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L Ron Hubbard approves this message.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

The inverse of Freddie's position is the Evangelical take which can be hyper-belief in belief.

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Man, Silence is a great movie.

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This is the first I’m hearing of this kind of postmodern belief. Do people really believe that no one actually believes in Jesus Christ? Have they met any Americans? You can certainly argue that they’re full of hypocrisy and inconsistencies, but if you’ve ever spoken to an evangelical there’s no question that they genuinely believe in the reality of the Christian God.

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It's a claim I hear more and more, with the caveat that I live in Brooklyn and mostly know godless urbanites and arty types.

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If someone does not think the details are important I would invite them to try to get an Anglican to convert to Catholicism or vice versa. It’s why a lot of people stay in the Catholic Church despite the pedophilia scandals. Their church is the only church; it is not all the same.

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My In-laws are heavily involved in their local Catholic church. They host young Jesuit priests during the holidays, do silent retreats, perform in choir, etc. and never once did they think of leaving the Church over the pedophilia scandal.

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Good for them! If I believed in the doctrines that the Catholic Church teaches about its own nature, then yeah, the pedophilia scandal wouldn't be a reason to leave. It would be a reason to work really hard to fix things, reform the bureaucratic structures, and get rid of all the pedophiles, but not to leave the Church. I know that's how all of my devout, dedicated Catholic friends feel about it.

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Yes, I think they doubled down on their faith when the scandal hit the Louisiana. As you said, trying to fix it from the inside.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

"If I believed in the doctrines that the Catholic Church teaches about its own nature, then yeah, the pedophilia scandal wouldn't be a reason to leave. It would be a reason to work really hard to fix things..."

You're presupposing that you'd be in a position where that really hard work wouldn't appear futile. Not everyone who retains belief but leaves over institutional problems is simply unwilling to do the work. Some have sacrificed for the sake of such work and just aren't in a position to sacrifice anymore. It's more like divorcing someone you still might love but can't be safe around, like parents who divorce a spouse because the spouse can't be trusted with their children.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

I suppose, but this scenario presupposes that I believe in the doctrinal and institutional authority of the Church, in the manner that it dogmatically teaches: e.g. that there is no valid access to the Sacraments outside of the Church, that communion with the Church is crucial to communion with God and eternal life, etc.

I guess my point is, I'm not surprised that people who *do* believe those things (for clarity, I'm a Protestant; I don't) wouldn't leave the Church over the pedophilia scandal. There certainly are plenty of Catholics who aren't as committed to those dogmas as Imaginary Catholic Me, and who would be willing to react to the scandal by leaving. I'm not surprised by them, either.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

Yeah but is that denominational loyalty because of a sincere and genuine individual belief in their own sect? Or simply because that's what they were born into and all they've known their whole life?

There's a reason a lot of religions like big families, and it's not just because of 'god's will' overruling any thought of contraception. It's also because people born into a religion are like 10 times more likely to stay than some convert is. Familiarity may sometimes breed contempt, but it also breeds conformity.

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"Yeah but is that denominational loyalty because of a sincere and genuine individual belief in their own sect? Or simply because that's what they were born into and all they've known their whole life?"

As an ex-fundamentalist Christian, I can say: "genuine individual belief in their own sect." Undoubtedly. The sects have points of difference that are monumental to a believer.

That may come by way of being born into it, but that's beside the point.

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If it comes by way of being born into it, then that's entirely my point.

If a Catholic now could go back in time and someone be born into a Protestant family, and grow up loyally believing all the various Protestant tenets, then it would follow that simply being raised in a certain sect would have an overwhelming impact on individual belief.

I mean, how many adult Christians do you know that periodically do a deep dive in other denominations, comparing and contrasting all the differences, in order to make a sound decision on where their individual beliefs fall?

People do switch faiths occasionally, usually with marriage, but it's still extremely rare. Why do you think that is if not for simply having grown up in a certain faith?

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None of that precludes "sincere and genuine individual belief." You're the one who positioned them as mutually exclusive options.

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Agree. My wife and I spent the weekend with two other couples -- dear old friends from college. I told them I needed to go to Mass on Sunday and they invited me to their (Lutheran) church. Nope, no dice, doesn't check the Catholic box for true believers.

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Wow, that's wild. Brooklynites are a stone's throw from a black church or synagogue with plenty of true believers. Forget evangelicals in the heartland, do they know nothing of their neighbors?

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I suspect these Brooklynites also dabble in yoga and have Tibetan prayer flags hanging off their balcony as well?

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put on their designer silk Chinese Peasant outfit, and cosplay Siddhartha on a weekend retreat.

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Some places really seem to form bubbles like this. For a tangentially related example, a few years ago Scott Alexander posted on Slate Star Codex an entry about doing marriage counseling for a pair of friends; one was upset that the other had broken the marriage vows by cheating, while the cheater was arguing that marriage vows were just boilerplate and nobody actually took them seriously. Scott, being in a weird social bubble, presented that as a somewhat reasonable argument and was perhaps surprised at the number of commenters who STRONGLY disagreed.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

Self-delusion is endemic in a world where ‘brand loyalty’ is the ultimate expression of ‘lived faith’. When the possibility of being a sell-out has been co-opted by everyone being on the make all the time the only logical course is to shop till you drop.

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Oct 6, 2022Liked by Freddie deBoer

My father, from what I could gather as a youngster, was not a true believer but did support the church. I think, just like something like our constitution, he knew these things like religion and law are just human constructions. But he also knew that they brought us things we desired. I'm kind of in the same boat on this question, I'm not a believer in belief, as much as a believer in the good things that come from religion. So I'm agreeing with your take mostly, I don't like or think belief in belief is a good thing. But I'm carving out a different sort of approach, where you don't believe in belief so much as believe in the human construction of a God as a good. And I suspect there is more of this type of "belief" than people think. I also know that when death was approaching his mind went to the spiritual, which is a whole different thing, I think. And I'm pretty sure he wasn't imagining Jesus, or God, but something more natural, all while trying to face the fear.

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Thanks for that, I was pondering the belief-in-belief, and couldn't put my finger on why I value belief, yet don't have belief. You've made me realize, I believe in belief, because there are positive benefits in belief.

Perhaps we just need an occasional uplifting sermon, perhaps that's the hole we're trying to fill with belief ... the belief-in-belief.

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This is beautifully written, and you make some good points, but I feel like I can only half agree with you here. I do the Christianity stuff because I believe it to be true, and the Apostle Paul’s on your side (“If there is no resurrection of the dead, we are of all men the most to be pitied,” etc.)…but at the same time, it seems like there’s something entirely reasonable about saying, “I don’t believe God is real, but I *do* believe evolution has left me with a need for supernatural belief, and I have to satisfy that need however I can.” In that sense, practicing religion is no different from eating Splenda or whatever (“Evolution gave me a sugar craving, but the modern world has made sugar more dangerous than helpful, so I’m fulfilling the craving the safest way I know”).

It’s true that, if there’s nothing beyond the grave, religion is ultimately pointless, but then…so is everything. We’re all just here playing a game that everyone, eventually, loses.

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If that's true, why bother with the self-delusion at all then? I mean, it's not like having a different faith than someone else has never caused a problem in history right? Why can't one's own brief existence be a precious and wonderful thing all on its own? And why does it have to have some sort of cosmic meaning to it, isn't that just the human ego rearing its ugly head?

"We’re all just here playing a game that everyone, eventually, loses." Eh...I for one do not consider death being the end of my existence as 'losing'. I mean, on a very fundamental level, it's perfectly fine that you or I or anyone else truly won't exist anymore. Right?

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Given the choice, I'd rather keep on trucking forever.

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R. Crumb rejoices

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Practicing a faith carries more with it than the "self-delusion" of a higher power. One can believe in a higher power without practicing any particular faith. But joining a church/mosque/temple is deliberate move to become part of a small community of people who share the same belief but also find comfort in the ceremonies as much as anything else. This is vastly different than getting together for brunch with friends and talking about GOT episodes.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 20, 2022

Well yeah, but I've been to a few concerts in my time that were more awe-inspiring and community-oriented than any of the best Catholic gatherings in my youth. One could also argue that, say, college football does the same thing you describe, only without any mention of a higher power.

It can easily be argued that human beings have a distinct need for ritual, especially in a communal sense. That doesn't prove anything about a divinity, it just proves that doing the same thing over and over in a group setting provides us with comfort and meaning. It's a peculiarity of our species, not evidence of supernatural deference.

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Eh...I think the football comparison is a stretch. Although I'm sure there are plenty of prayers being said during overtime field goal attempts. That being said, I do think the ritualization in religion is very different than ritualization in other activities in that it requires a level of faith that is not demanded of or inherent to non-religious rituals. It's not intended to prove divinity but proof of faith in divinity. I would argue going to the gym religiously doesn't provide the same level of comfort and meaning as attending weekly services. They have distinctly different social weight. I have different emotional reactions going to a concert vs. listening to hymns during a Christmas mass and I'm agnostic.

Rituals in and of themselves are part of the animal kingdom and not unique to humans. That we ascribed sacredness to some of our rituals was just an extension of human consciousness trying to make sense of natural world before we had the tools to analyze the natural world. I'm not sure humanity could ever prove/disprove the existence of a supernatural power.

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"It's not intended to prove divinity but proof of faith in divinity."

I don't think anyone would argue that simply believing in a divine power does not exist. That doesn't need to be proved at all, it's everywhere. What's vastly more important is not whether faith exists (it overwhelmingly does), but whether people believe the entire purpose behind the faith is valid and real.

If they believe it's real, fine...have it all they want, that's their decision. But to try and say something like the very PURPOSE behind the faith itself doesn't really matter, it's just the rituals that we need? Uhh..what the heck is the point of it all then? In my humble opinion, that's just willful ignorance for the sake of peace of mind.

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Oh I agree with you. If someone is looking for ritual and seeking it in religion without the faith part then yes, find something else.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

Your second sentence nails something my somewhat earlier (rushed) comment was trying to indicate. So thanks for that. And the only truly substantial positive experience i’ve had of org’d religion was in a very small church in a very small town. The shared experience of that group felt real. But arent the ultimate truths of faith found beyond that? I came to the conclusion that they are, so, in my present suburban life, I’m not in church anymore. Still a believer, but I think the regular communicants probably don’t share all my specifics.

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"If that's true, why bother with the self-delusion at all then?"

Admitting to uncertainty in a belief is different from admitting to self-delusion. Pressure to collapse them into one and the same isn't limited to religion. It happens, for example, with illness, too. (Doctors aren't 100% sure of diagnoses, and patients should know that, but patients who admit to receiving less-than-cast-iron diagnosis deserve better than "Are you sure you're not just imagining your problem, then?" Like 100% sure? For problems with anything less than blatantly obvious signs, nobody gets to be 100% sure. But it's unreasonable to require unachievable certainty there when we don't for other things.)

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The difference is I'm not putting my 'faith' in the doctor because of some intrinsic supernatural belief in medicine as an omnipotent all-powerful construct, but rather because medicine is based on real science.

A doctor not being right all the time is nowhere near the same thing as uncertainty in belief. I'm not sure where you get that, I wasn't really talking about uncertainty.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

Luke had said, "I do the Christianity stuff because I believe it to be true, and the Apostle Paul’s on your side (“If there is no resurrection of the dead, we are of all men the most to be pitied,” etc.)…but at the same time, it seems like there’s something entirely reasonable" about doing it out of need, not belief. Ending with, "It’s true that, if there’s nothing beyond the grave, religion is ultimately pointless, but then…so is everything. We’re all just here playing a game that everyone, eventually, loses."

Admitting those who don't believe are reasonable amounts to admitting some doubt, and you seemed to me to be asking, if Luke doubts, and acknowledges it could all just be a game, why not count his belief as self-delusion? Perhaps that's not what you meant, but enough people do mean something like that that it's worth addressing.

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Evolution doesn’t disprove God. He can breed as easily as He can create from scratch. Compare: is a French Poodle the result of “natural” selection?

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I don't know much about this specific movement, but I will say that I am a former believer (Protestant, for whatever that may be worth to someone reading this), who has become more agnostic but still seeks out church. This is to say that I think I (and likely many others) fall into a category between those truly bought into the complete tenets of an organized religion and those still believing in *some* of it but still very inclined towards seeking a structure like church that provides community, moral guidance, and a place to engage the religious elements that still exist for someone in a setting that is very familiar and comfortable for them.

This isn't disputing anything in this piece, but I write it to say that there's a gray area occupied by some population going to church without full-fledged commitment but whose alternative to *not* go to church is much worse.

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I quit church after a lifetime of devotion when the true belief went away. There was no point. To me, the "God-shaped hole" is something experienced by former believers (or perhaps the children of believers who themselves do not believe), and it's more a mourning and a missing than an existential state.

Our weird, magnificent brains do well with experiences of wonder and awe; that in itself is not "God-shaped." But for people who have experienced those feelings in a religious setting, or who have been raised to believe you'll attain those experiences in a religious setting, they form the need (or at least benefit) of wonder and awe into a God-shape.

But like you said, anything other than true belief is just playacting.

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I think the "god shaped hole" is a funny concept. Like, just fill that hole, buddy! There's lots of beautiful wondrous things in the world!

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Reported for excessive hole talk.

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I should have said there are lots of beautiful wondrous holes in the world!

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One hole is as good as the next hole, regardless of shape.

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Sorry...just couldn't stop laughing at your second sentence there!

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he warned us: he's radical.

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The divine Jon Voigt and Sigourney Weaver had children dig holes to fill their hearts.

https://greatestmovies.miraheze.org/wiki/File:P31465_p_v8_ab.jpg

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"But like you said, anything other than true belief is just playacting."

I tried atheism as a child and sucked at it. Perhaps just because there's a lot kids aren't good at yet, but I've never been motivated to try again. Calling myself agnostic would, I think, be dishonest. Sure, "agnostic" can technically just mean you admit you don't really know, but my admission of uncertainty isn't neutral. It seems dishonest to deny I have belief, though it's not hard to set standards of "trueness" for belief high enough that I wouldn't meet them.

I'm a huge square, usually allergic to rebelling. Except for what the theologian DB Hart describes:

"Easter is an act of 'rebellion' against all false necessity and all illegitimate or misused authority, all cruelty and heartless chance. It liberates us from servitude to and terror before the 'elements.' It emancipates us from fate. It overcomes the 'world': Easter should make rebels of us all.”

If that's what Christian faith is, it's even weirder and more "irrational" than is seemly. It lacks a rational explanation for evil and neat little boundaries between human will, human nature, and the rest of nature. It only asserts that the cosmos is a good gift, but a gift plagued by evil which a redeemer came to set aright. It doesn't have a convincing logical argument for why a good gift should be plagued by evil. Just acceptance that it is, and a yarn about a public execution and an empty tomb.

So, I'm a sucker for that yarn. I live most of my life as if it's true. I don't secretly harbor a confident belief that it's rubbish, but glorious rubbish worth preserving (the Nat Geo approach to religion). But "true belief"? Shrug. That would depend on what the onlooker's standard of "true belief" entails.

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This is lovely. I don't believe literally in the quasi historical accounts of things in the Bible. I think they're great stories and say a lot about humanity--including our search for and making of meaning. For what it's worth, I think there is Something out there that's bigger than us. The singularity of the Big Bang can only take science-minded people so far.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

If I'm honest with myself, I treat gospel witness as pretty much true. I can reason through the doubts and inconsistencies, but, like you can tell yourself why it's possible to doubt a friend's story while still trusting your friend as a witness, I do trust the gist of Biblical witness. "Whose gist, exactly?" Whee, the fun of being some kind of liberal Protestant!

I think attention to incarnation, passion, and resurrection, and penitential periods like Lent and Advent, should ward off Prosperity-Gospel thinking ("The Secret" in Christian drag). In the contest between Joel Osteen's affirmation cubes, and the scream on this kneeling woman's face, it seems obvious to me that the scream grasps reality better:

https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46118.html

But I'm not blind to American Christianity's tendency to get all happy and shiny, even in churches big on official orthodoxy. These days, it's not an exclusively American trait, either, though maybe it never was. Job's friends acted as they did long before America was even a glint in some bald eagle's eye.

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PS I've missed interacting with you, Midge!

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"I tried atheism as a child and sucked at it. Perhaps just because there's a lot kids aren't good at yet, but I've never been motivated to try again. Calling myself agnostic would, I think, be dishonest. Sure, "agnostic" can technically just mean you admit you don't really know, but my admission of uncertainty isn't neutral. It seems dishonest to deny I have belief, though it's not hard to set standards of "trueness" for belief high enough that I wouldn't meet them."

This is so interesting! I was raised in Christian traditions, went to church, but when I was about 10-12 I just...stopped going to church. It wasn't a big decision, I just didn't feel the truth of any of it. My default state is that there's nothing indicating the Christian ideas of god (or any others I've ever read or heard of) is anything more than (useful, engaging, and for a very large number of people, meaningful) mythology. The fact that your default state is belief suggests to me that there really is something about me that simply lacks the makings of faith, and since none of the non-feelings-based reasons for faith ever resonate personally, lacking the feelings in the first place is a non-starter. Even as a child, my conception of god was a stylized little boy with a yellow shirt and red shorts. When I realized my concrete and simplistic conception of god was absurd, there wasn't anything else there.

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Man oh man are you going to be shocked to meet the Lord at the pearly gates and he’s wearing a yellow shirt and red shorts, just for lolz.

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i never could get an answer as to what exactly those recent weirdos are doing, like on a scale from "went through rcia" to "showing up at a church sometimes at any random time based on vibes" to "just kinda saying that they 'are catholic' on social media".

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I think the truth here is somewhere between what you believe and those "postmodernists" believe regarding the past. That is to say, I think the tendency we have towards skepticism/belief is (like most human traits) to a large degree hardwired into our neural circuitry by genetics. Some people will be predisposed to believe, others to doubt. In pre-modern societies there might have been universal public belief in deities, but there were probably lots of people who privately doubted the existence of the gods, looked at them as being metaphorical constructs, didn't really care much either way but liked the social aspect of religion, etc. Of course there were others who were staunch true believers, but I don't think as a general proportion of the population the amount of people who were really into religion was higher. Many of the people in the "middle" might take a religious dogma as fact, but in the same way that we take the earth being about 5.5 billion years old as fact - they just accept it because experts have told them it's true, and don't really understand the proof behind it, care about it, or think that the fact gives them any comfort at all.

Ultimately though, religion is not a matter of individual belief in a higher power, religion is a social thing. It's something you do as part of a community. Things like "weird Catholic" are trying to grope for this, but it will simply never feel the same when you're part of a highly individualistic multicultural society. The way it's "supposed" to work is you're in a rooted community you have lived in your entire life, and you attend the house of worship with your immediate/extended family and the other townfolk. For obvious reasons, this will never happen in the U.S., so it will always taste a bit stale.

I do think you're wrong however in the idea that people can't get comfort out of something that to some extent they believe is "a lie" however. I've read enough about cognitive science to know that the idea of a central unchanging self is a myth we tell ourselves. And I've seen as I get older how new personas are constructed (an "adult" persona when you enter the work world, and in my case, the "father" persona) where you act in almost entirely different modes than you are used to. The first few years you feel like a fraud pretending to be someone else, and then lo and behold, the mask becomes you, and you partially forget you were any other way!

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I can't remember where I saw it, but I think one of the young trad Catholics copped to a "fake it till you make it approach." I can see there being something to that, it works with many things.

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The "weird catholic" thing is annoying to me, because of all the things you said, but also I do happen to know there are some true believers in their midst and they seem stricken with anxiety over being thought of as cool. I get it, I'm sympathetic, I grew up in the 90s evangelical world where the number one priority was "relevance", which too often took the form of empty stylistic conformity. If the kids thought you were lame, they'd never convert, but also, *they would think you were lame*.

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I also have a big issue with your point that "You've got to believe, the alternative is to understand at the moment of death you'll cease to exist."

First, not all religious or spiritual beliefs even involve the afterlife. Early Judaism, for example, seems to have believed that humans ceased to exist upon death. The idea of a soul was a later Hellenistic invention. This may also be part of why Judaism is still a religion focused much more on what we do while we live than what happens after we die.

Second, I don't really think existential fear regarding death is what drives all religious belief. Lots of people care a lot more about "ultimate meaning" existing or somesuch than their own personal continuance. Personally I think that's insane - I'd much rather be immortal in a purposeless universe than finite in one with meaning, but that's just me.

Thirdly, although out there, there are scientific hypotheses which allow for the possibility of consciousness after death. One such is "quantum immortality." Basically if materialism is correct, and we are nothing but matter and energy, and if the universe/multiverse is infinite, than somewhere, at some point, a collection of matter and energy which is close enough to identical will come into being that it will be an effective copy of us. Since we know there's no difference between the hydrogen atoms in our body and those anywhere else, and there's no such thing as absolute position in the universe, under what logic would my own personal experience of selfhood not just "jump" into this new body/mind? I cannot think of any way to deny this unless you add something like a soul back into the mix.

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"I don't really think existential fear regarding death is what drives all religious belief"

I didn't really intend to suggest that it does, only that as far as fears that religion can potentially quell goes, it's a particularly arresting one.

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I just don't see the reason to make that leap. I don't know what would provide that subjective continuity of experience. I think it's something that would have to argued more thoroughly than just that the collection of junk that makes us up is in a similar arrangement. I say this with all humility--I have no idea. Obviously. But this is why Star Trek teleporters give me the willies.

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Oh ... and what if the sub atomic particles in our body are entangled with—string theory—connection to elsewhere?

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This really follows on to my speculation, that if we're in a simulation.

If we're in a simulation, someone owns the simulation (God). The simulation has an objective; to test designs against different models, collect data on which designs are good/bad. The simulation has a purpose; need better models for some next step (heaven). You wouldn't want to build heaven (next layer of turtles) with poor equipment.

With String Theory, God doesn't have to see our image, God can read our entangled sub atomic particles.

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Quantum consciousness is not impossible, but my understanding from cognitive science is it's not seen as something necessary to experience qualia.

That said, the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics...fundamentally pretty disturbing to be honest. While I wouldn't argue it provides for any proof of an immortal soul, plenty of physicists argue that it seems to imply that consciousness is on some level "fundamental" to the universe, since the act of observation itself seems to have a material impact on reality (at least at the microscopic level).

Of course, the simulation hypothesis offers an easy explanation for this. The simulation has low fidelity anywhere a conscious agent isn't looking, because it's trying to cut down on bandwidth.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

Perhaps it depends on the religion, because Jews do this all the time. My family of atheists and agnostics just sat in synagogue and fasted for 24 hours because that's how we reflect and atone and close the chapter of the last year. While I enjoy incense and wine and book clubs, I don't think they can really substitute 5,000 years of accumulated tradition, philosophy, language, literature, music, etc., that tie you to a hundred generations of forebears. Of course, there are plenty of people who find all this unsatisfying, but it works for a lot of people. Jonathan Haidt is Jewish and I expect is speaking from this perspective.

(We call it observance, not playacting.)

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I'd also add (as I've noted in the past) that the traditional observance of religion in ancient Rome (and modern day China) is basically along these lines. It doesn't matter what you believe in your heart of hearts, it matters that you uphold tradition, your family, and your community.

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Scholars of Christian history point to this as possibly being one of the reasons that Christianity swept Roman paganism away so effectively: in many cases Christianity wasn't really competing against a solid structure of alternative belief, but against a vague set of traditions and practices. For outcasts and marginalized people who didn't get much personal benefit from pagan practices, Christian belief offered an alternative source of self-worth and communal life. And for privileged insiders, eventually they found ways to co-opt and adapt their favorite traditional practices into the Christian religious system.

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"in many cases Christianity wasn't really competing against a solid structure of alternative belief, but against a vague set of traditions and practices"

Polytheistic civilizations have a pronounced tendency to partake of an essentially transactional character. Which has a way of turning into a hustle. Many self-identified monotheistic religious institutions have also gone that route in different times and places, also. Obviously. But they aren't supposed to, in principle.. With monotheism, service to G~d and the Commons is ultimately about integrity, not about summoning a power edge, or placing bets in a zero-sum competition between deities. Whereas the polytheistic religions I know of all seem to explicitly revolve around some sort of material bargaining, commerce with the Gods for the purpose of Gaming the System for personal or local benefit. What the Tao Te Ching would refer to as "private ends."

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Oct 8, 2022·edited Oct 13, 2022

yeah, well that's a common early starting point. After that, it's about which direction you head...<<human sacrifice to a mute inscrutable god<< or >>"stop trying to bribe me, already...and stop talking. now, listen here...">>

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Great comment! Can you tell me more about what the Tao Te Ching has to say about this subject?

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No, I can't. All I can do is find bits and prices to quote, like this one- the first lines of the first verse:

"The tao that can be told

is not the eternal Tao

The name that can be named

is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin

of all particular things..."

(I've also read translations giving that last line as "naming is the mother of things.")

There are dozens of different translations of the Tao Te Ching. Of the ones I've read or scanned through, my favorite is the one by John C. H. Wu. It's a slim volume, only 81 verses. Not a quick read, though. It takes a while for the concepts to sink in. It's important to keep revisiting them.

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Thanks for the recommendation!

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It also matters that you pay your taxes to the emperor.

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I can see how this could be similarly true for Catholics, but def not Protestants. Judaism is uniquely a culture in ways that most other religions (certainly in the U.S.) aren't.

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It's also a religion that focuses more on behavior than belief, certainly compared to Christianity. To the extent that Judaism speculates about the afterlife (which is very little), anyone, Jew or otherwise, who observes a handful of moral laws has a place in the "world to come."

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Hell, I wouldn’t even bother saying Judaism is uniquely a culture over saying it’s more uniquely considered an ethnicity. The US is just splintered on genuine believers.

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Religion understood as belief is a Pauline position that resurfaced in a big way during the Protestant Reformation. Not all religions are like this. Catholicism is a more law-based, behavior-based, and ritualistic religion than the Protestant denominations, but also has Pauline strains. I agree that I don't think observance/playacting would work as well with Protestantism.

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I think it’s fair to say that Protestants value faith over works, which is why there is constant morality policing.

Paul and I have beef but let’s not open that can of worms.

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 6, 2022

Fair, but I think there's a difference between someone who is born into a religious tradition and hangs onto its observance without much (or any) belief in its precepts, and someone coming to a religious tradition from the outside, and trying to get into the observance without the belief. I think Freddie is mostly talking about the latter phenomenon, where you're talking about the former.

I'd also say that it seems, sociologically, that the sort of observance that you describe in your family doesn't tend to sustain itself over the longer-term. E.g. you observe Yom Kippur, but how much of the rest of traditional Jewish religious practice does your family observe? The Sabbath? Kosher? How does your generation's observance compare to you grandparents' generation?

I don't mean to pick on you, and I definitely agree that the Jewish experience seems to be significantly different from the Catholic and Protestant experiences, so I agree with your general point.

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That's a good question! I don't really know.

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All fair points. I can't imagine converting into a religion without any belief, unless it was for marriage.

There are always people who drift away from any observance, but Jewish practice has more staying power than you'd expect. My generation is, on average, about as observant as my grandparents, who were atheist physicists. We have Shabbat dinners, keep quasi-kosher (no pork), observe the main holidays, and send all the kids to years of religious and Hebrew school. The big variable, I think, is intermarriage.

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Oct 7, 2022·edited Oct 7, 2022

I'm glad this was said, because that was my thought reading this as well. I think people who conjure a trad-Cath persona out of whole cloth, having been raised without religion or religious community or else vaguely Christmas-and-Easter Protestant, definitely fit the description you've laid out here of empty faux-belief. And maybe I'm not the best person to weigh in here, because I do return to the rituals of belief in part out of a kind of belief - my childhood is such that questioning God never really feels necessary or productive or answerable, and I default to yes because it's comforting. I do retain some real belief. I think Yeshua bin Joseph had some pretty rad points, and I think the community of a house of faith is worth retaining even if the belief has long since washed out. My father, raised Catholic in Boston in the 50s, and subject to some if not all of the faith-withering indignities you're imagining when I say "raised Catholic in Boston in the 50s," became much more involved in the day-to-day goings on of our church once he'd finally admitted his doubts to himself - I think it left him free to treat it as a hub of warmth and connection. I definitely agree that "belief in belief" is a dumb argument that actively discards historical evidence and rests on the smug assumption that everyone is as uncomfortable with earnestness as you (theoretical you) are. And I agree with the broad point that post-post-ironic posturing will only ever feel empty - you can't force nostalgia, or its warmth, for something you never knew - but if you go to mass (etc.) often enough, you'll start to chat with the old ladies. You'll meet somebody's baby. Idk. If you playact every day is it really playacting?

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This makes sense since Judaism is a culture that is largely inherited, although there are some converts. It's somewhat like all those who observe Christmas secularly in majority -Christian countries, although with less syncretism than Christmas (given that Christmas is a long-standing mix of Christian and pagan rituals)

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It occurred to me reading this article and the comments as regarding Judiasm, the supernatural and “religion”, that perhaps a better characterization of Judaism is as the world’s first, continuously operating, book club. Dedicated to discussing Torah/Tanach.

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The belief structure of completely secular Jews is pretty incoherent from the “get go”.

The literal definition of “a Jew” is a “a descendant, by matrilineal birth (or adoption into the family) of Isaac, Abraham’s son by Sarah”. If you don’t believe in the existence of Abraham and Sarah as detailed in the bible, then the term “Jew” is epistemologically empty. 🤔

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Marvelous comment Leora. And yes, of course, Haidt is right. It's why he's one of the most important social psychologists in the world, and Freddie is, well, Freddie: always provocative, often interesting, but rarely (except perhaps when it comes to issues of mental health) wise.

It's all there in the old Jewish joke that has launched a thousand sermons. Two friends, Goldstein and Meyer, are asked one day why they come to Shabbat services. Goldstein responds "I go to synagogue to be with God;", while Meyer answers "I go to synagogue to be with Goldstein."

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Religion(s) are man's attempt to paint God into their corner. As a contrary Christian I marvel at the CIC, Christian Industrial Complex and its hold on so many "believers". If Christianity is a complicated as they try to make it, the thief on the cross would have never been able to join Jesus in Paradise that very day.

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founding

I'm among those who cannot "choose" to believe.

However, if I say a Jewish prayer, celebrate a Jewish holiday, or study the Torah, or encourage my children to have a Jewish identity, it's all about respect for my Jewish identity and respect for those who came before me and not denying my kids and grandkids at least the opportunity to have authentic belief.

Moreover, I do not agree that people cannot choose authentic belief. There are many examples of people finding comfort in an authentic belief in a god or in an afterlife after a tragedy.

My 85 year-old father lost his wife of 63 years a few years ago. He believes with all his heart that he will meet her in heaven and she is sending him signals. Why is that not authentic belief?

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author

I'm not saying it's not authentic belief. I doubt, however, that he would say "I know this isn't literally true, but I choose to act as though I believe it is," which is what Haidt discusses.

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founding

That makes sense to me. I agree that faith and belief cannot be forced. I may have been guilty of a too quick read and a too quick take, Thanks for the response.

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