It does me no harm for my neighbor to believe in many gods, or no god. It neither robs my pocket nor breaks my leg - Thomas Jefferson (self.quotes)

quotes

363 ups - 55 downs = 308 votes

93 comments submitted at 11:25:24 on Feb 1, 2014 by plf515

  • [-]
  • another_guy7
  • -15 Points
  • 15:12:10, 1 February

It's just not true. The belief will eventually cause more harm than good. This is an awful quote.

  • [-]
  • grapholalia
  • 8 Points
  • 16:01:32, 1 February

What do you mean: 'The belief will eventually cause more harm than good'? Belief in god /=/ belief in religious dogma (which is the thing that causes the most harm, I personally feel)

  • [-]
  • washingbeard
  • 4 Points
  • 17:35:16, 1 February

It may depend on your definition of the word "belief." I have no problem with someone who consciously chooses to assume that God exists, but to blindly believe in something without real evidence seems like a dangerous disregard for logic. And yes, the same applies to someone who claims to truly know that no Godlike higher power/intelligence exists, as we simply don't have enough information to say that with certainty.

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 2 Points
  • 21:47:29, 1 February

> as we simply don't have enough information to say that with certainty.

Why this special pleading? I can say confidently that unicorns don't exist, neither do trolls or the tooth fairy. Nobody bats an eye. But somehow, I'm not allowed to say the same thing about god, because suddenly the complete absence of any sort of evidence whatsoever isn't enough? That's bullshit.

  • [-]
  • washingbeard
  • 2 Points
  • 22:23:49, 1 February

For all I know, there could be a family of mutant pink horses living somewhere with nice long horns in the middle of their foreheads.

I doubt that's the case, I live my life under the assumption that it's not the case, but I can't honestly say that I know for sure without implicitly claiming to be omniscient (which I most certainly am not). If someone says they do exist, I would assume that the more likely scenario is that they are either mistaken or lying, and might ask them questions to try to determine which it is. If they start providing details I might be able to start disproving those details beyond a reasonable doubt, making their claim even less credible, but I really don't have any means of disproving the overall possibility of existence.

And if they did exist and you caught one and brought it to my house, I would say shit, that's a unicorn, what an interesting discovery, let's get it down to the university and try to figure out how this fits in with the rest of our knowledge of biology.

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 2 Points
  • 23:31:19, 1 February

> For all I know, there could be a family of mutant pink horses living somewhere with nice long horns in the middle of their foreheads.

sure.

>I live my life under the assumption that it's not the case

Rather than biology, let's take chemistry as an example. Molecules are always in motion; It is entirely 'possible' that a match you have burned yesterday may spontaneously un-burn: The molecules finding their way back into their original composition by sheer coincidence. You and I may, by the same statistic freak-accident, spontaneously combust any second. One more fun example: The burger you just ate may 'un-digest' itself, and find its way back to its original composition before it leaves your digestive system. Brownian molecular motion is random, after all. So anything can happen, right?

The point I'm making is that likelihood matters. This is where I'd like to introduce the term of "practical certainty". Because using the word "certain" in the way you propose simply renders that word meaningless. I am certain that the match won't 'unburn' - and so are you. The odds are so small that they are completely and utterly irrelevant to our lives.

I propose that using the word "certain" in such cases where chances are so vanishingly small does not at all mean that the speaker is somehow unaware of the theoretical possibility of the event - rather the opposite. "Certain" means just that: The chances are so vanishingly small that we need not take them seriously. I am certain that God, unicorns and trolls don't exist in that way.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 1 Points
  • 18:11:53, 1 February

Yet people constantly make decisions based on beliefs as to what are moral and immoral actions. The division between "right" and "wrong" are not cardinal truths, but rather decisions based on a moral framework that has no real basis in evidence. This is why philosophy and belief are important alongside scientific evidence.

  • [-]
  • washingbeard
  • 3 Points
  • 18:59:35, 1 February

>Yet people constantly make decisions based on beliefs as to what are moral and immoral actions. The division between "right" and "wrong" are not cardinal truths, but rather decisions based on a moral framework that has no real basis in evidence.

My sense of morality is based on assumptions and observations, not blind faith. I assume that I have some ability to identify suffering, I assume that suffering is undesirable, and I assume that the moral choice is to avoid causing suffering as best I can. I also have to be open to the possibility that the philosophical framework behind my morality is almost certainly imperfect and may need to change over time as I gain new information.

>This is why philosophy and belief are important alongside scientific evidence.

Philosophy provides a natural analysis of the significance of practical observations, both are logically driven and need not conflict at all. But to say you "believe" something regardless of evidence is to reject the entire system of cause and effect.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 21:16:17, 1 February

There is a difference between believing something and doing so in the face of evidence, which is not a distinction you made previously. Beliefs are formed in the absence of evidence; it is up to the individual to decide to carry on those beliefs in the teeth of the evidence.

  • [-]
  • washingbeard
  • 2 Points
  • 21:39:52, 1 February

>which is not a distinction you made previously

The first sentence of my first comment was not optional. My entire point was that belief is an ambiguous term and is sometimes used to include both irrational faith and reasonable assumptions, so reactions to a quote like this are going to vary significantly if there is no accompanying definition.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 21:50:31, 1 February

Still, irrational belief in the teeth of evidence is also not harmful as long as the one doing the believing is not acting to force that belief on others. There is a distinct difference between believing that God has given you the power to safely handle rattlesnakes, and forcing others to handle them because of your belief. Belief in itself, without action that affects others, harms nobody but the believer.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 21:25:55, 1 February

Incidentally, why do you think that suffering is undesirable? Are you saying that those that enjoy suffering, such as sadists and masochists, are inherently immoral? How about those who go through suffering to achieve goals, rather than avoid it? What basis do you have for this assumption?

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 2 Points
  • 21:37:23, 1 February

Beliefs don't just change action, they change perception. That means some beliefs are inherently political. I'd argue that a belief in any sort of higher power is one of these. Take the climate debate for example, and think how religious belief influences it.

People who believe the world was made for us by a superior power tend to doubt that "mere" humans are even powerful enough to do any lasting damage to that oh-so-glorious creation. People who have a strong belief that all problems are mere "tests" and that god will "never give you more than you can carry" are blind to actual catastrophic consequences of their behaviour. Climate change is, at best, just a challenge and a lesson to them - in the end everything will be just fine, because this world was made for us. That the human race may wipe itself out is not an option for one believing that that very human race is the center of all existence.

The belief in Karma or that "God has a plan for everyone" also tends to strongly influence how people view poverty. If everything is the plan of a just god, then everything that is, is just. That means people who live in poverty do so for a divine reason - be it test or punishment. In the same vein, they tend to see themselves as deserving of whatever fortune or success they got. Again, this view is highly political.

  • [-]
  • DarbyBartholomew
  • 4 Points
  • 16:30:27, 1 February

It took me a while, but what I finally realized is that I have no problem with belief in a god. After all, the universe is a lot to explain, and just because my discomfort with the unexplained is channeled into science, I can't expect anyone else to do the same. If they choose to fill the void with God, so be it. But I can't help but have a problem with most, if not all, organized religions.

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 1 Points
  • 21:43:09, 1 February

Really? I have a strong problem with people who think that "everything happens for a reason" or according to some great divine plan. To them, everything that happens is justified - if you live in poverty, then you must somehow deserve this. Same for stuff like cancer or HIV. Whether it's a punishment or "just a test" - it's incredibly self-righteous and a perception of the world, and it's a huge obstacle to empathy.

  • [-]
  • therascalking
  • 11 Points
  • 16:11:04, 1 February

I disagree.

I am atheist and I am friends with religious people .. Muslims, Mormons, Sikhs, etc.

I am openly atheist and they just don't care. They do their thing. I do mine. Their religion never impacts me.

  • [-]
  • Aetheus
  • 2 Points
  • 17:36:49, 1 February

Agreed. What other people choose to believe in is their business. I could care less if you're a Hindu, or a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim. Just be a decent human being and we'll get along just fine.

  • [-]
  • R7PR
  • -5 Points
  • 17:47:23, 1 February

Except when they vote or act in accordance to their superstitious beliefs.

Edit: To say that someone's worldview doesn't affect their beliefs and actions is obviously misguided.

  • [-]
  • therascalking
  • 7 Points
  • 17:48:37, 1 February

Not every person who's religious vote along religious lines.

My Mormon friend is very much about freedom of religion (all religions .. not freedom to be Mormon).

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 2 Points
  • 21:52:48, 1 February

Where does your friend stay on climate change, or poverty?

Because people who view the world through the glasses of "god has a plan for everybody" tend to have a very different perception of suffering and social injustice. How does that affect his votes? Also, does he belief it is possible that humans may actually wipe themselves out? Are "mere" creations powerful enough to actually destroy what god has made? Or do his beliefs make him blind to actually cataclysmic consequences of our actions as a society? I know a good few who laugh off the idea that we may put as much as a dent in god's glorious creation. That belief very much affects their sense of responsibility for the state of the world.

  • [-]
  • R7PR
  • 1 Points
  • 17:54:17, 1 February

Of course there are exceptions. However, the Mormons that picketed against same-sex marriage are not like your friend and act in accordance with their faith which directly impacts the well-being of others.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 1 Points
  • 18:03:43, 1 February

So you're opinion is that other people are not entitled to vote how they see best, but only how YOU want to vote?

  • [-]
  • R7PR
  • 2 Points
  • 18:08:49, 1 February

No, of course not. How did you draw that conclusions?

Someone said that another persons beliefs don't impact him. Obviously that is false if you think about how a persons beliefs affects how they interpret the world, vote, act, etc.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 3 Points
  • 18:19:16, 1 February

The way the vote works is that everyone is allowed to give a vote based on their beliefs. When you state that someone's beliefs are "superstitions," you devalue them, claiming that they are inferior to yours. Your own word choice, by implication, stated that their vote is therefore dangerous to you, when your vote has the same impact.

  • [-]
  • R7PR
  • 2 Points
  • 18:51:41, 1 February

Beliefs without evidence can be dangerous to anyone.

In this specific example, I was responding to an atheist who would likely agree that beliefs not based on evidence are superstitious.

Edit: If a belief is taken from an ancient book and not from reasoned discourse about the well-being of others, it can and does cause unnecessary suffering. This is a fact.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 21:17:15, 1 February

So the belief that there was a really nice guy who generally told everyone to be good to each other is inherently bad?

  • [-]
  • R7PR
  • 2 Points
  • 22:13:53, 1 February

No, I actually like Buddhism as far as religions go. The fundamental truth that all beings seek happiness and to avoid suffering is a good way to go about morality. I just read the Dalai Lama's book 'Ancient Wisdom Modern World - Ethics for a New Millennium' and the idea that we should base out morality on maximizing the well-being of others regardless of religion is very good way to go about things. Sam Harris runs a similar argument for a scientific basis for morality in 'The Moral Landscape' which I'm currently reading.

Of course I recognize that you were probably alluding to Jesus. All I can say to that is if you think the bible is a book that says to be good to others, you clearly haven't read the bible.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 3 Points
  • 22:27:52, 1 February

Actually, I was referring to a generic character that a number of religious texts have; Buddha and Jesus are just two examples. And the Dalai Lama continues to impress me; a shame that he won't be incarnating again.

That said, all of these characters satisfy your "edit." Beliefs are much more than just "what is in a book," since they can cover anything from interpretations of facts to speculations of the unknown to the very basis of moral and ethical systems. Everyone has beliefs that cannot be backed up with facts, and decrying them as inherently dangerous is a rather blind statement.

More Comments - Not Stored
  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 0 Points
  • 22:05:03, 1 February

If that belief entails such details as the "nice guy" being the son of an all-powerful deity who has a problem with women and gay people then yes, it is inherently bad.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 22:07:56, 1 February

So you hate Buddhists, then.

More Comments - Not Stored
  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 1 Points
  • 21:59:04, 1 February

> When you state that someone's beliefs are "superstitions," you devalue them, claiming that they are inferior to yours.

Democracy requires informed and rational citizens to work. Disagreements are okay, but completely delusional views are not. This is the reason there's a minimum age for voting - the system assumes a certain maturity by then. There's a fucking reason we don't let six year-olds make decisions, and people with a mental state of a six-year old shouldn't either. Some beliefs are inferior to mine. I don't care how arrogant that sounds, because I happen to be in a position to actually prove that. Democracy was born from a culture of discussion. An open forum in which reasons were given before votes were cast. A delusional person simply making outrageous statements without any way to back them up would have been laughed at and then exiled.

If you believe that poor people deserve to live in poverty because "god has a plan for everyone", then fuck you. If you obstruct climate politics because you believe the world was made for us and that "god never gives you more than you can carry", then fuck you. These ideas have no place in a society that happens to have to cope with fucking reality.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 22:01:01, 1 February

So, your belief in what is moral or immoral is demonstrable scientific fact? Fascinating, do share.

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 2 Points
  • 22:19:27, 1 February

Beliefs concern facts, not moral judgements. Superstitious beliefs influence your perception of facts in a way that is not reasonably defendable.

X's belief that "life begins at conception" is demonstrably inferior to just about any other concept of personhood. My belief in the problematic of climate change and its anthropogenic origins is also verifiable fact, as is my belief in the evolution of life and the scientific value of creationism. I base a variety of moral judgements on both these beliefs.

In both cases, we may legitimately disagree about the moral implications - but there is no place in society for people who deny the basic facts of the subject matter.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 1 Points
  • 22:23:20, 1 February

"Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are "good" (or right) and those that are "bad" (or wrong)."

Morality is belief. Stating that you can back up all of your beliefs with facts, when you cannot provide a basis for your own morality, is erroneous at best and dangerous at worst. Try doing some real thinking about what you believe, and study the field of ethics, before passing judgement on others.

More Comments - Not Stored
  • [-]
  • R7PR
  • 2 Points
  • 22:23:13, 1 February

If you think that morality is based on the well-being of living things.

If you also think that well-being of a living thing is something measurable.

Then yes, morality can be determined scientifically based on what maximizes the well-being of others.

Stating that morality comes from a book describing the preferential treatment of a group of people by an Iron Age war god is absurd.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 22:33:47, 1 February

So what is the well-being of a cow? Who decides what is good for you? Is it better to live happily in ignorance, or unhappily in wisdom? Morality does not come from a book, no. It comes from careful study and introspection, taking in the viewpoints of many as any might wind up being valid in unexpected ways, and carefully developing and curating your own moral system in the knowledge that if a concept threatens to shake the very foundations of your belief structure, you should examine why instead of reacting violently to it.

Personally, I base my own morality on dignity. If someone is deathly ill, and there may be a cure, but they decide that they would rather die in comfort and dignity, that is the right choice. It's a complex concept, and difficult to define, but it has served me well.

More Comments - Not Stored
  • [-]
  • ibisum
  • 4 Points
  • 16:33:37, 1 February

By all means - bigot yourself against your neighbor because of their beliefs. Hold prejudice against them .. 'just because'.

You have become the very thing you posit that you resist.

  • [-]
  • another_guy7
  • 0 Points
  • 17:30:30, 1 February

Your point is valid but I think all religion belongs in the past. One day that will be true. I'm thinking very long term.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 18:08:14, 1 February

Consider how atheism has reached the level of fervor and dogma normally associated with organized religions. People continue to believe what they like, and try to force it on others, whether it is religion or philosophy, and as long as there is something unknown, there will be factions who argue over what is there.

And frankly, unless we in the long term can adequately and rigorously determine exactly what the human consciousness is and what happens to it after death, there will always be a place for religions.

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 1 Points
  • 22:06:26, 1 February

> and what happens to it after death

We already know that. There is no mystery, just people feverishly denying reality.

  • [-]
  • onetrueping
  • 2 Points
  • 22:07:20, 1 February

Really? How do we know this? Do tell.

  • [-]
  • untranslatable_pun
  • 1 Points
  • 23:09:15, 1 February

We may not know what exactly consciousness is, but we can observe the fact that it's a property of living beings. More specifically, we can even observe that it is a function of living brains. We have proof in the form that damaged brains result in reduced consciousness, and dead brains result in no consciousness at all. We can even locate certain traits of consciousness in the brain, and disable them by a variation of available techniques.

Due to that and many other things we know about the brain, we may conclude that killing a brain ends a consciousness. There is no single clue that even hints at the remote possibility of there being more than that. After you die "you" cease to exist, much like the way you didn't exist before you were born.

What really needs to be questioned is why people so commonly assume otherwise. For that too, we have a number of explanations. The absence of sensory input from the brain is one: You can feel your muscles flex, but you can't feel your brain think. That disparity naturally leads to the assumption that the thing doing your thinking isn't part of your body. Fear of death and wishful thinking does the rest. A culture perpetuating rituals and myths regarding the dead adds its part, too. All that doesn't change the fact that despite all the mystery, we have a pretty clear idea of how brains work, and the largest reason that science can't yet explain consciousness is that the people who want it explained can't settle on what it actually is they want science to explain.

  • [-]
  • Skyorange
  • -1 Points
  • 15:25:18, 1 February

So it doesn't matter if your neighbor is theist or non theist because he will fuck you either way?