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"There's simply no polite way to tell people they've dedicated their lives to an illusion" Dennet on Religion


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Showing 1-25 of 415 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Apr 2013, 02:35:06 BST
Henry James says:
Famous and berated atheist Daniel Dennett ("Breaking the Spell") is the author of the above quote, and in person he is actually quite polite.
Like Dawkins, he is regularly accused of the opposite.
Can you suggest a solution for Dr. D's problem: give us a polite way to tell someone they've dedicated their life to an illusion?

Posted on 30 Apr 2013, 08:27:32 BST
Heretic says:
The awakening of people that walk away from a life of faith is very painful and can be protracted over quite a long period of time as they see one golden calf after another disintegrate before their eyes.

I can understand why people that are having doubts try everything they can think of to bolster what they believe and for some it may work, at least for a time.

In the end for some they end up making the journey to oppose what they once believed.

This journey can be made in both directions. Any change in what we believe hurts because it involves reconstructing our entire view of the universe.

It takes great courage to be open in our minds, to consider the evidence (evidence not rhetoric ) put in front of us and be able to make honest judgement. In the end this is what being human is all about.

SWH

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 10:24:35 BST
Acts5v29 says:
Good morning Henry James,

Illusions tend to be sticky, having been in a religion which I eventually found to be unpalatable I can agree with Heretic. If the illusion is harmless, then does it matter? The pursuit of truth is just as illusiary. Perhaps there is no easy way and the most convincing way of enlightening someone is for one's quiet example to encourage them to think for themselves.

Posted on 30 Apr 2013, 10:30:42 BST
D. E. Ortiz says:
"There's simply no polite way to tell people they've dedicated their lives to an illusion" Of course Dennet cannot fathom that he himself could be under an illusion. The quote above is just another way to say "If you don't like what I say, tough!"

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 10:35:20 BST
It's not. Dennet's point is to move the discussion forward. Let's all get past being offended at someone else's refusal to see our beliefs as true and work out how to discuss the reasons for them. It's going to annoy you that I've seen through your illusion but I think I can show you how to see through it too, will you listen?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 11:03:18 BST
Bellatori says:
How about...

There, there. You believe if it makes you happy; and don't worry what these nasty men are saying. You will never know how wrong you were so just let it go.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 11:09:11 BST
Condescending =/= polite

But it can = funny from time to time

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 11:10:21 BST
Acts5v29 says:
Good morning Occam,

I can appreciate your perspective and share it to some extent, but feel that simply demonstrating the truth of falsity of something is somehow lacking.

I recently saw a street preacher, was not sure what his particular Christian orientation was, and even though I am truly appalled at some beliefs in Christendom I was pleased to see him at his work. Some things - though perhaps flawed - orient us in a general direction, and to disrupt that for the sake of refinement upon refinement might take the heart, or the attraction, out of it. We can benefit from another's contentment even if we don't agree with it, and we might just find something which corrects our own mis-conceptions along the way. I rarely feel contentment with proofs of what is true, unless it leads somewhere.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 11:21:57 BST
I agree that the contentment of others is important, that said I feel the need to share gifts that give me great joy and the truth has always been one of those gifts for me. Understanding that something is true and how it works and how we know that and why we looked and what that can let us look at now...and so on.

I'm never going to engage someone keeping their beliefs private, that is their choice and right but people who do a dis-service to us all by bringing falsehoods into the public square with certainty, they must be told, Excuse me, but that's wrong and here's why. Whether or not they listen, other listeners will.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 11:29:40 BST
Bellatori says:
The underlying core of what I am saying is what I really mean. I save the condescension for those such as DB and Tom M.

The problem with the reply is that sometimes you may not wish to disturb someone's belief no matter how wrong it is. If it fulfils their life and makes them a functional member of society then maybe the belief has benefits all round.

I hesitate to quote RAH (no not really!)
""Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth."

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 11:49:15 BST
Acts5v29 says:
Good morning,

I think you'll be a busy man. My own ministry is also one of enlightenment, but based on credence of reason rather than proof - for people to contemplate for themselves, rather than a formal proof. There will always be those who denounce anything spiritual until one has proved, to their satisfaction, that God exists. A little suspension of incredulity can be beneficial, because as this thread implies we are sometimes the obstacle to our advancement, whichever way it may take shape.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 12:06:30 BST
" A little suspension of incredulity can be beneficial,"
Yes in as far as "If this were true what would it mean, what should I see? Do I see that? Does what I see fit with that?" once you've looked and the answer's come back a resounding no or even a meh you have to remain incredulous.

If you open your mind too far your brain will fall out.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 12:12:18 BST
Why should you need to do this? It assumes that they have 'dedicated their life to an illusion', but people should only be told this if it can be shown to be true, otherwise you are replacing one illusion with another.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 12:14:44 BST
Was Heinlein a psychiatrist also?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 12:19:15 BST
Bellatori says:
It all comes down to whether a belief in something that does not exist is better than not believing.

Should one believe something for which there is no evidence? The problem with that is it suggests a certain credulity and therefore a potential susceptibility to con men...

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 12:39:25 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Apr 2013, 12:40:28 BST
Acts5v29 says:
...and if the answer that comes back is enlightening?

The most serious problem on the planet is stubbonness. It has directly resulted in many an unstoppable catastrophe, prompting the wisdom of "well there's nothing we can do, so let's move on". A little humility, a little contemplation, a little less bolting the door can enlighten and develop us, rather than keep us stunted in the tiny plant-pot of intransigence.

Posted on 30 Apr 2013, 13:03:49 BST
Kleist says:
This is a bit tangential but: over a decade ago I did an MA in the philosophy of mind. One central topic was consciousness. We were required to read Dennett's then recent book 'Consciousness Explained' and discuss it. To my dismay not only did Dennett not explain consciousness, he didn't even seem to get what the problem was. I thought it was just me. So I mentioned my concern to the head of department. 'Yes' he said 'It seems to be a case of ignorantio elenchi' (I had to look this up).

I also raised the point in tutorial, which consisted of about 10 post-grad students and three lecturers. Despite some defending Dennett's book as 'quite interesting' none was able to deny my objection.

I'm not sure how I might have put this politely to Dennett, who was then already a famous philosopher. It might be that we all missed the point, but I haven't found any reason since to think so.

Was Dennett suffering from some kind of illusion (I would have thought 'delusion' would be the right word) or was I just wrong?

Posted on 30 Apr 2013, 13:38:30 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Apr 2013, 14:40:26 BST
kraka says:
Having had experience of being an atheist and a hopeless theist my take on this is that there is very little that divides the atheist from the theist in that we all share the experience of being human. We can all actively engage in life and develop our intellect within our own capacity, some more some less. Not everyone has either the time or the desire to become any kind of genius. We all have our own interests in different things, whether they are complicated challenges or the pursuite of simplicity. We all have our own separate natures and individual mindsets. Isn't diversity a wonderful thing, i love it.

So the issue of division is one of belief as opposed to non-belief, and there is an absolute absence of any shred of evidence to support either claim. We could settle this very simply by a declaration of war. (lol)

Joking apart, non belief can not be proved conclusive anymore than belief and to demand any kind of evidence for either is a fruitless waste of time. So we are looking at a check mate scenario. The only polite way for either side of the divide is to admit that "I HAVE NO EVIDENCE THAT PROVES YOUR CLAIM OR MINE AS BEING CORRECT AND FINAL"

But does it really end there, are both claims equal in value, comparable. Does non belief, or belief add enrichment to ones experience of life, is there an individual or collective benefit, does it provide its own form of personal development and improvement, and conversely are there any harmful consequences of either side. This aspect could be expanded on further.

Perhaps the most basic and simple equation could be is that non belief is negative, a minus or at most a zero, (please feel free to challenge) and that belief is a positive, a plus, it adds a wealth of scriptural and spiritual knowledge and enriching experience to ones life. But as you are all aware i am biased in favour of belief, and for that you will have to forgive me, because i could never exchange a plus for a minus.

But it is never going to be conclusive, is it so have fun my friends......but first prove it's an illusion.

Best wishes and regards to all..................................................kraka.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 13:52:17 BST
Dan Fante says:
I don't follow this logic. If the catastrophe was unstoppable, then aren't the apathetic ones correct?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 16:11:44 BST
"It all comes down to whether a belief in something that does not exist is better than not believing."

Or, from a theistic perspective...

It all comes down to whether a belief in a God is better than not believing."

This is the problem with Dennett's proposition, it assumes that belief in a god is an illusion and then asks what to do about it. But neither Dennett, nor anyone else has ever proven that god is an illusion. The best that can be done is to show that god cannot be proven and that might be a worthwhile endeavour. It would certainly be more honest.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 16:21:26 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Apr 2013, 16:22:02 BST
Mr. Burchell if a God cannot be proven in either sense then why take the positive stance that it exists without any proof of such. That's were I get lost on it

If faith or just honest belief is your answer then fine I can accept that, the problem I run into is when people insist that their notion of God is fact and actually exists and there is evidence for this. This is where most people rightfully challenge

To take the stance that something does not exist in a real, physical sense when their is no proof for that being/thing/theory then of course this is a perfectly reasonable position to take and is totally honest. I don't see how you can see this as a dishonest stance

Posted on 30 Apr 2013, 16:37:04 BST
Tom M says:
How very , very stupid, indeed, how delusional to refer to religious belief, which as Plantinga shows, is properly basic and natural.. .as delusional.

And this from a character at the extreme end of philosophy of mind, where even he should be aware of the fatal problems confronted by the Dennett types who try to jamb everything into the narrow 'physicalist' box.

And in his book, he doesn't even address the main arguments for theism let alone show them to be not just unsound.. which no one has ever done... or 'delusional'

What he is quite obviously is a bit of a punk. He wants to push people around. Reviews by his peers lable his work as not systematic or deep as Feser relates.

Dennett.. for a wonderful joke.. speaking of delusions... complements Dawkins... that's right folks... Dawkins.. for his philosophical leadership.

That .. if not delusional.. is at least the best joke of modern history.

Why are the new atheists such illiterates? They should at least be able to recognize the arguments.

Posted on 30 Apr 2013, 16:52:23 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Apr 2013, 16:56:57 BST
kraka says:
Further to my previous post, as a kind of addendum i should like to add that for some theists there is the un-provable experience of God's Holy Spirit being an active influence within their lives. These kind of spiritual experiences can not be easily denied and remain a living proof for the theist of the existence of God. This is nothing new and I understand it has been happening for hundreds of years. Life is precious and no one throws it away without a care, but many have surrendered their life to God, others have died for His cause. This would not happen if belief or faith was an empty and lifeless thing.

Question, would an atheist have enough conviction to die for his non-belief.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 16:57:05 BST
A customer says:
Hello Kraka,

Good post, respectfully if I may I would like to take up one of your points?

"But does it really end there, are both claims equal in value, comparable. Does non belief, or belief add enrichment to ones experience of life, is there an individual or collective benefit, does it provide its own form of personal development and improvement, and conversely are there any harmful consequences of either side. This aspect could be expanded on further."

First of all I would like to be very clear about one thing, I am not including organised religion in this reply, as this is a whole other ball game.

As you quite rightly pointed out belief im sure it does enrich many people's lives. However there are a few occasions when it is not positive, and could be considered detrimental.

One instance could relate to terminally ill patients among others, who feel that they have been "betrayed" on being diagnosed, this does nothing at all for acceptance. I know this can be true for reasons I won't go into.

Of course it could also work the other way just as easily as belief is purely subjective, so I am not taking sides; it's just an example of how belief is not always good.

Thanks Kraka, take care my friend.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2013, 16:57:17 BST
K. Hoyles says:
Kraka - I would hopefully realise that dying for a deity or belief which originates in my head would be a waste of a life.
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Discussion in:  religion discussion forum
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Initial post:  30 Apr 2013
Latest post:  28 May 2013

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