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Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Belindi
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Belindi » January 5th, 2019, 4:53 pm

Eduk wrote:
January 5th, 2019, 11:40 am
WMHoerr wrote "a religion of some sort is a necessity for the smooth running of a population." and this agrees with what I just wrote.
But @Wmhoerr doesn't agree.
Oh sorry. I was too hasty.

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Greta
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Greta » January 5th, 2019, 11:02 pm

Wmhoerr wrote:
January 5th, 2019, 2:07 am
Several answers to this question suggest that a religion of some sort is a necessity for the smooth running of a population. This is supprising as the age of homo sapiens is at least 200,000 years with religions estimated at 4000 to 5000 years. If these figures are right, 98 percent of our history was without religion and we probably did ok.
Think of natural selection. What do we have in the world today? Mostly people who are religious. Why? Because they must have out-competed the non-religious. Why did they out-compete them? They formed a tight knit group, motivated by all-seeing cosmic threats and promises and were probably more coordinated than more rational but anarchic groups.

I see that same dynamic today in secular western politics. In countries with very low levels of religious beliefs most politicians remain devoutly religious. Why? What I notice is that secular politicians rarely last long in the game. They are beaten and tormented until they have to get out. By contrast, theist politicians tend to hang around endlessly, having been mentored and fostered by the "old boys' religious club" based on exclusive Catholic and Protestant schools, after which they have regular support from their brethren as secular types are left to fend for themselves.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Wmhoerr » January 6th, 2019, 1:08 am

Greta wrote:
January 5th, 2019, 11:02 pm
I see that same dynamic today in secular western politics. In countries with very low levels of religious beliefs most politicians remain devoutly religious. Why? What I notice is that secular politicians rarely last long in the game. They are beaten and tormented until they have to get out. By contrast, theist politicians tend to hang around endlessly, having been mentored and fostered by the "old boys' religious club" based on exclusive Catholic and Protestant schools, after which they have regular support from their brethren as secular types are left to fend for themselves.
You have something there Greta. But maybe religious people are more certain of their beliefs and therefore have a high opinion of themselves. Some act as if there are no problems left to solve; all is known. In contrast many scientists are full of doubt.

I would like to use an example here on the origin of religion:

“There have been countless religions most of which are now extinct. Imagine a village in earlier times with no religion. How could a religion start? A particular idea, like “there is a spirit of crops” thought up in the mind of one person would have a good chance of success. This idea might be built upon with “a prayer is needed to appease this spirit and ensure that our crops are successful”. As this prayer would only take a little time to perform, the village might pray rather than risk losing their crops. In this case the prayer idea has addressed the genetic fear of hunger. The person who thinks up this idea might gain status in the eyes of the other villagers and so there is a reason to spreading it. New ideas do not have to be true, they only have to be believed. The ritual for the protection of the crops must only be seen, from the villagers’ eye-views, to protect the crops. If the crops are generally successful, then praying will “save” the crops in the majority of cases. On the occasion that it does not, there is always the opportunity to say that the prayers were not sufficient or correctly done. Sometime later another person may say that a place for the spirit is needed and so a house is set aside for worship. People may begin to meet there. Maybe the crop spirit is thought to reside in the house, and so on. As the religion evolves, morals and rules of behaviour are included. The new religion now provides a frame of reference through which the world can be viewed. Over time, a priest class will evolve to ensure the correct following of the religious ideas. By a process of addition and modification, the religion will evolve and mature.” (evolution-path.org 2014)

The most important point here is that “new ideas do not have to be true, they have only to be believed”. In this way religions are about survival not truth. Theist politicians confuse survival with truth. This seems to give them a confidence to stick around.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 6th, 2019, 5:26 am

@Greta natural selection doesn't work like that.
Saying that religious people outcompeted the non religious because they were probably more coordinated should require some evidence?
Personally I don't think it is very meaningful to split people into theist and non theist. Anymore than it is left and right. Or brown haired and not brown haired.
I would rather ask if a person was more or less reasonable. And I take this on a case by case basis.
Oh and the reason many politicians say they are theists is because this causes the least people to stop voting for them.
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Greta » January 6th, 2019, 5:07 pm

Eduk wrote:
January 6th, 2019, 5:26 am
@Greta natural selection doesn't work like that.
Saying that religious people outcompeted the non religious because they were probably more coordinated should require some evidence?
Personally I don't think it is very meaningful to split people into theist and non theist. Anymore than it is left and right. Or brown haired and not brown haired.
I would rather ask if a person was more or less reasonable. And I take this on a case by case basis.
Oh and the reason many politicians say they are theists is because this causes the least people to stop voting for them.
Actually cultural selection works very much like natural selection, still operating on Darwinian principles.

Not long ago almost all of the world believed in gods and ascribed to local religions. Thus we can assume that religiosity was culturally selected, that aspects of religion conferred an advantage that was greater than the opportunity costs of religion - resources and attention taken from ostensibly survival based activities. That religions came to dominate most of the world and largely retained its hold on most people means they enjoyed significant advantages over less religious groups. In lieu of significant technology, having fighters who were more willing to die than others would have been a huge advantage.

If you believe that there were factors more important than increased motivation and coordination to bring about religion's dominance, let's hear them.

Whether you think categorisation is helpful or not doesn't matter to theists of the Abrahamic type because they and their captive politicians are already operating in parallel. If we don't see this, we get exploited (and we are), which is a significant part of why religions continue to consume public monies, effectively funding their political activities.

It would be easy to simply get religions' charitable arms to apply for grants like any other NGO rather than being given privileged tax-free status. That status remains not reviewed in many jurisdictions, despite child molesting and coverup revelations and loss of relevance. Why? Yes, some politicians pretend to be religious, like Trump, but most really are, and in unrepresentative proportions as compared with the general population.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 6th, 2019, 5:52 pm

Sorry @Greta I don't think I was clear.
Not everything confers a survival advantage. For example cancer is generally considered to not be superior to not cancer and yet all human civilisations have had cancer. It is trivial to think of things which aren't advantageous to survival but that happen anyway. For example humans are doing pretty well existentially but we provide a great opportunity to many deseases. I see something like religious belief as quite analogous. The brain is amazing for a multitude of tasks but it isn't perfect and it provides opportunity for bad ideas.
For me being religious is no different to many other unreasonable beliefs. This is why it doesn't deserve a special categorisation. Because it isn't useful to do so. I see no real difference between belief in ghosts, anti vacinne, religion, communism, football teams, racism etc.
As to politicians taking advantage of people. Well of course they do, is this news?
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Greta » January 6th, 2019, 8:36 pm

Eduk wrote:
January 6th, 2019, 5:52 pm
Sorry @Greta I don't think I was clear.
Not everything confers a survival advantage. For example cancer is generally considered to not be superior to not cancer and yet all human civilisations have had cancer. It is trivial to think of things which aren't advantageous to survival but that happen anyway. For example humans are doing pretty well existentially but we provide a great opportunity to many deseases. I see something like religious belief as quite analogous. The brain is amazing for a multitude of tasks but it isn't perfect and it provides opportunity for bad ideas.
For me being religious is no different to many other unreasonable beliefs. This is why it doesn't deserve a special categorisation. Because it isn't useful to do so. I see no real difference between belief in ghosts, anti vacinne, religion, communism, football teams, racism etc.
As to politicians taking advantage of people. Well of course they do, is this news?
Many unrealistic ideas come and go from the meme pool, but most don't stick. Religion did, arguably by far the most successful meme throughout the course of history. The communal guesswork of religion is gradually being sidelined by communal testing and shared observations, but religion still rules most of the world.

The data on religiosity in cultures suggests a survival advantage provided by theism. There is a strong correlation between troubled, unsettled and dangerous nations and degree of religiosity. While lack of education is a major factor, insecurity appears to be a related one. Life must seem perilous to the uneducated, with much of the world appearing as an unknowable, and often dangerous, black box. Meanwhile, religious beliefs tend to provide hope, comfort and courage to those constantly under existential threat, especially with its idea of a better afterlife.

Also, unlike religion, belief in ghosts or flat planets did not help shape armies with soldiers who (being mindful of God's 24/7 audit) would never surrender and were relatively fearless of death. Soldiers committed to a cause they have been conditioned to believe is for the ultimate good and who would not dare trying to get away with sneaky laxness or dodgy dealings due to aforementioned cosmic auditing.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Jklint » January 6th, 2019, 9:01 pm

There are a host of reasons but one may be to leverage consciousness beyond its internal means of comprehensibility by projecting itself forward into a god complex.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 7th, 2019, 4:31 am

@Greta I'm sorry. You will need to provide some evidence.
You seem to regard religion as a singular entity even though many are mutually exclusive.
You draw a correlation between religion and troubled countries but don't seem to realise the irony.
You seem to ignore all instances of armies shaped by atheists or non religious ideology.
You seem to be forgetting ideology isn't unique to religion.
In short you are presenting a ridiculous over simplification without evidence.
For me the number one reason a human does something is because another human does it. There are a huge number of other reasons, some likely at least as significant. What you need to do is unravel them all and demonstrate your premise.
For example adverts work. In large part because they take advantage of well know human bias. Like wanting to do what other humans are doing. Religions are the same. They work because they take advantage of bias.
I don't think you can argue that being taken advantage of is advantageous for survival. But I'm sure you could see how copying other humans would clearly benefit survival.
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Greta » January 7th, 2019, 10:12 pm

Eduk wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 4:31 am
@Greta I'm sorry. You will need to provide some evidence.
You seem to regard religion as a singular entity even though many are mutually exclusive.
You draw a correlation between religion and troubled countries but don't seem to realise the irony.
You seem to ignore all instances of armies shaped by atheists or non religious ideology.
You seem to be forgetting ideology isn't unique to religion.
In short you are presenting a ridiculous over simplification without evidence.
I see. You have assumed that, since I observed religion's apparent military advantages in history and how it provides comfort for refugees and those in terrible life situations, then you figure I've suddenly abandoned agnosticism and am offering religion as a panacea for all like an evangelist.

That is wrong. There is not much point replying until you understand my earlier posts or it will just be repetition. Please try again after actually reading what I said. Thanks.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 8th, 2019, 3:13 am

@Greta so in answer to my various questions you invent a question which I didn't ask?
How random. I wasn't expecting that.
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by LuckyR » January 8th, 2019, 4:49 am

Eduk wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 4:31 am
@Greta I'm sorry. You will need to provide some evidence.
You seem to regard religion as a singular entity even though many are mutually exclusive.
You draw a correlation between religion and troubled countries but don't seem to realise the irony.
You seem to ignore all instances of armies shaped by atheists or non religious ideology.
You seem to be forgetting ideology isn't unique to religion.
In short you are presenting a ridiculous over simplification without evidence.
For me the number one reason a human does something is because another human does it. There are a huge number of other reasons, some likely at least as significant. What you need to do is unravel them all and demonstrate your premise.
For example adverts work. In large part because they take advantage of well know human bias. Like wanting to do what other humans are doing. Religions are the same. They work because they take advantage of bias.
I don't think you can argue that being taken advantage of is advantageous for survival. But I'm sure you could see how copying other humans would clearly benefit survival.
I am a little confused. Do you disagree with Greta's observation or her explanation of it?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 8th, 2019, 6:22 am

I am a little confused. Do you disagree with Greta's observation or her explanation of it?
If we take her observation
1. That most people are religious.
and her explanation.
2. Religion provides a survival advantage over non religion.

Then I would like some evidence for 2.
For 1. I would like a bit more nuance. For example what is unique to religion? Which religion provides the largest survival advantage? and why? How religious are/were Stalin's or North Korea's states? I think there is a lot more to the world than religious and non religious.
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Belindi » January 8th, 2019, 7:32 am

Eduk, keeping social order is what defines religions. Every society needs to be ordered to be a society at all. So there has to be a significant moral consensus even when the regime is dictatorial. For instance the dictatorial regime in Saudi Arabia could not keep order without politicised Islam.

Communist and fascist regimes which are not religious in the sense of deities substitute cults of persons and their mythologies such as Lenin, Hitler, or Kim Jong-un.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 8th, 2019, 7:43 am

Communist and fascist regimes which are not religious in the sense of deities substitute cults of persons and their mythologies such as Lenin, Hitler, or Kim Jong-un.
This was one of my points. Are they religions or cults? What is the difference? Seems to me that either 'works'.
Eduk, keeping social order is what defines religions.
Japan seems to be pretty well socially ordered. I don't see social order as unique to religions. You yourself agree there is a cult of personality which can bring about social order.
Unknown means unknown.

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