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What constitutes (religious)belief?

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posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 03:06 AM
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The vast misunderstanding of common terminology and frequent misuse of seemingly simple concepts and ideas has prompted this explanation of what actually entails a religious belief and/or "belief system".

First, I'd like to start out by discussing why beliefs are important and why it is important to understand what a belief actually is. So, I think it's fair to assume we can all agree that beliefs are important. They kind of make us who we are and differentiate us from others. It's what makes you, well, you, along with other things. Almost everything you do can be traced back to some basic belief about the world we live in. As it pertains to religion, the relationship between belief and behavior is demonstrated consistently. In fact, most religious practitioners can be found arguing that their religion is actually the foundation for the (moral)behavior.

Given this link between beliefs and behavior, it becomes apparent that beliefs can be both harmful or beneficial. As an example, the women's rights movement was based on the belief that men and women were created equal and should therefore have equal rights. This is generally considered a beneficial belief, as it leads to beneficial behavior. On the contrary, one can see how racism is founded on a belief that may lead to harmful behavior. The next logical step is to move into the realm of intolerance and tolerance, albeit briefly.

To what degree a belief may lead to harmful behavior will dictate our tolerance/intolerance. Generally speaking, racism is not well tolerated because it is not known to have any beneficial behaviors associated with that particular belief system, with most of the harm being direct, whether physically or mentally. However, beliefs can also cause harm indirectly through misrepresentation and ignorance. As an example, one might believe vaccinations to be harmful out of sheer ignorance and cause harm to those that would listen to their belief and subsequently refuse a vaccine.

So now that we understand how beliefs can and do dictate our behavior, and how our behavior affects not only us but those around us...we can see why our beliefs become quite relevant, and why understanding what an actual belief is, becomes even more important.


The cambridge dictionary defines belief as "the ​feeling of being ​certain that something ​exists or is ​true". A more refined definition, and one I personally find most suitable, is stated as "the mental attitude that some proposition is true". For any proposition, one will either (A)have or (B) lack the mental attitude that it is true. That is to say, you will either have, or lack, a belief. The case of gods is no exception. One will either have the belief a god or gods exist, or one will not. The argument that not having a belief is the same as having a belief is as much invalid as the argument that not swimming is the same as swimming.

Let's take a brief look at some examples to see what a belief is:
(1) The world is flat. Does this represent a mental attitude that some proposition is true? Yes, indeed it does.
(2) The world is round. Although being a counter statement, this too represents a belief. So it is apparent that the proposition does not necessarily have to be true in order for it to represent a belief...

On the other hand, KNOWLEDGE is when the proposition is actually true. I believe the most current and accurate description of knowledge would be "justified, true belief". That is to say, (1)I believe 'X', (2) 'X' is true, and (3)I have good reasons to believe 'X'.

If only 1 & 2 are present, I've made a lucky guess...that doesn't represent knowledge.
If only 2 & 3 are present, I've made an error in believing something contrary to the truth despite having reasons to believe so.
If only 1 & 3 are present, I have a demonstrably erroneous belief.

We can take these 3 conditions and apply them to other things we might consider belief systems, to see whether or not they are actual belief systems, or simply classified as knowledge. Remember, a belief is only the mental attitude that a proposition is true. Knowledge has 3 complete conditions that must be met.

So let's take a common religion, we'll go with Christianity for sake of familiarity. There are several mental attitudes that encompass christianity, but at it's core is the figure Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. They believe this proposition is true...to meet the criteria to be classified as knowledge however, it would also have to be proven to be true, which by all accounts, has not happened thus far. Not only that, we may call into question whether or not it is a justified belief in the first place. For this reason, Christianity cannot be classified as knowledge, but definitely is a belief system.

To demonstrate what is NOT a belief, I will use what is commonly misunderstood as a belief - Atheism/Agnosticism. Like I have said, one will either have a belief, or NOT have a belief.

For sake of time, and the risk of CTS(carpal tunnel syndrome), I will skip defining atheism, as it has already been done numerous times here on ATS.

So, the question arises, is atheism the mental attitude that a proposition is true? No, it absolutely is not. Atheism is in fact, the mental attitude that a proposition is NOT true. It is a DISbelief. To say that a disbelief is actually a belief is akin to saying that not breathing is actually breathing. I'll leave it to you to try that one out, but be sure to get back to me if it works out.

To really get this point across, I'm just going to throw in a real world application.

Do you believe that I'm wearing a black shirt? Or, if you prefer, do you believe the proposition "Dave(A2D) is wearing a black shirt" is true?

So, there's no issue with logical or physical impossibility here...the words are simple, there shouldn't be any misunderstanding. There's a problem though, and that problem is with ignorance. You don't possibly have a way to know what I'm wearing right now. I might be wearing a green shirt, a blue shirt, no shirt at all, or yeah, a black shirt. There's just no justification for you to believe that I'm wearing a black shirt. You can believe that it's possible. But, in the end, there's no reason for you to conclude that, yes, Dave is wearing a black shirt...

At the same time, there isn't any justification for you to believe that the proposition is false. Your ignorance of what color shirt I'm wearing(or not wearing) should prevent you from denying this proposition in the same manner as it prevents you from affirming it. So you can see, not believing that the proposition is true isn't the same as believing the proposition is false.

You don't believe my claim, but you can't reasonably deny it either.

Atheism and Agnosticism do not constitute "belief systems" for this reason. They do not affirm any proposition(s).

A2D




posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 03:19 AM
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a reply to: Agree2Disagree

I disbelieve that you have no shirt, therefore I feel smug.

All discussion of colour of shirt is ignorant babble and I am so not interested that I will devote countless hours to tell you so.




posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 03:28 AM
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a reply to: wisvol

I see what you attempted to do there....

A clear example of how belief can and does dictate behavior.

A2D



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 03:32 AM
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a reply to: Agree2Disagree
You define "belief" as "a mental attitude that a proposition is true".
If that is going to be the definition, is it desirable to have a separate term for "mental attitude" without the qualifying phrase? I think many who talk about "belief" are using the word in that broader sense.

Arguably, all consciously willed behaviour has a mental attitude of some kind lying behind it.
edit on 2-3-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 03:46 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Granted it's difficult to distinguish between the two, however, there's no need for a separate term. Mental attitude can be defined as a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways. Although it involves beliefs, it does not have to.

Culture is one example of a "mental attitude" that does not necessarily involve beliefs, as it's mostly defined as "all the knowledge and values shared by a society".

A2D



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 03:57 AM
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a reply to: Agree2Disagree




So, the question arises, is atheism the mental attitude that a proposition is true? No, it absolutely is not. Atheism is in fact, the mental attitude that a proposition is NOT true. It is a DISbelief.



If I have the explicit belief that there is no God(s), does that then not constitute atheism?

Yes. Yes it does.




A more refined definition [of belief], and one I personally find most suitable, is stated as "the mental attitude that some proposition is true".


Is "the truth is that there is no God" not as much a proposition as "the truth is that there is a God"?

Yes. Yes it is.



Expressed atheism, as I see it, is a believe.
It is not, however, (a) faith but rather (a) notion or opinion.

See, if we were to be concise and just stop using "belief" as the placeholder word it most often is for faith, notion, opinion and the likes, then the confusion would stop too.

Or so I believe.




edit on 2-3-2016 by DupontDeux because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 04:02 AM
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originally posted by: DupontDeux


If I have the explicit belief that there is no God(s), does that then not constitute atheism?

Yes. Yes it does.


Yes. There are atheists who make the claim that there is no god...but there are also atheists who do not. Atheism is not defined by individual claims, but by a collective disbelief.






Is "the truth is that there is no God" not as much a proposition as "the truth is that there is a God"?

Yes. Yes it is.


Atheism does not make that claim. There are however, individual atheists that do. These individuals would be classified as "strong" atheists.




Expressed atheism, as I see it, is a believe.
It is not, however, (a) faith but rather (a) notion or opinion.

I concur.


See, if we were to be concise and just stop using "belief" as the placeholder word it most often is for faith, notion, opinion and the likes, then the confusion would stop too.

Or so I belief.(sic)


As do I.

A2D



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 04:05 AM
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Any form of deism is religious. If you believe in intelligent design but don't wish to speculate or submit to fallacies like Christianity, you can still be religious. Nobody has ever met a God that it can be proven he exists. You can create a religion by sunrise and it would be more believable than Christianity.

But you can also believe in God and not be religious. Personally I believe in reincarnation until spiritual liberation from human beliefs and doctrinal prisons made by man to enslave man occurs. I don't believe in hell. My beliefs are in line with Zoroastrianism, the religion that spawned Christianity and altered Judaism forever.



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 04:13 AM
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a reply to: Bezelel


You can create a religion by sunrise and it would be more believable than Christianity.


Not exactly. It would be equally unbelievable...because (A)the deity would be unproven and (B) it would be unreasonable to assume the proposition is true....which is exactly the same failure points we see with other religions...

A2D



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 04:42 AM
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a reply to: Agree2Disagree

To me religious beliefe is the foundation, the first step, for becomming religiously certain as a result of having faith in a particular religious teaching, that does have a particular method to get one to know (and see) for oneself.

In other words: Religous beliefe is the basis for religious knowlegde. And religious knowledge means, to me: To know for sure that the religious teaching-method one was being taught definitely leads to Self-knowledge in a religious sense. One re-connects to ones spiritual order, ones sampradaya. When that happens, one is not a (mere) believer anymore.

And it should not take much more than about three years of serious sadhana (spiritual exercise) to get to know if a certain religious teaching, a given method, is truely leading one to the end, which is Self-knowledge.

In my case asking these questions seriously and persistently, helped me a lot:

1.) Who or what am I?
2.) Where am I? What is this place/space I find myself in?
3.) Why and what for am I here? What's my unique part in it?

And mantra-yappa (repeating certain phrases/sounds), of course, to help to speed up the process.




posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 04:43 AM
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A self evident truth, that others try to cling to after grasping and placing a stumbling block of conveincing and convention of just a small part of truth... presenting it as the whole truth as a burden on their and societies shoulders... when all great sages recognized and not have already bore this burden.

nothing wrong with walking but when you think your done mind your tongue does not become a fork onto which you start dining on other with... as when it snatches the apples from the mothers eye and places a lump in the throat? its just that old goat... that tries to escape for something else upon which to rape. balance is the scale of law. and justice in her wisdom is not blind at all to the weights and measures of the heart. if your mind is heavy then it is a burden, if the heart weeps? the path has been set beneath your feet... tread on a belly roars with hunger even when full... listen closely and listen wisely and when it rumbles feed it. where do you see imbalance on your scales? snatching from another just puts one on a horse that pales against the truth and rails against all others.

if youve a doubt? that is a calling to walk some more as there is more yet to see... beyond he me she and they.

have a great day.



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 04:47 AM
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a reply to: Agree2Disagree

Yeah, I typed 'belief' once too many there. :-) I'll hide behind my 'English learner disclaimer' though, haha. But you still got the point; that I did not claim my post to be hard facts but rather to be opinion, right?

Ok, this post will be sort of of topic (so just ignore it, if you feel for that), but only 'sort of', because in my opinion the changing of the definitions that is going on is part of the problem. Anyway..


Atheists who do not make the claim that there is no God but 'just' do not believe in God are not considered atheist in my book (that book being my dictionary). That as much closer to agnosticism.

Traditionally 'atheism' is a theist term, but in the later years non-theists have, with some succes, tried to claim the word as theirs and have subsequently worked on bending its meaning.

Here is a quote from "American Atheists" to illustrate:



Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as "a belief that there is no God."



See how non-theists works on changing the definition and in the process claim the word? You will see the same thing if you go to Wikipedia. I really think it is a problem for discussions and for the ability to reach mutual understandings, when that happens, because suddenly you have to not only share language but also point of view for you to properly debate.

Combine that with unconcise language, the frequent use of placeholder words in the era of Political Correctness and the attitude in online fora, and you have a recipe for rhetorical disaster.

If we at least could agree on what it is we really are discussing..



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 04:48 AM
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a reply to: Agree2Disagree

My mistake, you are correct.



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 05:36 AM
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a reply to: DupontDeux

I agree. The definition changes are, in my opinion as well, a major contributing factor to the confusion. However, that begs the question...who makes the definitions in the first place? It only makes sense that an atheist should define atheism....or that an agnostic should define agnosticism....

If you believe in "BlushyBlueGoo", I'd want to hear what that actually entails from you, not from your neighbor Joe who believes in "FlushyPooGoo"....likewise, I wouldn't take your word concerning what your neighbor believes....

As has been mentioned, some atheists simply lack a belief...while others believe there is no god....therefore their individual definitions of atheism will vary.

A2D
edit on 2-3-2016 by Agree2Disagree because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 05:39 AM
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originally posted by: Agree2Disagree
The vast misunderstanding of common terminology and frequent misuse of seemingly simple concepts and ideas has prompted this explanation of what actually entails a religious belief and/or "belief system".

First, I'd like to start out by discussing why beliefs are important and why it is important to understand what a belief actually is. So, I think it's fair to assume we can all agree that beliefs are important. They kind of make us who we are and differentiate us from others. It's what makes you, well, you, along with other things. Almost everything you do can be traced back to some basic belief about the world we live in. As it pertains to religion, the relationship between belief and behavior is demonstrated consistently. In fact, most religious practitioners can be found arguing that their religion is actually the foundation for the (moral)behavior.

Given this link between beliefs and behavior, it becomes apparent that beliefs can be both harmful or beneficial. As an example, the women's rights movement was based on the belief that men and women were created equal and should therefore have equal rights. This is generally considered a beneficial belief, as it leads to beneficial behavior. On the contrary, one can see how racism is founded on a belief that may lead to harmful behavior. The next logical step is to move into the realm of intolerance and tolerance, albeit briefly.

To what degree a belief may lead to harmful behavior will dictate our tolerance/intolerance. Generally speaking, racism is not well tolerated because it is not known to have any beneficial behaviors associated with that particular belief system, with most of the harm being direct, whether physically or mentally. However, beliefs can also cause harm indirectly through misrepresentation and ignorance. As an example, one might believe vaccinations to be harmful out of sheer ignorance and cause harm to those that would listen to their belief and subsequently refuse a vaccine.

So now that we understand how beliefs can and do dictate our behavior, and how our behavior affects not only us but those around us...we can see why our beliefs become quite relevant, and why understanding what an actual belief is, becomes even more important.


The cambridge dictionary defines belief as "the ​feeling of being ​certain that something ​exists or is ​true". A more refined definition, and one I personally find most suitable, is stated as "the mental attitude that some proposition is true". For any proposition, one will either (A)have or (B) lack the mental attitude that it is true. That is to say, you will either have, or lack, a belief. The case of gods is no exception. One will either have the belief a god or gods exist, or one will not. The argument that not having a belief is the same as having a belief is as much invalid as the argument that not swimming is the same as swimming.

Let's take a brief look at some examples to see what a belief is:
(1) The world is flat. Does this represent a mental attitude that some proposition is true? Yes, indeed it does.
(2) The world is round. Although being a counter statement, this too represents a belief. So it is apparent that the proposition does not necessarily have to be true in order for it to represent a belief...

On the other hand, KNOWLEDGE is when the proposition is actually true. I believe the most current and accurate description of knowledge would be "justified, true belief". That is to say, (1)I believe 'X', (2) 'X' is true, and (3)I have good reasons to believe 'X'.

If only 1 & 2 are present, I've made a lucky guess...that doesn't represent knowledge.
If only 2 & 3 are present, I've made an error in believing something contrary to the truth despite having reasons to believe so.
If only 1 & 3 are present, I have a demonstrably erroneous belief.

We can take these 3 conditions and apply them to other things we might consider belief systems, to see whether or not they are actual belief systems, or simply classified as knowledge. Remember, a belief is only the mental attitude that a proposition is true. Knowledge has 3 complete conditions that must be met.

So let's take a common religion, we'll go with Christianity for sake of familiarity. There are several mental attitudes that encompass christianity, but at it's core is the figure Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. They believe this proposition is true...to meet the criteria to be classified as knowledge however, it would also have to be proven to be true, which by all accounts, has not happened thus far. Not only that, we may call into question whether or not it is a justified belief in the first place. For this reason, Christianity cannot be classified as knowledge, but definitely is a belief system.

To demonstrate what is NOT a belief, I will use what is commonly misunderstood as a belief - Atheism/Agnosticism. Like I have said, one will either have a belief, or NOT have a belief.

For sake of time, and the risk of CTS(carpal tunnel syndrome), I will skip defining atheism, as it has already been done numerous times here on ATS.

So, the question arises, is atheism the mental attitude that a proposition is true? No, it absolutely is not. Atheism is in fact, the mental attitude that a proposition is NOT true. It is a DISbelief. To say that a disbelief is actually a belief is akin to saying that not breathing is actually breathing. I'll leave it to you to try that one out, but be sure to get back to me if it works out.

To really get this point across, I'm just going to throw in a real world application.

Do you believe that I'm wearing a black shirt? Or, if you prefer, do you believe the proposition "Dave(A2D) is wearing a black shirt" is true?

So, there's no issue with logical or physical impossibility here...the words are simple, there shouldn't be any misunderstanding. There's a problem though, and that problem is with ignorance. You don't possibly have a way to know what I'm wearing right now. I might be wearing a green shirt, a blue shirt, no shirt at all, or yeah, a black shirt. There's just no justification for you to believe that I'm wearing a black shirt. You can believe that it's possible. But, in the end, there's no reason for you to conclude that, yes, Dave is wearing a black shirt...

At the same time, there isn't any justification for you to believe that the proposition is false. Your ignorance of what color shirt I'm wearing(or not wearing) should prevent you from denying this proposition in the same manner as it prevents you from affirming it. So you can see, not believing that the proposition is true isn't the same as believing the proposition is false.

You don't believe my claim, but you can't reasonably deny it either.

Atheism and Agnosticism do not constitute "belief systems" for this reason. They do not affirm any proposition(s).

A2D






All that to try and convince people atheism isn't a religion

It surely is a religion and that's not a belief, that's a statement

USSR had representations of their leader to meditate to

Atheism is a bondage, it's a religion

This very op s testament to the bondage you have to atheism



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 05:52 AM
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a reply to: Raggedyman

First, I'm not an atheist. I am actually an "agnostic theist" in a very broad sense.

Second, atheism and religion are entirely different things. I believe I've demonstrated this already. However, I believe this might come from either A) an inadequate understanding of atheism, or B) an inadequate understanding of religion.

In the broadest sense, religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Atheists do not believe in, nor worship, any controlling power. There is nothing "binding" about atheism...I see no bondage.

A2D



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 06:17 AM
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a reply to: Agree2Disagree

I don't care what you claim to be

We will jus have to disagree

That's a lot of words trying real hard to persuade others you are not religious



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 06:45 AM
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a reply to: Raggedyman

I find extremist Christian fanaticism like your's to be spiritual bondage, you believe in a fake god who hasn't been to earth in 2000 years if ever. You are trying to make Christianity look sensible and not ridiculous. Are you in a cult?



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 06:51 AM
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a reply to: Raggedyman

I have to disagree with you here.

Atheism is a philosophy. It has no mythology, it posits no particular leader, suggests no deity, provides for no higher power, accepts the existence of no particular description of an afterlife, and does not concern itself with extra mortal affairs in any way.

Simply put, it is not a spiritual position, but one which denies the existence of the spirit and those things which attend to it.

It could not be more different from a religion, if it were, in fact, an apple pie.



posted on Mar, 2 2016 @ 07:01 AM
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I am happy to accept you disagree

Though if you would like to research the subject you may be surprised how many people hold the position atheism is a religion

I know you won't believe anything i say, so I suggest you go research the subject.
Not that I Would imagine that will change your position

And thanks bezelel, back again so soon




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