Self-Deception and the Problem with Religious Belief Formation

Saturday, January 7, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

A quote: “He who eats the bread and drinks the cup with an unbelieving heart eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” This line is from the communion liturgy of the Church I grew up in—the Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The word “judgment” in the quote is a way of saying "damnation to Hell". The word “unbelieving” refers to disbelief in the core metaphysical doctrines of the Church. The effect of regular repetition of lines like this in the service is to strike fear in the person who may be questioning such doctrines. Fear in turn squelches inquiry and creative thought. I was only eight years old when I first heard that line and understood what it meant.

The point of this blog is not to criticize religious beliefs. I think many are wrong, many right, and many we just can’t know about. My focus is rather on the character of the "belief formation process" inherent in much religious practice. The phrase “belief formation process” will refer broadly to the way that beliefs in a human mind come about, are maintained, or are extinguished (or not). We all have beliefs, which have to get there somehow.

I choose this focus because I suspect my experience with the Grand Rapids CRC is representative of what goes on in a much broader spectrum of religions. This topic is also timely for Philosophy Talk, since we’re approximately halfway between our show on the existence of God and our upcoming show on the intelligent design argument. I also think that although particular religious beliefs have been much discussed and criticized, there still needs to be clearer discussion and criticism of the mental pathways by which such beliefs characteristically arise and are maintained. My view is that the a-rational nature of the religious belief formation process is pernicious and ultimately more destructive than any individual religious belief, or system of beliefs, taken by itself. That process critically involves self-deception.

There is, to start, a beautiful thing about being human. We’re equipped with senses, capacities for reasoning and logical comparison, and an imaginative faculty for generating new ideas. The beautiful thing is that just by our getting up in the morning and walking around the capacities we have compel us to the generation of new knowledge and more subtle beliefs. The data that come to our senses because of our daily actions spark our reasoning capacities to call out for explanation; our imagination answers with the generation of ideas that, if all goes well, provide answers. This is how detailed knowledge of nature—individual plants and animals, and systems of them—has come about in so many diverse human societies. The particular answers and beliefs will come and go—if one belief doesn’t work, another takes its place—but the beautiful thing is the process and the nature we have that allows us to participate in it. Let’s call this the healthy belief formation process; it’s driven by curiosity.

The process of religious belief formation stands in stark contrast. Let’s return to the quote I started with. There’s no doubt that the repetition of such threatening lines has played a role in the formation of many religious beliefs. But how? Those lines provide no evidence of their claims. Why should they bring about belief?

The first thing to note is the vilification of unbelievers. Those with an unbelieving heart will be judged, for, presumably, they’ve done something (morally?) wrong. The vilification of unbelievers threatens exclusion from the group to anyone on the fence. And then there’s the fear of Hell that’s engendered. The net effect of the vilification and fear is that a desire to believe comes about in the mind. “ . . . eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” I certainly had such a desire in my youth.

Once there is a desire to believe the metaphysical doctrines of the religion, the mind is ripe for self-deception. Self-deception has essentially two components. First, a person forms a belief in violation of his usual standards of evidence and judgment—what philosophers call epistemic norms. Second, a desire with content related to the content of the belief causes the deviation from the healthy belief formation process. Because vilification, fear, and desire bring about the religious credence—while that credence is at odds with usual standards of judgment—the process by which religious beliefs come about is one of self-deception. (For a similar view, see this piece by Georges Rey.)

A religious advocate might respond that I’ve gotten it all wrong, that it’s direct encounter with the spirit of God that brings about religious belief. But then why is religious practice so full of methods that have the precise effect of establishing credence by a-rational means? The singing, the chanting, the repetition of lines that vilify unbelief, the stress on believing only on faith? Surely the existence of such methods is no coincidence. And even if some have been touched by something divine, surely there are many who formed their religious beliefs in response to the constant pressures of liturgy. And that’s the religious belief formation process I’m talking about.

What exactly is wrong with this process? First, it’s at odds with the healthy belief formation process. It stagnates and undermines the healthy process just when it could be most beneficial to reflecting on our core beliefs and values. Fear, not curiosity, is the driving force. By representing as evil disbelief in any of a long and specific list of doctrines, the factors involved in the religious belief formation process cause us to disengage with the normal and healthy creative process of belief generation and revision. Persons attending a religious ceremony are made to fear the prospect that something else might strike them as true. The mind loses its flexibility. Consider some examples. How else could the belief that the earth is at the center of the universe persist for so long in the face of Galileo’s new evidence? How else could members of a church that canonized a woman, Joan of Arc, for her leadership hold the belief that women are categorically unfit to lead congregations? Why do evangelicals who have seen pictures of the changed color of the peppered moth believe natural selection has never occurred? How else should we explain the belief at high levels in the Catholic Church that it’s wrong to teach about and distribute sexual protection in a South Africa crippled by AIDS? Responsiveness to reality is needed here. But that’s precisely what the religious belief formation process lacks. The beautiful thing about the human mind is undermined.

Why else do I think the religious belief formation process itself is worse than any particular belief? As I’ve been stressing, I think the healthy belief formation process is central to our humanity; it’s a tragedy for that to be undermined. But as importantly, human actions take on a vicious and inflexible character when they are driven by beliefs that are unresponsive to reality. The problem with Crusaders and Jihadists is not primarily that they think their enemies are evil; it’s that their beliefs are unresponsive to being moved by the simple humanity of their victims. One belief can explain a skirmish, but it takes a degenerate, self-deceptive belief formation process to explain the systematic maintenance of a set of beliefs underlying a Crusade. Other examples are abundant: the Inquisition, the longtime inability of the Catholic Church to respond appropriately to child molestation by its clergy (how could we fire someone ordained by God?), and the malicious condemnations of Jerry Falwell (and those who listen to and act on them), to name a few. All these cases involve false beliefs that would have been changed by a simple bit of responsiveness to reality if they hadn’t been insulated by the religious belief formation process. Dogmatically held beliefs give rise to destructive behaviors. The further danger is that acceptance of such a degenerate belief formation process can spread and lead to wider corruption of our cognitive economy.

So what of the intelligent design argument, the argument that posits an intelligent creator to explain the ordered complexity of life in the natural world? It’s fine; these criticisms don’t touch it. I don’t think it ultimately works; nor does it fall in the domain of science. But I wish all religious thinking had such a rational character. The reasoning involved in that argument is an instance of the healthy belief formation process in action. We’d all be better off if religious people thought so rationally all the time.

What, finally, of faith? I know of two ways in which the word “faith” is used—one pernicious, one laudable. At its worst, “faith” is used rhetorically to bring about a-rational, unreflective credence in what the “wise” men of the Church would have you believe. I think I’ve said enough already to indicate what I think is wrong with this kind of “faith.” But the word is also used in another sense. Faith in this sense is the action-guiding confidence that good will come about if we pursue goodness uncompromisingly. Having this kind of faith is consistent with uncertainty about what the good, in terms of outcome, will ultimately be. And, despite what religious leaders may suggest, having this faith is also consistent with active questioning of religious dogma. In short, faith in this sense is not opposed to intellectual curiosity.

Comments (19)


Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, January 7, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

I have two comments on this posting. First, unlik

I have two comments on this posting.
First, unlike Mr Van Leeuwen, although I probably qualify as an unbeliever, I am not threatened by the admonition that the communicant ?who eats the bread and drinks the cup with an unbelieving heart eats and drinks judgment upon himself.? Indeed if 'God' fails to cast judgement on such a hypocrite then I might be happy to step in as 'his' surrogate. But actually as I interpret the passage that won't be necessary, because I suspect that the threat is correct in that the false communicant stands judged more in his own heart than by either 'God' or man.
Of course this is not to deny that the religious "belief formation process" is often tainted by threat - if not of damnation then at least of social penalties. And in fact that mechanism (of social pressure to engage in hypocritical behaviour which then brings moral pressure to rationalize belief with that behaviour) may be little more than a variation on the theme that is being put forward by Mr Van Leeuwen.
However, I do not believe it is fair to say that the religious belief formation process is *always* so tainted, and in fact, rather than use the means to unjustify the end, I would suggest that it is the end - namely beliefs that lack "Responsiveness to reality" which is the main problem.
And to that end, my second comment is perhaps more relevant.
Mr Van Leeuwen states that "We all have beliefs, which have to get there somehow." But if by "beliefs" he means anything similar to religious beliefs in strength (and imperviousness to reality), then I believe (in the weaker sense) that he is wrong.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, January 9, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Each man stands alone before God. They judge them

Each man stands alone before God. They judge themselves. They know the truth. They know whether they have drank the cup of christ (the truth) correctly. It is kind of like doing math. You know when you don't understand a formula. You know when you have to present that formula before a class how well you have done understanding it. Hell is a state of mind.

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

As I understand it, there are two kinds of beliefs

As I understand it, there are two kinds of beliefs being discussed here; those that arise via the senses from direct experience and those that are either intuited or received from a trusted source. Phrased this way, the issue ceases to be one of just religious indoctrination, but includes also education in the wisdom of Mao, the righteousness of the Republican party or the infallibility of the scientific method. In films of Nazi rallies, or the beautiful coordinated movements of masses of North Koreans at a public event, it is clear that one is viewing a ritual of worship.
Mass rituals, such as political rallies, sports events or worship are not inherently wrong, whatever trappings they may contain, but should be gauged by whether they enhance or detract from the lives of the faithful. I think that watching football is a waste of time, but I wouldn?t deprive anyone else of the ecstatic communion of the Superbowl.
One may have a reasonable faith, while lacking a single stick of evidence to prove it. String theory is based on elegant mathematical proofs, yet it makes no predictions, is unfalsifiable and unsupported by observation or experiment. Unless it meets any of those conditions, it will cease to be viable science, regardless of whether it may be true.
At the same time, religious faith need not lie beyond the realm of empirical proof. For instance, take the teaching ?Love thy neighbor.? One can level all kinds of rational arguments against it like ?What if your neighbor?s a child molester, a wife beater or has robbed your house?? The person of faith may reply ?In such case, he is in even more need of compassion and understanding.? Perhaps our believer is naïve, but his belief is testable and can be verified by personal experience and observation. Would living his "truth", make you a better person or a glutton for punishment?
What about condemnation of unbelievers? As a society, we do much worse then condemn violators to an imaginary hell, we lock them up in a real one. We impose demands upon one another to respect tribal custom, regardless of whether our laws are an offense to the individual?s sexual orientation, moral sense, or beliefs about right relation to the natural world. It?s our communal way or the highway! The religious have not cornered the market on judging good and evil.
The world would likely be a better place if everyone were a Socrates, confessing ignorance and searching out constructive dialogue with those of an opposite mind. Instead, we tend to club together in mobs of like mind, raising the ramparts around ourselves, to keep out the barbarians who dare to differ.
Faith and reason are not opposed, but complementary. A scientist puts her faith in the scientific method, and the belief that our minds do not hopelessly distort our picture of reality. A sincere believer in God, seeks an embodied and living faith, not a musty superstition of mind. When Newton and Leibnitz discovered the calculus, they trusted their inner eye and bore in their fertile minds a new gospel of mathematics. And, when Moses brought down the tablets from Mt. Sinai, he gave that unruly mob of ex-slaves a practical set of guidelines to help bind them together in community.

Neil Van Leeuwen's picture

Neil Van Leeuwen

Thursday, January 12, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Many thanks to you three for the comments. There a

Many thanks to you three for the comments. There are three questions they raise in my mind that I'd like to address.
1. Does religious belief formation *always* go by the process I identified? (Alan Cooper seems to take it to be a criticism of my post that it doesn't.)
2. Are there other contexts aside from religion in which the process I call religious belief formation arises? (David Chilstrom raises this issue.)
3. Who's to blame for such corruption of the healthy belief formation process? (This question is raised by the beginning of Alan's comments.)
The answer to the first question is clearly "no," and I suggest as much in my original post. I think it's possible that people become convinced that there's an intelligent designer--perhaps even one who should be worshiped--by simple reflection on the complex beauty of the natural world. Of course, I'm not convinced by this sort of reasoning, but what this shows is that not all religious beliefs are formed in the pernicious way that I focus on.
Turning to the second question, I think that there are certainly many other contexts of belief formation outside of religion that prey upon people's self-deceptive capacities in the way I describe. Any sort of ideological group setting can give us examples--Nazi rallies, KKK rallies, Communist demonstrations, and NRA conventions. Given such examples *outside* religion, you might think that I was too quick to coin the phrase "religious belief formation process" to refer to the process I describe. Of course, that ends up being a merely terminological point, but one with implications for how my argument will be received. In the end, however, I don't think I was too hasty with my terminology: the process I identify is characteristic enough of religious belief formation to deserve the title I give. I would also add that the examples of other ideological contexts help prove my greater point: *this* kind of process of belief formation is really bad--in religion and elsewhere.
Finally, who's to blame? Alan seems to be suggesting that it is the fault of the "hypocrite" who puts himself in such religious contexts. There is some truth to this; I think that certainly by adulthood people should take responsibility for their own manner of cognition. The problem is that indoctrination starts at a very young age; this undermines the healthy belief formation process in people before they even have the chance to take responsibility for their own cognition. What religion and other ideological systems do is habituate minds early to a self-deceptive belief formation process; my conjecture is that, once this takes hold, the wider cognitive economy becomes more corrupt and susceptible to such processes in other contexts as well. If this is true, then religion can be a corrupter of young minds.

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, January 12, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

One of the dubious premises of this article is the

One of the dubious premises of this article is the presumption that religious belief employs a peculiar form of self deception. In reality, self deception always kicks in whenever anyone is confronted with data which conflicts with a deeply held belief. For instance, two years ago John and Ken had on the program cosmologist George Ellis, who enunciated the Anthropic Principle, which essentially states that the probability of a universe like ours, so precisely tuned to permit the existence of life, is infinitesimally small. The most logical inference to draw from the data is to posit an intelligence of some sort, with life in mind at the get go, or a multiverse scenario where ours is one of an infinite number of possible universes. As Ellis stated, the problem with the multiverse theory is that it has no scientific validity, as the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Ken?s response was that our existence is just a matter of incredible luck and that we don?t have to posit a Creator to explain the nature of the universe.
While Ken and many other rational thinkers willingly accept incredible luck as sufficient reason for our existence, like most people, they are deeply skeptical when it comes to an excess of luck at the card table or to an uncanny resemblance their children might bear to a close friend. Normal, well reasoning skeptics, toss reason to the wind whenever its application generates an extreme of cognitive dissonance. Everyone does this, even very smart philosophers like Ken.
Were we truly rational creatures, we would examine more closely our philosophical premises when presented with evidence that throws them into doubt. Instead, we tend to shrug our shoulders and dismiss the damning data as woefully flawed or wrongly interpreted. What confirms my preexisting beliefs passes through the polarizing filter of my consciousness unhindered, while that which seriously challenges them is rendered invisible or irrelevant.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Mr. Chilstrom, Your "essential" statement of th

Mr. Chilstrom,
Your "essential" statement of the Anthropic Principle in the comment above seems a tad bit confused.
The principle itself states: If something must be true for us, as humans, to exist; then it is true simply because we exist. The principle deals with sentient observers making conclusions about the universe based upon an "appropriately positioned" point of observation. It's about the interpretation of existence as influenced by the observation selection effect rather than the probability of existence. A subtle but important distinction.
The principle doesn't prove anything. It simply illustrates insurmountable biases in our metaphysical inquiries. The Intelligent Design advocate addresses this problem with the conclusion that this bias was intended by a benevolent being who wants to be known. Whether or not this proves anything is still philosophically debatable.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

I do agree that threat is often used to promote re

I do agree that threat is often used to promote religious belief formation and I hope I was not seen as overly critical of what I actually found to be a very interesting discussion.
My "criticism" is less of the validity of the point than of the strategy of argumentation. It seems to me that by initially appearing to identify the threating context as characteristic of "the" religious belief formation process you may lose the attention of anyone who feels that "that is not consistent with *my* religious belief formation process" - and so you might end up "preaching to the choir" once again.
My suggestion is that by acknowledging at the outset that this is just *one* mode of religious belief formation, you might draw in more readers to see and agree with the thesis that building a religion by threatening children is not to be admired.
I would then also add that saying ?He who eats the bread and drinks the cup with an unbelieving heart eats and drinks judgment upon himself? to an 8-year-old is equivalent to threatening him or her with something horrible. But I still believe that to a sophisticated and morally conscious adult that sentence is not a threat but merely a statement of reality. For example, if I were to participate in a religious communion, that would be an act of conscious duplicity. It might be justified for strategic reasons, but I would certainly be remiss if I failed to judge myself.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, January 20, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

The unlearned digression: Briefly reading this

The unlearned digression:
Briefly reading this post as well as the meta-atheism hypothesis, I generally agree.
However, not knowing much more of "epistemic norm" or the "belief formation process" than what I personally have pondered (and just read), I struggle to think that religious understanding and the understanding of standard science follow the same criteria towards belief. (?) If standard science is the taken perspective on "ultimate belief", certainly "faith" is self-deception. But then is not faith, "at some level", a healthy provocative to science and broadening perspective. Without science faith diminishes, without faith, science likewise.
And is not Georges Rey's hypothesis both strong and week when claiming "..at SOME LEVEL they KNOW FULL WELL.."?
It seems to me that the key to the hypothesis? survival is at "some level". ? Sheltered by the complexity of the cognitive. As goes for "they know full well"??
Self-deception must somehow (closely) be linked to outward-deception or ?display:
If faith is adhesive doubt and doubt is constantly fought with faith. Then the outward outcome is (very often) "the OVERCOME".
My understanding is that the "doubt-aspect" of faith is pragmatically, rhetorically tabu - in spite of religious acceptance of human doubt.
Regarding the (strongest) example the crusades, the "pernicious faith" seemingly develops as soon as the religious representatives establish a belief formation which surpasses the healthy core of the religion becoming a pretentious, excessive faith. Remaining incomprehensive to the present "us".
Leaving the unnatural, turning to the natural(?): I?m thinking that we both inwardly and outwardly strive towards the "strong, ultimate belief/understanding". Therefore I?d say deception is inevitable in evolution and progress. ? Still in agreement that it is an unhealthy contradiction.
(Don?t quite no what I?m getting at. Suppose this comment is mainly me thinking whilst writing this.)
Still, I?d like to add the following claim: "at some level we are all, inevitably self-deceptive" ? the danger is as you say, when it remains, collective, with lesser deviation ? therefore lesser evolution (towards the healthier "general opinion").
Any good url-links to further reading on "epistemic norm" or "belief formation process"?
I welcome your replies in hope of improving my understanding.

Andrew's picture

Andrew

Sunday, January 22, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Regarding incredible luck... If the universe co

Regarding incredible luck...
If the universe collapses on itself every so often, and then a big bang occurs and things happen differently (assuming we don't end up in some kind of cycle) then we are indeed very likely to have incredible luck.

Neil Van Leeuwen's picture

Neil Van Leeuwen

Sunday, January 22, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Many thanks to all for this additional round of co

Many thanks to all for this additional round of comments. I'll respond to each separately.
First, to David Chilstrom: I never said that self-deception is peculiar to religious belief formation. Of course it happens in other contexts! But I think religion and other ideological contexts are especially effective in creating environments that are effective at preying on human propensities for self-deception. You note that self-deception happens elsewhere and is common. Is that point supposed to *defend* self-deception in religion? I hope not.
Second, Jenni: Thanks for clarifying the anthropic principle. You sound like a philosopher. Are you? I tend to agree that there's not much solid we can conclude from fine tuning. The tuning of the constants is improbable. But are we then to posit an even more improbable "intelligence" to "explain" it? Like Wittgetstein says: "Das Mystische ist nicht, *wie* die Welt existiert, sondern, *dass* sie existiert." ("The mysterious is not, *how* the world exists, rather, *that* it exists.")
Third, to Alan Cooper: criticism well taken! I'm glad you enjoyed the discussion.
Fourth, to David Michel: an epistemic norm is an abstact schema relating kinds of evidence (as input) to propositions (output) it might justify. The schema will classify some inputs as justificatory of certain propositions; others not. (This is just one way of thinking about epistemic norms.) Belief formation processes are mental pathways by which beliefs arise. When a belief formation process causally reflects pattern of justification in epistemic norm, we can say it's rational. Sometimes I use the locution epistemic norm to refer to the belief formation process itself that instantiates the norm. For further resources, go to:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/ .
Finally, to Andrew: good point! (Next time be sure to cite Aristotle, who made a very similar point long ago in the Poetics: "It is likely that unlikely things happen from time to time.")
Take care,
Neil

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, February 3, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Neil, thank you for this discussion on religious s

Neil, thank you for this discussion on religious self-deception-- self-deception is something I have struggled with all my life, and well-written and -reasoned articles like your own have helped me tremendously in my personal development. Thank you. Thank you.
Secondly, I have an idea for a reality television show of sorts. It involves a beautiful mansion in the Los Angeles area with tennis courts, an Olympic swimming pool, a rock wall... the works. Eight people who have never met live their lives for a year in this home, all followed by hidden cameras.
The catch? All eight are mentally disabled, free to roam without supervision. The show will be called 'Tards, and will be intended for cable broadcast so that the boundaries are relaxed. For example, one episode might be centered around learning how to cook, or skeet shooting. Let me know what you think of this, and tell me about its philosophical implications.
Cordially,
Luigi Bordeaux

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, May 6, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

My perspective changed completely when I starte

My perspective changed completely when I started trying to involve Jesus in my life. I realized that, because of Jesus, I had way to talk to the God who made the universe, and that the God who owns and controls the universe listens to me. It's worth anything to have that. Jesus said 'Come to Me everyone who labors and carries heavy burdens, and I will give you rest'. He said that to people who were living with heavy religious guilt.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 -- 5:00 PM

Having grown up in a religious home, I was exposed

Having grown up in a religious home, I was exposed to a great deal of fear/subjective-guilt-based theology, which is really the deleterious distortion of doctrine to fit the needs of a particular religious leader to control and dominate members of his/her congregation. When I read in the New Testament about the various human interactions Jesus had with people from all walks of life, I am struck by his gentle spirit. His style of leadership was marked by drawing people to himself and not driving them to him.
I tried to depict this sort of gracious characteristic of Christ in the following song:
Turn to Me
words and music by Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT
(c)2006
http://www.drblt.net/music/Turntome.mp3

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Hello Niel, Interesting thoughts! I am a sort o

Hello Niel,
Interesting thoughts! I am a sort of philosopher. Could you please give me your definition of self-deception?
Ontological Realist

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, December 25, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

My own religious beliefs come not from suspending

My own religious beliefs come not from suspending "scientific" judgement but from a koan. A koan provides an interesting way of presenting the language problem. That problem is that we provide the meaning to the world around us and even as a group and in the long run we can not actually know and use that meaning properly. I prefer my answer to the koan which is that we cannot know everything, over the scientific illusion that we can and will someday know everything and once we do we will be OK (whaterer OK means).
Of course, all those who do not hold rigidly to all the pronouncements of science are suspending "scientific" judgement and thus bringing damnation unto themselves.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, December 29, 2006 -- 4:00 PM

Hi all Some very interesting ideas (in what Ive

Hi all
Some very interesting ideas (in what Ive quickly read so far) yet Im not sure I understand what all the fuss is over.
As cognitively and time limited humans, don't we all form beliefs to resolve uncertainty (Im assuming that most people dont like feeling confused)?
If by self-deception (religious or otherwise) it is meant that we form beliefs that reduce uncertainty even though we dont have concrete evidence (i.e. self-deceive)this is commonplace - particularly for metaphysical questions such as "where did this universe come from?" etc.
But my central point is: humans both seek evidence AND form unfounded beliefs - its not one or the other. Like David Chisholm's earlier comments:
"Faith and reason are not opposed, but complementary. A scientist puts her faith in the scientific method, and the belief that our minds do not hopelessly distort our picture of reality"
Scientists gather data to test ideas which have arisen from theorising (i.e. beliefs/speculation)and use the results to update their beliefs. The idea that either science or faith is error-proof (or even free from self-deception) is highly implausible.
If the religious believers amongst you feel your faith was formed from fear, abuse of power and/or a controlling authority (most likely to be misguided adult caregivers rather than any supernatural being) this is another issue.
This suggests to me that you recognise you are no longer weak / vulnerable children and can think for yourselves (cf Life of Brian). As a result, surely the need for comforting fairytales or scriptural myths are no longer required?
However, even if you accept that fear is a poor basis for belief and recognise you are no longer fearful, this won't spell the end of self-deception. For, as the parable of the Emporer's New Clothes tells us self-deception is often preferable to admitting ignorance.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, October 6, 2008 -- 5:00 PM

For Ontological Realist - from what I know

For Ontological Realist - from what I know Self deception is a dysfunction of the mind that allows individuals to continuously act in a negative manner. Now what is negative or positive is subjected to each individual and to society. We all have our own convictions.

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, November 8, 2008 -- 4:00 PM

I really enjoyed the article, and am glad you took

I really enjoyed the article, and am glad you took the time and thought to write it. Then tenor is calm and non abrasive.
Things I think differ from what was presented:
Christianity does not endorse the A-rational belief forming process formally, if even some do in practice.
I think that this practice of developing belief based entirely on fear innappropriate, and eventually harmful to the believer...
Christians are encouraged to be wise and (Matthew 10:16)
and to study scripture (2timothy 2:15)
Also, the subject of self deception is an interesting one for the Christian especially.
The christian would say that those who deny the God of Christianity are self decieving, and that such a denial destroys epistimology. In other words...We all think and act like there is a God (as a precondition) then non believers deny His existence.
There is a clear and rational way of proving the God of the bible exists, however not every (and in my experience, hardly any) Church is faithful in this regard.
We are to have "childlike" faith in God, trusting in His goodness and power no matter what we think or see, but this how we live our faith, and now how we arrive at, or defend it.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, April 2, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

"The Intelligent Design advocate addresses this pr

"The Intelligent Design advocate addresses this problem with the conclusion that this bias was intended by a benevolent being who wants to be known."
No, this bias was intended by a benevolent being who wants to be found. There is a fundamental difference.

 

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