God belief hypothesis

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God belief hypothesis

Postby Silhouette » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:36 pm

I've been trying to understand the way religious people come to believe in their religion.

It seems to be traditional for either side of this story to frame the other side in their own side's terms rather than the other way around, and this appears to be getting nowhere beyond providing entertainment and reinforcing each side's view that they already hold. Very very occasionally you see a half-baked attempt to represent the other's side in fairer terms, but it's usually patronising and only a token gesture before they revert to pushing their own side just as before. I'm trying my best to do it properly here.

Is it fair to say that believers think in terms of types and non-believers in terms of tokens?

Often you hear atheists arguing that specific things in religion when read literally are absurd, could not have occurred, are not scientifically possible etc. and the religious will call a straw man. Is it then the case that the religious are instead looking at the kinds of things you come across in their texts and teachings? That the meaning behind what is being said is relatable and that is the truth that they are finding rather than the literal specifics? That would explain why they respond to the morals behind the events, behaviours and consequences that the religion lays out. The morals, how the stories make you think and feel - that is what is being said to be true to the world and what seems to result in more preferable ways of living, no?

Yes there's slavery, rapes and tribalistic murder, and of course that's not what's being communicated as moral, it's the lessons behind what merely happens to be the social norms at the time the text was written - I've often come across religious thinkers arguing that the texts had to be relevant to the times in order to gain traction. The literal atheist is obviously right to point out that many of the old customs have no place in modern society, and that this is a valid point about the place of ancient religions in today's context, but the metaphorical theist is also obviously right to point out that the lessons set within the old customs are still valuable within new customs.
Both are right and wrong in different ways.

You see this mismatch in contemporary popular thinkers, such as when Sam Harris debates Jordan Peterson about truth. They're talking about different ways in which to draw truth, both valid, but the paradigm is different - so they talk past each other. Does JP believe in God? He never seems to answer this question to Sam's satisfaction or to the satisfaction of atheists alike. He's answering it in terms of stories and "types" of truth. Sam and other atheists want specifics about believing that a God is a Being that exists "out there" in the world in some kind of detectable way. I imagine the answer to that requirement in atheist terms would be "no", although it would be phrased as "not exactly" in theist terms. It's not as though God doesn't exist at all "out there" in the world in some kind of detectable way, because in a way He does, but not in the same way as matter, energy and forces do in science. God won't have a specific temperature or mass etc. but that which is being identified as His effect is detectable to humans in a way that at least appears to be just as ubiquitous and eternal as any scientific law because as the religious point out - the morals appear to be valuable in ancient and modern contexts alike, and there's no reason to believe that this will change in future.

Am I on the right track here with my distinction between type-truth and token-truth?

Is one more valid than the other? I think it depends on your values. I've been an atheist for as long as I can remember because I value specifics and drawing patterns from literal detail only in order to maximise accuracy in prediction in the most objective way possible. I imagine that theists are looking more to ethical decisions to guide the tendencies in how they act towards more preferable outcomes according to what they want from life. If so, the theist is in a way more engaged "in the world" than the atheist who is standing back from the world first before engaging themselves with it. I would presume that this is a similar difference between continental and analytical philosophical schools of thought, where the poets see the trees more than the wood, and the mathematicians see the wood more than the trees.
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Re: God belief hypothesis

Postby Dan~ » Sat Oct 06, 2018 12:02 am

It seems to be traditional for either side of this story to frame the other side in their own side's terms rather than the other way around, and this appears to be getting nowhere beyond providing entertainment and reinforcing each side's view that they already hold. Very very occasionally you see a half-baked attempt to represent the other's side in fairer terms, but it's usually patronising and only a token gesture before they revert to pushing their own side just as before. I'm trying my best to do it properly here.


I consider that a consequence of the dream-like state that most beings are in on earth.
Fantasy is more appealing than reality.
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Re: God belief hypothesis

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Sat Oct 06, 2018 10:12 am

Silhouette wrote:I've been trying to understand the way religious people come to believe in their religion.
One reaction right of the bat is that most religious people find themselves already in their religion. It is not so much a matter of cming to believe, but in continuing to participate. That participation will likely include a great many different beliefs and epistemologies - and most of the latter sloppily thought out in most people. That isn't a shot at religoius people, most people in general don't really notice their own epistemologies. And if they do, they tend to idealize them. For example, most people I encouter FIND an explanation when challenged but these often seem ad hoc and after the fact. And generally, few people will justify on intuition, when it becomes clear in the discussion that this likely was the case.

Is it fair to say that believers think in terms of types and non-believers in terms of tokens?
I don't think so, but I will admit that despite relooking at Stanfords PHilosophy encyc on types and tokens, I still feel a bit hazy. I think different believers and different disbelievers vary. Though I would guess there would be more similarity amongst disbelievers, in the west, in any case.

Often you hear atheists arguing that specific things in religion when read literally are absurd, could not have occurred, are not scientifically possible etc. and the religious will call a straw man. Is it then the case that the religious are instead looking at the kinds of things you come across in their texts and teachings? That the meaning behind what is being said is relatable and that is the truth that they are finding rather than the literal specifics? That would explain why they respond to the morals behind the events, behaviours and consequences that the religion lays out. The morals, how the stories make you think and feel - that is what is being said to be true to the world and what seems to result in more preferable ways of living, no?
But there are religious people who DO take things literally. Also there are many religious who will point to specfic events and experiences - I prayed and this happened, I felt the holy spirit, after I gave my problem to God, I never took another drink, to the experiences of mystics which often can take on the more miraculous token type stuff.

You see this mismatch in contemporary popular thinkers, such as when Sam Harris debates Jordan Peterson about truth.
JP is not a very usual kind of theist, if he is one. I think also, again, most people, including people like Sam Harris are not so savvy about where their beliefs are coming from. I would bet he has beliefs that would not pass the muster he expects religious beliefs to pass. They might be more mundane - like 'what women are like' but these beliefs will inform how he acts in the world (that is will have real world consequences,) who he votes for, how he raises his kids, how he interacts with other races and so on.

Is one more valid than the other? I think it depends on your values. I've been an atheist for as long as I can remember because I value specifics and drawing patterns from literal detail only in order to maximise accuracy in prediction in the most objective way possible. I imagine that theists are looking more to ethical decisions to guide the tendencies in how they act towards more preferable outcomes according to what they want from life. If so, the theist is in a way more engaged "in the world" than the atheist who is standing back from the world first before engaging themselves with it. I would presume that this is a similar difference between continental and analytical philosophical schools of thought, where the poets see the trees more than the wood, and the mathematicians see the wood more than the trees.
Many Eastern theist practitioners would be very focused on specifics, accumulating skills and predicted experiences. Pagans and indigenous also. You might disagree about the quality of their 'research' but I don't htink the type token distinction holds in general for theists. I can see where you are going with the main atheist debate in the US ,say, between Christians and Atheists, but even there I think many believers have a rather diverse set of epistemologies, both openly and then unconsciously.
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Re: God belief hypothesis

Postby felix dakat » Sat Oct 06, 2018 11:45 am

Interesting questions. As Karpel seemed to suggest, many of us are indoctrinated into a religion when we are children. So we initially accepted the symbols, the narratives, the stories, the imagery, the rituals uncritically.

Many religious people that I talk to resist examining their beliefs philosophically. And indeed it does appear that the objects of a person's faith are put at risk when a person tries to understand them.

So the question is whether the type/token distinction is helpful for understanding religious beliefs. To begin to examine the question, I will apply the distinction to a reading of a Biblical text.

Could we say that if Exodus 12 is read as an event that may or may not have been historical that it is being looked at as a token? And conversely if it's read either as that which applies to me because I am a member of the Jewish community to whom the Passover was given or to me as a Christian because it symbolizes Christ who was sacrificed for me that in those instances it is interpreted as a type?

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Re: God belief hypothesis

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Mon Oct 08, 2018 6:39 pm

felix dakat wrote:Interesting questions. As Karpel seemed to suggest, many of us are indoctrinated into a religion when we are children.
I really do mean something more neutral. Of course families take their kids to the mosque, church, synogogue. Of course humanist families will have their kids coming up in the midst of stated and implicit assumptions about reality.

So the question is whether the type/token distinction is helpful for understanding religious beliefs.
I think it is useful in any specific discussion between people with different beliefs. A way to look at how they may be talking at cross purposes.
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Re: God belief hypothesis

Postby felix dakat » Fri Oct 12, 2018 5:27 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
felix dakat wrote:Interesting questions. As Karpel seemed to suggest, many of us are indoctrinated into a religion when we are children.
I really do mean something more neutral. Of course families take their kids to the mosque, church, synogogue. Of course humanist families will have their kids coming up in the midst of stated and implicit assumptions about reality.

So the question is whether the type/token distinction is helpful for understanding religious beliefs.
I think it is useful in any specific discussion between people with different beliefs. A way to look at how they may be talking at cross purposes.

Sounds good. What would that look like? I've reached an impasse in discussions with some of my fundamentalist Christian friends.

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Re: God belief hypothesis

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:00 pm

felix dakat wrote:
Karpel Tunnel wrote:
felix dakat wrote:Interesting questions. As Karpel seemed to suggest, many of us are indoctrinated into a religion when we are children.
I really do mean something more neutral. Of course families take their kids to the mosque, church, synogogue. Of course humanist families will have their kids coming up in the midst of stated and implicit assumptions about reality.

So the question is whether the type/token distinction is helpful for understanding religious beliefs.
I think it is useful in any specific discussion between people with different beliefs. A way to look at how they may be talking at cross purposes.

Sounds good. What would that look like? I've reached an impasse in discussions with some of my fundamentalist Christian friends.

I suppose, instean of focusing on the differences in your beliefs, you might focus on how they use the stories and images and personalities in their religion. It might not resolve anything, but it might bring some light into the differences in how you approach participation.
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Re: God belief hypothesis

Postby barbarianhorde » Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:18 pm

You know Silhouette like with any scientific question the answer is: try it. Gotta try to believe in some God. Then you can maybe find out why and how. So pick a cool God. Not some megabrand God but just a God or a buncha them that seem cool enough to suspend disbelief.

I tried it when I was 24. Pretty cool brain chemistry.
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