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Why are believers so attached to their beliefs?

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John Gauger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-26-08 01:04 AM
Original message
Why are believers so attached to their beliefs?
I just apologized to my Catholic friend for saying that Christian morality is similar to Pavlovian conditioning. She is one of my closest and dearest friends, and I would never want to hurt her in any way, so of course I had to apologize for insulting her. But what bothers me is that she said, "I can't believe you would say that." I was telling her about the "Do animals undergo an afterlife" thread (in which I think I pretty thoroughly demolished the idea of an afterlife - there just isn't any logical way of determining who goes and who doesn't go) wherein someone suggested that animals cannot sin. One of the other guys asked about dogs who maul children, and my friend said that dogs know the difference between right and wrong. Of course, they do not, they know what actions they will be rewarded for and what actions they will be punished for. In this I said Christian morality, the basis of which is a future state of rewards and punishments, is similar to Pavlovian conditioning. Now, I'm sorry that I made her angry, I love her and all that, but I'm not sorry for the simple act of making that statement. Because it's true. I understand that it's not good, but it's true, and the problem is not with my stating it. I don't feel I should have had to apologize for saying that.

So now I can't talk to her about religion any more.
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and-justice-for-all Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-26-08 03:49 PM
Response to Original message
1.  believers so attached to their beliefs..
IMO, because they think that actual life is miserable, that they only live to die and hope to be rewarded when they are dead.

Religion to me, is very sad. You only get one shot at life, so you better make the most of it because you will not get another chance. I would not want to live under a state of paranoia, thinking that there is an invisible man in the sky that grants wishes and answers prayers. That is just living a lie and being very naive.

Living this one chance under a form of slavery is indeed very sad to me. Being bound to some dark age nonsense is like living in the past and saying that there is not hope for this life, like being mad that you were ever born in the first place.

Your comparison to religion and Pavlovian conditioning is correct.
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Viva_Daddy Donating Member (142 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-12-08 04:12 PM
Response to Reply #1
7. Face it. We're all attached to our beliefs.
We're all attached to your beliefs - believers and non-believers. Otherwise they would just be opinions or interesting ideas. But when you "bet your life (or "eternal security") on a set of beliefs you become emotionally attached to them. Then you are willing to die (or kill) for them.
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John Gauger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-12-08 08:29 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. I am not staking anything on my lack of belief in an afterlife.
I don't believe in "eternal security" so it's a little silly to say that I am staking it on anything. I am not making a gamble, because I don't believe there's any gamble to be made. Why the hell would I have reason to associate eternal damnation with a belief in anything? Because some stranger says so? That's meaningless to me.

I am not willing to kill, and especially not willing to die, for my beliefs (or, in this case, lack of belief.) They're just beliefs. They mean nothing. I mean, if you're talking about something real, that I could touch or see, or, you know, affected me in some way, then maybe we'll have something to discuss. But dying because I don't believe in god? What am I, fucking stupid?
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Lost-in-FL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-26-08 07:40 PM
Response to Original message
2. Detachment from religion...
is like breaking up with an abusing husband who you love deeply. You just can't walk away from it that easy. You just told her she needs to breakup with her bad boyfriend and she's mad at ya.

Think about it. You have been told ever since you were born about god and there is a great level of comfort thinking of such powerful imaginary friend. It is hard for many to understand that he/she is just not there for you. That you are alone. i don't know, this is how I look at it.
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John Gauger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-26-08 10:58 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. But I didn't tell her to quit Catholicism,
I just told her that Christian morality is similar to Pavlovian conditioning. I wasn't attacking her, I was simply stating something about one of her beliefs. I didn't even say that the similarity made it a bad system of morality - I just drew the comparison. It can be totally valid if the basis of what draws rewards and what draws punishment is sound.

What's weird is I knew she would get angry, but I couldn't stop because I was on a roll. I don't understand why she's angry, but I could certainly predict that she would be so.
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Lost-in-FL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-26-08 11:09 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. I think it would be better to tell her to quit than the...
comment about "Pavlovian conditioning". I thought it was mean but at the same time funny. (Pavlovian conditioning... gotta remember that one.) I have been in situations like the one you just said, where I couldn't stop saying what I WASN'T supposed to say.

I know you didn't tell her to quit, i was trying to give my input on the title question of your first post. Sorry for the confusion but i can be confusing.
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WillParkinson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-27-08 08:45 PM
Response to Original message
5. Because they are frightened little children...
Afraid of the dark. That there's something under the bed. The boogeyman is real.
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dmallind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-28-08 12:25 PM
Response to Original message
6. I'm going to play devil's advocate (well sort of) here
Edited on Mon Apr-28-08 12:27 PM by dmallind
I'm not exactly Mr. Sensitive when it comes to pointing out the credulous and hapless nature of religious faith for the vast majority but I think we're missing the point if we think all of religion is perpetuated by fear etc.

Certainly fear of death and nothingness is one of the key fertilizers for the growth of religious belief, but I think it's a level or two deeper than that on one hand and shallower than that on another. I suspect that doesn't make much sense so let me explain what I mean.

The deeper part of religious belief comes from, in my opinion, the evolutionary advantage in certainty and rules. We are weak, slow, defenseless and clumsy compared to the things that were our natural predators as the species evolved and civilization developed. But we are smarter. We could learn from observation and communicate this learning to others. Watch for the grass moving and get the hell up a tree if it's being moved by something with big teeth and claws guys! Hey if you bang these rocks together just so you can turn sticks into hot sparkly things that those nasty buggers with the teeth and claws don't like one bit! There was a natural survival disadvantage towards wondering "Hey I wonder if old Thak got it wrong and I should bang two leaves together to turn the sticks all hot and sparkly instead to keep away the teethy-clawy things?", as it quickly became: "Oh bugger no guess he was ri....aaagggh!". Even as we look at the growth of human society outside the evolutionary timeframe we find that to succeed and thrive in early civilizations did not often involve saying to the big guy on the throne: "Hey no I'm not sure I agree here - in fact where the hell is there any evidence that Baal even exists let alone wants any sacrifices?" Certainty and deontology were very much survival requisites until very very recently on the scale of human existence - heck in some places they still are.

But to speak to the here and now the shallower part I think is simply that it is comfortable and familiar. That's the big difference where the UK, with all its state church and school prayer etc, has a notable advantage over us from an atheist POV. I see little evidence that the vast majority of believers even care about those beliefs except to parrot them in the most insipid and surface-level way when the "play" button is pressed. I see little evidence that most of them have even thought so deeply as to have fallen for that obvious mummery of Pascal's wager and are trying to get into the good seats after the Reaper does his job. It's simply expected and normal to go to church and be at least a surface believer. It may even to many people be a REAL comfort - not of blind conformity but of community and support. I'm not getting into no true Scotsmen here - these surface believers are real Christians just like Pat Robertson or some nice liberal UCC minister with a PhD in theology is. But I'm saying that if, and I suspect eventually when, we get to a Western/Northern Europe style society where overt religious belief and church attendance is seen as a bit weird rather than as the expected norm, then we'll see a lot fewer people so attached to them.

So to summarize all that - a combination of a need for certainty and peer pressure. ;)
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ozone_man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-12-08 09:44 PM
Response to Original message
9. How else can you get the masses to vote against there best interests?
By the promises of rewards in heaven. Religion is the opiate of the masses.

I think Pavlovian conditioning is pretty accurate. The reasons for the conditioning are less obvious. I think it's always been a conspiracy between church and state to maintain power by controlling the masses.

On dogs, I would say they have more of a soul than people, and if there is a heaven, they should be the ones to go, not man.

"heaven goes by favor. if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." - Mark Twain

"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's." - Mark Twain
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lutherj Donating Member (788 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jun-15-08 11:51 PM
Response to Original message
10. I suspect that most believers are not used to having their beliefs
challenged. Religious belief rests on nothing, and for most people it can only find affirmation in the expressed belief of others. The conversion of another person is the greatest affirmation, and doubt is the great taboo. That's why "atheist" is such a dirty word. When someone starts talking to me about their faith or god, I tell them I'm an atheist. It seems to me that if they can express their metaphysical opinions, why can't I? However, they clearly don't like it, and it's obviously because their beliefs have been challenged. It's the classic case of the emperor has no clothes. (IMHO.)
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