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Old 07-29-2009, 02:20 AM   #69
Samuel Dravis
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Originally Posted by Achilles View Post
And my argument is that there is no difference.

But christian doctrine is all of these things.
See below.

Per my earlier post the former is not a requirement. Regarding the latter, it might not "arise" from such a misunderstanding, but the misunderstanding is there, nonetheless. Your source mentions nothing about having to be derived from misunderstanding, only that erroneous belief is present.
I was just demonstrating that it did not fit the first definition. As for the second definition, I'm not convinced one can call it a misunderstanding (or erroneous) if the belief does not necessarily entail the possibility of "steering one wrong".

For example, if the belief that a spell will protect you from physical harm leads you (or will lead you) to hurt yourself, that belief was superstitious (def. 1). But modern Christianity entails no such necessary gamble. As I said previously, the belief that "nothing can really harm you if you believe in God" is not a conditional belief; there exist no criteria that determine it one way or another. I don't believe the concept of truth even applies to such a statement. If it is not a true or false belief, what is it then? It's just there, previous to considerations of whether it's useful/helpful/good for X objective or not. It's a learned behavior, similar to how saying "my foot hurts" replaces cradling and pointing to your foot.

When one appeals to the rationality of a belief, it's necessary that there be an objective. For example, if you wanted your fence to be colored green, it'd be rational to go about doing things which would effect that purpose. Things like buying paint, brushes, going outside, putting the brush in the bucket and such would be rational in light of the objective. Taking an axe to the fence would be irrational.

Now, suppose you say that religion is necessarily irrational (by definition superstition is irrational belief). But the question then arises: to what purpose are we to think that religion is directed towards? As you state in your post, you believe it is to provide historical truths (and I acknowledge that many people believe this).

However, I don't believe that religion has an objective in this sense; or if it does, then the objective is itself. The stated end of their belief, for most Christians, is to live with God forever. Some things that align with this belief is the practice of following certain rules, like the Ten Commandments and various New Testament passages. But in what sense are these people who do these things "living with" anyone, or getting closer to anyone, or seriously entertaining the thought of living forever? No Christian I know of thinks that he will not die in the conventional sense. Everyone expects that. And yet, he asserts he will not die, that others have not died, etc. The reality of his physical death doesn't diminish his belief in the slightest.

So what is left, if not even the powerful image of death can overcome his conviction? What is left cannot be an opinion, because opinions involve the possibility of being wrong. But that is logically excluded: as per the above paragraph, there is no criterion that would demonstrate the belief's wrongness. The only event that could have disproven it - death itself - has been shown to be irrelevant to the belief. What is left is not the result of ratiocination, but neither is it irrational. It's just a fact of human life, a fact of nature. It is these facts alone which I am saying cannot be superstition.

Obviously such beliefs are open to criticism from other vectors. You raised, in my opinion, the most important one: the fact that beliefs have consequences in the way people live their lives. This is, I believe, what Nietzsche criticized in Christianity-- the consequences of its "slave morality", i.e., the moral code that enabled the weak to punish the strong. This is a legitimate criticism, but it requires that the reader be persuaded that such a revaluation of morals is necessary. One can easily imagine a new atheist, recently convinced of the "death of god" - to put it in Nietzsche's terms - might be willing to begin such a task. Most would not, however; I myself see little wrong with the current state of affairs, but maybe that's just because I'm not the Ubermensch Nietzsche was talking about.

I read the other day about how a combination of sex deprivation among young Muslim men due to societal pressures and the belief in the whole 72-virgin-afterlife thing made them significantly more likely to be suicide bombers than anyone else. Naturally I don't think there's any truth to their belief in the virgins (though I don't think it's not true), but I am more than willing to argue that the consequences of that belief are extremely bad for everyone involved. Fortunately most people are inclined to believe that killing people is evil.

No doubt that you and I could go on all day about how christian doctrine came to be what it is today. My concern is not how we got here, but what we can determine about the claims (and doctrine) we see today.
My point in all of this talk of history of Christianity was to show that the things said by Christianity are not necessarily claims about the nature of the world, even if they are couched in the terms common to such claims. As in my responses above, they might not even qualify as opinions, depending on how they're held. And that's the only thing I've tried to say: that some - not all, perhaps not even very many - Christians do not hold superstitious beliefs.

Naturally I wish to avoid things like the genetic fallacy. In this case I am not saying that the origin of these religious beliefs changes their current truth value; I am saying that their current truth value (or lack thereof) can only be evaluated through the social practices within which they exist-- and a look at the history of the phenomena helps bring this out.

And that's fine, so long as you aren't positing that people cannot be taught to be superstitious. I suspect that our difference here is that you believe that someone has to be aware that what they believe is superstition in order for it to be so and I do not.
I agree with you completely that people can be taught to be superstitious.

My belief in this case is that I think that in order to be superstition, a belief has to fit all, some, or any of the concepts classed under "superstition". For convenience I offered the definition. Obviously I don't think that Christianity necessary utilizes those concepts, and so I don't think that Christianity is necessarily superstitious.

See above. Having been indoctrinated into a believe does not mean that the belief is not superstition. All it means is that people can be indoctrinated into superstitious belief.
You're right; indoctrination has nothing to do with whether a belief is superstition or not. I looked at the definition of "superstition" to find clarity on the matter in the first place.

Unless I misunderstood your point, the argument was that god's omnipotence is as natural as your being able to walk. My point is that if you look at the animal kingdom one would expect to find locomotion and would not be surprised to see bi-pedal locomotion because it's everywhere. There is nothing exceptional (in the literal usage) about it.

Omnipotence on the other hand is another matter entirely. Therefore I find the comparison erroneous and the argument fallacious.
I'm not sure why one would expect to find in nature omniscience, unless you were to include religious practices in "nature." God's omnipotence is entirely natural given the sort of being he is in the framework of the religions that describe him. This was what the analogy with walking was supposed to exemplify. Obviously even the most perfect analogy will not hold in every possible case, but that's just the nature of analogy for you; it's not the same as the thing it describes.

With regards to your question: I pit these claims against modern rationalistic methodologies because adherents not only insist that these claims still have relevence, but that they are superior to all others. In other words, I do it because they ask me to
All right, that's perfectly acceptable, and I leave them to your able criticism. However, merely because some Christians try this approach does not mean all must, implicitly or explicitly.

Tell me what's rational about christian doctrine and I will (hopefully) be able to see your point.
Nothing's rational about it (at least not the subset I'm interested in). Belief in, e.g., the virgin birth is not the product of ratiocination.

There may be subsets in which theologians argue about one idea or another using logic and what-have-you, but the acceptance of those ideas, those "mysteries" is fundamentally not rational.

I realize that it's typical for something which is not rational to seem as if it were irrational, bad, or somehow lacking in rationality that it needs in order to be respectable. This is simply a metaphysical prejudice carried over from dualistic thinkers who held that (untenably) the mind was superior, or at least separate from, the body. Curiously enough, Christianity has been fighting such teachings at least since the Manichean heresy, roughly AD 387. Modern analytic philosophy has been trying to rid itself of dualistic ways of thinking for at least 70 years now; it's a lot harder than it sounds. Many ideas which seem very significant, like Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" (everyone loves that, I know), solipsism, and any other radically subjective ideas must be abandoned completely.

Again, I'm pretty sure that a truly omnipotent being would be able to find a way. I may or may not lack the imagination to know what that would look like, but I'm pretty sure I'll never have to worry about it either, so...
I'm pretty sure I'll never have to worry about it either. Every bit of history and philosophy I know shows that "God" is a term only with use inside of a sociological practice. I have absolutely zero reason to hold the opinion that there exists extrasensory beings of any kind-- and I don't.
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