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What Do You Believe, and Why? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Garrett Kennedy, a Counseling Psychologist-in-training at the University of Wolverhampton (UK) informs us that he's carrying out research in religious, spiritual and personal beliefs.  Participation is through an online text-based survey and he would very much appreciate JREF visitors and Swift readers taking part.  The survey is about how personal beliefs operate in times of stress and difficulty, and he's seeking as wide a range of participants as possible. You may be interested, and if so, more information can be found at http://www.psychologyandbelief.com. Please direct inquiries to Mr. Kennedy at that site.

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written by Willy K, March 17, 2009
I don't believe in survey's.smilies/tongue.gif

Sorry, I just couldn't resist. smilies/wink.gif

As "penance" I'll check out Mr. Kennedy's website.

-42
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written by Kuroyume, March 17, 2009
You don't believe that survey's exist, in taking them, or that they have any usefulness? smilies/tongue.gif
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written by Willy K, March 17, 2009
Kuroyume
You don't believe that survey's exist, in taking them, or that they have any usefulness?

You are correct on all counts. But most of all I was being flippant.smilies/tongue.gif

I did fill out the survey though. I wrote that I don't "believe" in anything, or more precisely, what I, or anybody, "believes" is totally irrelevant. We can only have knowledge or ignorance of what is correct. The Earth orbits the Sun no matter what, or how many, people "believe" otherwise. A more accurate description is that the Earth and Sun orbit a common center of gravity that is within the radius of the Sun. So this why I claim that "belief" is irrelevant, the Universe is not affected by "belief."

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written by MadScientist, March 17, 2009
@Willy K: That was more like purgatory - you're tortured for an eternity but then set free. At least I got to rant about fairies.
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written by Demian, March 17, 2009
I believe that apostrophes should only be used to indicate possession or contraction, never as an indication of a plural; this is based on my knowledge of what is grammatically correct... smilies/wink.gif smilies/cheesy.gif smilies/grin.gif
As an agnostic, or rather, a religious skeptic, I found the "answers" in the survey to be too limiting in that they required the participant to either "agree" or "disagree" with the statements being postulated. In my opinion, the existence of God or the immortal spirit has neither been proved or disproved; to "agree" or "disagree" with the statements "I believe there is a life after death" or "There is no God" have to be based on faith, which is merely an indication of belief, because there are no established facts either way. A third catagory of "unsure" would have made things a little less dogmatic...
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written by medains, March 17, 2009
I found the survey to be strongly slanted towards religious belief with very few questions that would give any insight into my personal beliefs.

Unfortunately we all have beliefs - I believe that the theory of gravity is a good model for the observable facts. I believe that the observations of quantum physicists have been recorded and reported to us in the literature to the best of their ability, I do not have the resources to duplicate their experiments or to devise an experiment of my own based on their theories - so I also have to have a belief in whether their theory is a good model for the things that they have observed. My beliefs are based on trust, and the JREF and scientific establishments have proved themselves to be greatly more trustworthy than the purveyors of woo-woo who are trying to sell me something.

Who do you trust? smilies/smiley.gif
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@ Damian
written by BillyJoe, March 18, 2009
In my opinion, the existence of God or the immortal spirit has neither been proved or disproved; to "agree" or "disagree" with the statements "I believe there is a life after death" or "There is no God" have to be based on faith, which is merely an indication of belief, because there are no established facts either way.

If you answer "disagree" to the statement "I believe there is a life after death", what you are saying is "I DO NOT believe there is a life after death". And you don't do you? There is no evidence for life after death so you DO NOT believe in it. You are thinking it means "I believe there is NO life after death". But, remember the poll is about belief, so "I DO NOT believe there is a life after death" is the correct interpretation.

On the other hand, you are correct about the statement "There is no God". The statement should obviously have been "I believe there is a God". Then you could quite correctly answer "disagree" meaning "I DO NOT believe there is a God".

A third catagory of "unsure" would have made things a little less dogmatic...

I agree thay should have had that option.
I wouldn't have needed it though

BJ
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written by Demian, March 18, 2009
BillyJoe, there is no proof either way as to the existence of life after death, or of a God so, as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on these subjects. Belief (or disbelief) of a subject of which there is no evidence is purely conjecture, and a matter of faith either way. To say "I DO NOT believe there is a life after death" still indicates an assumption based on some kind of evidence.
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written by medains, March 18, 2009
To say "I DO NOT believe there is a life after death" still indicates an assumption based on some kind of evidence.


This is classic fence-sitting logic. It is not up to the atheist to prove that God does not exist (such a thing is a logical impossibility and exercise in futility) it is up to the faithful to offer evidence that he does. Extraordinary claims (such as life after death) require extraordinary evidence, and until such evidence is supplied it is fair to say "I DO NOT believe there is a life after death".

The difference between the faithful and the atheist from our skeptical point of view is that the faithful will continue to believe when given evidence to the contrary, but give the atheist some credible evidence and they are willing to change their mind.

(I apologise for the excrutiating "they/their", I just don't like excluding the 50% of the population :> )
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written by Demian, March 18, 2009
This is classic fence-sitting logic
By this, do you mean "a man should believe in something, whether it's right or wrong?" Do you understand the definition of the word "skeptic"?

It is not up to the atheist to prove that God does not exist
I disagree. If you're willing to take a side in a discussion, you must be willing to back up your opinion. The onus must be on both sides to prove their position in any debate. The fact is that neither the existence or non-existence of God or life after death is possible to prove.

To BillyJoe: I get your point now that I've had my coffee. I do agree that the correct answer to "I believe there is a life after death" is to disagree; but the follow-up question should have been "I believe there is not a life after death", to which question I would also disagree.
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@ Demian
written by BillyJoe, March 18, 2009
To BillyJoe: I get your point now that I've had my coffee. I do agree that the correct answer to "I believe there is a life after death" is to disagree; but the follow-up question should have been "I believe there is not a life after death", to which question I would also disagree.

Spot on smilies/smiley.gif

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written by Fontwell, March 18, 2009
It is not up to the atheist to prove that God does not exist

I disagree. If you're willing to take a side in a discussion, you must be willing to back up your opinion. The onus must be on both sides to prove their position in any debate. The fact is that neither the existence or non-existence of God or life after death is possible to prove.


So when I tell you about the invisible fairies at the bottom of my garden, who sometimes speak to me but to nobody, else what is your opinion? Obviously such a claim requires me to supply a reason for you believe what I'm saying. It does not require you to disprove my claim - which is carefully made to avoid being disprovable.

This is what is meant by "extraordinary claim require extraordinary evidence". The burden of proof must always fall to side making the extraordinary claim. Out of the two options 1)the claim is true 2) the claim is false, Occam's razor dictates that it can be assumed false until there is further proof.

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written by charlieocean, March 18, 2009
It would be wonderful to pass along the images, smells and felings of my first kiss in a light spring rain all those years ago.

But, (to paraphrase "Bladerunner") all these...moments, will be lost like tears in rain.

It's here and NOW.

That's it.

That doesn't mean you rape and pillage. We can leave a legacy of feelings through writing, video and children.

But if I'm a ghost...I'm gonna cause some TROUBLE!

WHOOOOO

I keep waiting for ANYTHING. Aliens, ghosts, after-life, the second coming...

But the skeptic in me keeps thinking about Penn and Teller:

BULLSHIT!

Enjoy it now, pass along a legacy to your kids, spread knowledge and love, die and shut up!

Charlie O
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written by Willy K, March 18, 2009
@Demian
The onus must be on both sides to prove their position in any debate.

One idea that seems blindingly obvious to me and never seems to enter the debate about "Does god(s) exist?" is that atheists do not have to prove the non-existence of supernatural beings, they only have to show why people believe in them!

So here's the score:
Evidence of god(s) existence = 0
Evidence of peoples belief in the supernatural = massive!

The big problem with showing the believer the evidence about the "why" they believe is complex and scattered among other studies of Human behavior. I am not aware of any one "good book" to have them read. smilies/cry.gif
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On behalf of Demian...
written by BillyJoe, March 18, 2009
I think what he is trying to say is...

If you make the claim "There is no God" you will be expected to provide evidence to back up your claim just as someone who claims "There is a God" is expected to provide evidence to back up their claim.

BJ
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written by Trish, March 18, 2009
"If you're willing to take a side in a discussion, you must be willing to back up your opinion. The onus must be on both sides to prove their position in any debate." Demian

While it's part of the rules of a formal debate that each side is expected to present evidence & arguments to support the position they represent, that is only true in the traditions of debating. Outside the setting of a formal debate, it's more a situation in which those who promote the existence of a heretofore unknown creature to prove the existence of the creature, whether it's a previously-unknown species of beetle, a fish we thought extinct for millions of years, fairies at the bottom of the garden or a sky god first mentioned in the bronze age. It is not the job of anyone else to try to defend the position that the posited creature does not exist. It's optional to examine & criticize the quality of evidence for the new species of beetle, the coelecanth, the Cottingsly Fairies or YHWH. If the proposed creature is consistent with our scientific understanding of the world, like a species of beetle or nonextinction of an ancient fish [since lots of species of each life form exist], likelihood of someone outside the proponents considering the claim worth serious investigation is pretty good, and is good for science, since proponents become emotionally attached to their proposals and might miss signs that they've misidentified the phenomena they're investigating. In the case of creatures that contradict our knowledge of how the laws of mechanics, physics or biology work - like winged, Barbie-sized inhabitants of a long-established human neighborhood or an invisible, immortal omniscient being that claims to provide humans with eternal bodiless life, there is no obligation for anyone to bother to explain why these things are unlikely to exist.
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@Demian
written by medains, March 18, 2009
By this, do you mean "a man should believe in something, whether it's right or wrong?" Do you understand the definition of the word "skeptic"?


Your other comment has been addressed several times by others, so I'll just respond to this one. The fact is that humans do believe in many things - as Randi points out many times, we make assumptions all the time. I believe that the chair will take my weight, I believe that I'm submitting my comment to the JREF site and not some dodgy intermediary, and so on and so forth. It is the responsibility of a skeptical thinker to digest the presented evidence and apply Ockham's Razor - the presented evidence for the existence of any God has been thoroughly demolished by greater scholars than myself, and applying Ockham's Razor leads me to the belief of the non-existence of such an entity. Just as it does with Fontwell's fairies, ghosts, psychic auras and all other forms of woo-woo.
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written by BillyJoe, March 19, 2009
Although, the god concept may sound superficially identical to the tooth faerie, they are not quite the same. We already know that parents make up the stories about the tooth faerie and that they replace those teeth for coins themselves. And, even though there is some support for the hypothesis that gods are made up by human beings, we still do not know how something came from nothing. A small but definite difference I think, especially in realtion to the deist god.

Also saying "There is no god" is very different from saying "I do not believe there is a god". The former requires supportive evidence, the latter does not.

Demian can correct me if that is not what he is saying, but that is my take on it.

BJ
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written by Demian, March 19, 2009
The Question Randi posed was "What do you believe and why?. An inability to support your own position (nay. a refusal to do so) leaves you with nothing but opinion and dogma. Just saying "I don't believe this because it's the silliest thing I've ever heard', then requiring the other side to prove your position by insisting they prove theirs solves no problems and gives no answers. I'm no more convinced that your "beliefs" (or lack thereof) are in any less dogmatic than the Christians are. As the great sage Tom Petty stated "you'll believe what you want to believe".
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written by medains, March 19, 2009
I did not say "I don't believe this because it's the silliest thing I've ever heard", I said "I don't believe this because no credible evidence has been presented to support it" - which is a much better "why".

I don't search for answers to the original of the universe in religion because the answers aren't there - and as we frequently find from the "intelligent design" movement, following their beliefs can lead you to assume that the answer is just "God" and to stop searching for something that will further our understanding.

It is only because the subject in question is "God" that people will decide to take the fence-sitting stance - I'm sure you will be very quick to disbelieve in the insubstantial pink elephant in my office that only I can see (who incidentally sneezed the universe out of its trunk about 200 years ago).

See how you're snorting at the ridiculous straw man I proposed? "God" as a concept is more rounded and rich in lore and scripture, but it has no more or less evidence than my elephant.

This is why I don't engage in formal religious debates, it's very dull and Dawkins and Hitchens have done a much better job than me.

*muffled trumpet* Quiet Nellie smilies/wink.gif
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written by Demian, March 20, 2009
I guess the point I'm trying to make (and not very well, I'll admit) can be summed up in the two statements "I believe there is no God" and "there is no God" (or afterlife or whatever). In stating "I believe there is no God", you are taking into account the fact that the evidence for God is vanishingly small (Occam's Razor et al) but, since there is no substantial evidence against the existence of God, the question "is there or is there not a God" can never be answered difinitively, and so the possibility for God, however small, must still exist. However, when you say "there is no God" (or, "there is a God") , you must be required to be able to back up your premise, because, in saying so, you are making a difinitve statement ("there is no/a God"), and must be required to support the statement with evidence. Do you see what I'm trying to say?
Frankly, I wish Mythbusters would take up the question, so that we could finally lay it to rest. Maybe we could kill Adam, and then see if Jamie could bring resurrect him? Just a thought...
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written by BillyJoe, March 21, 2009
I know what you are trying to say and, except for a little more emphasis here and a little less emphasis there, I broadly agree with what you have tried to say. smilies/wink.gif

BJ
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written by Steel Rat, April 12, 2009
In stating "I believe there is no God", you are taking into account the fact that the evidence for God is vanishingly small (Occam's Razor et al) but...


Still an enormous hedge. The evidence doesn't exist, not simply "vanishingly small". Come on, you can say it...
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Steel Rat
written by BillyJoe, April 12, 2009
That was the point of my post but, hey, cut him a little slack. Yes, there is no evidence that "god exists" but, equally, there is no evidence that "god does not exist". So, as he says, there remains the possibility that god exists.

BJ
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