October 21, 2007

What Is A Belief?

The dictionary defines a belief as: any cognitive content held as true. That is to say, A thought, opinion or idea which you believe to be factual. I am fairly happy with this definition and it seems to work well.

What i want to do today is discuss the difference between the word belief and what is known as a religious belief. The two couldn't be further apart. While a regular everyday belief like the earth goes round the sun, The moon isn't made of cheese and fire burns are perfectly reasonable things to believe, When it comes to religion, belief takes on a whole new sinister twist. In religion a belief give the holder of incorrect opinions a licence to construct elaborate rationalisations in order to carry on believing this belief even in the presence of overwhelming evidence against it. Simply because it's a "belief".

My definition of a religious belief is: The ability to construct illogical and elaborate rationalisations that justify continued belief in something in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary

In these cases the religious person may not entirely reject your evidence, They will simply construct a far fetched rationalisation to explain how your evidence fits in with their belief in a god (you know you have them backed in to a corner when they do this).

I'll give you some examples of situations where far fetched rationalisations may be used by the religious when they are presented with evidence or an argument;

Evidence: The bible says god created the earth in a day, Science says it took millions of years.
Rationalisation When the bible is talking about "days" it isn't talking about the same day as us. A god day may be millions of years in length.

Evidence: The bible speaks about creation, Evolution is a fact.
Rationalisation: The biblical account is a metaphor. God actually created evolution.

Evidence: Why would a loving god help movie stars win awards or you get a raise, But not help millions of starving children in Africa?
Rationalisation: God works in mysterious ways.

What they are doing is basically saying: "Your evidence does contradict what i believe, But i am unable to admit it, So i will construct a rationalisation that allows me to acknowledge that what you are saying is true but at the same time continue to believe in what it contradicts".

To any bystander their rationalisation makes no sense at all, but for the believer looking like an idiot is a lot better than having to admit that you are wrong about god, Even if in thier heart they know how wrong they are.


  1. Evidence: Some self-proclaimed Bible scholars have said that they think the Bible says the universe is 6000 years old.

    Rationalization: Then all people with any sort of faith must believe this!

    Evidence: Through careful study and work, scientists have been able to provide supporting evidence for many facets of the general theory of evolution. There is still strong debate about how old the universe/earth really is, how long it takes for one species to evolve into another, and what mechanisms are involved in evolution. The theory of evolution is, like any good scientific theory, constantly changing as new data proves old ideas incorrect and suggests new ideas.

    Rationalization: So evolution is a FACT!

    Evidence: People are jerks that do mean things to each other and try to take advantage of each other. Other people are manipulatable, gullible, and eagerly participate in schemes for their own economic deprivation.

    Rationalization: God must be at fault. .. no wait. . there must BE no god!

    Hey, was this supposed to be promoting rational thought, or hate speech? I'm confused! (not really, I'm just sarcastic!)

  2. What about shit science has not explained yet?? Such as the shroud of Turin.

    Evidence: Scientists have throughly examined the shroud of Turin and have no idea how it could have been made.

    Rationalization: Science can explain it, just not yet!

    You say that science can explain everything, but not everything has been explained. So how are you so sure that science can explain everything if it hasn't done so already?

  3. What are you talking about? That has nothing to do with the post.

  4. That first comment is humourous, Atheists know that not all Followers of Christ believe that the Earth is ~6000 years old - just the bible thumpers (joking, but potentially true). Apparently you like to paint your kindred spirits with the same brush just as you enjoy doing to others.

    Evolution is the only THEORY for the origin of humanity. Ergo, it is the best we have and essentially fact.

    The seemingly evil-nature of certain individuals does not prove/disprove the existence of a god (of any nature). Just displays the wide variety of moral judgement/values by humanity. I don't know enough on this subject to postulate a reason for this. I know my bounds.

    Science may or may not explain the shroud of Turin (I'll be honest I don't know what that is and am too lazy to google it), but that does not mean science is a foolish endeavor and thus specific - religion opposing theories/ideas are false.

    Religion has been around much, MUCH longer than science and improperly explained many processes, events and objects which science has, in comparison, quickly explained - with logical and repeatable proof. We now take for granted many scientific advances, yet some ignore this and focus on the fact that science would love to advance Humanity further though it conflicts with archaic beliefs.

    Now, to the author: Great post, great blog. You are bookmarked and I can't wait to read more of your posts. I'm curious as to what you prefer to call yourself; I'm an Atheist, but prefer the term Humanist seeing how my views essentially mirror those outlined in the Humanist Manifesto.