If someone is willing to concede that their religious opinion is as subjective as what you're talking about, you're right. But they often treat their opinion as being much more objective than what you describe.

It's probably just being human. I notice a lot of people often treat their opinion on pretty much anything as more objective than it really is.

Ha, I know what you're talking about and I would guess I have just as much of an issue with that kind of thing as you. But you get what I'm trying to get across is that at least *some* of those people correspond to what I'm saying, right? And that a lot of the religious don't act as if their assumptions are just assumptions?

Same thing here. Lots of self-proclaimed "religious" people who barely know their stated religion do that. Lots of nonreligious people do that, too. Haters gonna hate is the meme, right?

Robear:

I always take "questioning" to mean "verifying". Are you asserting that one should never verify the accuracy or truth of one's assumptions? That sounds foolish in the extreme...

What my teachers meant was that trying to disprove or ask proof for axiomatic statements is pointless. Once you start questioning anything, then it is no longer an assumption, and you've redefined your perspective. Which doesn't mean that you've disproved anything in your previous perspective.

LarryC wrote:

One of the things I've noticed, Robear, is that religion almost always just validates what the people already want to do. This goes so far that Christian leaders signed off officially on a movement meant to violate one of the Ten Commandments - Thou Shalt Not Kill.

It makes a lot of sense and usually bears better fruit to look to the prevalent cultures and traditions for the ultimate source of what "religions" do.

I'd modify that to "religion almost always validates what one group wants people to do". Crucially, religion has been used to separate the identities of previously unified populations, and so it's more than just a bottom-up "we'll encode our behaviors" movement. It's strongly top-down: "you guys are not behaving in a way that benefits us, so here are the new rules, follow them or roast in the belly of Moloch"... Or burn in Hell, or be cast out of the community, or brought into the courts, or whatever the accepted practice for non-conformance is.

Robear:

The percentagae of Catholics who openly use contraceptive techniques banned by the Church speaks strongly against the idea that religioins are top-down.

LarryC wrote:

DanB:

I have no disagreement. I'm just saying the same things in a different way. It's weird to say that a proof is challenged by discarding the axioms. It follows that discarding the axioms invalidates any proof from them. That's hardly much of a challenge.

I disagree. Acquinas' tautological proof, for example, fostered centuries of debate. It really isn't as simple as saying "your assumptions are invalid", your challenge still has to withstand scrutiny. Metaphysics is really all about developing and testing theories that describe what we know, and so there's a huge amount of attention paid to these fundamental ideas. It's really easy to get lost in semantics and never get anywhere while working on this sort of stuff, but that's a necessary part of the process.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Oh, and one nitpick: the tautological (I've heard it called the ontological) proof is actually Anselm. Aquinas is the cosmological proof dude.
http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/#SH2c

Oops. I suppose I should have had my coffee before posting that this morning And it is the ontological argument. "Tautological" has an entirely different implication.

[quote=LarryC]
Robear:

The percentagae of Catholics who openly use contraceptive techniques banned by the Church speaks strongly against the idea that religioins are top-down.
[quote]

And the fact that the Church has not modified it's practices speaks strongly against it's doctrine being bottom-up. Not to mention that the Catholic Church is, fundamentally, a top-down hierarchy. I'm curious as to how you perceive the structure of God - Bishops - Priests - Deacons as *not* being a top-down hierarchy of control...

What my teachers meant was that trying to disprove or ask proof for axiomatic statements is pointless. Once you start questioning anything, then it is no longer an assumption, and you've redefined your perspective. Which doesn't mean that you've disproved anything in your previous perspective.

But what is the functional effect of that? Sure, if all you're saying is that "questioned assumptions are no longer assumed to be true", that's right, but it's also trivial. Your implication here is that you are against the questioning of assumptions in the sense that once you have one, you should never worry about changing it.

And yet, the world offers us changed understandings all the time, and surely some of them challenge previously accepted assumptions. I'm trying to get at the method by which you feel you should change your *beliefs*, if and when that is necessary, given that the rest on assumptions about the world that could be incorrect.

I'm sure it's just me not understanding your explanation, that's happened before. But it's intensely interesting. I was taught to examine the truth of axioms first, because if they are not accepted, or acceptable, then the entire logic structure they create is useless. Without confidence in one's assumptions, in other words, one's entire world-view is subject to either dismissal, or a dangerous divergence from the real world.

The unofficial slogan of my school was "Question Authority", which applies to academic pronouncements as well as religious ones. (The official slogan is "Non Satis Scire", which also has applicability here.)

Edit - I also would assert that if you have "redefined your perspective" by changing an assumption, it means that your previous "perspective" is nullified by the change. If you changed the assumption arbitrarily, that has no real-world effect, but if you've changed it due to observation or experimental results, then yes, you could well have rendered your earlier perspective invalid in the real world, and relegated it to the realm of thought alone.

LarryC wrote:

Like most things, Catholic theology starts off from postulates or assumptions - things that you take on faith and should not question. This is the same as 1+1 = 2. We don't try to prove that in math, generally speaking. We just accept it as true and work things out from there. So long as the assumptions are true, the conclusions are logically provable.

Arithmetic is axiomatic, yes, but the axioms define the allowed systems, of which arithmetic is a consequence. If one changes the axioms, then the possible systems change.

My geometry teacher and my philo professor both told me something it took me a long time to understand: You do not question assumptions. You question the logical process, possibles fallacies, maybe the conclusion - you test them all to see if they're rigorous and properly done. But assumptions are always binary - you either accept them as true, or you do not.

I always take "questioning" to mean "verifying". Are you asserting that one should never verify the accuracy or truth of one's assumptions? That sounds foolish in the extreme...

Edit - Thinking about this point further, I'd say that the scientific method is what allows us to have confidence in our assumptions, and to replace faulty assumptions with more accurate ones. Do you disagree, Larry?

Fangblackbone wrote:

Actually I think that in the 1+1=2 analogy, the numbers are an assignment not an assumption. The assumption is further down the line in that, 1 - we exist and 2 - what we perceive exists. So that when we have quatities of what we perceive, we assign them a number which is nothing more than a name given to a quantity from a numerical system which is a set of rules for distinguishing quantities and relationships between them.

In nihilism, we would not exist to know anything. In solipsism, no one could ever know anything based on external knowledge. As the Pragmatists teach us, everyday life disproves both of those positions in a very functional way. Adding them to systems of logic is extraneous. They are only useful concepts if someone is actually asserting they are true, or non-existent.

If we have to prove we exist and that we have senses and can communicate before we can claim the right to use logic, we're wasting a lot of time. It's been done, read about it, then you don't have to go through that silliness anymore.

Edit - This is a big problem for much of "post-modernism", because they have to pretend that these issues were not actually addressed in the last 200 years or so in order to spawn off an alternate branch of inquiry, which ignores Russell and Frege and Peirce and Wittgenstein and many, many others who already handled issues of discourse and perspective and truth very well.

If you're interested in what actually underlies arithmetic, google "Peano's Postulates". Cool stuff.

I suppose a better way to phrase the question PR and I were talking about would be "Prove to me that my life will be better if I add in belief in, worship of and adherence to the rules of a deity that can't be perceived." After all, people put a lot of time into this stuff.

Only people who think that it's important that everybody believe the same thing they do. Which is, you know, not all of them. Not by a long shot. For example, I'm pretty sure Phoenix Rev doesn't.

(And add in a shot of "not everybody religious believes in worship, in a deity, in religious rules, or even in supernatural things" for form. Even though I'm tired of trying to make that point and being ignored.)

I do think it's fair to assert that following the teachings of Jesus will result in a better life. Of course, we could debate for ages what is meant by "better", as well as defining what it means to follow Jesus' teachings. For the sake of argument though, let's assume a red letter interpretation. And if doing so stipulates belief for some people, I don't see this as a bad thing.