Should we challenge beliefs we do not share, or should we accept the beliefs of others as in situ realities even though beliefs are, by definition, not framed by facts? 


For the purpose of this article, “Belief” is defined as
something someone accepts as true or existing even though there are no
facts or scientific evidence to back up the opinion or conviction.

Are there dangers in challenging beliefs if they are used to influence
people and events and history beyond the singular self?
If so, how do we defend against pressing belief systems that may harm
the best interests of society?

If we accept “I believe in God” must we not also accept “I believe in
Allah” as equal beliefs?
What happens when those two opposite beliefs meet in the marketplace of
public facts and ideas?
If we accept “I believe in Santa Claus” must we not also accept “I
believe in a Big Blue Alien Baby Maker” on the same level of
understanding?

Are belief systems ever dangerous?
Is it our vested duty as humans in the world to gather together to test
and challenge all belief systems as a means of adding impartial factual
stability across cultures and nations?

Sometimes there can be no larger offense than to reply to someone’s
belief statement with “Why?” — because that word alone puts the
believer on notice they are being asked to move out of the realm of the
emotional mind and body dyad and into the lonesome area of a logical
defense where most assuredly a non-factual and non-scientific argument
will ensue.

73 Comments

  1. The Jewish belief system is all about asking why. I have recently started up again with Daf Yomi, a daily reading of the Babylonian Talmud and every statement is probed with why questions until reasons are given for practices. When you go to a yeshiva, the centre of jewish learning, you can ask why to everything and noone will be offended – we learn that Abraham was also a big asker of why.
    Accepting beliefs and believing them fortunately do not come together. You can accept that people believe in a jolly red suited man but you don’t have to believe yourself. Someone might believe that my snowman mug is smiling because he is happy with the coffee I put in him. I accept their belief in this but I don’t have to believe it myself 🙂

  2. Hi Gordon!
    Excellent response. What happens, however, when different belief systems are forced to face each other in public?
    Self-belief systems are fine as long as they are enjoyed internally.
    When beliefs hit the public sphere aren’t they required to change in the face of non-believers who refuse to go along with a set of systems in which they do not subscribe?

  3. All beliefs sgould be questioned starting with the most basic- Matter. Scientists today question if matter exists. Why shouldn’t evereyone? i agree with Gordon Davidescu, that the jewish tradition is all about asking why, and might add pointing out the other side, especially when there are internal contradictions. Some call this unecessary argument, but as Nietzsche so rightly pointed out, it is most often part of anti-semitism which is built into much of our language and thought. This is why despite writing ten books, he claimed that words “never reached him.” We should all let beliefs in words never reach us, as total absolutes. Words and beliefs are here to get us where we need to go. We must believe in what is between the words and ideas, the hints and nuances and intuitions- not the dogma. (Going bike riding, hope to catch you later.) Beyond Love-

  4. Great questions!
    My assessment is that I don’t evaluate nor judge another’s beliefs, even when I find them preposterous or annoying. I do challenge people’s actions and sense of entitlement to live at the expense of others. If their beliefs are a justification for harmful actions, I usually state something like, “You are entitled to your beliefs but you can’t DO that!”

  5. Hi naturalhigh and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    So when radical Muslims publicly believe — in both action and word — in the destruction of the United States because it is mandated by their religion, you just let that stand with a verbal warning?
    When fundamentalist preachers in America claim their belief is AIDS is a punishment from God to rid the earth of homosexuals, you let that belief stand unchallenged in action and positive consequence?
    When you tell believers they “can’t DO that” what happens next? They do it anyway?

  6. Hi naturalhigh and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    So when radical Muslims publicly believe — in both action and word — in the destruction of the United States because it is mandated by their religion, you just let that stand with a verbal warning?
    When fundamentalist preachers in America claim their belief is AIDS is a punishment from God to rid the earth of homosexuals, you let that belief stand unchallenged in action and positive consequence?
    When you tell believers they “can’t DO that” what happens next? They do it anyway?

  7. Yes we should challenge beliefs particularly when those beliefs take us to war and destruction, give us permission to toture, discriminate and commit violence against other human beings.
    I challenge all religion that promotes and condones such hatred and violence.
    I am dismayed that christianity seems to have reverted to Pre christianity and the ways and morals of the Old Testament (Pre Christ) rather than the ways that Christ himself preached. I am dismayed that the Muslim religion appears to be rooted in similar rhetoric and belief.
    (Gets off her soap box quickly)

  8. Yes we should challenge beliefs particularly when those beliefs take us to war and destruction, give us permission to toture, discriminate and commit violence against other human beings.
    I challenge all religion that promotes and condones such hatred and violence.
    I am dismayed that christianity seems to have reverted to Pre christianity and the ways and morals of the Old Testament (Pre Christ) rather than the ways that Christ himself preached. I am dismayed that the Muslim religion appears to be rooted in similar rhetoric and belief.
    (Gets off her soap box quickly)

  9. Heya Nicola!
    You make many fine points, Nicola.
    In many ways religion saved the world from anarchy. Religion can provide a frame for living and getting along with each other even if you are not a “True Believer.”
    Yet, today, religion’s narrow niches threaten to destroy the entire world in the name of one belief set over another.
    I don’t know how to resolve the conundrum because to confront the radicals is to only encourage them on and prove that their right to believe is set above ours not to…

  10. Heya Nicola!
    You make many fine points, Nicola.
    In many ways religion saved the world from anarchy. Religion can provide a frame for living and getting along with each other even if you are not a “True Believer.”
    Yet, today, religion’s narrow niches threaten to destroy the entire world in the name of one belief set over another.
    I don’t know how to resolve the conundrum because to confront the radicals is to only encourage them on and prove that their right to believe is set above ours not to…

  11. “Should we challenge beliefs we do not share, or should we accept the beliefs of others as in situ realities even though beliefs are, by definition, not framed by facts?”
    Wouldn’t the answer of this depend on the belief and the will of the believer?
    If you read your child The Little Prince and now they want to be bitten by a snake so they can go to another planet, wouldn’t you want to change that belief?
    If, however, they had an imaginary friend it may not be necessary to burst their bubble.

  12. “Should we challenge beliefs we do not share, or should we accept the beliefs of others as in situ realities even though beliefs are, by definition, not framed by facts?”
    Wouldn’t the answer of this depend on the belief and the will of the believer?
    If you read your child The Little Prince and now they want to be bitten by a snake so they can go to another planet, wouldn’t you want to change that belief?
    If, however, they had an imaginary friend it may not be necessary to burst their bubble.

  13. I do not know what the answer is either. Maybe I should write to the Archbishop of Canterbury and ask him ?
    I have found that confronting the radicals only tends to make them more defensive and more radical.
    The sociologist in me would probably want look to the root causes of why they became so radical in the first place.
    It brings to mind a conversation I had with a black south african anti rape campaigner where she was explaining to me why the incidence of rape is so high in South Africa – she said that when a group of people are so disenfranchised like the black in South Africa have been the only way they can make their presence felt is by dominating ( and raping ) their women.
    In a similar vein I remember in the UK a Lib Dem spokesperson being removed from the front bench for commenting publically that she was trying to understand the cycle of violence that breeds suicide bombers.
    “I was just trying to say how, having seen the violence and the humiliation and the provocation that the Palestinian people live under every day and have done since their land was occupied by Israel, I could understand and was trying to understand where [suicide bombers] were coming from”
    Full story here :-
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3421669.stm
    I suspect there will be an escalating cycle of violence until someone wins ( at great cost ) or we stop reacting – we take it, offer the other cheek – because while we are at each others throats I feel both sides are as bad as each other and that both sideshave lost any moral high ground that they might have once had.

  14. I do not know what the answer is either. Maybe I should write to the Archbishop of Canterbury and ask him ?
    I have found that confronting the radicals only tends to make them more defensive and more radical.
    The sociologist in me would probably want look to the root causes of why they became so radical in the first place.
    It brings to mind a conversation I had with a black south african anti rape campaigner where she was explaining to me why the incidence of rape is so high in South Africa – she said that when a group of people are so disenfranchised like the black in South Africa have been the only way they can make their presence felt is by dominating ( and raping ) their women.
    In a similar vein I remember in the UK a Lib Dem spokesperson being removed from the front bench for commenting publically that she was trying to understand the cycle of violence that breeds suicide bombers.
    “I was just trying to say how, having seen the violence and the humiliation and the provocation that the Palestinian people live under every day and have done since their land was occupied by Israel, I could understand and was trying to understand where [suicide bombers] were coming from”
    Full story here :-
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3421669.stm
    I suspect there will be an escalating cycle of violence until someone wins ( at great cost ) or we stop reacting – we take it, offer the other cheek – because while we are at each others throats I feel both sides are as bad as each other and that both sideshave lost any moral high ground that they might have once had.

  15. Sorry, I hit send a bit prematurely.
    Applying the principles in the ponderings above I suppose one would have to ask one self whether or not the belief of the person you might challenge is has the potential to cause harm to themselves or to others.
    One must assess the person and possible to assess ones ability to persuade them.
    If a person is mentally ill and believes they must kill everyone they come in contact with then challenging their ideas on an intellectual level would be irrelevant.

  16. Sorry, I hit send a bit prematurely.
    Applying the principles in the ponderings above I suppose one would have to ask one self whether or not the belief of the person you might challenge is has the potential to cause harm to themselves or to others.
    One must assess the person and possible to assess ones ability to persuade them.
    If a person is mentally ill and believes they must kill everyone they come in contact with then challenging their ideas on an intellectual level would be irrelevant.

  17. A S —
    I think both examples of believing you cite can cause danger beyond the self. I believe all beliefs should be challenged and put on notice and defended in the light of day so we know precisely where and how the believers arrived at their system as well as discovering how dangerous they are to the rest of us if their belief shatters in the examination.

  18. A S —
    I think both examples of believing you cite can cause danger beyond the self. I believe all beliefs should be challenged and put on notice and defended in the light of day so we know precisely where and how the believers arrived at their system as well as discovering how dangerous they are to the rest of us if their belief shatters in the examination.

  19. Nicola —
    This is a touchy subject because to find out what the believers believe and if they will act out their belief to the detriment to the rest of us must ask them directly instead of relying on divination for purpose and meaning.
    It’s hard for history to blame the current Muslim radicalism for want of world domination because Christianity had its own Crusades that were just as fervent in belief and it had to play itself out on a world stage encrusted in death and bloodshed — so if history speaks to us at all we should not be surprised where we are now or on what path we may one day be forced to march down as new beliefs rise to rule the world.
    http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/bible/crusades.stm

  20. Nicola —
    This is a touchy subject because to find out what the believers believe and if they will act out their belief to the detriment to the rest of us must ask them directly instead of relying on divination for purpose and meaning.
    It’s hard for history to blame the current Muslim radicalism for want of world domination because Christianity had its own Crusades that were just as fervent in belief and it had to play itself out on a world stage encrusted in death and bloodshed — so if history speaks to us at all we should not be surprised where we are now or on what path we may one day be forced to march down as new beliefs rise to rule the world.
    http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/bible/crusades.stm

  21. Hi A S —
    Your second comment is more comforting than the first.
    😀
    I agree with your thought, but the hard part comes when the “True Believers” call you crazy for not believing as they do. How does one argue with the in power insane?

  22. As long as people put anything on a pedestal above or a platform below themslves, we will have more of the same. “Birds have their nests, and wolves their lair, but the true son of God, or man, has no where to rest his weary head.”

  23. I believe this is primarily the obligation of the individual and not a right of the masses to impose their ideology on the individual.
    But imposition of ideology can be interpreted a number of ways. An atheist / agonistic may argue that the removal of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” on the U.S. Currency because they impose the belief of God. But a theist may argue that the removal thereof is an imposition of the belief that there is no god.
    Some people would go as far as declaring public expression of one’s belief is an imposition of the belief. There are people that are forced to take down nativity scenes at Christmas because they are not welcome on a particular block.
    It seems to me that the only way to truly avoid imposing ones on others ideas seems to be becoming a hermit with a vow of silence (which may still cause imposition of belief on the creatures around you).

  24. Beliefs are an important topic to discuss, A S, because they drive people’s behaviors.
    If you’re dealing with a hidden or unchallenged belief system that is affecting others you are getting into churning waters where we are all in danger of being ripped asunder on the back of someone else’s better belief.
    The only bad belief is the one that goes unchallenged.

  25. I just heard a crazy political ad on the radio that is completely outside of mainstream thought held by either major political party in power today.
    There’s a Congressional candidate in Ohio, Jim Condit, Jr., who has bought advertising on Chicago’s WLS AM radio stating that he believes the Director of Homeland Security is planning another 9-11 style attack. The FCC rules require Chicago’s radio station run the ads because its signal can be heard in the Ohio congressional district.
    Writes the candidate on his website:

    Reports are that Chicago is “going crazy” over our “Arrest Chertoff” ad, and the station is frankly planning to get the ad off the air if and as soon as they feel legally comfortable in doing so, a station official at WLS in Chicago told the candidate (myself) in a phone.
    He said that, in all candor (he was very polite and even nice when doing so), that this was his intention. (Keep in mind, this is after only about 7 to 10 one minute ads had run since midnight on Wednesday, November 1.
    The station official said that it was totally disrupting the station (I can believe that) and that even death threats were coming in (common when a certain faction is criticized).

    Here’s the belief that is being expressed by the candidate that is causing Chicago to go “crazy.”
    Writes Cincinnati CityBeat:

    The White House and the big media are controlled by a “criminal syndicate led by neo-con Jews,” the World Trade Center on 9/11 was toppled by a “controlled demolition” and the planes seen slicing through the twin towers were actually drones.
    We are, says Jim Condit Jr., write-in candidate for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, on the road to World War III.
    These are among the issues Condit Jr. is raising as he campaigns to replace U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) in a sprawling district that covers eastern Hamilton County, Clermont County and other eastern Ohio counties.
    “I’m the only candidate in the United States, I think, who is hitting dead-on the major problem we have in this country,” Condit Jr. told Bill Cunningham, WLW (700AM) host, Oct. 18, “and that is the neo-con, Zionist-Jewish faction — sorry, that’s who it is — at the national level that controls the White House, controls all five big TV networks that controls the news every day. They are pushing us into World War III in the Middle East.”
    Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security chief, is a “Lenin look-alike” and “just like the communist Jews that took over Russia in 1917, is trying to create a police state,” Condit Jr. says.

    This Congressional candidate’s beliefs need to be challenged because they are obviously a product of a conspiratorial mind that isn’t based in reality. Of course, there are tons of websites that espouse the same ideas and beliefs. Just because an idea might be popular in certain circles doesn’t mean that it is correct.
    This is an example of where it is good that we have free speech so that people can hear unsound ideas and challenge them in the arena of public opinion.
    We are negligent if we don’t challenge this crazy political belief!

  26. Roe Conn on WLS AM 890 just stated that the ABC attorneys advise that FCC regulations require them to run the campaign commercials.
    “It’s absolutely horrifying,” said Roe Conn on his afternoon show. “It’s wrong. The guy is wrong. The ad is wrong.”
    Roe is going to make a donation equal to the candidate’s ad expenditures to a Jewish charity and the 9-11 Memorial to counter the crazy candidate’s unsound political advertisements.

  27. Chris —
    There are a lot of people out there who believe 9/11 was staged by the Neo-Cons to win elections and guarantee a conservative majority:
    http://911lies.org/
    I have to say I admire the FCC for requiring those Ads to be run. Those kinds of beliefs need to be challenged and examined RIGHT NOW while the election is in play and not as a surprise revelation after being sworn in later.
    I also admire Roe’s effort to challenge the belief set with his own money — to call b.s., if you will — to put out another a set of facts to destroy those injurious beliefs that are scaring people and challenging history.

  28. Chris —
    There are a lot of people out there who believe 9/11 was staged by the Neo-Cons to win elections and guarantee a conservative majority:
    http://911lies.org/
    I have to say I admire the FCC for requiring those Ads to be run. Those kinds of beliefs need to be challenged and examined RIGHT NOW while the election is in play and not as a surprise revelation after being sworn in later.
    I also admire Roe’s effort to challenge the belief set with his own money — to call b.s., if you will — to put out another a set of facts to destroy those injurious beliefs that are scaring people and challenging history.

  29. If only nations are considered “soverign,” ( “one that exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere,”) and not individuals, we will run into endless unresolved situations, as are being discussed here. Power corrupts and is over centralized.

  30. If only nations are considered “soverign,” ( “one that exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere,”) and not individuals, we will run into endless unresolved situations, as are being discussed here. Power corrupts and is over centralized.

  31. What is your answer to ending centralized, corrupting, power, fred? Thinking of individuals as sovereign? I don’t how that would lead to less beliefs — it seems a sovereign person would be even more self-centered and entitled than what we have now.

  32. What is your answer to ending centralized, corrupting, power, fred? Thinking of individuals as sovereign? I don’t how that would lead to less beliefs — it seems a sovereign person would be even more self-centered and entitled than what we have now.

  33. Hi David,
    The problem with the “political” ad is that it is extremely hateful to Jewish people.
    From the Power and Control blog:

    I was listening to the 50,000 watt Blow Torch of the Midwest WLS AM and heard this most amazing anti-Jew political rant from the Jim Condit Jr. for Congress Campaign (Ohio 2nd).
    The best thing we can do for Homeland security, —– is arrest the head of Homeland Security.
    Michael Chertoff is a traitor to America.
    Descended from Russian Jews, a citizen of Israel, Chertoff is now an “American.”
    Furthermore, I charge that CHERTOFF, and the Criminal Neo-Con Jews around him, are planning a SECOND horrible, TERRORIST ATTACK against America, a phase II of 9-11, as an excuse to suspend the Bill of Rights.

    The reaction here is that the ad is completely anti-semitic.
    The same view is held by many regarding the WTC conspiracies that indicate a Jewish cabal has taken over the government and caused the attacks so that we’d go to war in the Middle East.
    Writes the ADL:

    Five years after the devastating September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, conspiracy theories about Jewish or Israeli involvement in the events of that day continue to reverberate on the Internet, in publications, books and videos and have become “a core part of the belief system of anti-Semites and millions of others around the world,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
    “When we released our first report on 9/11 conspiracy theories, we said then that this ‘big lie’ was likely to form the basis of a new anti-Semitic canard that would linger for decades to come,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “We had hoped that our prediction would be wrong. Rather than dying away in the dustbins of history, 9/11 conspiracy theories have become a core part of the belief system of anti-Semites and millions of others around the world.”
    An updated report on 9/11 conspiracy theories shows how a broad array of voices on both the extreme left and right have embraced 9/11 conspiracy theories in an effort to promote a worldview with anti-Semitism at its core.

  34. A S —

    Isn’t a bad belief still bad once challenged?

    I would say once the belief is successfully challenged it is no longer held as a belief even if one clings to its ashes – the belief is forever changed and can become a feeling or a wondering or a familiar impulse.

  35. Minor correction: I should have put ellipses after paragraph 4 in the first blockquote in my comment above.
    I agree with you, David, that voters needs to know their candidate’s crazy views before they elect someone like that to public service.
    The way to counter “bad” speech is to battle it with “better” speech.
    The scary thing is that this might open the door to a new form of “negative” advertising in future elections as “strange” third-party candidates run elections to get access to cheap political advertising rates.

  36. Chris —
    I think when hate speech is repressed the speech becomes actions that soon become irrevocable. I want the ugliness made public so good speech can fight hate speech.
    I want to hear every crazy theory spoken aloud. I want all the hate possible to be spoken over and over again because once it gets out in the light of day it loses its power when good people act to counter it.

  37. Hi David,
    People are very reasonable and can be counted on to stop and counter unsound ideas. I completely believe in the marketplace of ideas’ ability to weed out the good from the bad.
    Xinyi WANG quotes John Milton in a paper about Freedom of Speech:

    [T]hough all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter.

    Bad ideas always lose their currency when good people stand up to shine the light of truth upon them.

  38. David- By decentralizing power the way it used to be in Ireland, people could have more of a choice of what type community they lived in. The ultimate decentralization would be where everyone was treated as if she/he were a king, which they would soon act like. Native Americans were not forced to follow the chiefs. When power is overly centralized, a pressure cooker environment results.

  39. David- That’s what we’re looking for. No dirty deeds. All created by “God” as it is. Not heaven when we die, but here and now, the only time there is. People beyond kings- Gods as they really are. i see the world from “outside” (before we are “born” and after we “die,” where we spend a lot more “time” than this minor incarnation.)
    Much madness is divinist sense- To a discerning eye;- Much sense the starkest madness.- Tis’ the majority- In this as all prevails- Assent, and you are sane;- Demur,—you’re straight away dangerous- And handled with a chain.” (Emily Dickenson.)”

  40. Not every belief needs to be challenged.
    e.g. I believe my parents will always think about my well being.
    Even though that is belief there is no reason for anybody to challenge it unless you see evidence to the contrary.
    Challenging a belief for the sake of challenging doesn’t do any good. Some beliefs can actually make people do the right thing and vice versa.
    Again what is right and wrong is subjective.
    What is important is to challenge the belief that is harmful. But how you challenge is even more important.
    When the belief is absolute and closed it becomes even more dangerous. The examples of today are the Islamic fundamentalists.
    What I mean by closed is that the beliefs are not open for questioning. You will find examples where people believe in something but do not get offended when questioned. Then there is other category that gets offended just by the act of being questioned. Tackling this category of beliefs is the trickiest part.

  41. Not every belief needs to be challenged.
    e.g. I believe my parents will always think about my well being.
    Even though that is belief there is no reason for anybody to challenge it unless you see evidence to the contrary.
    Challenging a belief for the sake of challenging doesn’t do any good. Some beliefs can actually make people do the right thing and vice versa.
    Again what is right and wrong is subjective.
    What is important is to challenge the belief that is harmful. But how you challenge is even more important.
    When the belief is absolute and closed it becomes even more dangerous. The examples of today are the Islamic fundamentalists.
    What I mean by closed is that the beliefs are not open for questioning. You will find examples where people believe in something but do not get offended when questioned. Then there is other category that gets offended just by the act of being questioned. Tackling this category of beliefs is the trickiest part.

  42. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Polite Indian.
    I appreciate your thoughtful comment.
    In your example:

    I believe my parents will always think about my well being.

    Is that a belief? Parents are supposed to want the best for their children and that is a commonly held fact in substance and practice.

    What is important is to challenge the belief that is harmful.

    I agree with you but how do we know which beliefs are harmful or not unless we question all of them?
    Beliefs are not based in facts that can be tested and proven.
    Beliefs are bent and broken through inspection and inquiry.
    The goal is to replace beliefs with factual truths.

  43. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Polite Indian.
    I appreciate your thoughtful comment.
    In your example:

    I believe my parents will always think about my well being.

    Is that a belief? Parents are supposed to want the best for their children and that is a commonly held fact in substance and practice.

    What is important is to challenge the belief that is harmful.

    I agree with you but how do we know which beliefs are harmful or not unless we question all of them?
    Beliefs are not based in facts that can be tested and proven.
    Beliefs are bent and broken through inspection and inquiry.
    The goal is to replace beliefs with factual truths.

  44. Poor Example I guess.
    What I was trying to suggest was that everybody believes in something or the other. Some believe in god. Some believe in no god. Some believe in the constitution, some believe in science.
    People who have scientific temparament believe that they can answer everything through science. For the things that they don’t understand today they believe science will provide them answers someday.
    For any belief to be questioned there has to be a need for it. One need could be curiousity. Another could be academic. Or another could be that belief in something is doing a lot of harm. I guess what I am trying to say is you don’t question unless you have a motive.
    So how do we decide which beliefs are harmful? I guess we learn from our past and in the past if something has been harmful and if a similar belief shows up we know that it might be harmful. Or when the belief manifests itself in a harmful way we know. We test that against accepted indicators of harmfulness. Once we are convinced that a particular belief is harmful only then we start the next phase of convincing people by urging people who have that belief to question the same.
    The most recent target of faith questioning has been Islam. Why many people are questioning it now? Because one version of it has gained ground amongst fundamentalists and is proving harmful to the others not holding that belief. Hence the questioning.
    So again, one doesn’t question a belief unless there is a reason to.

  45. Poor Example I guess.
    What I was trying to suggest was that everybody believes in something or the other. Some believe in god. Some believe in no god. Some believe in the constitution, some believe in science.
    People who have scientific temparament believe that they can answer everything through science. For the things that they don’t understand today they believe science will provide them answers someday.
    For any belief to be questioned there has to be a need for it. One need could be curiousity. Another could be academic. Or another could be that belief in something is doing a lot of harm. I guess what I am trying to say is you don’t question unless you have a motive.
    So how do we decide which beliefs are harmful? I guess we learn from our past and in the past if something has been harmful and if a similar belief shows up we know that it might be harmful. Or when the belief manifests itself in a harmful way we know. We test that against accepted indicators of harmfulness. Once we are convinced that a particular belief is harmful only then we start the next phase of convincing people by urging people who have that belief to question the same.
    The most recent target of faith questioning has been Islam. Why many people are questioning it now? Because one version of it has gained ground amongst fundamentalists and is proving harmful to the others not holding that belief. Hence the questioning.
    So again, one doesn’t question a belief unless there is a reason to.

  46. Polite Indian —
    My concern is you are mixing metaphors and confusing the definition I used in my argument for what a “Belief” is in the context of this discussion:

    For the purpose of this article, “Belief” is defined as something someone accepts as true or existing even though there are no facts or scientific evidence to back up the opinion or conviction.

    Based on that definition I have to disagree with you about your science angle. Scientists — who they may have theories that some may mistakenly take for believes — rigorously test those theories against a scientific process of proving things to be true or false via experimentation and fact-finding.
    The Constitution is a factual entity, as is science, and “not believing in God” is not a belief in the way one “Believes” in God.
    One does not believe in science over religion because science does not require belief in order to comprehend it and be a part of it.
    The history of believing is not enough for challenging beliefs. That process is ongoing and future forward because there are always new monsters and new Gods and new banishments and killings that are based in belief and never in the truth of verifiable hard facts.
    All beliefs must be questioned and confronted all day, every day, for the rest of our lives if we choose to live in reality and reason and not in the realm of the unprovable.

  47. Polite Indian —
    My concern is you are mixing metaphors and confusing the definition I used in my argument for what a “Belief” is in the context of this discussion:

    For the purpose of this article, “Belief” is defined as something someone accepts as true or existing even though there are no facts or scientific evidence to back up the opinion or conviction.

    Based on that definition I have to disagree with you about your science angle. Scientists — who they may have theories that some may mistakenly take for believes — rigorously test those theories against a scientific process of proving things to be true or false via experimentation and fact-finding.
    The Constitution is a factual entity, as is science, and “not believing in God” is not a belief in the way one “Believes” in God.
    One does not believe in science over religion because science does not require belief in order to comprehend it and be a part of it.
    The history of believing is not enough for challenging beliefs. That process is ongoing and future forward because there are always new monsters and new Gods and new banishments and killings that are based in belief and never in the truth of verifiable hard facts.
    All beliefs must be questioned and confronted all day, every day, for the rest of our lives if we choose to live in reality and reason and not in the realm of the unprovable.

  48. Ok let me see if I got this right…you’re saying there isn’t a Big Blue Alien Baby Maker?
    Btw, Allah is merely the arabic word for God, therefore a belief in either contradicts neither…just being semiotic for a change 😉

  49. Ok let me see if I got this right…you’re saying there isn’t a Big Blue Alien Baby Maker?
    Btw, Allah is merely the arabic word for God, therefore a belief in either contradicts neither…just being semiotic for a change 😉

  50. David,
    On a serious note, here lies the problem with thinking we are capable of being pantomaths. Science can only prove what we can understand. In order to theorise we use what we have already learned, thus, we cannot theorise and ultimately prove something to be true or not if at this moment in time it is beyond our understanding. Therefore, by deduction, we can never know everything.
    Should we question what we don’t understand so as to learn more? Of course we should but part of that process should not involve discarding or disbelieving in something just because we cannot prove it right now. We do not discard theories in science because we cannot prove them…we discard them when can disprove them. Scientific ‘fact’ proves nothing as these truths change all the time with greater knowledge and understanding. What was fact once within the scientific world is now fallacy.
    We can argue that a statement such as, “God exists” is fallacious because there is no scientific proof He exists. However, that scientific proof may just be beyond our understanding. For example, Pythagoras’ Theorem existed before he expressed it in words. It is a universal ‘truth’ in mathematics which existed since time began, however, before ‘man’ was capable of proving it in terms he understood it was an unknown.
    Some people believe that life itself is the proof that God exists. When you look at the complex bio-chemical reactions that occur they claim that this could not simply occur by chance. Should we therefore just forget about this belief because we cannot prove it…no, we shouldn’t. Challenge it…question it…but not discard it.
    Personally I believe that your question above relates not to whether we should challenge beliefs, per say, but more so religious dogma. It is the interpretation of beliefs that causes disharmony in this world: dogma that was created by men trying to find the truth; trying to understand what they are incapable of understanding. The real threat therefore lies not with believing in something like the Big Blue Alien Baby Maker…but with trying to get everyone else to believe in it also. Challenge dogma…definitely…challenge beliefs….never.

  51. Templar!
    You raise some important and fascinating issues and I thank you for your thoughtful commentary.
    Your “pantomath” is my “polymath” and that’s a fact!
    😀
    I don’t think scientific facts must be understood to be proven. There are lots of scientific results that are not yet understood but are facts in situ because they have been proved through exploration and rigorous testing. Those not yet understood facts are not beliefs.
    The scientific method allows for fallacies and incorrect theories and assumptions — that’s why it’s a method and not a belief. Beliefs are not allowed to change or you are not a “believer” while scientists and other fact-finders understand things are expected to change and must change as more information becomes available.
    The scientist or fact-finder that refuses to accept the fact that minds and ideas change over time is a believer and not a scientist.
    If God does exist, it will be science, and not religion, that presses the belief into fact.
    “Life itself” is not proof of God — it is a blanket belief used to deflect serious inquiry and challenge.
    No, I’m not talking about religious dogma alone. I’m talking about Santa Claus, and the Aliens living on Mars waiting to eat us and those who believe cultural myths and storytelling over factual evidence.
    I speak to the dangers of perpetuating these sorts of beliefs in my Lying to Children article:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/09/12/lying-to-children/

  52. David,
    An interesting response as always, I’d expect nothing less.
    My understanding of pantomath was…to know everything, whereas a polymath is someone who has learned a lot in many different areas. By definition therefore a polymath has gaps in his knowledge and his understanding. I assume from your comment that you do not believe such a thing as a pantomath exists.
    You claim from your own perspective that this is a fact, however in reality, it is what you believe. I say that it is your belief because according to criteria you value, i.e. science, no proof of a pantomath exists…Eo ipso. I on the other hand can state that it is a fact that God exists because I have a different set of criteria to you. My statement is no more a fact than yours; it is a belief…ipso facto.
    By placing restrictions on an argument by saying I will only believe in such a thing if you can prove it scientifically you are in essence dictating that only your values or criteria are what is important. You are in essence, creating your own dogma. Why should someone else have to value the criteria you deem pertinent for an argument to be relevant?
    If I say, “To me life itself is proof of God’s existence,” I do so based on criteria I deem pertinent. If you state that it is not proof, that also is based on criteria you deem pertinent. Neither is more relevant than the other and to suggest so is arrogant. Claiming life itself is the proof of God’s existence is not a deflection from serious debate: it is the debate!
    You also state that, “The scientist or fact-finder that refuses to accept the fact that minds and ideas change over time is a believer and not a scientist.” How about the scientist who imposes his own bias on an investigation? Is he also just a believer?
    In conclusion, those who believe in a Deity will do so regardless of science and those who do not believe in such an entity will not…both have the right, however, to believe as they will.
    Now onto the serious stuff…you don’t really expect me not to believe in Santa do you?

  53. David,
    An interesting response as always, I’d expect nothing less.
    My understanding of pantomath was…to know everything, whereas a polymath is someone who has learned a lot in many different areas. By definition therefore a polymath has gaps in his knowledge and his understanding. I assume from your comment that you do not believe such a thing as a pantomath exists.
    You claim from your own perspective that this is a fact, however in reality, it is what you believe. I say that it is your belief because according to criteria you value, i.e. science, no proof of a pantomath exists…Eo ipso. I on the other hand can state that it is a fact that God exists because I have a different set of criteria to you. My statement is no more a fact than yours; it is a belief…ipso facto.
    By placing restrictions on an argument by saying I will only believe in such a thing if you can prove it scientifically you are in essence dictating that only your values or criteria are what is important. You are in essence, creating your own dogma. Why should someone else have to value the criteria you deem pertinent for an argument to be relevant?
    If I say, “To me life itself is proof of God’s existence,” I do so based on criteria I deem pertinent. If you state that it is not proof, that also is based on criteria you deem pertinent. Neither is more relevant than the other and to suggest so is arrogant. Claiming life itself is the proof of God’s existence is not a deflection from serious debate: it is the debate!
    You also state that, “The scientist or fact-finder that refuses to accept the fact that minds and ideas change over time is a believer and not a scientist.” How about the scientist who imposes his own bias on an investigation? Is he also just a believer?
    In conclusion, those who believe in a Deity will do so regardless of science and those who do not believe in such an entity will not…both have the right, however, to believe as they will.
    Now onto the serious stuff…you don’t really expect me not to believe in Santa do you?

  54. How and where are you giving “pantomath” definition, Templar? There is no such definition of that word I can find except for a nominal inclusion in Wikipedia but that doesn’t count in the realm of reality or even basic scholarship. Just because someone uses a “word” doesn’t mean there is conveyed definition or universally shared use. Words have to have an agreed-upon definition to be factual and useful and to move beyond the anecdotal.
    “Polymath,” on the other hand, is rather well-defined and once can look up the definition if one doesn’t know the meaning out of hand.
    Our conversation is going around in circles and you are now claiming I said things I did not say.
    I realize trying to have this conversation with someone who calls themselves “Templar” and runs a “Knights of the Templar” website is like trying to talk to someone with stone-cold beliefs in place.
    I believe I have sufficiently addressed every issue you have raised and to continue onward with you is to perpetuate a Mobius strip of believing with no end except to create more beliefs and that doesn’t interest me.

  55. How and where are you giving “pantomath” definition, Templar? There is no such definition of that word I can find except for a nominal inclusion in Wikipedia but that doesn’t count in the realm of reality or even basic scholarship. Just because someone uses a “word” doesn’t mean there is conveyed definition or universally shared use. Words have to have an agreed-upon definition to be factual and useful and to move beyond the anecdotal.
    “Polymath,” on the other hand, is rather well-defined and once can look up the definition if one doesn’t know the meaning out of hand.
    Our conversation is going around in circles and you are now claiming I said things I did not say.
    I realize trying to have this conversation with someone who calls themselves “Templar” and runs a “Knights of the Templar” website is like trying to talk to someone with stone-cold beliefs in place.
    I believe I have sufficiently addressed every issue you have raised and to continue onward with you is to perpetuate a Mobius strip of believing with no end except to create more beliefs and that doesn’t interest me.

  56. My apologies David if I offended you…that was certainly not my intention.
    I thought that your original post questioned should we challenge beliefs…perhaps I should have just said, no.
    My own personal beliefs as a Templar were never the issue here…my right to believe in them was!

  57. My apologies David if I offended you…that was certainly not my intention.
    I thought that your original post questioned should we challenge beliefs…perhaps I should have just said, no.
    My own personal beliefs as a Templar were never the issue here…my right to believe in them was!