November 17, 2007

The Belief In Belief

If you have ever seen a lecture, read an article or watched an interview with the eminent Atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett you would probably have heard him say that while most religious people, Or people generally, profess to believe in god what they actually have is a belief in the belief of god.

What Daniel means by this is that while they probably don't really believe in god they have been conditioned to believe that faith is a virtue and that anybody who believes is instantly a better person than those who lack a belief.

On this point - and many others - I agree entirely with what Daniel Dennett is saying. We only have to look at what people do and it becomes apparent that it completely contradicts what they are saying.

To make this point i am going to use cases that were reported in the media to show the hypocrisy of religious people and show that they say one thing and do another.

kent Hovind
Kent Hovind is a young earth creationist, or "nut" as i like to call them, Who believed the word of the bible so much that he built dinosaur adventure theme park that was based on the biblical account of creation, The false theory of young earth and showed humans a dinosaurs existing together. This man must surely believe in god, Right? Well if he did why is he in prison for tax fraud? Doesn't sound like someone who really believes in god to me.

Ted Haggard
Ted Haggard, A man who has the cheek to use the title "reverend", Runs a mega church where he preaches and collects vast amounts of money. So what does he do with this money? Does he give it to the poor? Some may go to the poor, but some goes towards buying meth and sex from rent boys. Doesn't sound like someone who really believes in god to me.

David Smith
"Rev." David Smith was jailed for just over 5 years back in May 07 for abusing 6 children over a period of 30 years. This disgusting piece of filth used his position of trust to lure young boys to "sleep-overs" where he would sexually abuse them. Doesn't sound like someone who really believes in god to me.

Of course it's not only the famous who are guilty of being hypocrites who say one thing and do another. you only have to look at the people around you who claim to believe in god and compare what they say to what they do, it soon becomes apparent that, Like Dan Dennett said, Most people don't believe in god, they only believe in the belief of god.

I would like to ask the people reading this who claim to believe in god to sit down and think about it for a while. if you can't be honest with us at least be honest with yourself. Do you really believe what you say? Or do you only say It because of conditioning and because you think it's the right thing to claim to believe?


  1. You seem to be perpetrating the myth that people who believe in God are, in fact morally, better. Because after all, these bad people can't "REALLY" believe in God, can they?

  2. Excellent post, thank you.

    I have often wondered how the religious people of the world justify the evil among them. I just finished a book about Ervil LeBaron who believed he was a prophet of god. The evil he perpetrated was done in the name of god. After reading the book I don't think he believed any of but used it as an excuse to have what he wanted. It seems many others, as you mention, have done the same thing.

  3. you can't blame religion for the evil that 'religious' people do. I hate to bring up old arguments but Stalin was an atheist so does that make atheism responsible for his purges and the insanity of his regime. Obviously by your reckoning it was, but I disagree, people are evil regardless of their beliefs. George Bush claims to be a Christian but if Jesus was alive today Bush would have him in Guantanamo Bay as some peacenik hippie terrorist. Just because Someone says they are a Christian doesn't mean anything.
    Daniel Dennett does not know what he is talking about when he talks about faith he is another atheist fundamentalist with an agenda to push. They both try and make religion into a form of mental illness. This is fine, but if you want to play that game reductionist materialism is very much like autism when it is taken to this extreme. Asking Dennett about faith or listening to his opinions on faith is like asking the palestinians to comment on the israelis. It is lunacy.

  4. I'm not saying religion makes people do these things di. I'm saying the fact that they did do them proves that they don't actually believe in god. Are you even reading what i wrote or just assuming you already know what i mean?

    And seriously, watch some Daniel Dennetr videos, You will see he is anything but a fundamental atheist.

  5. I am not assuming I know what you mean matt I am not a critic of atheism because I don't like atheists. I believe although people such as dawkins are brilliant scientists and are very good at exposing quacks which he does with humour and eloquence both he and this particular brand of atheism that he subscribes to are in danger of becoming more of a religion than science or even a philosophy and a very fundamentalist one at that. I have read much of Daniel Dennett's philosophy including Darwin's Dangerous Idea. However, I do believe he is very much of a similar ilk to Dawkins. He has a particular philosophy which he sticks to and denegrates other peoples beliefs as he again, like dawkins, believes he speaks the truth. I feel his criticisms of Stephen Jay Gould in the aforementioned book were again not necessarily based on facts but dennetts philosophy. Gould although an atheist and who had different views on evolution to dawkins suffered for this as he did not tow the party line. The actual danger to science here is these two protagonists believe they hold the truth and everything else is not worth looking at and worthy of scorn. this to me is hubris so saying people believe in believing in god but don't actually believe is his opinion and is a very generalist and immature way of looking at religous beliefs.

  6. What are you talking about di?
    You seem to only have one argument which is "I don't like the way Dawkins does things" and feel compelled to make this point in every post no matter how irrelevant it is.

    Ok, You don't like how Dawkins does things, We get it. What do you think about people only claiming to believe in god because they have been told faith is a virtue?

  7. Well Matt it is up to them if they believe - because they are told faith is a virtue, its their lookout. I mean there is a sucker born every minute. But you believe what you are told about atheism and science, there is very little balance in your arguments at all. I am not sure you have read many criticisms of the norm other than maybe some crazy creationists because it is easier to pick holes in their arguments. To me it is an irrelevant point to say people believe things because they are told they are true or it is a virtue or whatever - because we all do. However, it can be dangeros when you believe it without question which I feel the modern atheist movement is a little guilty of. I see less debate based on peoples personal views these days than just the same old rubbish regurgitated ad infinitum from the writings of dawkins, dennett and also pinker. I have no proof that evolution exists I believe it does and I understand it because I have been told about it and studied it at university. I have no personal proof that it exists I trust the myriad of people who did the research. Does this make me conditioned into believing it the same as people with faith? My gripe with Dawkins et al is not that I hate the way they do things its because they have stifled reasoned debate by convincing people such as yourself that they hold the absolute truth and have the weight of empirical science on their side.

  8. It's impossible to have any kind of sensible dialogue with you if you continue insisting that believing in god is the same as believing in something that has passed the scientific process, Falsification and peer review.

  9. This is a tough one.

    Yes, hypocrisy runs rampant among believers, but the strength or depth of their belief would have to be assessed on an individual basis, I think. For some, I'm sure that what Dennett says is true, and they believe in the hopes that if they believe, it will be real.

    Some truly believe in their sky daddy, but do bad things anyway. They have a myriad of excuses. Free will. Weak flesh. The devil's influence.
    But they also have the magic get out of jail free card of redemption and forgiveness.
    Of course we're talking about Christianity here. Followers know Christ died on the cross to redeem them and they can get away with whatever the f*ck they want to and still get to the Promised Land.

    So of course they believe. Christianity was tailor-made for the hypocrite. He can fully believe in a god and still commit atrocities.

    If I'd been asked, back when I was a believer, if I believed in God or merely in the belief in god, I'm sure I would have answered emphatically the former. At my most fervent, I was about to be confirmed and had come to my faith through conditioning, not choice.
    Was I a hypocrite? Sure. I didn't purposefully sin, but I always asked forgiveness. Curiously, I never felt forgiven. But to question God's existence then would have meant questioning my entire reality.
    Maybe it's like that for people who carry god with them their whole lives. Luckily for me, shortly after I got confirmed, I started the long trip to freedom.

  10. matt I am not sure what your saying but have you not just confirmed what I have been ranting on about and aren't you accussing me of what you are guilty of. first being a scientist let me tell you about the scientific process, falsification and peer review. when conducting a study and submitting your results to be published you stick to the facts not your opinions. If I write a paper saying evolution is true therefore god does not exist I would get laughed out of Science. Because A.Evolution is a Theory and has not been proved true, I would have to come up with some radical new data to prove evolution and B. Even if I did prove it were true it would not be acceptable that it disproves god. I would have to have unlocked every possible secret about reality there is. The only journal I could submit this paper too would be something like the journal for irreproducible results. No respectable scientific Journal in its right mind would accept a paper that stated the god didn't exist as the idea is untestable and unprovable or would accept any possibble theories on the existence or non-existence of god. You could state- your theory is that god doesn't exist, but again I doubt any journal would touch it because despite what Dawkins says this question is beyond the interest of Science. So Matt in case I am wrong can you send me the reference to the papers that 'belief in believing' is a scientific fact or where 'agnostics are fence sitting cowards' or where 'atheism is not a belief system' or 'atheism is the default state' I have never seen them or heard of them and I read most of the popular science journals where papers such as these would be reviewed. So back to my point you have read Dawkins and Dennett and mistaken their interpretations of science and prevailing philosophy (the keyword is interpretations) and taken them as true and so you are guilty of the same crime that dennett is talking about disbelieving because you are conditioned to disbelieve. And here in lies the problem of views such as yours you subject other peoples beliefs to criticism that you you wont allow of yours hence why people like me are unpopular on atheist sites. Now if you would like to go back to my earlier arguments which nobody took me up on - Neurtheology is a peer reviewed science and holds this respectability it is a science as it studies a phenomena. unfortunately atheism, ID, Creationism and all the other crackpot belief systems are not peer reviewed sciences they are philosophies of the interpretations of science. Now looking at atheism like this shows to me that it is just another myth about reality like any other religion and is not given respectability by peer review. eventhough modern biology is reductionist and materialist, which is by their nature atheist does not make science and belief overlap.

  11. Nobody says "evolution is true so god doesn't exist".

    What we say is evolution is true so the biblical account of creation and intelligent design are incorrect.

    Atheism is a myth about reality? What the hell are you talking about? atheism is the disbelief in something that has nothing to support it. it's a belief in evidence and reason.

    Is your disbelief in fairies a "myth about reality" just because you can't disprove fairies?

    Do my a favour. In future posts concentrate on quality, Not quantity.

  12. Well I am sorry matt but you accused me of something and I was defending myself. One could believe in God and still believe in the evidence and reason of science. I was using the evolution true and god false argument to show you that atheism is not a peer reviewed science. for the umpteenth time science does not make any claims over the existence or the non-existence of god. My posts are long because some of your arguments are so convaluted they take a lot to sort them out. Fairies again have nothing to do with it This is a blog about atheism if it was one about fairies then it would be different. I don't believe in fairies I doubt a belief in fairies is central to anyones beliefs except maybe a child. atheism like theism is a belief about the nature of reality nothing more and thus is a myth. I mean myth in the mythological (sacred story) sense not in the 'a myth is false' sense.
    What you say about evolution is also what I say but I have not built a religion around it like you have.
    in the future I will focus on quality but Matt the arguments you give are purile sometimes. And as we have argued before theism does have things to support it neurotheology is a science that recognises mystical experiences albeit as something that is all in the head but the phenomena does exist. Most of materialistic science is based on matter and the space in between it - but it has been asked in quantum physics whether the material world exists at all and is the material world an illusion governed by some underlying force. Jees where would that leave Dawkins and his devotees all those beliefs and nothing to support it. You can't have a serious debate with you matt because you only have two modes of argument insulting and what you have read out of a textbook.

  13. "neurotheology is a science that recognises mystical experiences albeit as something that is all in the head but the phenomena does exist."

    From what I can tell, this is a barely recognized science, sometimes referred to as a pseudoscience by actual scientists.

    It seems to tie in well with Matt's new post with the comics contrasting science and creationism.

    And mind you, I say this as a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder who has experienced many OBEs in my lifetime. I do not in any way argue that the phenomena happen, just that they are not spiritual. They are simply functions of the brain, and indeed, all in the head. Yes, I have witnessed myself from across the room or looking down at myself from the ceiling. I don't have any clue how it happened, but I don't feel I was in two places at once, and I don't think that was my *soul* leaving my body. I do think the human mind is an astonishingly remarkable tool.

  14. Karen I totally agree with you. However, I don't think neurotheology is a pseudoscience in the true sense of the term it is a bunch of neuroscientists studying the neurology of religious experiences I don't think they are saying religion is real. I am not sure they have found proof of them yet but have put forward many scientifically acceptable theories. Indeed I believe Richard Dawkins submitted himself to a failed attempt to have one he was dissapointed but not surprised. I also think it can be seen as reasonable proof that religion can be explained scientifically. However as someone who has had such disorders could you not recognise there are many ways of interpreting these phenomena. It is all about what you believe. You say you have had OBE's so the fact is they are a phenomena not necessarily what the mystics say. one could interpret them as mystical, neurological psychological etc depending on your bent. But the fact is they are a phenomena. Now if mysticism studies these phenomena then maybe they have formed their own opinion of them maybe they were naive and should have waited until rational science came along to explain it for them. But rational science has not come up with rational explanations for all mental phenomena and indeed tends to shy away from experiences that cannot be explained by physical means. It comes back to Daniel Dennett believers believe in believing. Atheists believe in scientific rationalism but neither are the true holders of the truth. It is all about how you interpret the truth.

  15. I don't think science shies away from experiences that cannot be explained by physical means. I think rather that there is just not the funding for research in the area. And, as Dawkins found out, it is very difficult to create or even predict an experience which occurs under high stress or duress without being cruel to the subject. (if I am remembering correctly about what I read of Dawkin's experiment.)

    Given time, I think science will get around to this area.

    Believers in belief also believe in the rationalism of science, else they would not take advantage of all it has to offer.

  16. the MYTH that believers are more moral than un believers , is one that continues from the believers mouths every time they announce that atheists are immoral.

    SO MANY times i have heard that , and people say that only god gave them the strentgh to make moral choices....


    fake christians are everywhere...

    makes mewonder if ANY of the believers actually REALLY believe, or just pretend, for one reason or another....

  17. My theory is that language has a dual purpose: everything we say is at the same time an imperfect description of the way the world is, and a way of defining the structure of our social group. If I argue about science with my dad, I'm suggesting to him that I should have more authority in our family, or that I should be considered independent; the emergence of the Church of England resulted in political change and the development of differences between the teachings and attitudes of the two Churches.

    I think (although I can't prove) that people passionately believe... any old crap which maintains their social status. Becoming an atheist in a country where the majority believes in God is an event, because you then have to fight with most of your friends and neighbours for the rest of your life, or convert them too, or find new friends.

    So I've got a feeling that Ted Haggard really does believe that his congregation are the chosen ones, and that the Devil made him do whatever he did with/to the rent boy to further the cause of his evil enemies or whatever. I bet he really, really believes whatever story he uses to cope with it, because his belief and his ability to make others believe are precisely the source of his social status.

  18. @di
    You said:"Fairies again have nothing to do with it.This is a blog about atheism.If it was one about fairies then it would be different.I don't believe in fairies.I doubt a belief in fairies is central to anyone's beliefs except maybe a child"
    well consider this: Religion in general has as much evidence about god as a kid has about fairies.Kids think fairies are real because they were told stories about fairies.They have no ability to deduce that fairies aren't real.Religious people think god is real because they were told stories about god.Their parents also believe that and so there is nobody to tell them they are wrong.They remain with that belief for the rest of their life and also tell their children.Both cases are the same,but god has milions of people on his side so he must be real right?