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What is the Destructive Force of Belief?

Posted: March 15th, 2009, 3:52 pm
by coberst
What is the Destructive Force of Belief?

A brief perusal of history manifests for us the destructive force of belief. Technology increases the destructive force that we humans have; plus the obvious fact that technology changes our environment with lightening speed, whereas our intellectual sophistication is stuck in the mud of our ‘beliefs without wonder’.

The word “belief” has many definitions; we can develop a scale of belief that meanders between the extremes of casual guesswork about both mundane and important matters to beliefs that we willingly live, die, and kill for.

‘I believe that it is going to be good weather for the picnic’ to ‘I believe that the planet is getting warmer fast’. Beliefs at this level are about matters of little or great consequence but the belief itself is not about certainty but is about matters still uncertain.

The content of our belief does not determine its place on our ‘belief scale’. It is our degree of certainty regarding our belief, which determines its position on the scale.

Belief systems are often characterized by an absolute certainty of truth by many of their members. A sense of certainty plus a sense of being surrounded by treacherous unbelievers are characteristic of many belief systems. Nazism and Marxism contained these features; there is no circumstance or situation in history that cannot be fitted into their ideological views.

The mention of Nazism and Marxism as examples is not meant to imply that all belief systems are uniformly dangerous. These systems of belief run the whole spectrum from the trivial and harmless to unrestricted evil; from Boy Scouts, to partisan politicians, to Civil War. The important point is that these systems of belief can be exceedingly powerful and the membership is often dedicated to exploiting political action to achieve the group’s selfish goals.

“The act of belief is always an act against; it requires an opponent who holds the contrary belief.”

If we (Americans) watch the verbal ping-pong game between the Republicans and Democrats we will quickly comprehend that you can’t have one without the other. If there is no itch to scratch who would be scratching? If there were no socialism what bogyman would capitalism use to define capitalism? Could Protestants exist without a Catholic Church?

True believers are dedicated to the destruction of the unbelievers. Because belief is always against unbelief, it then is in fact unbelief. The believer and the unbeliever are two sides to the same coin. Each belief is defined by its opponent’s belief. “Both sides depend on each other to know what they believe…belief marks the line at which our thinking stops…

Quotes from The Religious Case Against Belief by James P. Carse

Posted: March 15th, 2009, 7:27 pm
by Haller
...and this is why we can not have "good" without "evil". Whatever the definitions of those may mean, balance is necessary.

Posted: March 15th, 2009, 9:08 pm
by Grim
What about the idea of transcending good and evil?

Posted: March 16th, 2009, 6:18 am
by coberst
Grim wrote:What about the idea of transcending good and evil?
To tanscend such matters demands that our culture become much more intellectually sophisticated than we now are.

Posted: March 16th, 2009, 12:21 pm
by hilda
coberst essayis extremely good and it appears that belief in the above sense really means a committment without any prejudice at all to its rationality. By focusing on the more controversial beliefs one generates conclusions which are about their particular controversiality rather than beliefs per se. For instance some people have principled beliefs such as honesty and the test for such a belief is simply being honest and the sum total of such cultural virtues could be called a belief system; those uncontroversial virtues and principles which people advocate and to which some are committed in the sense of living by them themselves and thereby promoting them.

Posted: March 16th, 2009, 11:36 pm
by Haller
Trancending good and evil means we must recognise the truth of them first. We must take into account both. The same applies with belief. Wisdom suggests that one should understand and base thier actions upon the bringing together of belief and unbelief.

Posted: March 17th, 2009, 3:15 am
by wanabe
What is the Destructive Force of Belief?--->one asserting that there ideas are the only correct ones, and or eliminating totally (attempting to) other beliefs.

belief marks the line in which "fact" stops, thinking doesn't stop necessarily, they are just thinking one sided.

however, this isn't destructive in the long run. everything seeks balance/equality...but never gets there.(thankfully, nothing is created or destroyed, only changed) because of socialists, national socialists(nazi) and other extremes. in-betweens and other even more extremes are realized.

Posted: March 17th, 2009, 7:37 am
by Belinda
Destructive beliefs--what do they destroy?

They destroy freedom of individuals and of whole societies. This is because destructive beliefs are set up by power interests for their own exclusive ends. Giant corporations, authoritarian religious pundits such as the ruling hierarchy of the RC Church, political dictators from both the communist and the fascist ends of the political spectrum, and petty tyrants and confidence trickers who prey on the gullible.

Fanatical beliefs are beliefs held with much emotion and little or no reason , and all the above power interests are clever at injecting spurious emotionality into their claims to hold the truth of something or other, from the nature of God to the efficacy of snake oil.The first pillar of wisdom for everybody , not only Muslims, should be the shield against idolatry because idolatry is fanatical belief in a man-made concept.

"Don't just swallow. Chew!"

Posted: March 17th, 2009, 9:01 am
by coberst
Freud informs us the reason for this form of behavior, group psychology, is the tendency for humans to be suggestible and influenced by a psychic form of transference.

What do the following entities have in common: fascism, capitalism, communism, political parties, and religions? They all have a common characteristic that can be called “group mind”.

What is striking is that members of these entities often undergo a major change in behavior just by being members of such entities. Under certain conditions individuals who become members of these groups behave differently than they would as individuals. These individuals acquire the characteristics of a ‘psychological group’.

What is the nature of the ‘group mind’, i.e. the mental changes such individuals undergo as a result of becoming a group?

A bond develops much like cells which constitute a living body—group mind is more of an unconscious than a conscious force—there are motives for action that elude conscious attention—distinctiveness and individuality become group behavior based upon unconscious motives—there develops a sentiment of invincible power, anonymous and irresponsible attitudes--repressions of unconscious forces under normal situations are ignored—conscience which results from social anxiety disappear.

Contagion sets in—hypnotic order becomes prevalent—individuals sacrifice personal interest for the group interest.

Suggestibility of which contagion is a symptom leads to the lose of conscious personality—the individual follows suggestions for actions totally contradictory to person conscience—hypnotic like fascination sets in—will an discernment vanishes—direction is taken from the leader in an hypnotic like manner—the conscious personality disappears.

“Moreover, by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized group, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization.” Isolated, he my be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian—that is, a creature acting by instinct. “He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings.”

There is a lowering of intellectual ability “pointing to its similarity with the mental life of primitive people and of children…A group is credulous and easily influenced—the improbable seldom exists—they think in images—feelings are very simple and exaggerated—the group knows neither doubt nor uncertainty—extremes are prevalent, antipathy becomes hate and suspicion becomes certainty.

Force is king—force is respected and obeyed without question—kindness is weakness—tradition is triumphant—words have a magical power—supernatural powers are easily accepted—groups never thirst for truth, they demand illusions—the unreal receives precedence over the real—the group is an obedient herd—prestige is a source for domination, however it “is also dependent upon success, and is lost in the event of failure”.

I have read that some consider objectivism to be a cult rather than a philosophy; I asked my self what is the difference between a philosophy and an ideology. I turned to Freud and his book “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” for my answer. I discovered that Freud had turned to the Frenchman Gustave Le Bon for an understanding of group behavior.

Gustave Le Bon was a French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. His work on crowd psychology became important in the first half of the twentieth century. Le Bon was one of the great popularizers of theories of the unconscious at a critical moment in the formation of new theories of sociology.
English translation Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1922) was explicitly based on a critique of Le Bon's work. The quotes and short phrases in this post are from this book.

Posted: March 17th, 2009, 5:28 pm
by nameless
Something y'all might find interesting;

Belief IS the enemy

The Power of Belief

Studying the fantastic powers of the mind isn't just for Forteans anymore. Other "respectable" scientists have begun to look at the mind's amazing capabilities. Medical researchers have found that through biofeedback, people can control their own body temperature, pulse rate, or even sensations of pain. Psychoneuroimmunology has begun to examine the interfaces between the mind and the immune system's resistance to disease. Hypnosis has proven to be an effective tool to counteract smoking, obesity, and other problems through autosuggestion. Many disorders, such as warts, impotence, and headaches, are now known to be psychosomatic, that is, mind-caused. The placebo effect, which is based on nothing other than the perceived authority of medicine, appears to provide genuine benefit to the sick. Surgeons have found that talking negatively about patients under anaesthesia reduces their recovery and recuperation rate. Some "wild talents" such as lightning calculation, eidetic (photographic) memory, and rapid learning, appear to make use of parts of the brain that many of us leave dormant. Properly trained, our minds can "script" our nightly dreams through "lucid dreaming" or even alter our physical condition by re-creating our body image. But when dysfunctional, they can also trap us with obsessive compulsions or delusions which seem real.

It is apparent that if you can convince the mind of something, then the body considers it to be true. Subliminal persuasion can convince you that you're hungry, and your stomach will begin to secrete gastric acid, regardless of your actual 'physical' need for nutrients. The success of the pornography industry lies in the fact that people can become sexually aroused by representations of the sexual act, in lieu of the real thing. Fantasizing is not just limited to the sexual realm; it appears to be the key to creativity for artists and writers. About 4 % of us are Fantasy-Prone Personalities, meaning that our active imaginations are capable of creating alternate worlds of equal vividness and complexity to "this" one; and such FPPs dwell in those worlds a good part of their lives. If soldiers are told that they have marched for three times the distance that they have 'really' marched, their bodies often display three times the normal level of fatigue. Many people laugh over pop psychology pablum concerning the "power of positive thinking." But studies show that confidence and concentration are often the primary keys in athletic success- not brawn, power, or musculature. If this is the case, it may be true that many of our limitations are self-imposed, and often what inhibits us is nothing other than the automatic belief that we'll fail.

In the non-Western world, this stuff is old hat. Some of the lamas of Tibet have so much mastery of mind over body that they can survive through freezing cold, go without food or water for amazing periods of time, suspend vital functions (such as heartbeat) for hours, or negate bleeding or injury. Islamic religious mystics are so "enraptured" that they pierce their flesh with hooks and lie on sword blades; "possessed" Haitian voudou houngans chew glass and razor blades; "ecstatic" Fijians walk across blazing hot coals; and all do this without pain or injury. Christian mystics have a long history of self-inflicted pain, but a much lesser record of avoiding injury or death (hence the high number of Christian martyrs.) Some, like the Welsh Revivalists of 1905, have done some amazing things, like slam each other with sledgehammers or mauls, to little effect. When the mystics are asked how they perform such feats, they claim that they empty their mind of all thoughts except one, which is usually their key concept of the Divine or sacred. Sufi dervishes dance endlessly without fatigue, claiming they are so "filled with G-d" that they cannot feel anything, not even exhaustion. Martial arists in the Orient fill their mind with their characteristic yell, which allows them to focus ch'i to do the unthinkable, such as shattering brick. The Tibetan lamas claim that when the mind concentrates properly on its own Buddha-nature (mantras, yantras, mandalas, breathing, and yoga are all important techniques), all the Siddhas are possible, including the creation of thought-forms (tulpas) with a reality of their own.

Modern science and psychology might be willing to accept that the mind can conquer feelings of pain, but there is no way Cartesian science can explain how the mind stops the flow of blood, negates damage to the body, commands the very cellular activity of the body, or transcends normal human limitations. The nervous system or the hormones of the brain glands cannot "tell" the skin not to break when pierced by a sword. It is clear that for supranormal performance, an altered state of consciousness is necessary, whether that be "the runner's high" or "the ecstasy of the saints." When such as ASC is attained, the mind may have a PK-like ability to control and shape the body, perhaps even creating the stigmata of the saints or the marks of Buddhahood. Understanding the mechanisms of "mind over body" involved in these processes may lead us to an understanding of other parapsychological aspects of the mind, such as psychokinesis or psychic healing. The Russians have focused in particular in the bioenergetic aspects of the mind - how human emotion and cognition change the 'bioplasma' or so-called 'Kirlian aura.' "Bioinformation" may be relayed from the mind of one organism to another through a previously unrecognized medium, the "elan vital" of the ancients.

The common discovery of the modern doctors and the traditional mystics is that mind shapes reality. Psychologists are beginning to understand how our cognitive structure - personality, attitudes, preconceptions, worldview, socialization, enlanguagement, etc. - shapes our perception of reality; but they are not prepared to deal with ways in which the mind may construct, create, and transform reality 'in itself.' Some of this work in constructivist cognitive science - how mind makes the world - is being examined by Heinz von Foerster at MIT. Others, approaching the nervous system as "operationally closed," (such as Maturana and Varela) feel that the mind cannot 'directly' perceive reality, only generate perceptions consonant with its previously shaped cognitive structure. What we call discovery or identification may really be processes of invention or creation. Sociologists of knowledge, like Andew Pickering, feel that physicists are often really "creating" many of the weird quantum entities they are studying, rather than just "finding" them out there. (That position is reflected by the Copenhagen Interpretation, which suggests that mind collapses the quantum wave function and creates the properties of the observed.)

Why Belief Can Be Our Enemy

Understanding that mind makes reality, one must then understand why belief is the enemy . Belief systems have often been created to shape the mind into narrow reality-tunnels that exclude other modes of perception. If you can control what people believe - as Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators realized - you have a method of coercion better than a thousand tanks or the death penalty. The so-called holy wars of religion and the Inquisition were waged in the name of belief, the idea being that either you believed in the True Religion or you were deserving of death. As Robert Anton Wilson points out, convictions make convicts - rigidity of belief and ideological dogmatism ("there is only one true way") have restrained and distorted the human spirit for thousands of years. People will do things they wouldn't otherwise - such as suicide bombings or kamikaze dives - in the name of religious or nationalistic beliefs. The problem of the human race has not been a lack of belief, it has been a surplus of it. He who can get us to believe in an ideology has us under his power. But ideology governs more than action or behavior.

Because of the power of the mind, those who control ideological apparatuses can therefore control reality (an insight Marx hinted at, then fell short of, due to his tunnel-visioned materialism.) If we examine certain ideological precepts - norms, "morals," ideals - we do not have to be a cynic to see that some are techniques of social control. But more than that, they are attempts to govern discourse and the nature and validity of truth-claims that can be made about the world. Beliefs pertaining to authority, divine right, etc. are particularly useful for political control; but this is likewise true of beliefs in "the invisible hand" in the realm of economic power and control, and in other social realms. Beliefs about the natural world, unlike beliefs about the social world, are accorded stronger truth-claims, due to the ideological system of naturalism. Thus, the belief that some people are "naturally" stronger can justify certain social arrangements. But, beliefs about the natural world may serve another purpose: if people have a stake in certain beliefs regarding the natural world, they will be negative toward other beliefs due to the closure operant in most belief systems.

If one is familiar with the power of belief, then the natural philosophical position to take is skepticism: "accept nothing unless proven or verified." While the Greek philosophers thought skepticism meant suspension of belief or agnosticism (admitting that one really did not know anything), many modern 'skeptics' are really 'debunkers' or 'disbelievers.' That is, rather than choosing to suspend belief in X, they choose to believe in not-X, often with a lack of criticality that they ascribe to believers in X. While skepticism is closely linked with empiricism - one should base all epistemological precepts on induction, observation, and experience - the two concepts are not identical. The skeptic realizes that both his reason and his senses can fail him at times, so both rationalism and empiricism are insufficient. Skepticism is based in the critical method: question and challenge all authority and all prevailing ideas. Scientific "skepticism" is limited in that it refuses to question its own radical privilege over other modes of comprehending the world, or its own possible insufficiency. The true skeptic (zetetic) has no stake in any discourse/belief-system, religious, scientific, mythic, or otherwise, but he may borrow from any system the concepts he chooses to assimilate into a personal worldview. (Choosing to deny oneself a worldview is also a doctrine, in a sense - nihilism.)

Fortean Zeteticism

Forteans should be true skeptics, always remaining in that fine point of balance between belief and disbelief, willing to consider both contrary and positive evidence without jumping to conclusions. Speculations can be made from the potential truth of phenomena, without any final decision as to their ontological validity. Skepticism does not mean the surrender of truth altogether, only the surrender of belief. That means all beliefs - moral, social, religious, rational, irrational, logical, illogical, emotional, etc. - that one cannot personally prove or verify should be surrendered. Truth should be dealt with from a relativistic framework, with room for multiple frames of reference, and left in a state of potentiality. Occam's Razor should shave away all unnecessary assumptions - "they make an ASS out of U and ME" - regardless of their supposed basis in the prevailing canons of thought or even "common sense." The world is often not what we expect it to be, nor what we take it to be. After all, our beliefs only shape the world to a limited extent. You can believe you are Godzilla for as long as you want to, deeply and truly, and you will never acquire firebreathing abilities or a 200 ft stature. That is quite verifiable. Try it for yourself.

If Fortean phenomena are approached from a framework of belief, their reflective character creates only confusion and consternation. Look for Martians, and lo and behold! you will find them; but beware, they may be something else tomorrow ("airship inventors.") True Fortean investigators, in order to avoid catching something drawn from their own mind, should suspend belief, and employ the objectivity and skepticism scientists claim but usually fail to demonstrate. (The reflexivity of Fortean phenomena is much greater than many other scientific unknowns - much of Forteana appears to hold true to the old adage "you see what you want to see" - but it can provide insights into the properties of other occurences where science fails to recognize the reflexivity at work.) Skepticism is not a denial of objective reality, merely a sober appraisal of the ways in which beliefs can partially alter it, and a way to get at things from a belief-free, open-minded perspective. One need not be stoic, a tabula rasa, or completely non-committed to any principles to be a skeptic. Rather, one needs merely to acknowledge the potential limitations and constraints of the beliefs they hold, since an existence where one believes in nothing could be undesirable. Hence not taking oneself too seriously can be an important key, as well as not being too defensive about one's intellectual territory. Are any scientific 'skeptics' listening?

Timothy Leary maintained that there were multiple circuits accessible within the human brain, but only a few were active. Most academic scientists have not progressed beyond the emotional-territorial phase: most of their arguments are based on the perceived need (like alpha male primates) to stake out and defend intellectual "turf" and maintain that in various "turf wars." Few have activated the circuits beyond the dextero-symbolic, which views the world in terms of puzzle-solving and piece-assembling. Anyone who has read Martin Gardner's mathematical recreations column in Scientific American has witnessed the academic way of reducing the world to a mathematical problem to be solved. But those who may have engaged their hedonic or transegoic circuits begin to realize that it may be best to treat the world as a Zen riddle or koan , and appreciate the qualities of subtlety, irony, ambiguity, and unexpectedness that make the universe so precious. Those who have made it to this stage know the inappropriateness of belief (such as Charles Fort: "I accept no facts, concepts, or theories, as I have no truck with something so slippery as the products of minds") and the necessity of communicating this understanding to others.

Steve Mizrach

Posted: March 18th, 2009, 4:09 am
by Belinda
But those who may have engaged their hedonic or transegoic circuits begin to realize that it may be best to treat the world as a Zen riddle or koan , and appreciate the qualities of subtlety, irony, ambiguity, and unexpectedness that make the universe so precious. Those who have made it to this
what are the practical implications of this for educating children?

Posted: March 18th, 2009, 5:51 am
by nameless
Belinda wrote:
But those who may have engaged their hedonic or transegoic circuits begin to realize that it may be best to treat the world as a Zen riddle or koan , and appreciate the qualities of subtlety, irony, ambiguity, and unexpectedness that make the universe so precious. Those who have made it to this
what are the practical implications of this for educating children?
Not being the author, I am unaware of his intended meanings other than as expressed. From personal experience, I'd say that treating the world as a metaphor, or koan, (as I have done all my life) encourages (is a feature of) critical thoughtful examination of existence as perceived, without being 'seduced' (into 'beliefs') by 'common consensus' or 'superficial appearances' or 'memes', or other 'herd pressures', etc...
Nothing is as it seems!
And everything is as it appears.
Depends on Perspective...
Children comming out of school able to perform critical thoughtful examinations and evaluations of the world around them, and themselves, seems like an evolutionary 'step-up'.
Wouldn't you agree?

Posted: March 19th, 2009, 4:40 am
by Belinda
Yes, I would. But it's not good enough to leave it to chance.

Posted: March 19th, 2009, 6:07 am
by nameless
Belinda wrote:Yes, I would. But it's not good enough to leave it to chance.
Leave what to 'chance'?