You believe in nothing

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CatHerder
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You believe in nothing

Post by CatHerder » Wed Jun 17, 2009 6:39 pm

(inspired by the "When you die, you get what you believe in" post.

You believe in nothing is the statement that irritates me most. It seems that for a lot of people you must hold some supernatural point of view. That no matter how weird or wonderful your belief is, it's still an admirable alternative to naturalism.
  • Is this because the majority of people cant cope with nothing after death?
if so
  • How do you reply to this statement in a way that demonstrates your point of view to have some merit if the person you're talking to just cant cope with it?
Ygern
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by Ygern » Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:48 pm

This is always the most difficult question to answer.

Humans are probably unique among "higher" life-forms in that we know that we are going to die, in most cases a long time before it happens. When we are fully able to comprehend what this means, I think it is fair to say that we are all frightened and saddened.

So it is perhaps the most natural thing that we desire to survive our own deaths, and to be able to believe that this can not only be achieved but that our "afterlife" will be even better than our current life is such an attractive concept it is no wonder that it has proved such a popular belief. This has to be even more true for people who are not as lucky as us - people for whom this life really is a kind of hell. (I know we all enjoy a good moan now and then, but we lead a good life compared to many in this world).

But there is nothing noble about clinging to a belief because it makes you feel better. I can understand, indeed I sympathise greatly with people who just cannot give up this hope. Perhaps it is a hope that they need to cling to, that gives them strength to face their life. But I think it takes greater courage to face up to the fact that you have this one life, and to face death squarely knowing it to be the end; than to spend your last hours muttering feverishly at some imaginary friend.

This is a difficult topic to broach with a lot of people, as it is most likely their ultimate and most dreaded fear. And I don't doubt that for some, to lose their hope in an afterlife would fill them with despair. Sometimes people come round to it little by little as they face their fears and come to terms with them. I myself have always thought it ironic in my own case that as my belief in an afterlife dwindled, I found my fear of death dwindling too.

Here are a couple of things that I have found both inspiring and thought-provoking.

Richard Dawkins in Unweaving the Rainbow:
"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
and Tim Minchin's Storm
(his beat-poem is mainly about scepticism and antiscience; but he addresses the question of life being enough for us)
The universe is huge and old, and rare things happen all the time ~ Lawrence Krauss
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lostexpectation
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by lostexpectation » Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:02 am

we have a problem with the believing part they have problem with the 'nothing' part
test
Feardorcha
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by Feardorcha » Thu Jun 18, 2009 6:28 pm

I usually reply with: 'On the contrary, I believe in everything - everything that is real.'
nozzferrahhtoo
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by nozzferrahhtoo » Thu Jun 18, 2009 6:37 pm

My own reply to this is that I do believe in something. I believe in me, I believe in you, I believe in the people I love and I believe in all the other people around us.

And on that basis I believe above all in discourse. The only thing we have in this life is each other, the only help we have is each other, and therefore the only thing we have is discourse with each other to get through it. We just do not have anything else.

We decide what is right and wrong together, democratically. We form societies and run them with the ideal of making it as perfect as possible for as many as possible.

In essence, in short, I believe in US.
bockedy
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by bockedy » Thu Jun 18, 2009 8:56 pm

You'd need to tease out what the questioner means by the statement "You believe in nothing", what do they mean exactly?

If they are asserting that, irrespective of whether a god exists or not, you "ought" to believe, i.e. they believe in belief/religiosity itself, presumably because of some benefit to yourself (e.g. mental health) or to society (perhaps asserting that religiosity confers some societal benefit). My response would be, what exactly is it about religiosity which produces this benefit, and can we make it more effective without having to have the mumbo-jumbo? For example, people nowadays don't bother chewing willow bark to release the minute quantities of salicylic acid to cure a headache, they take an aspirin, which is full of the stuff. Perhaps there is some "active ingredient" in religiosity producing these benefits that waits to be discovered. (Personally, I doubt it. On the personal benefit side, I know of people who have been deeply mentally scarred by religion. And on the societal benefit side, we only have to look as far as the Ryan report. So if there is some "active ingredient", my guess is that it does much more harm than good. Indeed, by isolating an active ingredient, it is possible then to do proper pros/cons analyses ... the results of which the religious might find hard to swallow)

If on the other hand, the assertion is that belief in itself is something to be valued, again why?

Putting the existence of a god to one side, the valuing of belief in something for which there is no evidence whatever is a destructive thing, and something that should be strongly discouraged. Critical thinking needs to be encouraged, not discouraged. The very existence of religiosity and the holding up as "good examples" of people who believe strongly in a god without evidence is itself an opportunity for other nonsense like astrology, "alternative" medicine etc etc (see whatstheharm.net for loads of evidence where a lack of critical thinking has killed and maimed thousands)

And finally, assuming the questioner is asserting that belief is the ticket into heaven, one has to ask, why does your god value belief so highly? Why would their god not value living a good, honest, socially responsible life, questioning things, critical thinking, and searching for evidence-based truths just as highly? Why would all that not be a ticket into their heaven too? If not, it's totally arbitrary. In fact, they need to seriously asks themselves why would their god be so arbitrary, and whether that has serious implications about the veracity and motives of their god.
May Ea smite thee with the might of his fist!
marklen
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by marklen » Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:15 pm

I usually make the following corny reply:
"I believe in you"

It is about as meaningful/useful as "you believe in nothing", but it gets you out of the defensive.
lostexpectation
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by lostexpectation » Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:18 am

marklen wrote:I usually make the following corny reply:
"I believe in you"

It is about as meaningful/useful as "you believe in nothing", but it gets you out of the defensive.
and give em a hug lol
test
pantsheadmagee
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by pantsheadmagee » Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:29 pm

lostexpectation wrote:
marklen wrote:I usually make the following corny reply:
"I believe in you"

It is about as meaningful/useful as "you believe in nothing", but it gets you out of the defensive.
and give em a hug lol

OH NO, NOT THE MILITANT ATHEISTS AND THEIR HUGGING! HOW DARE THEY BE SO.... oooh, squishy.. ;)




Also, I'm with the rest of you about disliking the idea of believing in 'nothing'. I don't believe in nothing. I have an entire universe to believe in, right here. I think it highly unlikely that I will, in my short few decades on this planet*, run out of things to be amazed by, intrigued by, surprised by.



*unless someone invents some radical life-extending technologies in the meantime. And someone should TOTALLY get to that, sharpish.
Hemingway
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Re: You believe in nothing

Post by Hemingway » Tue Jun 23, 2009 3:38 pm

Funny this should be posted here as I was just thinking about an experience I had at the Electric Picnic last year.

Two young gals approached me as I was at the back of the crowd watching the Sex Pistols on the main stage. They approached me in a very friendly manner and asked me how I felt about Jesus.

Long story boring, they proceeded to inform me:
a) I believed in nothing
b) I believed there were no consequences for my actions in this life.

I simply answered (worse the wear for drink at that stage of the evening) that of course there are consequences for my actions in THIS LIFE as its the only one we get and I told them I believed in reality, nature, science, art etc. I'm sure I slurred it out a bit but that was the general jist.

They both told me they would pray for me and went on their merry way. I sat back on the grass proud of myself, drinking from an overpriced pint of Heineken in a plastic cup and enjoyed the musical styling’s of an English punk band roaring into a 21st Century version of "God Save The Queen", thoroughly enjoying this one life I am lucky to have obtained.

Although I guess I did earn it, being the fastest swimming sperm of a huge gang of sperm....
Dont try to fix me, I'm not broken
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