Tag Archives | belief

Gnosticism and Agnosticism

PIC: "The Compendium of Graces And The Fountain Of Charm" (PD)

PIC: “The Compendium of Graces And The Fountain Of Charm” (PD)

Fr. Troy Pierce writes at the Path of Gnosis:

One of the common misunderstandings when you tell people that you are a Gnostic is that they hear the more familiar word “Agnostic.” (This becomes quite amusing when they mishear “Agnostic Priest,” or “Agnostic Eucharist.”) This becomes a good opportunity to elucidate one of the truisms of contemporary Gnosticism: You have to be an Agnostic before you can become a Gnostic.

The original differences between agnostic and gnostic are the “privative alpha” of Classical Greek. This prefix functioned like “un-” or “non-” and thus linguistically the two words are opposites, literally ‘Knower’ and ‘Un-Knower.’ (incidentally, the “a” was the first syllable, and the “g” was pronounced in both.)

However, this is Modern English and not Classical Greek, and so both terms have come to have certain more specific meanings. An Agnostic has been jokingly called a “cowardly Atheist,” but is generally someone who knows that they do not know about the divine from the reports of others.

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Eye of the Skeptic

Eye-blue“Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.”

                                     -Robert Anton Wilson

“No amount of belief makes something a fact.”

                        -The Amazing James Randi

 

“Faith” should be a four-letter word.  I propose a change in spelling.  “Fath,” maybe.

Those “I’m always right” types absolutely need faith, or else those vicious doubts start creeping in.  Not only will you find faith in the religious mind, calling God a fact, you’ll also find it lurking in the atheist, saying He isn’t.  Come to think of it, anyone who uses the word “fact” so easily must be pretty faithful, at least when it comes to their own nonsense.

One of my favorite “always right” groups to hate is the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), a self-proclaimed “skeptical” organization founded by professional debunker and ex-stage magician, the Amazing Randi.  According to their website, the Foundation “was founded in 1996 to help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.”  If you look at this statement closely, you’ll see that little demon, “faith,” wearing a lab coat and a clipboard, trying to look casual in the corner.  It presupposes that “paranormal and pseudoscientific claims” are something to be defended against, and presupposition is the very antithesis of skepticism.  It goes against the very spirit of skepticism: a “questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts.”

Although I’m sure most supporters of the JREF are scoffing right now at the idea that their beliefs are grounded in faith, there’s almost certainly one thing they never question: their own senses.… Read the rest

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Belief In Science Increases In Stressful Situations

belief in scienceBelief doesn’t have to be superstitious or irrational to give us comfort. e! Science News reports:

A faith in the explanatory and revealing power of science increases in the face of stress or anxiety, a study by Oxford University psychologists suggests. The researchers argue that a ‘belief in science’ may help non-religious people deal with adversity by offering comfort and reassurance, as has been reported previously for religious belief.

‘It’s not just believing in God that is important for gaining these psychological benefits, it is belief in general,’ says Dr. Farias. ‘It may be that we as humans are just prone to have belief, and even atheists will hold non-supernatural beliefs that are reassuring and comforting.’

The researchers say their findings are consistent with the idea that belief in science increases when secular individuals are placed in threatening situations. They go on to suggest that a belief in science may help non-religious people deal with adverse conditions.

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A Response To The Question “Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?”

Pic: Steve Lee (CC)

Lately there have been a slew of “Why Do People Believe In Conspiracy Theories” articles, no doubt a reaction to the slew of conspiracy theories offered after recent tragedies such as the Aurora shooting, the Sandy Hook shooting, and the Boston Marathon bomb attack. The reasons given in these articles mirror many of the thoughts I have expressed when speaking to those with their own conspiracy theories. I frequently argue with conspiracy theorists here on Disinfo, but not for the reasons they typically give (“government shill” is the most common). I certainly believe there are and have been conspiracies within the US government to break the law at the expense of other people’s lives for the sake of greed and lust for power. What annoys me about the articles I mentioned is that they have all left out, or at the least severely underestimated, a very important reason people believe conspiracy theories.… Read the rest

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Can Scientific Belief Make People More Moral?

science moralsIs science ethically neutral, or can it supplant religion in providing a moral compass? PLOS ONE on a series of studies finding that exposure to science (either in one’s personal background or merely by being asked to think about science momentarily) made college students more likely to divide up money fairly, more likely to express interest in positive behaviors such as volunteering and donating blood, and more likely to strongly condemn a date rapist in a hypothetical story:

No studies to date [had] directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors.

Across four studies, both naturalistic measures of science exposure and experimental primes of science led to increased adherence to moral norms and more morally normative behaviors across domains.

Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality.

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28 Percent Of Americans Believe In Global New World Order Conspiracy

Belief in powerful shape-shifting lizards is also trending. Public Policy Polling has released the results of a telephone survey this past month of 1,247 registered voters which measured belief in various conspiracy theories. Findings include:

• 21% of voters say the US government covered up a UFO crash in Roswell, NM.
• 28% believe a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order, .
• 20% believe there is a link between vaccines and autism.
• 7% think the moon landing was faked.
• 13% think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ.
• 14% say the CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s.
• 4% say they believe “lizard people” control our societies.
• 51% say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination.
• 5% believe that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966.

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After God: What Can Atheists Learn From Believers?

Several authors answer the New Statesman‘s question.  Here are some excerpts.

Alain de Botton:

For centuries in the west, there was a figure in society who fulfilled a function that is likely to sound very odd to secular ears. The priest didn’t fulfil any material need; he was there to take care of that part of you called, rather unusually, “the soul”, by which we would understand the seat of our emotions and of our deep self.Where have our soul-related needs gone? What are we doing with the material we used to go to a priest for? The deep self has naturally not given up its complexities and vulnerabilities simply because some scientific inaccuracies have been found in the tales of the five loaves and two fishes.

The most sophisticated response we have yet come up with is psychotherapy. It is to psychotherapists that we bring the same kind of problems as we would previously have directed at a priest: emotional confusion, loss of meaning, temptations of one kind or another and anxiety about mortality.

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Are UFO’s from Mars and Ghosts from Venus?

Picture: Trocaire (CC)

Why is it that men seem more into UFOs and conspiracy theories whereas women tend to favour ghosts and psychics?

A recent wideranging article on the BBC website describes a UFO conference and briefly mentions the phenomenon:

The predominant demographic is older men. But somewhere between a quarter and a third of Bufora attendees look under 30 and a similar proportion are female.

You can’t have an active interest in these topics without noticing that women tend to flock to psychic nights in greater numbers whereas UFO conferences tend to have a clear male bias.

The Unexplained Mysteries website claims:

research has indicated that belief in various paranormal topics differs between men and women.

While both genders tend to believe in paranormal topics the key difference is in which ones. Teacher and researcher Kylie Sturgess found that women were more likely to believe in astrology, psychics and ghosts whereas men are more predisposed to believe in aliens, cryptozoological creatures and conspiracy theories.

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Let’s Get Bigfoot…By Ridiculing Anyone Who Believes in Him

Picture: Ashish S. Hareet (CC)

Salon.com has published an essay on cryptozoology, UFOs and other Fortean pursuits by Busy Monsters author William Geraldi. It’s as dismissive as you’d expect it to be (and undoubtedly rightfully so, as some readers might think), and downright smug at moments.

Take Geraldi’s swipe at cryptozoologists in this paragraph on the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film:

It didn’t occur to me as a kid that the name of the creek in which the footage was shot, Bluff Creek, was a clue to Roger Patterson’s shaky relationship with veracity. Still, educated experts with the best software ever devised haven’t been able to prove conclusively that the footage is a hoax, and so grown men with a child’s inextinguishable wonder — they call themselves cryptozoologists — continue to pursue a North American apeman. Half of me wants to help these unemployable man-boys study for the high school equivalency test, but the other half quietly applauds their dopey dedication and yearns to join their rowdy jaunt.

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