How his belief system drives him to do it


I’m reading a piece about discourse and persuasion in the Atlantic, and my attention is snagged by a peripheral point.

A friend taught me this.

He’s an orthodox Catholic. I am not. I went to 14 years of Catholic school and decided that it wasn’t for me. As you can imagine, I’ve heard all the arguments for Catholicism. So when my friend, Nick, argues with me about Catholic doctrine, he is very unlikely to persuade me of anything. But Nick happens to be one of the best people I know. Even though I don’t have faith in the same things that he does, I see how his faith makes him a better person. I see how he makes the world a better place, and how his belief system drives him to do it. And whenever I think about Nick, I think to myself, you know, I disagree with the Catholic faith on a lot of particulars, but there must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good. It makes me so much more open to the notion that I can learn something from the Catholic faith—just as the molestation scandal took a lot of people and closed them off to the idea that Catholics had anything to teach them.

I don’t think that’s it. I don’t think there are any nuggets of truth in the religion (or “faith”) itself. I think it’s rather that people think the whole thing is about goodness, so they are drawn to the church for that reason, so there are good people in it. I think that’s really what inspires people like that. The author (Conor Friedersdorf) says it is “his belief system [that] drives him to do it” and it’s his story not mine, so he would know better than I would…But I think he might be misidentifying the source. I think it’s not so much the belief system or putative nuggets of truth in the belief system, but the beliefs about the system and the institution – that it’s where especially good people belong.

 

 

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    Obviously, even granting it is “his belief system [that] drives him to do it”, that doesn’t entail that he would not be driven to do it otherwise — and if I wished to be “snotty”, I’d note that the very same belief system once drove Torquemada and now drives the Vatican.

  2. Silentbob says

    So, not good because churchy, but churchy because good (and believing the church is about goodness). Sounds plausible.

    On the other hand, though I’m an atheist and always have been, I think it would be churlish not to acknowledge that there are profound nuggets about compassion and forgiveness in the bible, attributed to Jesus. (My fave is the “woman taken in adultery“. I especially like the snippet of dialogue between Jesus and the “sinner” at the end.)

  3. John Morales says

    Silentbob, call me a churl, then — because that little apocryphal nugget exalts hypocrisy no less than it exalts illogic.

    (bah)

  4. says

    there must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good.

    Are there also nuggets of truth in it that inspire people to be evil, disgusting power-mad fucks? Because if you’re going to assume divine responsibility for the good, you should assume divine responsibility for the bad, too.

  5. Daniel Schealler says

    “There must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good.”

    Nope. ^_^

    Not sure the name of this, but I’d be astonished if it wasn’t a named fallacy of some kind.

    General form of the fallacy is: The outcome is good. Therefore, the argument that got us there is valid.

    Consider the following:

    1) Dogs have four legs.
    2) My cat has four legs.
    3) If my cat is a dog, then Barack Obama is president of the United States of America.
    Therefore (from 1 and 2)
    4) My cat is a dog
    Therefore (from 3 and 4)
    5) Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America.

    The ultimate conclusion – that Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America – is at this point in time correct.

    That doesn’t mean that the argument I just used to get there is valid or sound.

    This is the corollary position to: Just because someone’s argument is invalid, that doesn’t necessitate that their conclusion is false.

  6. Daniel Schealler says

    There’s another tack you can take:

    If we agree it is good, then there will be a secular chain of reasoning for why it is good – because otherwise, I would not agree with you.

    So if we have a good secular chain of reasoning for why something is good… Of what use then are the unverifiable religious arguments that got us there?

    Isn’t it better to found our ethics on that which is sound than that which is unsound?

  7. Latverian Diplomat says

    So does Friesdorf know any admirable atheists? Who gets to claim credit for their goodness?

  8. iknklast says

    Daniel Schealler – I use a similar one with my students as a demonstration. I do it like this:

    Everyday is Tuesday in Belgium
    We are in Belgium
    Therefore, it is Tuesday

    They figure out quickly that it is not Tuesday everyday in Belgium, and they know we are not in Belgium. But the class meets on Tuesday, so they are pretty confused, until I explain that it is sometimes possible to arrive at the right conclusion by accident through totally illogical means; that doesn’t make your argument sound, it just means it happens to be Tuesday (or a Christian happens to be nice, or Obama happens to be president).

  9. grumpyoldfart says

    He thinks he might be able to learn something from the Catholic faith. I wonder what he might learn from the latest diatribe of Pope Francis who has declared that sinners should have a millstone tied around their necks and they should be thrown into the sea?
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10441960/Pope-Francis-corrupt-should-be-tied-to-a-rock-and-thrown-into-the-sea.html

    Interestingly, the rat-cunning Pope has chosen to quote Luke 17:2 because it is a less violent version of the story told in Matthew 18:6. Luke merely has the sinners thrown into the ocean. but in Matthew 18:6 Jesus is much more specific and demands that the sinners are to be drowned.

  10. says

    What exactly is Nick’s belief system? The strict toe-the-strict-line version of Catholicism? Or the finesse-the-dogma-into-social-justice-and-ignore-the-rest version? Or something in between?

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    … there must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good.

    Doesn’t sound like Nick makes a good test case.

    Pls get back to us when such doctrines inspire goodness in the likes of Pius XII, Tomas de Torquemada, Urban II, the Malleus boys, or pedophiles and hebephiles beyond count. How many times have these purported nuggets brought one priest forward to confess/expose his own or his “brothers”‘ crimes, as compared to those who merely got caught?

    If megaexposure to Bible rays generated goodness, the list of major hyperchristians would include veritable Hulks of virtue, not the shallow rogues we have witnessed for so long.

  12. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Daniel:

    There’s another tack you can take:

    If we agree it is good, then there will be a secular chain of reasoning for why it is good – because otherwise, I would not agree with you.

    So if we have a good secular chain of reasoning for why something is good… Of what use then are the unverifiable religious arguments that got us there?

    Isn’t it better to found our ethics on that which is sound than that which is unsound?

    This is the “commanded by the gods because it is righteous” horn of the Euthyphro dilemma.

  13. says

    Two things.

    1) Um… how “good” are you, really, when your motivation is “if I fuck up, I get tortured for all eternity, therefore I must Do Good Things”? And a lot of those Good Things come with Strings. Jesus-y strings.

    I’d rather people Do Good Things out of their own compassion for their fellow travellers, really.

    2) There is one nugget of truth found in as many cultures and religions and philosophies and ways of life as you’d care to count. I think Bill and Ted said it best — Be Excellent To Each Other.

    3) If anyone can figure out what I was replying to with my item #2, please let me know, as I have had a moment of derp and completely forgotten what prompted that bit. Thank you!

  14. bruce says

    There must be nuggets of truth in a book of random numbers, because some winning lottery numbers can be found there.

  15. alqpr says

    It’s odd that Mr Friedersorf does not give his friend full credit for his own goodness. Does he really suspect that it’s only the benign influence of the church that gives us Saint Nicholas instead of Old Nick? (Actually that’s not so impossible. The same religions that enable some people to be far more evil than they would otherwise have been may also support increased goodness in others. There’s really no contradiction in that and it’s not obvious where the overall balance lies.)

  16. Daniel Schealler says

    @Forbidden Snowflake

    *blink blink*

    Holy crap. That’s so obvious in retrospect I don’t know how I missed it.

    Stupid philosophers having all the clever ideas first and stuff. :P

  17. blf says

    A somewhat similar example of the same sort of fuzzy “thinking” may be the following (which is cross-posted from poopyhead’s blog):

    I found the following rationale (from Pope Francis ‘is mafia target after campaigning against corruption’) to be an excellent example of how money plus magic sky faeries can feckup ones thinking:

    [Anti-mob prosecutor Nicola] Gratteri said mobsters did not consider themselves wrongdoers, and used the example of a mafioso putting pressure on a business owner to pay protection money, first by shooting up his premises, then by kneecapping him. “If the person still refuses, the mobster is ‘forced’ to kill him. If you have no choice, you are not committing a sin.”

    “If you have no choice it is not a ‘sin’.” Um, yeap. NOT.

  18. Brian E says

    I disagree with the Catholic faith on a lot of particulars, but there must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good.

    Holy non-sequitur Batman!

    Religion, Catholic church very much so, claims that morality isn’t possible, or at least is underwritten by the belief in this or that faith and god. That people are bad without it. Good derives or is ordered by the deity and his particular set of rules. OK, so….

    How fucking bad must the child raping priests have been before they were made better by their faith? I mean, all the bad that religious do means that psychopaths and sadists have the senus divinatus in spades (not true Scotsman withstanding). Because there sure is a lot of them being improved through faith, exhibited by them ONLY buggering and covering up the violation of children, condemning women and girls to an awful existence, denying the rights of gays and trans folk, instead of something worse like…..I’m stumped raping a person and destroying a life. seems pretty much bottom of the barrel to me, not to mention treating people as subhuman, or as intrinsically wrong. But, thank Dog that religion was there to spare us from that pit of the inferno, n’est pas?

    http://www.theage.com.au/comment/foul-crimes-wilful-blindness-and-evil-men-20131113-2xgps.html

  19. Minow says

    I think it’s rather that people think the whole thing is about goodness, so they are drawn to the church for that reason, so there are good people in it. I think that’s really what inspires people like that.

    Apologies for the duplication, but I missed the formatting.

    What I find uncomfortable about this sort of reasoning is that it requires us to think religious people are less able to understand their own motives than we are. And bear in mind that most religious social activists are women, which should make us doubly wary of insisting that they cannot know their own mind.

    There is no doubt that a disproportionately large number of religious people dedicate their lives to good works without expectation of any material reward. I think that you are more likely to do that if an institution exists that will help manage it (the church) and if you believe that good is a real and necessary part of the universe, rather than just a philosophical position or or a utilitarian benefit. And religion takes you there

  20. kevinkirkpatrick says

    @iknklast and Daniel

    My favorite demonstration of the fallacy:

    Q: How to reduce fractions, e.g.:
    16

    64

    A: Cancel any digits that are on both top and bottom. In the case of 16/64, cancel (erase) the 6 from top and bottom to get 1/4. Likewise, 13/325 reduces to 1/25 by cancelling the 3.

  21. John Morales says

    Minow:

    There is no doubt that a disproportionately large number of religious people dedicate their lives to good works without expectation of any material reward.

    Leaving aside your certitude (the which I don’t share*) about this claim, I note that the OP is about “orthodox” Catholicism**, not about religious people in general.

    Were that statement to read “There is no doubt that a disproportionately large number of religious people Catholics dedicate their lives to good works without expectation of any material reward.”, would you still agree with it?

    * I do grant it seems plausible.

    ** Presumably, Roman Catholicism.

  22. Minow says

    Were that statement to read “There is no doubt that a disproportionately large number of religious people Catholics dedicate their lives to good works without expectation of any material reward.”, would you still agree with it?

    Yes, I think that still seems likely

  23. Minow says

    It would be interesting to see a list of current missions for the RC church and others, but I can’t find one.

  24. John Morales says

    Fair enough, Minow.

    For me, if I were ever to acquire religious sensibilities, I can assure you that whatever form I chose would not be one of the Abrahamic creeds — and certainly not Catholicism, with which I’m quite familiar.

  25. Minow says

    For me, if I were ever to acquire religious sensibilities, I can assure you that whatever form I chose would not be one of the Abrahamic creeds — and certainly not Catholicism, with which I’m quite familiar.

    I think that religious conversion is supposed to bypass choice. You will just be ravished by god. Or something.

  26. blf says

    You will just be ravished by god.

    Is that for converting, not-converting, converting-to the “wrong” magic sky faerie, or all of the previous ?

    Anyways, a dish of pastaFSM sounds like just the thing when you are ravishingly hungry. With volcanic beer to wash it down.

  27. latsot says

    It’s strange that so many people seem to think of ‘belief systems’ as being good things or at least fairly benign. I’m not an expert, but I’ve always understood the term to be fairly derogatory. Isn’t a belief system what happens when collections of beliefs (those things that don’t have evidence) become self-sustaining so that the holders think (well, believe) that no evidence is required? The beliefs are presumably so stupid that a ‘system’ is needed to prevent the awkward questions or catapult them into meaningless theology where they can’t do any harm.

    I don’t understand why people talk about belief systems as though they’re worthwhile or even admirable.

  28. Minow says

    I don’t think that is necessarily the case latsot, belief systems do not have to be sclerotic and I don’t think we can do with out them. If we think we are free of a belief system, it is likely that it is just so ingrained in us that we can’t see it.

  29. says

    What I find uncomfortable about this sort of reasoning is that it requires us to think religious people are less able to understand their own motives than we are. And bear in mind that most religious social activists are women, which should make us doubly wary of insisting that they cannot know their own mind.

    Did anybody say that? My thesis is that religious believers are exactly as unable to know their own minds as I am–the only leg up I have is acknowledging the fact that I often do not know my own mind.

    Also, your protective condescension towards religious women is not feminism.

  30. says

    I think that religious conversion is supposed to bypass choice. You will just be ravished by god. Or something.

    Since we all know that there are no gods, care to propose an alternate mechanism? And since when is bypassing choice a good thing? Taking away someone’s choice about what to believe is inherently unethical.

  31. says

    … there must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good.

    By the same token, there must be nuggets of evil within it if it inspires people like Pius XII, Torquemada, Pope Palpadict and Cardinal Law to be as evil as we observe them to be. So if you join or support a church because of the good you see in it, you still have a duty to see the evil in that church as well.

    What I find uncomfortable about this sort of reasoning is that it requires us to think religious people are less able to understand their own motives than we are.

    That’s a valid point — but when we observe so many believers spouting muddled logic and rationalizations, we’re forced to conclude that they either don’t know their own motives, don’t want to face reality, or feel a need to rationalize a choice they’re not really comfortable with. So not knowing their own minds is always one possibility with such believers.

  32. latsot says

    @Minnow:

    belief systems do not have to be sclerotic

    I didn’t mean to imply that they do. Obviously, belief systems can and do change. But they seem to change gradually and in such a way that the people who adhere to them continue to do so. The beliefs change, but the systems stay more or less intact. What doesn’t change is that they are based on belief rather than evidence. The ‘system’ part seems to be about reinforcing faith in the beliefs, even when some of those beliefs change over time.

    and I don’t think we can do with out them

    I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean that we can’t do without them in principle (in which case, what principle?) or that we’re all part of belief systems whether we think we are or not? Or something else?

    If we think we are free of a belief system, it is likely that it is just so ingrained in us that we can’t see it.

    That doesn’t mean that belief systems are good things or have any inherent merit. That was the argument I was making. But by my definition (which might not be the common one, I don’t know) I’m probably not part of a belief system. While I believe in some things with what I’d consider inadequate evidence if it were part of my work, I don’t think those beliefs form a self-reinforcing system. But I could be wrong about that too :)

  33. says

    There is no doubt that a disproportionately large number of religious people dedicate their lives to good works without expectation of any material reward.

    First, there is plenty of doubt about that assertion. Second, a lot of the religious people who dedicate their lives to good works do indeed expect, and get, some sort of material reward, whether it’s a paycheck from a nonprofit or at least some minimal support to keep them from starving or going homeless while they spend their time with those in need. And third, even if true, that statement doesn’t mean there’s any inherent good in the religius organizations — it could just mean that people who want to do good have no other organizational means in sight, so they have to rub shoulders with pond-scum just to make their work count most.

  34. latsot says

    @Raging Bee:

    Agreed on all counts. And note how insidious the word “material” is here. They do expect an immaterial reward, surely? Why sweep that under the carpet?

  35. brucegorton says

    I think it says something about how I view this line of reasoning, that I clicked on the headline expecting something along the lines of somebody selling his daughter into a forced marriage, or some priest covering up for child abuse, or some parent leaving their child to die as they tried to pray its burst pancreas better, or some community leader ordering a child tortured for ‘witchcraft’.

    One can argue that irrational beliefs may seem to motivate more positive outcomes sometimes – but a lot of the time they don’t. The Catholic Church may make a big noise about its charitable works, but it also works to systematically deny impoverished people access to contraception and women access to adequate healthcare.

    And that is what the Catholic stance on abortion really is, the denial of adequate healthcare.

    And the fact that some Catholics may be nice means sweet fuck-all. There are a lot of perfectly nice Hindus, Animists, Mormons, Muslims and members of every religion and none out there – it doesn’t mean the teachings have anything to do with it.

    It just means sometimes people are just nice.

  36. Minow says

    First, there is plenty of doubt about that assertion.

    I don’t know, I think that ios the experience of most people who do hands-on volunteer poverty relief work in most parts of the world.

    Second, a lot of the religious people who dedicate their lives to good works do indeed expect, and get, some sort of material reward, whether it’s a paycheck from a nonprofit or at least some minimal support to keep them from starving or going homeless

    I think it is a bit of a strain to consider ‘food’ as ‘material reward’. But if you insist, I would say that disproportionate number of people willing to do charity work just for food and shelter, are religious. And they do a lot of good. I am not considering those who work for a paycheck here.

    And third, even if true, that statement doesn’t mean there’s any inherent good in the religius organizations — it could just mean that people who want to do good have no other organizational means in sight, so they have to rub shoulders with pond-scum just to make their work count most.

    Pond scum? You must be very confident in your own good works to denigrate the church people manning the homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the city tonight that way. They have never struck me as scum-like. But you are right, it does not prove anything, but it is strongly suggestive and it makes it much more probable, in a Bayesian calculation, that there is inherent good in some religious organisations.

  37. latsot says

    And that is what the Catholic stance on abortion really is, the denial of adequate healthcare.

    It’s that, but also a lot worse than that, surely?

    It’s an assertion of assumed and unearned authority.

    It’s a tacit assumption that some of the medical needs of half the population aren’t important.

    It’s a tacit assumption that the non-medical needs, requirements and desires of half the population aren’t important.

    And so on.

  38. Minow says

    One can argue that irrational beliefs may seem to motivate more positive outcomes sometimes – but a lot of the time they don’t.

    Religious beliefs are not (necessarily) irrational. But the rationalist attack on religion always brings to my mind G K Chesterton’s definition of a lunatic: a man who has lost everything but his reason.

  39. latsot says

    Religious beliefs are not (necessarily) irrational.

    Careful now.

    What are you saying here? Which religious beliefs are rational? There are beliefs within religious traditions that are rational. The Golden Rule can be defended in rational terms, for example. But actually being religious is not and – I think – cannot possibly be rational. Believing in irrational things can be rational in highly contrived situations.

    But the kind of religious beliefs we’re talking about – believing remarkable things without evidence – is always and necessarily irrational in general, isn’t it?

  40. latsot says

    @minnow

    I don’t know, I think that ios the experience of most people who do hands-on volunteer poverty relief work in most parts of the world.

    Don’t you see how far you’ve moved from your position of “THERE EXISTS NO DOUBT” to “well, I think that’s probably true, in my anecdotal experience, without ever citing any evidence”?

    Don’t you agree that some doubt, after all, exists?

  41. latsot says

    Religious beliefs are not (necessarily) irrational. But the rationalist attack on religion always brings to my mind G K Chesterton’s definition of a lunatic: a man who has lost everything but his reason.

    That definition doesn’t make any sense and does not have the slightest basis in reality. Even less so in the context of rational people attacking religion.

  42. brucegorton says

    @Minnow

    Religious beliefs are at their foundation irrational, they base their teachings upon the dictates of various authorities as opposed to reasoning and evidence for their efficacy. The fact that most of the time the actual base existence of these beings is unevidenced at best, doesn’t help their case.

    As to GK Chesterton? Here’s another quote of his just to illustrate exactly his quality of thought: ““It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”

  43. deepak shetty says

    And whenever I think about Nick, I think to myself, you know, I disagree with the Catholic faith on a lot of particulars, but there must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick
    comments like these are frustrating when they come from non-believers. Its obvious that the “teachings” have a bunch of stuff some may be provisionally good and some are decidedly awful – if someone claims to follow the teachings and is “good” its obvious that (s)he must cherry pick teachings and hence is relying on a standard outside of those teachings. it might not be obvious to the religious person but it is obvious to the non believer – why the heck then do they keep making statements like the above. Flippantly I have learnt a lot of good things from Superman/Batman what are the nuggets of truth there? If all that is meant by nuggets of truth is some people can write some good philosophy or some naive morals – sure – but its sort of dishonest to use that version of “nuggets of truth” to imply “Jesus might be divine” or “Catholicism is true”

    @bruce@16
    good one

  44. deepak shetty says

    @Minow
    I think it’s rather that people think the whole thing is about goodness, so they are drawn to the church for that reason,
    If so we’d see a larger influx of converts from other religions or from non believers.
    What you usually see is children indoctrinated into the faith or Christians playing musical chairs with the variants.

  45. chrislawson says

    Minow,

    G.K. Chesterton was a very engaging writer with a lovely prose style, but he was also a very shallow thinker who specialised in dressing up fallacies and bigoted prejudices in quaint costumes to make them seem attractive, and was very fond of clever syllogisms that were actually meaningless except to make him seem superior to everyone else around him. Examples?

    The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.

    Aesthetes never do anything but what they are told.

    When learned men begin to use their reason, then I generally discover that they haven’t got any.

    I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.

    Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.

    Do you see his pattern? But even this I could live with if it wasn’t for his outright lying in order to defend his conservative political and religious beliefs. For instance:

    There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.

    You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.

    There cannot be a nation of millionaires, and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants.

    (Note: nice to see a man born in one of the wealthiest parts of London acknowledge all those contented peasants throughout history.)

    If there were no God, there would be no atheists.

    The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.

    (Note: this quote is especially galling because he was writing about the Book of Job.)

    The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.

    (Note: by this tortured reasoning, Chesterton convinces himself that a list of commandments that begins with “You shall have no other gods before me,” forbids all religious art, and forbids working on a certain day, is a liberal work. He also ignores that the Bible is full to the fucking brim with things forbidden. Just because the Top Ten List of Forbidden Things has only ten items, doesn’t mean that Leviticus doesn’t exist.)

    Puritanism was an honourable mood; it was a noble fad. In other words, it was a highly creditable mistake.

    Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.

    Modern broad-mindedness benefits the rich; and benefits nobody else.

    [No society can survive the socialist] fallacy that there is an absolutely unlimited number of inspired officials and an absolutely unlimited amount of money to pay them.

    (Note: this is about as cartoonish a straw man as you’ll ever see.)

    Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.

    (Note: this is an excellent example of Chesterton’s rhetorical style; write something outrageously, even obviously self-contradictory, and dress up the logical error as a witty verbal paradox!)

    I would give a woman not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free.

    There are many more examples to choose from (Chesterton was quite prolific) but I think I’ve made my point…

  46. says

    Pond scum? You must be very confident in your own good works to denigrate the church people manning the homeless shelters…

    I’m not denigrating that lot, I’m denigrating the pond-scum who RUN the Church, and who control the funding of all those programs. Those authoritarian asshalos are well known for their power to degrade and compromise their Church’s good works in the service of their ideology. Check out the women who have DIED IN AGONY while Catholic doctors just watched, pursuant to their Church’s commandments about abortion.

  47. says

    Oh, and thanks for the Chesterton quotes. What a ridiculous pretentious lying hack. This guy makes Michael Gerson and William F. Buckley look honest by comparison.

  48. says

    GK Chesterton:

    I would give a woman not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free.

    WOW, what a novel idea! I bet no one has ever tried that anywhere, right?! (Would that house be lockable from the inside, or the outside?)

  49. says

    Oh, nicely done, Chris. That’s a great little compendium.

    I loathe that style of labored, stale “cleverness.”

    The ubiquity of the assumed male is noteworthy.

  50. Dan L. says

    Daniel Schellear@5:

    General form of the fallacy is: The outcome is good. Therefore, the argument that got us there is valid.

    Sounds like a form of post hoc ergo propert hoc — happens after and is therefore caused by.

    Minow@21:

    What I find uncomfortable about this sort of reasoning is that it requires us to think religious people are less able to understand their own motives than we are.

    As Sally Strange already pointed out, no it doesn’t. We might also think that none of us are very good at judging the reasons for our actions — a conclusion that’s actually backed up by psychological research and not contradicted by hundreds or thousands of historical examples like the claim “piety makes people good” is.

    There is no doubt that a disproportionately large number of religious people dedicate their lives to good works without expectation of any material reward.

    I think you’re playing with meanings, here, intentionally or not. You use the phrase “material rewards” in a sense that implies real, meaningful rewards but in a context where one might mistake the meaning of “material” for “realized in physical reality.” However, to a believer in heaven, the reward of heaven is absolutely real and meaningful and therefore material in at least one sense. In fact, the belief is that this is the best possible of all rewards. You imply that this is altruism because it’s not driven by “material rewards” but in this case the reward is actually the best possible of all rewards and, if believed to be real, is therefore absolutely “material” in the sense that matters here.

    I think that you are more likely to do that if an institution exists that will help manage it (the church) and if you believe that good is a real and necessary part of the universe, rather than just a philosophical position or or a utilitarian benefit.

    I disagree and cannot think of single logical argument that can get you from premise to conclusion here without a lot of (dubious) supporting premises. And again, you’re using rhetoric to make your point instead of actual argumentation. “Just a” doesn’t belong before “philosophical position or a utilitarian benefit.” Money is not a metaphysical reality but it nonetheless has real and obvious effects on the world; similarly, a philosophical position is not less real or effective because it has no ontological independence from material reality.

    In fact, a presumed metaphysical “good” has no justification outside faith in it while a purely abstract philosophical position can be justified on the grounds of premises that can be defended through rational argument. Given the choice, I’d say the philosophical position is a stronger justification for good works than some imagined metaphysical notion of “good”.

  51. Dan L. says

    Minow@43:

    Religious beliefs are not (necessarily) irrational.

    That depends upon what one means by “rational”.

    Religious beliefs necessarily depend on revelation, however, and since revelation is by definition not susceptible to empirical investigation I would personally say that all religious beliefs must be either irrational or based on irrational premises (irrational because derived either through revelation or authority).

  52. Aaron Logan says

    There is no doubt that a disproportionately large number of religious people dedicate their lives to good works without expectation of any material reward.

    I wonder how many of them would survive a meeting with Sebastian? (from the episode “Comes the Inquisitor” of Babylon 5?)

  53. karellen says

    Holy red herrings, Batman!

    Even if the Catholic faith is exactly what makes Nick a better person, even if all Catholics were better people than non-Catholics and all religious people were better people than non-religious people, even if the Catholic church was truly a moral organisation which helped the poor and made the world a better place, and even if The Bible did contain “nuggets of truth” which was the cause of all of this…

    …none of that is relevant at all as to whether Catholicism and/or The Bible were true. Not in the slightest. It simply has no bearing on the matter.

    (Consider, “Romeo and Juliet” contains many “nuggets of truth” about tribalism, loyalty and love – which is why it’s so powerful and enduring. But that does not make it a true story.)

    I don’t know about you, but I’d rather know a truth that made me miserable than falsely believe a lie – no matter how much more of a better person I might be otherwise.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>