All of GabeEisenstein's Comments + Replies

I appreciate the effort to sort out "improper beliefs". As a philosopher with a background in distinguishing surface-level propositions from speech acts with goals that may be masked by those propositions as such, I am inclined simply to say that "improper beliefs" are NOT beliefs. I prefer reserving "belief" for the anticipatory dispositional beliefs that you call "proper".

This is so far just a semantic difference, but the real difference comes out when you say that people have to "convince themselves they are ... (read more)

But most people clearly DON'T treat these things as meaningless speech acts. How do I know this? Because if you say something like "Right, because that's just a meaningless speech act" in response to some absurdity of religion like "virgin birth" or "transsubstantiation", people will get VERY ANGRY at you. They will not respond as though they are playing a game of words, they will respond as though you have accused them of lying. And if improper beliefs are precisely non-beliefs trying to make themselves look like beliefs, then you HAVE just accused them of lying.

The mixing of perspectives within a community (as I noted) makes your example problematic, but I agree that some easy cases exist: for example, a church that preaches "faith healing" for sick children may be expected to run into a specific set of difficulties, not shared by a church that tells everyone to reinterpret texts for themselves in the light of reason. And again, I agree that pronouncements of people claiming to be Jesus may be taken as indicators of delusionality. Both cases involve belief, whereas I claim that in religion, non-proposit... (read more)

I must agree with GabeEisenstein 100%. It is annoying to keep reading arguments against fundamentalist religion phrased as arguments "against religion". I must also note that Gabe did not get any meaningful reply to his point "that orthogonal-to-facts religion can be valuable, and that it is not a modern phenomenon". He was told to "read all antitheism posts". Well, how about a link to a specific paragraph in a specific post that addresses the very specific issues he raised? Namely, why do people keep focussing on debunking fundamentalist religion (reinterpret the fossils, believe in talking snakes, etc.) and then pretend they have debunked "religion" or "theism", completely ignoring the deep intellectual history within religious thought dealing with exactly these questions? ("you concentrate on fundamentalist or other strange examples, never the work of thinkers like Buber, Merton, Campbell, Watts, [and].... Wittgenstein's views on religion, as found in his essay on Frazer's Golden Bough.") Where in the "antitheism posts" do I find a treatment of these aspects, and why is everything I come across always tailored to debunking fundamentalism instead of dealing with the questions that will crop up if you ignore the fundamentalists and talk to religionist philosphers who are actually intelligent? And even apart from points that may be covered in other posts which I have not seen, GabeEisenstein has pointed to a number of glaring flaws or mistakes in the current post standing on its own, which would merit some attention in themselves, first of all the implication that religious ethics has not evolved over the centuries, and that it'ts a choice between the Iron Age and atheism. That's a false dichotomy if I have ever seen one.

I don't understand the claim you take to be unjustified, that there's a "good reason to use that reference class"--use it for what? My point is that there are valuable religious practices, yes. I distinguish them from the affirmation of supernatural beliefs, including the belief that one is Jesus or that the earth was created in 6 days. I am not challenging any assertions about the truth or falsity of any beliefs. Maybe my comments are out of line with the spirit of a website devoted to the rationality of beliefs, but it seems to me that some of ... (read more)

Use it for calibrating my expectations about a specific religious community in advance of further specific data... for example, about its likely influence on the cognitive habits of its members. Anyway, I'm not challenging the claim that there exist valuable religious practices. I even agree with it.

Thank you, I read all of those. What I find is that you are able to focus on some of the non-propositional uses of religious language--like cheering for one's affinity group--yet your attitude toward such utterances is still to treat them as false propositions. I would suggest that someone who emphasizes the absurdity of her own language (that is, absurdity from a factual, propositional perspective) is trying to shift attention away from the propositional and toward an aesthetic sensibility.

If we expect science and get art, we will be disappointed; but if... (read more)

Yvain's parable [].

There is a wide range of ways of interpreting mythic material, both between religious communities and between members of a single community.

In two of the three branches of American Judaism, as well as many varieties of Christianity and amalgams such as Unitarianism, not to mention Buddhism, etc., respect for science is encouraged--and thus the stories must be held to be stories, even if they are very special stories for the community. Such communities are radically different from those in which the Bible is treated as a source of scientific knowledge.

Never... (read more)

I certainly agree that if I use as my reference class for religious communities and individuals only those which readily acknowledge the fictional/mythical/metaphorical nature of the language they recite and its orthogonality to questions of fact, I end up with prior probabilities for assertions about religious communities and individuals that are very very different from those the OP ends up with. You seem to be further implying that there's some good reason to use that reference class, rather than the reference class of all communities and individuals that self-identify as religious, or the reference class of those that approach their texts and traditions non-metaphorically. I'm not really sure how you are justifying that second claim. By way of analogy -- I freely agree that, within the community of people who claim to be Jesus Christ, there exist individuals who are no more delusional than the average person and who are, for example, playing the lead in Jesus Christ: Superstar, or various other things along those lines. But to challenge on that basis the idea that claiming to be Jesus Christ is indicative of being delusional, and to dismiss the question of how typical those examples really are of people claiming to be Jesus Christ as beside the point, is misleading to the point of simply being wrong.

I found this site through the posts on decoherence and many-worlds; I haven't yet read them all, and look forward to doing so. Also enjoyed the posts on Bayesian rationality.

But I was disappointed by this one. The main reason is that it implicitly reduces all religious phenomena to matters of belief, which I think is a mistake.

To be clear about where I'm coming from: I don't hold any religious beliefs. Nevertheless, I think that much of what goes on in religion is psychologically or sociologically beneficial. And I think that religious language is often mi... (read more)

This isn't really a post to be taken in isolation. I think you'll find some if not all of your objections are addressed throughout the rest of the antitheism posts.
You are, of course, correct that one can approach the Bible (or any scriptural text) the same way one approaches Aesop's fables, or the Grimm brothers' fairy tales, or the Watchman graphic novel -- that is, as a collection of stories that reflect the concerns and ethical and aesthetic sensibilities of a particular culture at a particular time. It's certainly possible. That said, the religious community I grew up in encouraged us to interpret the fossil record in ways that were consistent with the stories in the Bible, even when that required ignoring scientific evidence and in some cases common sense. This either demonstrates (as you say) a deficient view of how stories work, or (I think more likely) that they were not approaching the Bible purely as a collection of stories. Would you disagree? Do you think that specific religious community was atypical?
2Eliezer Yudkowsky12y
Click through the "antitheism" tag for more. This is just one post.