Theism - better to believe a lie?

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marsh8472
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Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by marsh8472 »

If it were ever proven scientifically that it's best for the well being of an individual, a society, and evolution to have a belief in god, then is it best to have a belief in god regardless if it is true? Or put another way can the value of believing a lie outweigh the value of knowing the truth?
artisticsolution
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by artisticsolution »

You hit the existential nail on the head. Is it possible to believe in a lie? If you know you believe in a lie then you are aware that there is something wrong and in the back of your mind there will be a gnawing question of the truth of your existence.


Most people live dejectedly in worldly sorrow and joy; they are the ones who sit along the wall and do not join in the dance. The knights of infinity are dancers and possess elevation. They make the movements upward, and fall down again; and this too is no mean pastime, nor ungraceful to behold. But whenever they fall down they are not able at once to assume the posture, they vacillate an instant, and this vacillation shows that after all they are strangers in the world. This is more or less strikingly evident in proportion to the art they possess, but even the most artistic knights cannot altogether conceal this vacillation. One need not look at them when they are up in the air, but only the instant they touch or have touched the ground–then one recognizes them. But to be able to fall down in such a way that the same second it looks as if one were standing and walking, to transform the leap of life into a walk, absolutely to express the sublime in the pedestrian–that only the knight of faith can do–and this is the one and only prodigy.

Johannes de Silentio

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marsh8472
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by marsh8472 »

artisticsolution wrote:You hit the existential nail on the head. Is it possible to believe in a lie? If you know you believe in a lie then you are aware that there is something wrong and in the back of your mind there will be a gnawing question of the truth of your existence.


Most people live dejectedly in worldly sorrow and joy; they are the ones who sit along the wall and do not join in the dance. The knights of infinity are dancers and possess elevation. They make the movements upward, and fall down again; and this too is no mean pastime, nor ungraceful to behold. But whenever they fall down they are not able at once to assume the posture, they vacillate an instant, and this vacillation shows that after all they are strangers in the world. This is more or less strikingly evident in proportion to the art they possess, but even the most artistic knights cannot altogether conceal this vacillation. One need not look at them when they are up in the air, but only the instant they touch or have touched the ground–then one recognizes them. But to be able to fall down in such a way that the same second it looks as if one were standing and walking, to transform the leap of life into a walk, absolutely to express the sublime in the pedestrian–that only the knight of faith can do–and this is the one and only prodigy.

Johannes de Silentio

Kierkegaard
What if you're not aware of the lie. Is it better for a society to live in ignorance if it's known for a fact that the overall well being of the society is better off not knowing?
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The Voice of Time
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by The Voice of Time »

marsh8472 wrote:If it were ever proven scientifically that it's best for the well being of an individual, a society, and evolution to have a belief in god, then is it best to have a belief in god regardless if it is true? Or put another way can the value of believing a lie outweigh the value of knowing the truth?
Anything that acts as an impediment to progress is eventually going to pose problems, there's no way you can get around that. I find it highly unlikely the world is gonna tell us at some point "stop, you can't get no further!", so sometime the faith would have to go.

A better question would be: has the world ever been better with believing in a god? That's most likely very true, because as an idea, a god can be used for many things, and if people are poor enough, there will be demand even for a god.

It's when people are wealthy in resources of diverse kinds (not just "commodities") that gods become highly unnecessary, as they stop serving a purpose for the individuals. The truth catches on with all of us, and at some point we might need a god to believe in so that we can understand more usefully what little we do understand, but unless there's a very clearly undesirable counter-belief with no other alternatives, a god itself doesn't have to be the solution, there are other ways you can get around to solving such problems other than inventing a particular god.
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Gee »

Marsh8472;
marsh8472 wrote:If it were ever proven scientifically that it's best for the well being of an individual, a society, and evolution to have a belief in god, then is it best to have a belief in god regardless if it is true?
Yes. If it is "best" then it is "best". This is a no brainer.

But in considering your title and the above quote, it appears that you think that a belief in God is a lie. I seriously doubt this and suspect that God is an interpretation. What we call God is actually an anthropomorphizing of something that does exist.
marsh8472 wrote:Or put another way can the value of believing a lie outweigh the value of knowing the truth?
Yes.

Example: You have adopted a little girl and know that the reason she was orphaned is because her father went nuts and murdered her mother and siblings after torturing them horribly. The police arrived just before he was going to start on the little girl; so instead, he suicided himself. Does she really need to know this? Sometimes a lie can preserve innocence.

A lie can also maintain the comfort of a husband, if his wife asks, "How does my butt look in this dress?" Or he can tell the truth and sleep on the couch.

Gee
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Immanuel Can »

Yes. If it is "best" then it is "best". This is a no brainer.
Now, hold on, Gee. Hadn't we better say what we mean by "best"? Marsh doesn't specify that.

And it will matter. Do we mean...
a) "Best" for the whole human race?
b) "Best" for an individual?
c) "Best" in the view of that individual, or in some larger view that he or she might not even understand?
d) "Best" for a particular society, give its particular view of the objective of life?
e) "Best" for the purposes of survival? Of happiness? Of fecundity? Of the fittest?...

You can see that any one of these conceptions can be used to fill out the term "best," and yet none of them would necessarily issue in the same conclusion. Marsh seems to believe it can automatically be "best" for "individuals, [all?] society[ies], and evolution" at the same time, and unproblematically. But unless Marsh fills this "best" out for us, how do we know he/she is even asserting something plausible? It could be completely incoherent to think such a thing, just like thinking of a square circle -- unless Marsh is willing to put the case more clearly.

So, Marsh: how could something be "best" from every possible perspective at once? Can you explain?
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Gee »

Immanuel Can;

Agreed. :D You have a point.

That is not what I was considering when I read this thread. My thought was that Marsh was questioning whether or not a lie can have value. Many people, especially young people, often do not see the value in a lie. Some will even quote, "Thou shalt not lie" as part of the Ten Commandments. But this is not true as there is no such Commandment. The Commandment in question states that we "shall not bear false witness", which might mean to lie, but certainly means that we should not lie in order to cause trouble for another person. It could also be construed to mean gossip.

Philosophy is the "love of wisdom". Everyone knows this. But what is wisdom? This is less well understood. My thoughts are that wisdom is an understanding of truth, but it is also an understanding of lies. There are reasons and motivations behind lies, so in order to be wise, one must understand truth and lies, and know when and how to apply both. This idea is what attracted me to this thread.

But clarification from Marsh would be welcome.

Gee
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Immanuel Can »

Fair enough, Gee. :)

That being said, even if all we say is "lies sometimes produce good," then we would still have to say "good" of what kind, "good" to whom, and what property constituted this result as "good". And all of that would have to happen in order to validate your cases like the little girl. You would need a pre-existing non-controversial premise, such as "Innocence is more 'good' than information." Then you'd be on the hook to explain to any doubters why they should agree this was so.

So how DO we know there are cases wherein "good" is produced by a lie, when we've never defined and demonstrated the justification of the "good" in view?

But it's Marsh's problem: so let's leave Marsh on the hook, okay?
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by HexHammer »

No! Too many bad side effects, too many believers die dude to stop taking proscribed medicine, as too many demagogues promise healing by faith.

Too many will get robbed of money either self caused or due to pressure from the demagogue.
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by attofishpi »

marsh8472 wrote:If it were ever proven scientifically that it's best for the well being of an individual, a society, and evolution to have a belief in god, then is it best to have a belief in god regardless if it is true? Or put another way can the value of believing a lie outweigh the value of knowing the truth?
First, hypothetically lets suppose there were some 'elite' that had the KNOWLEDGE that God doesnt exists and could keep it secret for all eternity...but also know that it is better for all aforementioned to believe in its existence...its close to an oxymoron - their KNOWING is contradictory to what is BEST for them.
They must be supremely advanced in technology such that they know ALL.
So would they then keep it secret from their own kin...as its better for their progeny?

Your question is impossible to answer as its so subjective in relation to the 'best for the well being', i'm sure there would be plenty in society that would argue against what appear as 'scientific facts' in relation to 'what is best'

If the question 'Can the value of believing a lie outweigh the value of knowing the truth..' be answered in relation to general things to do with well being...then the answer would certainly be YES.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Immanuel Can »

Since (s)he's given us no account of what "good" is in the question, Marsh has presently left us only able to answer a very obvious question, which might be clarified as equivalent to: "Is it possible to use a lie about the existence of God to achieve some desired purpose for someone?"

And yes, attofishpi, the answer to that is obviously "Yes." But it's not a very great achievement for us to have arrived at it, as I believe we all knew that before the question was posed. Of course people can, if they want, assert that God exists even if they think He doesn't, and do it for prudential or strategic reasons, and probably achieve some end they desire by doing so. Not a great insight, is it?

What Marsh really needs to ask us is: "In view of specific 'good' X, which will be experienced by persons Y, is it (choose one: possible / reasonable / moral / advantageous / justifiable ) to deceive people about the existence of God?

But Marsh must fill out the blanks X and Y for us, and must choose the appropriate adjective of the five if we are to be able to answer the question I think (s)he wants to ask us.
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by marsh8472 »

Immanuel Can wrote:
Yes. If it is "best" then it is "best". This is a no brainer.
Now, hold on, Gee. Hadn't we better say what we mean by "best"? Marsh doesn't specify that.

And it will matter. Do we mean...
a) "Best" for the whole human race?
b) "Best" for an individual?
c) "Best" in the view of that individual, or in some larger view that he or she might not even understand?
d) "Best" for a particular society, give its particular view of the objective of life?
e) "Best" for the purposes of survival? Of happiness? Of fecundity? Of the fittest?...

You can see that any one of these conceptions can be used to fill out the term "best," and yet none of them would necessarily issue in the same conclusion. Marsh seems to believe it can automatically be "best" for "individuals, [all?] society[ies], and evolution" at the same time, and unproblematically. But unless Marsh fills this "best" out for us, how do we know he/she is even asserting something plausible? It could be completely incoherent to think such a thing, just like thinking of a square circle -- unless Marsh is willing to put the case more clearly.

So, Marsh: how could something be "best" from every possible perspective at once? Can you explain?
I came up with the question while reading "Can Man Live Without God" by Ravi Zacharias. The message I took away from what he wrote was that an atheistic worldview is meaningless, baseless, lacks morals, leads to suicide, genocide, misery etc... My first thought is that even if everything he said were true, it has no bearing on whether or not theism is true and that it's still better to believe what is true rather than what people want to believe to give their lives meaning and sense of purpose. But this assumes that the value of holding a true belief outweighs the value of believing a non-truth for one's own well-being. But does it?
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Ginkgo »

double post
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Ginkgo »

marsh8472 wrote:
I came up with the question while reading "Can Man Live Without God" by Ravi Zacharias.
Yes, he can and many do.
marsh8472 wrote:
The message I took away from what he wrote was that an atheistic worldview is meaningless, baseless, lacks morals, leads to suicide, genocide, misery etc..
Fallacy of faulty generalization.
marsh8472 wrote:
My first thought is that even if everything he said were true,...
It isn't
marsh8472 wrote: ...it has no bearing on whether or not theism is true and that it's still better to believe what is true rather than what people want to believe to give their lives meaning and sense of purpose. But this assumes that the value of holding a true belief outweighs the value of believing a non-truth for one's own well-being. But does it?
No, because atheists also have a sense of purpose. There is no way to prove the existence of God is a true belief. In exactly the same way atheists cannot prove the non-existence of God is a true belief.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Theism - better to believe a lie?

Post by Immanuel Can »

I came up with the question while reading "Can Man Live Without God" by Ravi Zacharias. The message I took away from what he wrote was that an atheistic worldview is meaningless, baseless, lacks morals, leads to suicide, genocide, misery etc... My first thought is that even if everything he said were true, it has no bearing on whether or not theism is true and that it's still better to believe what is true rather than what people want to believe to give their lives meaning and sense of purpose. But this assumes that the value of holding a true belief outweighs the value of believing a non-truth for one's own well-being. But does it?
Well, we've still got the "better" problem, and it's going to determine the answer you're going to get.

If you are meaning "better for the production of an individual's happiness," then it might well be the case that believing in something that was not true would work. Kids who believe in unicorns might be happier kids.

If you are meaning "better for the survival of the race," it might or might not. If being deluded is maladaptive from an evolutionary point of view, then it would not be "better" to be deluded in any case. But if a delusion like "morality" might, say, contribute to social cohesion and peace in such a way that a larger number of human animals survived, then you might think it was "better."

However, in a purely Materialist universe, it wouldn't be "wrong" in any sense to believe in a thing that wasn't true, whether it contributed to survival or not. For in a purely Materialist universe, morality cannot be grounded and justified rationally: it can only be regarded as a quirk of evolution or a sociological "phenomenon" -- meaning, "a thing people happen to like to believe in or do." Whether they morally owe anyone to continue to do it cannot be answered through Materialism, for Materialism has no moral precepts, only empirical claims. About that, Zacharias is quite right.

He's also right about empirical "meaning." For while it is quite possible for a Materialist to choose to *imagine* or *invent* a meaning for life, it would not be possible for him to believe on the basis of Materialism itself that there was any truth behind whatever he invented. The universe would be an accident, and accidents don't have "meaning." And this would then create the same question, but this time for the atheist:

Namely: If I am an atheist, and I know full well that the universe started accidentally, by the Big Bang, and I want to imagine that this accidental event actually means something, or somehow generated a "meaning" for life, is it "better" for me to embrace a delusion?

Or again, if I am an atheist, and hence believe that morality is merely an evolutionary quirk or a sociological phenomenon, not a binding reality, but it turns out to be "better" if I act and believe as if morality is some sort of real property of the universe, is it "better" for me to embrace that delusion?
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