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Meaning Requires Conviction

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Posted by Harvey on November 9, 2002 04:43:30 UTC

Hi Mario,

***I disagree with your assertation that in the absence of concrete evidence, we should side with the belief that is most pleasing to us. I find this statement to be profoundly and deeply depressing.***

What do you mean by evidence? I consider a belief that adds meaning to life as evidence that one should hold it.

***You're picking philosophies based on aesthetic appeal rather than intellectual rigor (at least, that's what it seems like.) Not to say that theism is without merit, but to discard a view simply because you don't like its implications is not something a well-balanced intelligent adult should do.***

Mario, where do you think the notion of truth comes from? I can't see any origination of truth other than what you call aesthetics.

***How happy an opinion makes me feel comes dead last on my Validity Detector List.***

Okay, name the highest items on your Validity Dectector list. Let me ask if 'aesthetics' is needed to place items at the top of that list.

***Faith based on appeal and appeal alone is a dangerous thing. It suggests that our happiness is paramount over all else, and that whether or not the belief is true is irrelevant, as long as it makes you happy. I cannot express in words the horror I experience when someone honestly admits that a belief's truth is secondary to its appeal.***

You have it wrong. The appeal of a belief is what makes a belief appear to be true. There are different types of appeal, but I don't think there is no universal appeal that distinguishes 'truth' in all cases.

***Would you rather be a theist out of fear or an atheist out of gloominess? Is belief borne from horror over its absence an honest belief?***

I would rather be a theist because I cannot think of a reason why I should be an atheist and plenty of reasons why I would rather be a theist.

***That is, of course, to say that you're arguing about theism's objective validity, not its worth to society.***

What do you mean by 'objective'?

***if it could be scientifically proven, beyond a shred of doubt (let's say, with equal confidence that we say the world is round today) that God does not exist, would you want to know? If you came across this discovery yourself, would you release it to the world?***

Yes I would want to know. Would I release it to the world? Probably not. If I travelled to the future with a time machine and found out in 2005 we obliverated ourselves in mushroom clouds all over the planet and I knew for sure there was nothing we could do about it (i.e., that future would happen if I did say something or if I didn't say something), I wouldn't say anything in that case either.

***Though I say I'm an atheist on occasion, I think of myself more as a pure agnostic. When you claimed, a few posts back, that agnosticism is as gloomy as atheism, you hit a nerve. If admitting that we don't know the truth is a gloomy position, then damn, Harv, we just live in a gloomy universe.***

No, Mario, that is the point, you live in as gloomy of a universe that you want to wake up in the morning and believe that is before you. You can choose your beliefs, and as a result those beliefs choose you. This notion that we know 'truth' is a bunch of hoey, all we know is what is meaningful to our perceptions and thoughts of those perceptions. If we cannot call those meaningful experiences as 'truth' (or 'approximate truth') because we technically do not 'know', then I see no benefit to the concept of what it means to understand something. We might as well apply Aurino's early thoughts on Maxwell's equations to everything. Your college education would hardly be possible with such an approach. Are you fooling yourself in thinking you grasp certain features of the world around you? Of course not. There's no justification to be agnostic when spiritual meaning is a fundamental human need - at least for most folks. Perhaps there is a small percentage of people that do not require meaning in their lives. There is always going to be a small percentage of people who have different needs. I am talking in more general terms, that is, with society as a whole.

***For you to call that position deluded or dismal frustrates me to no extent. It sounds strongly like you would discard intellectual honesty in favor of a dose of morphine. It's almost as if you've reveling in humanity's ignorance, taking advantage of our position inside the box to believe whatever the hell you want.***

Not at all. We should seek out the most meaningful hypothesis and even believe such hypotheses, however when a hypothesis forces us to give up other (more) meaningful beliefs in order to be consistent (i.e., another meaningful belief of humans), then we have to make certain sacrifices. Maybe it's not the best idea to believe that you will get rich at Vegas if you gamble enough if the cost is that you should give up something dear (e.g., your house). In those cases, we must sacrifice the meaning in one area of our lives to pursue a more meaningful situation. What meaning are we gaining by being agnostic or atheistic? Perhaps there are a few gains, but not near enough to off-set the huge losses that spiritual meaning provides (i.e., I'm still talking in terms of society and not a particular individual).

***And by the way, I find the prospect of Hell to be far more terrifying than no God at all. In my opinion, no-one -- not Hitler, not Stalin, not bin Laden, not Dahmer, not even my physics teacher -- deserves an eternity of torment.***

I'm not saying that they do, but personally I wouldn't lose sleep if such individuals were sent to such a place (i.e., with the exception of your physics teacher).

***A God who casually hands out eternities like this would be an absolute monster. I cannot even conceive of a being cruel enough to condemn its own creations to neverending pain. Such a being would not be worthy of worship. If that belief truly gives you hope for the universe, well, then, have fun with that. If I were to pick between philosophies based on appeal alone, I would stick to agnosticism before throwing my lot in with an arbitrary tyrant.***

This is not a dichotomous situation. You can choose the spiritual belief that most appeals to you and therefore you can reject hell as long as it is not something that you need to believe in. If someone, who suffered greatly, had an emotional need for hell (i.e., they need to believe that evil doers will be punished), then I could certainly understand if they went ahead and held that belief. Or, more realistically, if someone wants to be dedicated to their religious beliefs, then I see no reason why they cannot continue to believe in hell if that is what they really want to believe.

***In the end, I find hope to be infinitely preferable to belief. My ideas on spiritualism are probably best expressed in the movie Dogma. Have ideas, not beliefs. Ideas can be changed, they're not absolute, they're not worth killing over. Speculation over conviction.***

Ideas and speculations are not satisfying. If you want to experience the benefits that faith can provide, then you need to believe. Otherwise, the whole meaning that such beliefs provide is very small or non-existent.

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