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Activism, Atheism, Theist Wackiness

Why Do I Hammer Beliefs?

Dodger asks, “So i ask you again, why have you started a blog where you try hammer beliefs, which are neither better nor worse than yours?”

It’s a fair question to ask, and I think it’s important enough to answer in a separate blog post.

To begin with, let’s be very careful of the language we use.  My blog only appears on your computer monitor if you click a link to it or type in the URL.  I wouldn’t even know how to do that annoying thing where you’re trying to go to one website and another website pops up in front of you, even though you had no interest in seeing it.  Anyone who comes to this site does so because they want to.  So, if there is any implication of me forcing anyone else to hear my side of things… well… I’m not.

What else might “hammering beliefs” entail?  Perhaps Dodger is upset that I illustrate the incorrectness of other beliefs while attempting to convince people of mine.  Well, to that, I suppose I’m guilty as charged.  I do believe in what I write about.  I also believe that my topics are important to other people, and that if they believe as I do, their lives will likely be better in some tangible way.   I also know that sometimes, a person will only search for a new answer to a question when their old belief has been proven wrong.  So I point out the inadequacies in things I believe are wrong.  I am insistent, primarily because I have empathy for my fellow humans, and I want them to be as happy and self-actualized as possible in this life.

It feels like this little presentation is getting stale, and that everyone ought to have heard it by now, but I guess I have to follow through with it to the end.  Christians do exactly the same thing.  So do Muslims. But it’s not just the religious who insist that their beliefs are true.  It’s also the Democrats, and the Republicans, and the Green Party, and the Libertarians.  The environmentalists believe very strongly in their position, and they try very hard to convince people they’re right.

It’s part of human nature to try to convince others when we believe we’re right.  Is that a bad thing?  What if Copernicus, having observed that the sun did not revolve around the earth, had simply said, “Hmm.  That’s very interesting.  Anyway, time to tend the garden.”  If he had not mentioned that discovery to anyone else, how long would it have been until someone else discovered it?  More importantly, what would have happened if he had told someone else, and then not been insistent that he was correct?  The overwhelming majority opinion of the day was wrong.  Copernicus was right, and it took many years of insistent, vehement argument before society as a whole accepted the truth.

In fairness, Copernicus was less than vitriolic in support of his own theory — not because he thought he was wrong, but because he feared the opposition he would face.  He was a very smart man, but not particularly brave.  One wonders how much faster his view would have taken hold had he had a little more intestinal fortitude.  It’s impossible to say, I suppose.

The beauty of science, though, is that it is not dependent on any individual for its success.  Those who followed Copernicus rigorously tested his theory and found it to be substantially better than prevailing wisdom.  It wasn’t totally correct, though, and in the years that followed, scientists ferreted out the inaccuracies and improved upon our model of the cosmos.

And how did this happen?  At each step of the way, the person who made the discovery told other people, and argued his side until he won the day.

It boggles my mind to think of this, but try to imagine a world in which nobody ever bothered to insist that they were correct.  Off the top of your head, how many persistent beliefs in history can you think of that were completely wrong?  The increase in our collective knowledge as a species is utterly dependent on the insistence of those who believe they are right.

Now, this brings me to the crux of the matter with Dodger.  Dodger believes that my beliefs are objectively no better or worse than his.  And he’s wrong.  I cannot say with 100% certainty that my views are correct and his are incorrect, but in objective reality, either he is right, or I am right, or neither of us is right.  The opinion which conforms to reality is objectively better than any and all opinions which do not conform to reality — for the purpose of determining truth.

We can illustrate this principle very simply.  Suppose that you and I are walking down the street having a snow cone, and we stop on a corner across from a policeman who is watching us with some interest.  Now, suppose you say, “I believe it’s ok for me to just throw my snow cone wrapper on the ground.”  However, I happen to know (because I have read the city ordinance) that there is a fine of two hundred dollars for throwing trash on the ground.  My opinion is that you are likely to be fined if the policeman sees you litter.  Yours is that nothing bad will happen if you litter.

So, which opinion is better?

Mine, of course.  Mine is correct, and yours is incorrect.  Now, suppose I know that you’ll probably get fined, and I say, “Ok.  Your opinion’s as good as mine.  Go right ahead.”  You’ll toss your wrapper on the ground, and the policeman will fine you two hundred dollars.

What’s your reaction likely to be?  Probably, you’ll turn to me in a rage and scream, “Why didn’t you tell me I’d get fined for dropping the wrapper?!  There was a policeman over there!  Don’t you even care about me at all?!”

And you’d be right.  I’d be a very heartless person if I didn’t try to prevent you from getting fined.

But what if you argued with me?   “No.  I’m sure I’m right, and I can throw this on the ground without consequence.”   If I simply shrugged my shoulders and let you go ahead with it, would you think I cared about you?  Probably not.  You’d be mad at you for not arguing my point with more fervor.

So, why do I hammer my beliefs?  Because I think they’re right, and I care about other people.

But, there’s also another reason I post my beliefs.  If I’m wrong, I want to know.  By putting my beliefs out there for everyone on the internet to scrutinize, I’m opening myself up to criticism and counter-argument.  I’m inviting criticism and counter-argument. That’s how knowledge increases.  People put their beliefs out there as strongly as they can, and the opposition tries to refute them as strongly as possible.  In the end, one side’s opinion comes out looking better than the other, and human knowledge increases.

So, with all apologies to Dodger, you can take your indignity and stuff it, my brother.  You’ve been insisting on your side as fervently as I have, and I’ll not have you threaten me into silence as a last ditch effort to avoid open dialog.  If I think your opinion is wrong, I’m going to tell you because I believe it’s important, and that you’d be better off if you believed as I do.  Since I wouldn’t want you to accept my opinion at face value, I’m going to back it up with arguments and evidence.  If you want to talk, let’s talk.  If you want to have your view accepted without question, become a pastor.

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Discussion

15 thoughts on “Why Do I Hammer Beliefs?

  1. Your blog is a rock throwing blog. So far there have been many assumptions and “put all christians in one box” type arguments.
    Have you ever studied the philosophy of religion, it might help you a little to find some kind of structure to your thoughts. Believe it or not all of this has already been discussed and thought about by many scholars. Nothing new under the sun as they say. Anyway gl with the blog, hopefully it’s not just me replying here.
    I will probably not be returning here much since I find too many obvious logical errors and naked assertions but it is a good attempt and I commend you for writing. Not many do express what they think openly.
    best of luck.

    Posted by dodger | January 6, 2010, 8:02 pm
  2. Thanks for responding, Dodger. Good luck in your travels, and may the good lord bless and keep you. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

    Posted by hambydammit | January 6, 2010, 8:30 pm
  3. First off, I have a problem with the idea that one set of beliefs “is neither better nor worse” than another. Absolute truth may be hard to get at, but human beings make judgment calls, and there are certainly some sets of beliefs that are better than others, and worse than others. Without that ability to judge, human beings would live in chaos, without morals.

    Second, as a blogger, I don’t understand why anyone feels it is appropriate to ask why you started a blog. It is a means of personal expression. Period. You need not answer to anyone. Hell, you’re not advertising, not profiting in any way. If Dodger doesn’t like it here, he can mosey along, as you’ve rightly pointed out.

    Third, blogs work when they reveal the passion of the writer. You are passionate about your beliefs, and I respect that. Not only that, I find it interesting. I don’t share your convictions, necessarily, but I am intrigued by your story and your thoughts. Why is that threatening? How could it be?

    Sigh. FWIW, I’ve been waking up mornings to find Google Alert telling me I’ve been called out, taken to task, yet again, in some corner of the internet. I’m learning, slowly, to let it go — not care. I refuse to be intimated by small-minded people.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | January 6, 2010, 11:47 pm
  4. Susan, when something can neither be proved nor disproved we obviously use our judgement. There is no point in telling someone they are wrong in their opinion unless you have a better one. By what standard have you made yourself that better opinion? Calling someone small-minded just shows what type of person you are. Whats the point of insults, do they make you feel better, feel more right?
    I already said blogging is great, so how have you said anything different from me?? I simply asked for the reason, because this blog is not what the author says it is. It’s more of a rock throwing blog than anything else.
    Why would thoughts be threatening? Are you putting words in my mouth again? Thoughts can be scrutinized but not judged. Calling someone small-minded is judging, telling them you disagree with motives or logic is not.
    Please THINK , then post Susan.

    Posted by dodger | January 7, 2010, 8:35 am
  5. Um, Dodger, I’m having trouble making sense of your reply. I referred to small-minded people I’m dealing with in my own experience. You have no idea who they are or what they stand for; you’re hardly in a position to defend them. I actually refer to them in this way because they lash out irrationally, with a kind of misplaced emotional intensity, much as you seem to be doing here. They can’t tolerate dissent, and I do believe that is the sign of a small, and insecure, person.

    No one cares whether you think blogging is great. Hamby’s blog is here for anyone in the entire world to read if they so choose. You have no right to ask him why he started it, or to question his motives. No one is making you come here. If you don’t like it, why don’t you just go find some blogs you like better? What do you hope to accomplish by criticizing Hamby?

    I used the word threatening because your attitude seems defensive. As you say, not many express what they think openly. Hamby argues with intellectual honesty. Your response strikes me as snarky, and your wishing him well reeks of sarcasm.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | January 7, 2010, 8:48 am
  6. “they lash out irrationally, with a kind of misplaced emotional intensity”

    This is the exact definition of most atheists =) In our previous discussion hamby was making very many condescending remarks and naked assertions, just read through them before you comment.

    “You have no right to ask him why he started it, or to question his motives”

    Of course I do, this is a blog that attempts to find truth is it not? If i question someone then that is part of the discussion. If you see it as emotional intensity then the problem is yours, not mine.

    “Hamby argues with intellectual honesty”

    um, no. You must have a different definition of intellectual than I do.

    Its all good to jump in to a conversation late but at least read the posts that lead up to it.

    Posted by dodger | January 8, 2010, 10:30 am
  7. This is the exact definition of most atheists =) In our previous discussion hamby was making very many condescending remarks and naked assertions, just read through them before you comment.

    Are you sure you know what a naked assertion is? I’ll give you an example. “This is the exact definition of most atheists.” Would you care to back that up with any evidence?

    Of course I do, this is a blog that attempts to find truth is it not? If i question someone then that is part of the discussion. If you see it as emotional intensity then the problem is yours, not mine.

    I agree with you. You have every right to ask me any question you’d like answered.

    um, no. You must have a different definition of intellectual than I do.

    This much is obvious.

    Its all good to jump in to a conversation late but at least read the posts that lead up to it.

    Hmmm… I happen to know that Susan is a regular reader, and has read many of my articles. (I have magic computer powers to track that sort of thing.) Would you like to own up and confess to how much of my blog you’ve read?

    Posted by hambydammit | January 8, 2010, 4:36 pm
  8. Hmmm… I happen to know that Susan is a regular reader, and has read many of my articles. (I have magic computer powers to track that sort of thing.)

    Is that an add on or something? Cause I wouldn’t mind some computer tricks at my disposal.

    Posted by Alison | January 8, 2010, 4:49 pm
  9. Is that an add on or something? Cause I wouldn’t mind some computer tricks at my disposal.

    Nah. It’s a computer nerd friend who does things I’m probably not supposed to know about.

    Posted by hambydammit | January 8, 2010, 5:21 pm
  10. I guess I should add that there are plenty of blogs with widgets showing the last ten or twenty viewers, or at least IPs. I’m sure they’re out there.

    Posted by hambydammit | January 8, 2010, 5:53 pm
  11. Hamby,
    This is the exact definition of most atheists…
    I put a smiley face next to it, thought youd catch on that it wasn’t meant to be taken as a proof of any kind, just that it rings true to many atheists I know.
    Also, I don’t need to read all your posts because we were not discussing ALL of them, we discussed one of them. She butted in to a discussion and therefore it makes sense that she read what was written before on that subject. Has nothing to do with how much is read in total.
    Once again you miss the point, as does your fellow reader.

    Posted by dodger | January 8, 2010, 6:04 pm
  12. This is the exact definition of most atheists…
    I put a smiley face next to it, thought youd catch on that it wasn’t meant to be taken as a proof of any kind, just that it rings true to many atheists I know.

    So you were just trying to get as much of a point across as possible without having to defend it? Yeah… that’s a naked assertion. You just want me and my readers to believe you because… well… it’s what you think.

    Also, I don’t need to read all your posts because we were not discussing ALL of them, we discussed one of them.

    So… you were busting Susan’s chops for not reading my blog… and you haven’t read my blog. You’re gaining lots of credibility here.

    She butted in to a discussion and therefore it makes sense that she read what was written before on that subject. Has nothing to do with how much is read in total.

    Oh… I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that you’re the only person who can comment on my blog. I’ll be sure to delete everybody else’s comments, and you can have the final say on everything. I’m sure nobody on the InterwebZ has anything to add to any of the discussions here.

    Personally, I think Susan’s comments show a pretty reasonable depth of understanding of the topic. Seems to me you just like shouting down anyone who disagrees with your naked assertions.

    Speaking of which… how many churches do you think there are in the world? I dunno… hundreds of thousands? Millions? How many atheist organizations are there for spreading atheism? A few dozen? Maybe a few hundred? How many atheists have been arrested for bombing churches or killing pastors? A few? How many atheists spend time protesting outside of churches, as compared with theists protesting outside of abortion clinics?

    I think you’ve got a somewhat skewed view of atheists.

    Posted by hambydammit | January 8, 2010, 11:58 pm
  13. “Speaking of which… how many churches do you think there are in the world? I dunno… hundreds of thousands? Millions? How many atheist organizations are there for spreading atheism? A few dozen? Maybe a few hundred? How many atheists have been arrested for bombing churches or killing pastors? A few? How many atheists spend time protesting outside of churches, as compared with theists protesting outside of abortion clinics?”

    This is so biased its unbelievable. I guess you’re angry. I could make similar arguments and name a few bombers off hand that did not believe in God but it has nothing to do with the discussion. Please calm down hamby, I think we can be adult enough not to accuse each other of belonging to a group of people that are murderers. Clearly that is a skewed view of christianity, ive never met a bomber or pastor killer in my life.

    remember this comment?:
    “they lash out irrationally, with a kind of misplaced emotional intensity”

    now read what you wrote about christians and bombers and pastor killers. Implying that christians are much worse than atheists in that they bomb churches and kill pastors shows me that “you lash out irrationally, with a kind of misplaced emotional intensity”
    was I so wrong in my opinion then?

    “So… you were busting Susan’s chops for not reading my blog… and you haven’t read my blog. You’re gaining lots of credibility here.”

    No, i was busting her chops for not reading the RELEVANT INFO on that discussion. I said nothing about the REST OF YOUR BLOG. I even explained that and yet you bring it up here once again misunderstanding the point. Read the words hamby, and dont jump to conclusions before finishing the sentence. Seems all you are trying to do is find a fault in every sentence written.

    Lets not make more accusations of murder ok? Like i said, we should be above that or at least i’m hoping we are.

    Posted by dodger | January 9, 2010, 12:15 pm
  14. LOL…

    Ok Dodger. Thanks again for your contributions to my blog. You’ll be happy to know that this little discussion of ours has been the most popular article since you started this silliness. To show my gratitude for the free publicity, I’m letting you have the last word, and not responding to your last post.

    (Funny, though… I’ve already written a blog entry about it… but then… you haven’t read any of my blog…)

    Anyway, have a great time doing whatever it is you do, Dodger. I’m going to go burn puppies, drink milk on the expiration date, and use the Lord Jesus Christ’s name in vain while showering… Damn, it’s nice to be an atheist!

    Posted by hambydammit | January 9, 2010, 2:56 pm
  15. Yet another post by you that makes me wonder if you’re still a teenager. Glad you finally made some publicity, it seems you were more concerned about looking good for them than responding to the critique.
    I’m also happy you did not defend your ridiculous thoughts on religion being evil because of a few disturbed peoples actions. At least that means we made some progress.
    ciao.

    Posted by dodger | January 9, 2010, 6:26 pm

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