'Credo consolans'

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'Credo consolans'

#1  Postby Shaker » Feb 26, 2010 2:08 am

... or 'I believe because it is comforting/consoling.' Not exactly a rare attitude amongst religious people: what's rare is that anybody is quite as open and up-front about it as is the American mathematician and philosopher Martin Gardner (b. 1914), whose book The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener is a superb read. Gardner is quite candid about the fact that he is a theist because he likes the idea: he fully accepts not only that there is no good evidence for a God but that the evidence positively leans the other way - his 'rationale' for theism is that he finds the idea comforting. He doesn't even try to defend it with so-called 'evidence' or back it up with reasoning: he simply finds the idea consoling.

Such candour does him credit. I'd say that this attitude applies to a good many religious people, but not too many are prepared to come right out and say it. My criticism of it is simply that anybody who quite openly and honestly admits that this is their one and only reason for believing in a God is fooling themselves - they're 99.9% of the way to atheism already. It seems to be an exercise in wilful self-deception.
To be boosted by an illusion is not to live better than to live in harmony with the truth ... these refusals to part with a decayed illusion are really an infection to the mind. - George Santayana
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#2  Postby jerome » Feb 26, 2010 2:14 am

Gardner does however have philosophical reasons for his faith; he is a Huxleyan Agnostic, denying special revelation, and a Fideist - he believes on faith in a God, but does not believe that God makes himself known through scriptures -- I think that's it, been a while. If you read the old RD Life after Death debate, a lot of my position I found was close to Gardner, and Thoms Paine's on that issue! (Both are heroes of mine.) Martin GArdner was one of the founders of CSI, formerly CSICOP, who are a very famous sceptical organisation, though I personally feel they have lost their way a little. Still I have immense respect for GArdner - the "godfather of Scepticism" as someone called him. :)

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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#3  Postby Jef » Feb 26, 2010 2:20 am

Is it actually possible to choose to believe something because you find it comforting? I would find it very comforting to believe I had several million pounds in the bank, yet impossible to believe given the overwhelming evidence that this is not the case.

More generally, are our substantive beliefs really something we choose, or merely something we, for want of a better word, accept?
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#4  Postby jerome » Feb 26, 2010 2:23 am

Good point jef. I have often said, though I am sure others disagree that theism/atheism for instance is NOT a choice: it is the way one sees the universe, and nothing to do with volition. I see the sky as blue (well some of the time): I can no more deny my theism than i can gravity. Yet for many years, till I was about 27, I could NOT have made myself believe in a God. I think Gardner believes in a God, accepts this as being a faith decision, but feels he has no evidence for that belief, if that makes sense. I have his book here and will look later...

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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#5  Postby Steve » Feb 26, 2010 5:23 am

It helps to have a definition of the word god. I have no idea what Gardners definition might be, but I assume it includes the qualities of omniscience and omnipotence. For myself reality meets these qualities as well. The problem, however, is what to do about this subjective point of view that nobody can deny. It is not good enough to explain that it is just a process. Everything is just a process. I see no reason not to accept subjectivity as real, and also accept I have no idea what happens to this process when my brain runs out of whatever makes it work.

In the subject object split which bits are real? The object that is seen? The person that is seeing it? Or just the process of seeing? I don't think anyone could argue that the process of seeing is not real, but the object that is seen will not be seen as it is (I think Kant talked about this bit) as it will be colored by the subjectivity of the one doing the seeing.

Assume the process of seeing is real. Where is the beginning and end of this process? It takes place within the framework of full reality. THAT is omniscient, omnipotent, immortal and all the godly stuff.

We then get people claiming materialism. But material is merely the object side of this subject object split. I have no problem with material being an essential element, but by itself it seems insufficient as we can never point to the subjective in the same way we point to an object. Yet we all have this subjective point of view.

Anyways - God = Reality for me. If you want you may label me theist. I would rather be called realist.
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#6  Postby Shaker » Feb 26, 2010 10:43 am

Is it actually possible to choose to believe something because you find it comforting?

I don't think so for a second - which is why I think that Gardner, or rather anybody who takes this line, is quite knowingly and deliberately fooling themselves.
To be boosted by an illusion is not to live better than to live in harmony with the truth ... these refusals to part with a decayed illusion are really an infection to the mind. - George Santayana
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#7  Postby nunnington » Feb 26, 2010 4:52 pm

steve

Still digesting your subject/object split. There is also the overcoming of this in the non-dual, but again there is no evidence for this beyond subjective experience. Yet the non-dual seems to exist at the heart of many religions, although Christianity has tended to fight shy of it. For one thing, it abolishes the individual, whom Christians want to save!

The other interesting and strange thing is that many Buddhists, and some atheists, argue that the separate self or subject is an illusion. Hence, for them, there is no subject/object split?

Thus there is the tension for many theists between God as Other, and God as non-dual Self. Christianity seems to be impaled on this, so that the lonely ego craves God, yet is finally overwhelmed and gobbled up by God, as he in turn gobbles up God. Well, 'gobble' is a kind of metaphor!

There is interesting stuff about this in psychoanalysis, in terms of 'incorporation'. Or, as Freud describes mourning, 'the shadow of the object falls upon the subject'.
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#8  Postby Scarlett » Feb 26, 2010 5:12 pm

Shaker wrote:
Is it actually possible to choose to believe something because you find it comforting?

I don't think so for a second - which is why I think that Gardner, or rather anybody who takes this line, is quite knowingly and deliberately fooling themselves.


Which is ultimately completely pointless so does not make his stance any different really than the average theist. He's using religion as a crutch, no differently than the others, only he's quieter about it. People need to accept that ridding themselves of false hope/comfort does not leave them in an emotional black hole
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#9  Postby nunnington » Feb 26, 2010 5:21 pm

Steve

A Buddhist friend has just reminded me (silly me) that if the subject/object split is overcome, and we have the non-dual, then this is neither subjective nor objective.

That has left me rather speechless. Oh well.
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#10  Postby Shaker » Feb 26, 2010 5:24 pm

He's using religion as a crutch, no differently than the others, only he's quieter about it.

I disagree - in fact, I think the exact opposite: by being so open and honest and up-front about his reason for belief (that it's comforting, regardless of the fact that not only is there no evidence for it, if anything all the evidence is against it), he's being very much the opposite of quiet. I think Gardner's attitude is quite widely shared; I suspect, but can't prove, that a great many people adhere to theistic belief for precisely this reason, but very few people will be so honest as to say that their only motivation for believing in God is that it's emotionally comforting even though all the logical and rational arguments are against it. He deserves credit for his candour, at least.
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#11  Postby Scarlett » Feb 26, 2010 5:39 pm

Shaker wrote:
He's using religion as a crutch, no differently than the others, only he's quieter about it.

I disagree - in fact, I think the exact opposite: by being so open and honest and up-front about his reason for belief (that it's comforting, regardless of the fact that not only is there no evidence for it, if anything all the evidence is against it), he's being very much the opposite of quiet. I think Gardner's attitude is quite widely shared; I suspect, but can't prove, that a great many people adhere to theistic belief for precisely this reason, but very few people will be so honest as to say that their only motivation for believing in God is that it's emotionally comforting even though all the logical and rational arguments are against it. He deserves credit for his candour, at least.


By quiet I mean on the other end of the scale from the fundies. I don't believe he differs in any way to all the people with their 'I don't believe in god I believe in "something"', if I had a pound for the wishy washies that have said that to me. It doesn't take much to work out that they need this 'something' for comfort, whether its for the afterlife side of things or something to pray to when your chips are down (even to help you win that game or some other banal purpose)
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#12  Postby Shaker » Feb 26, 2010 5:43 pm

By quiet I mean on the other end of the scale from the fundies.

Ohhhhhh, thaaaaaaaaaat. Well, in that case, you're absolutely spot on, of course :)
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#13  Postby Scarlett » Feb 26, 2010 5:47 pm

Shaker wrote:
By quiet I mean on the other end of the scale from the fundies.

Ohhhhhh, thaaaaaaaaaat. Well, in that case, you're absolutely spot on, of course :)


He he, one of the things I haven't learnt from RDF is to make myself clear, I got blown out the water more than once by more than a few smart asses :lol:

Must try harder :wall:
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#14  Postby Jef » Feb 26, 2010 6:13 pm

Shaker wrote:
By quiet I mean on the other end of the scale from the fundies.

Ohhhhhh, thaaaaaaaaaat. Well, in that case, you're absolutely spot on, of course :)


The problem being, of course, that although Gardner feels comfortable in believing that his god is all nice and fluffy, there's nothing within his claimed methodology which would prevent anyone from believing anything at all, no matter how ridiculous or cruel. It would give just as much reassurance to the more malevolent among us to believe that their god approved of their despicable actions.

Looked at like this, the whole thing is just silly. It boils down to someone believing they are doing good because it makes them feel good to imagine someone 'out there' who approves of them. It's only a short step from that to cutting out the middle man and believing that you are doing good, just because you say so; which is, in effect what they are doing to begin with.

Gardner is, to all intents and purposes, his own god.
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#15  Postby Steve » Feb 26, 2010 9:11 pm

nunnington wrote:Steve

A Buddhist friend has just reminded me (silly me) that if the subject/object split is overcome, and we have the non-dual, then this is neither subjective nor objective.

That has left me rather speechless. Oh well.

This is the annihilation of the ego, something I see as rather pointless. An ego is essential to our functioning within society. Rather one needs to cultivate detachment - the ability to think freely. It is a never ending process.
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#16  Postby Oldskeptic » Feb 27, 2010 3:10 am

Steve wrote:
We then get people claiming materialism. But material is merely the object side of this subject object split. I have no problem with material being an essential element, but by itself it seems insufficient as we can never point to the subjective in the same way we point to an object. Yet we all have this subjective point of view.


Enough with the philosophical mumbo jumbo.

Steve wrote:
Anyways - God = Reality for me. If you want you may label me theist. I would rather be called realist.


Good luck with that.
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Re: 'Credo consolans'

#17  Postby nunnington » Feb 27, 2010 10:43 am

Steve

Blimey, people actually reply on this forum as well. It's real neat petite.

Annihilation of the ego? I would say it just happens a million times a day anyway, when we sort of forget it. I agree that the ego is essential to many human functions, including society, but it's interesting that people seem to also equate it with alienation and loneliness. That is, as an isolated observer, vis a vis the whole universe, I seem like a fragment or a shard.

But there seems to be this reconnection available, whereby the fragment is brought back into the whole. Damn, where is a gnostic theist, when you need one?

It just seems that the non-dual experience is at the core of all religions. Thus Krishna: I am the creator and destroyer of worlds. Or Zen: neither I nor the world exist.

Is fiatlux around? Still drowning over on RD Forum?
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