cinepro's excellent adventure

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beastie
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cinepro's excellent adventure

Post by beastie »

At least, let's hope it evolves into an excellent adventure rather than an ignored thread, since it's one of the most thought-provoking questions I've seen on MAD:

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index. ... opic=22569

In a recent post, Pahoran made this accusation against Richard Dawkins:

QUOTE
I'm sure he does. Those who, like Dawkins, are afflicted with the real "God delusion"--the delusion that the "superior" intelligence of unbelievers makes them the nearest thing to godlike beings that can actually exist--are incapable of understanding the difference between real faith and silly superstitions.

The Cult Of John Frum




Upon reading Pahoran's observation, I was suddenly filled with dread that I, too, may not know how to distinguish between "real faith" and "silly superstitions". So I would like to open this thread for anyone on this board who can reliably and consistently tell the difference between the two to share their methodology.

To keep this from getting too personal on my account, please present your methodology as if you were addressing a group of people on the subject. This group consists of the following:

- 3 atheists
- 2 agnostics
- 6 Jehovah's Witnesses
- 2 Scientologists
- 5 contemporary LDS
- 2 LDS circa 1836, via time travel
- 3 Followers of John Frum (as referenced in the above thread)
- 4 Catholics
- 2 Moonies
- 2 Krishnas
- 3 followers of Jim Jones, circa 1973 (via time travel)
- 2 followers of David Koresh, circa 1990 (via time travel)
- 3 followers of Marshall Applewhite/ Heaven's Gate circa 1996 (via time travel)

These 39 people sit before you. You have as much time as you need, but they are not allowed to ask questions or make comments. They have only come to learn how to tell the difference between "real faith" and "silly superstitions". You don't know who is who, except for those who are dressed unusually, but even then, you are not allowed to make comments to individuals or groups. Your methodology should have universal application.

Can it be done?


So far, one believer has declared it impossible due to not being able to ask questions:

No, especially if no one is allowed to ask questions...the speaker or the group members. It would be like teaching someone who is visual how to do something over the phone. If they can't see it, they probably won't understand. You might be able to teach members of the different groups the same thing, but I think most of the teaching would depend on the persons learning style and experience.


Whereon cinepro responded:

Why is that? If I posed the same situation, but you needed to explain the difference between "communism" and "capitalism", would the same restriction apply? Of course not. You could just explain the principles of communism and capitalism, and then compare the two. Within 5 minutes, everyone would have a basic understanding of the two systems and be able to identify them. And it could be done without invoking value judgments about the worth of either system (although you could editorialize if needed, I suppose).

Based on Pahoran's comment, it should certainly be possible to explain the difference between "real faith" and "silly superstition", especially if we are going to accuse others of not being able to see those differences.


To set the stage, cinepro is referring to this thread:

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index. ... 1208135274

Although cinepro didn't mention it, I think this thread can also help set the stage:

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index. ... opic=22459

Note bluebell's subject line for this thread: "crazy".

So clearly believers feel able to distinguish between "silly superstitions" and "crazy" beliefs. (I only wish I could easily find the old bookmarked Z thread wherein believers made fun of the 'hopeofzion" belief in the restoration of additional scripture, they laughed and hooted at it, if I find a link I'll come back and put it in) It will be fascinating to see if any believers really try to answer cinepro's question.
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

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Post by The Dude »

Nice to see cinepro picking up on that earlier thread, where Pahoran claimed to know the difference between "silly superstision" and "real faith". Only when I pressed Pahoran to share his secret, the moderators closed the thread. Oh well, at least they didn't suspend me for "goading" Pahoran. LOL

I predict that nobody will produce a method for telling the difference, or, if someone does, it will come from a chapel Mormon and probably a newbie to the board. Hardened internet Mormons reach a position where there is no explainable difference between "silly superstition" and "real faith" to the point where total relativism is the only answer -- where even atheists' non-belief takes on an appearence of real/silly faith/superstition.

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Post by Who Knows »

Maybe it's something like the following:

My beliefs = real faith
Your beliefs = silly superstition

(a spin-off of The Dude's sigline at MAD - courtesy of Dr. Shades)
WK: "Joseph Smith asserted that the Book of Mormon peoples were the original inhabitants of the americas"
Will Schryver: "No, he didn’t." 3/19/08
Still waiting for Will to back this up...

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Post by beastie »

Yes, so far the answers have been predictable. Nehor did say, basically, that the way to tell real faith from silly superstition is to work really really hard at it, and others have been embracing relativity.
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

Penn & Teller

http://www.mormonmesoamerica.com

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Post by beastie »

Oh, one thing that I found interesting about the thread is that Pahoran is slipping - he usually insists that all "positive" religious beliefs must be treated with respect, yet on this thread he clearly regards the cargo cult as "silly superstition".
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

Penn & Teller

http://www.mormonmesoamerica.com

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Post by wenglund »

beastie wrote:Yes, so far the answers have been predictable. Nehor did say, basically, that the way to tell real faith from silly superstition is to work really really hard at it, and others have been embracing relativity.


Predictably, you are incorrect. I gave a response that could not accurately or reasonably be considered as "relativity". I spoke not to the relative verity of other beliefs, but of respect for other beliefs.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Post by beastie »

Predictably, you are incorrect. I gave a response that could not accurately or reasonably be considered as "relativity". I spoke not to the relative verity of other beliefs, but of respect for other beliefs.


Well, then, can you directly answer cinepro's question? Your response, however you want to define it, dodged the actual question.
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

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Post by wenglund »

beastie wrote:
Predictably, you are incorrect. I gave a response that could not accurately or reasonably be considered as "relativity". I spoke not to the relative verity of other beliefs, but of respect for other beliefs.


Well, then, can you directly answer cinepro's question? Your response, however you want to define it, dodged the actual question.


While I didn't explicitly answer "no", I think a careful and thoughtful reading of my post would show it as strongly and unmistakably implied--which is cry from "dodging" the question as you mistakenly suggest.

And, I just reread the other responses, and besides Nehor's post, I can't see where "relativity" could be reasonably construed in what the others said, and even Nehor's post would be a stretch in that regard.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Post by beastie »

While I didn't explicitly answer "no", I think a careful and thoughtful reading of my post would show it as strongly and unmistakably implied--which is cry from "dodging" the question as you mistakenly suggest.

And, I just reread the other responses, and besides Nehor's post, I can't see where "relativity" could be reasonably construed in what the others said, and even Nehor's post would be a stretch in that regard.


I didn't say Nehor's post was relativist.

I admit I don't quite know how to classify Tsu statement:

The chaos magician takes the opposite tact: 'Nothing is true, everything is permitted.' From this perspective, neither group of fundamentalists is right, nor is the relativist in the middle correct. Everyone is equally wrong (including the chaos magician). From this perspective it doesn't matter if equally false statements contradict; they were wrong to begin with. Nor does it make sense to attempt some sort of rectification. Any attempt to steer a middle ground will eventually just end up in either ditch.


So am I to guess that your answer to cinepro's question is no, one cannot explain how to tell the difference between silly superstition and real faith?
Last edited by beastie on Mon Mar 12, 2007 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

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http://www.mormonmesoamerica.com

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Post by The Dude »

Dang, if one can't tell the difference between silly superstition and real faith, that would be a problem, wouldn't it?

In comparison, we can often use scientific methods to tell the difference between silly superstition and real cause-effect relationships.

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Post by beastie »

Dang, if one can't tell the difference between silly superstition and real faith, that would be a problem, wouldn't it?

In comparison, we can often use scientific methods to tell the difference between silly superstition and real cause-effect relationships.


I must say in the interest of the "must respect LDS" MADdites, I will consider this "goading" on their behalf.

It is a rather inconvenient truth, isn't it? ;)
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

Penn & Teller

http://www.mormonmesoamerica.com

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Post by beastie »

tarski read your mind, dude:

I think it is exactly because of questions like these that the scientific method and analytic philosophy came into being.

But, I think a little common sense and perspective is in order. Superstition seems to involve belief in unseen beings and forces supposedly beyond the ken of empirical science. Everyone who believes in such things would do well to step outside of thier own time and tradition and then from that perspective ask the question "what are the chances that the unseen forces and beings that I believe in just happen to be real??".

My conclusion is that it is a good bet that all unverifiable, fantastic and supernatural beliefs are on roughly equal footing. Humans have existed for hundreds of thousands of years and there has been opposing and bizzare religions and superstitions for a good part of that. Mormonism is just one more in a long line of hundreds and hundreds of such belief traditions---hardly a blip in the big picture.
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

Penn & Teller

http://www.mormonmesoamerica.com

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Post by bcspace »

Faith can be proved (Hebrews 11:1, John 7:17).

Superstition cannot (by definition).

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Post by beastie »

Faith can be proved (Hebrews 11:1, John 7:17).

Superstition cannot (by definition).


Proven to whose satisfaction?
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

Penn & Teller

http://www.mormonmesoamerica.com

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Post by The Dude »

bcspace wrote:Faith can be proved (Hebrews 11:1, John 7:17).

Superstition cannot (by definition).


- 3 atheists
- 2 agnostics
- 6 Jehovah's Witnesses
- 2 Scientologists
- 5 contemporary LDS
- 2 LDS circa 1836, via time travel
- 3 Followers of John Frum (as referenced in the above thread)
- 4 Catholics
- 2 Moonies
- 2 Krishnas
- 3 followers of Jim Jones, circa 1973 (via time travel)
- 2 followers of David Koresh, circa 1990 (via time travel)
- 3 followers of Marshall Applewhite/ Heaven's Gate circa 1996 (via time travel)

15 members of your audience consider your reference to New Testament scripture a "silly superstition" and several others who do believe in Biblical authority disagree with your use of those passages.

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Post by CaliforniaKid »

I have been having an interesting discussion along these lines with "Always" over at the Keving Graham forums. "Always" is taking the relativist approach.

Isaiah 55:8-9
For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my
ways, saith the LORD. ...

I don’t believe finite man without help from above will successfully judge what an infinite Being will or will not do rightly....

[The Sister Mary Lisa blog] reminds me of the Steve Benson’s of mankind, who do a good job of letting the “abundance of their heart” hang out in public view, while pointing the holy finger of distain at dead people who cannot defend themselves, which is rather cowardly, upon subjects written by those with an ax to grind, for who knows why. The fact that they would descend to such levels, tells a tale of “their” life.


I replied,

Is it similarly "cowardly" to grind the axe against Jim Jones and Heaven's Gate? The case of Joseph Smith is less extreme than these others, but we could use the same logic to vindicate them: "God's ways are not our ways, and you're just a finite man, so who are you to judge whether or not God would force an entire community of people to commit suicide? Only a coward would judge the dead!"


Always replies,

All I am saying is let people speak for themselves. A bunch of people who voluntarily drink some punch simply because they were told to speaks for itself... I thought [the Heaven's Gate people] were nuts….but I felt sorry for them. And I didn’t spend any time writing some article to try and degrade them.


And I said,

Imagine, though, if there was a lively and healthy religion today based on Heaven's Gate or Jonestown, which glorified the early days of those faiths and covered up or ignored the "real" story of what went on there. Imagine also that your aunt, uncle, and several friends are members of this faith. Would you want your friends to dedicate their lives to something so patently false? I suspect you might even find yourself writing an article "exposing" what a nut Jim Jones was. It's one thing not to degrade the dead. It's quite another to let millions of people build a belief system around a man whose actions were patently ungodly. Maybe you don't care that Joseph Smith did certain things. Maybe you are content to let the past be past and let God sort it out. But I am committed to finding religious truth (rather than a religious sugar pill) to guide my life and the lives of those I care about. In the search for religious truth, the study of the past is of supreme importance. What's more, we must not only study the past but also pass judgment on it and arrive at conclusions about it.

Feel free to point your own holy finger of disdain at us Steve Bensons who have an axe to grind, but I for one will continue to expose charlatanry wherever it is found.


Maybe the fact that people would drink poisoned punch just because they were told to may well speak for itself in my or your eyes. But for people who are a part of a cult like Heaven's Gate, it does not speak for itself. Jim Jones and Heaven's Gate are part of a long tradition of religious deception, and I think it is very important to tell the world about them and to expose the dangers of said deception. The very idea that we would avoid telling the true story of Jonestown for fear of "degrading the dead" is patently absurd. There are important truths to be learned from its example, not the least of which is that when a religious leader starts asking people to do things that seem morally wrong, the red flags should go up. We should ask ourselves, is this religious leader following in the tradition of the tens of thousands of religious deceivers who have been hoodwinking people throughout history?

I can't imagine letting religious falsehood go unchallenged. If there really is a true religion (and surely Mormons would agree that there is), then it seems to me that it is of supreme importance to figure out which one it is! How can a sincerely religious person commit him/herself to thoroughgoing relativism?

-CK

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Post by wenglund »

beastie wrote:
While I didn't explicitly answer "no", I think a careful and thoughtful reading of my post would show it as strongly and unmistakably implied--which is cry from "dodging" the question as you mistakenly suggest.

And, I just reread the other responses, and besides Nehor's post, I can't see where "relativity" could be reasonably construed in what the others said, and even Nehor's post would be a stretch in that regard.


I didn't say Nehor's post was relativist.


Nobody said that you did. I only suggested that of all the post, it is the only one that could even remotely be construed as "relativist". Whereas, you did claim: "others have been embracing relativity". Who did you have in mind?

I admit I don't quite know how to classify Tsu statement:

The chaos magician takes the opposite tact: 'Nothing is true, everything is permitted.' From this perspective, neither group of fundamentalists is right, nor is the relativist in the middle correct. Everyone is equally wrong (including the chaos magician). From this perspective it doesn't matter if equally false statements contradict; they were wrong to begin with. Nor does it make sense to attempt some sort of rectification. Any attempt to steer a middle ground will eventually just end up in either ditch.


So am I to guess that your answer to cinepro's question is no, one cannot explain how to tell the difference between silly superstition and real faith?


No, you are not to guess that. Rather, you would be correct to guess that there is no shared methodologies which would enable me or anyone else to bring the diverse audience to a concensus in distinguishing real faith from silly superstition. In short, it can't be done.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Post by CaliforniaKid »

To answer the question from my point of view, I think that the only reliable way to discern religious truth is through reason. And even that assumes that one is of sound mind, which is why I think the search must be carried out by a large number of people working in cooperation for the purpose of discerning (not of defending) religious truth. I am a big fan of the Greek and Roman philosophers, like Xenophanes, Plato, et. al. I also think that Hegel, Nietzsche, and Aquinas have a lot to offer. These are men who used reason to try to discern religious (or non-religious) truth. Of course, all of them are rationalists more than empiricists. The way forward is probably to apply the scientific method to questions like ESP, near-death experiences, prayer, hauntings, and the like. The Afterlife Experiments by Gary Schwartz are a place to start, I think. They have been vigorously criticized by skeptic Ray Hyman, but I think that in some respects Hyman overstates his case. I can only hope that such research will continue.

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Post by The Dude »

CaliforniaKid wrote:The way forward is probably to apply the scientific method to questions like ESP, near-death experiences, prayer, hauntings, and the like. The Afterlife Experiments by Gary Schwartz are a place to start, I think. They have been vigorously criticized by skeptic Ray Hyman, but I think that in some respects Hyman overstates his case. I can only hope that such research will continue.


Ray Hyman really trashes the Afterlife Experiments: http://www.csicop.org/si/2003-01/medium.html

In your earlier post, you described a long tradition of bogus religious leaders. Of course you are aware of the long tradition of bogus mediums. Certainly the scientific method IS the way to analyze such claims -- but it's got to be done right. Even Publishers Weekly gets a funny vibe from Dr. Gary Schwartz:

Amazon.com wrote:From Publishers Weekly
Schwartz (The Living Energy Universe), director of the Human Energy Systems Laboratory at the University of Arizona, proposes "working with a group of top mediums who have consistently received messages, supposedly from the dead," to investigate whether or not there is indeed life after death. Armed with consummate authority (e.g., logic, scientific research and the focus of a recent HBO documentary), the book progresses through the lab's findings. Of particular fun are the session transcripts, which include running commentary provided by lead investigators. (One sitter describes a medium's performance as "dead on.") That their data will convince readers, the authors believe, is a foregone conclusion: "[E]ven skeptics will begin to evolve as a result of these findings." Yet the story comes off like high-grade magic or a splendid infomercial. Despite the reliance on experts (such as magicians, scientists and videographers), the narrative has the suspect tone of a sideshow barker. All the same, Schwartz embraces an admirable passion for curious knowledge and adamantly resolves to uphold his survival-of-consciousness hypothesis until research proves otherwise.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


I have more confidence in mainstream science and technology than in the disparate fields of parapsychology. It could be that someday we will prove there is life after death... Maybe through the invention of a new brain scanner or spirit detector, like in Robert J. Sawyer's novel The Terminal Experiment. (The most amusing parts of the book are when different religions start grappling with material proof that there is life after death.)

In the meantime, I'm betting that this life is all there is... and it's not so bad, really. The child "Dude" is already dead. So is the teenager "Dude"... just a memory... and the LDS missionary/BYU student/20-something Dude... he's gone too. Soon enought the 30-something "Dude" will also be dead, replaced with aches and some gray hair that I'm already seeing. Now they don't even ID me when I buy beer.

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Post by moksha »

Severian's answer seemed adequate to me:
I would like to define a silly superstition as, a not too serious belief in unknown and unseen forces influencing the living world. Contrast this to serious superstition and you have the same thing but enhanced with all earnestness.

On a working level you would distinguish the difference between serious superstition and religion, by whether or not you believed in it.


Although BCSpace's answer was briefer and concise:
Faith can be proved (Hebrews 11:1, John 7:17).
Superstition cannot (by definition).
Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace

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Post by CaliforniaKid »

The Dude wrote:
CaliforniaKid wrote:Certainly the scientific method IS the way to analyze such claims -- but it's got to be done right.


I'm with you there. Shoddy research sucks for everybody.

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