we believe in belief?
(Top Posts - Distance From
in theism - 071909)
The folly of pretence
We must not preserve the myth of God – it was
a useful crutch, but we've outgrown it
by Daniel Dennett
The Guardian, Thursday 16 July 2009
The question: Should we believe in belief?
As I explain in the chapter by that title in Breaking the
Spell, "belief in belief" is a common phenomenon not
restricted to religions.
Sometimes the maintenance of a belief is deemed so
important that impressive systems of propaganda are
erected and vigorously defended by people who do
not in fact share the belief that they think is so important
for society to endorse.
Religion offers an extreme case of this. Today one of
the most insistent forces arrayed in opposition to us
vocal atheists is the "I'm an atheist but" crowd, who
publicly deplore our "hostility", our "rudeness" (which
is actually just candour), while privately admitting that
They don't themselves believe in God, but they certainly
do believe in belief in God. It's not always easy to tell
who just believes in belief, since the actions motivated
by believing in belief (while not actually believing in God)
are – with the exception of those rare sotto voce [under
the breath : in an undertone : in a private manner] confes-
sions – well-nigh indistinguishable from the actions of
genuine believers: say the prayers, sing the hymns, tithe,
proclaim one's allegiance, volunteer for church projects,
and so on.
Sometimes I wonder if even 10% of the people who
proclaim their belief in God actually do believe in God.
I am confident that those who believe in belief are wrong.
That is, we no more need to preserve the myth of God
in order to preserve a just and stable society than we
needed to cling to the Gold Standard to keep our cur-
rency sound. It was a useful crutch, but we've outgrown
Denmark, according to a recent study, is the sanest,
healthiest, happiest, most crime-free nation in the world,
and by and large the Danes simply ignore the God issue.
We should certainly hope that those who believe in belief
are wrong, because belief is waning fast, and the props
are beginning to buckle.
A national study by evangelicals in the United States pre-
dicted that only 4% of their children would grow up to
be "Bible-believing" adults. The Southern Baptists are
baptising about as many today as they were in 1950,
when the population was half what it is today.
At what point should those who just believe in belief
throw in the towel and stop trying to get their children
and neighbours to cling to what they themselves no
longer need? How about now?
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Do you believe in believing? (071007)
"Probably, the first instinctive reaction to
that would be that it depends on what one
is being asked to believe in. ... In
everything believed in by religious folks is
'hearsay', and myth, passed down tales from
a very superstitious age of ignorance in which
inventing Gods and God tales was quite a
creative enterprise for many. ..."
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