thread: 2011-07-11 : Hooray for Religion

On 2011-07-16, cc wrote:

There is a difference betwen "belief" in the sense of adherence to an ideological position about the nature of fundamental reality, and the "belief" in the sense of reasonable prediction about the rest of the world.

I may well have a reasonable prediction that other people will look askance at me if I use (or admit to using) the lift on thr Sabath.  But if I really internalise the ideological argument on which that beleif rests, then the opinion of others doesn't matter; I will regard myself as having violated the Sabbath, and hold myself accountable.

There is a real difference bwteen these two meanings of "belief", and it's one of the reasons I hate the word.  People say shit like, oh global warming is just a belief, when it is in fact a reasonable prediction.  But then they can treat this "belief" as being on par with belief that Mayan calendars say the world will end in 2012.  Yet, one of these is a reasonable prediction, and the other isn't.

Hence the argument abouty the contract with the rabbi is misplaced.  The rabbi is merely a vehicle for the greater understanding of god,on th one hand, and social convention on the other.  At no point is a contract with the rabbi, as distinct from with god, acknowleged by the believer.  Now you may argue that this is not True, but it doesn't matter, because it too is what is believed.

Different ideological beliefs in the firm sense do matter in that they do change the way people percieve or interpret the world.  On the other hand, it is certainly the case that societies that nominally subscribe to a belief are not exclusively made up of people who are fully committed to that ideological position, but instead include sizable numbers who just do what is socially required of them, and whose expectations of how the world works are in line with the prevailing orthodoxy.

And in fact, it's only those people who engage with the ideological level who can be said to have a true understanding of their own beliefs.  Many people will grow up and die mouthing socially acceptable platitudes - only the priests and the heretics will really know their stuff.


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