EppsNet Archive: Belief

“Why Do I Believe What I Believe?”

My fellow Americans – About 20 people showed up for Unite the Right last weekend. That would be a disappointing turnout for a pancake breakfast sponsored by the local softball league, let alone a national rally in Washington, DC. White supremacy is like the Flat Earth Society, not non-existent, but extremely marginal. It’s a boogeyman to scare people about things that are not real. A good question to ask is “Why do I believe what I believe?” For example, “Why do I believe in a resurgence of white supremacy when only 20 people in a nation of 300 million can be persuaded to show up at a rally?” Possible answers include “I saw it on the internet” or “I heard it on TV.” These are perhaps not good answers, in that they open us up to manipulation for political gain, financial gain, and increased readership and viewership. Read more →

An Atheist Falls Into a Swamp . . .

[David Hume] once fell into a swamp near the house he was building in Edinburgh. Owing to his reputation among the locals as an atheist, a woman refused to pull him out of it until he recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Belief, which, being practical-minded, he did. But not before he argued with her about whether Christians were obligated to help their enemies. — Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan Read more →

To Be a Believer

You probably seem to yourself to be a believer, even if you are a believer in disbelief. But you cannot really believe in anything until you are aware of the process by which you arrived at your position. Before you do this you must be ready to postulate that all your beliefs may be wrong, that what you think to be belief may only be a variety of prejudice caused by your surroundings — including the bequest of your ancestors for whom you may have a sentiment. True belief belongs to the realm of real knowledge. Until you have knowledge, belief is mere coalesced opinions, however it may seem to you. Coalesced opinions serve for ordinary living. Real belief enables higher studies to be made. — Attributed to Ali Read more →

Praised Be Blindness

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, published in Rome his spiritual exercises. There he wrote this testimony of blind submission: “Take, Lord, and receive all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will.” And as if that were not enough: “To get everything right, I must always believe that what I see as white is black, if the Church hierarchy so determines.” — Eduardo Galeano, Mirrors Read more →

I’d Like to Believe in the Existence of a Loving God . . .

. . . but I can’t. The quality of evidence is very poor. Do you believe in ghosts, fortune tellers, psychics, werewolves, vampires, astrology, alien visitations . . .? I don’t believe in any of those things, but they’re all out there and a lot of people do believe in a lot of things for which the quality of evidence is very poor. Do you believe that a cow jumped over the moon? I remember reading about it but the quality of evidence is very poor. It seems to be just another made-up story . . . Read more →

Mysterious Ways

Whenever I see headlines like this I wonder why God couldn’t find an atheist family to drop a concrete slab on. The infant, whose shirt appears to say KING JESUS, was also killed. Read more →

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The notion that we have limited access to the workings of our minds is difficult to accept because, naturally, it is alien to our experience but it is true: You know far less about yourself than you feel you do.   A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.   It is the consistency of information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.   The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion — we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than… Read more →

Why “We” Believed Jackie’s Rape Story

Embed from Getty Images That’s the title (minus the quotation marks) of an article on politico.com regarding Rolling Stone‘s retraction of a story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia. The article is written by a female student at that university. “We” believed the story for the same reason Rolling Stone didn’t fact check it: because when you know little, it’s easier to fit everything you do know into a simple story about the world, e.g., “white men are rapists.” Also because people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they’re sustained by a community of like-minded believers. On the flip side, a different group of people can now use the incident to confirm their simple story about the world, e.g., “women are liars.” Personally I find labeling and smearing people based on genetic traits ugly and offensive no matter whose agenda is being… Read more →

Pope John Paul II Just Killed a Guy

Man crushed by giant crucifix dedicated to Pope A man has been crushed to death after a giant crucifix dedicated to Pope John Paul II collapsed, just days before a historic Papal canonisation in Rome. The 30-metre-high (98ft) wooden and concrete cross fell during a ceremony in the Italian Alpine village of Cevo, near Brescia. Another man was taken to hospital. The structure was dedicated to John Paul II on his visit to the region in 1998. — ITV News It’s clear to me that the Pope intended to kill this man. What’s the rule? Does this cancel out one of his life-saving miracles? If you believe that a dead person can be the agent of unexplained happenings on Earth, then you’ve got to take the bad with the good. If the Pope gets credit for a miracle when a woman’s health improves after seeing his picture in a magazine,… Read more →

Thoughts on a Turbulent Flight

I can’t sleep on planes. I’m afraid the damn thing will crash and I’ll miss it.   I don’t believe in anything. I wish I did. It seems comforting to imagine holding the plane aloft with prayer.   I’m not a good person. Why shouldn’t something terrible happen to me? Read more →

The Gettier Problem

What does it mean to say that you “know” something is true? According to traditional philosophical thinking, you can be said to know that some proposition P is true if and only if: P is true. You believe that P is true. You are justified in believing that P is true. These three conditions jointly form the concept of justified true belief (JTB). As an example, let’s examine my claim that I know Paris is the capital of France. Unless an edict to the contrary has come down in the last few minutes, Paris is the capital of France, I believe that Paris is the capital of France, and I’m justified in believing that based on available evidence. So according to the concept of justified true belief, I know that Paris is the capital of France. Gettier Problems Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s say I wake up in the morning,… Read more →

The Best Measure of Truth

If you act as if something is true, you will shortly find out whether it is or isn’t. Any reduction of effort or increase of abundance you enjoy as a consequence of your new belief is the best measure of its truth. — Jim and Michele McCarthy, Software for Your Head Read more →

What You Say You Believe

What you say you believe isn’t as important as what you believe. And, obviously, you don’t believe what you don’t enact. Although describing, proselytizing, or otherwise articulating your beliefs in media other than your own acts can be fun, it is seldom very useful to you or anyone else. Babbling on about a value is a distraction from attaining it. — Jim and Michele McCarthy, Software for Your Head Read more →

The State of Evidence on the God Question

By the way I’m an atheist. I don’t claim to have a proof that God cannot exist. It’s just that I consider the state of the evidence on the God question to be similar to that on the werewolf question. — John McCarthy Read more →

The Law of Conservation of Ignorance

A false conclusion once arrived at and widely accepted is not easily dislodged, and the less it is understood the more tenaciously it is held. Read more →

He prayed in his silence: O God, make me human, let me feel temptation. Save me from my indifference. — Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote

Belief and Vodka Both Wear Off

“I want to believe. And I want others to believe.” “Why?” “I want them to be happy.” “Let them drink a little vodka then. That’s better than a make-believe.” “The vodka wears off. It’s wearing off even now.” “So does belief.” — Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote Read more →

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking. — Alfred Korzybski

The Final Belief

The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly. — Wallace Stevens Read more →