The choice of belief

The choice of belief

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in London in the 1940s, children prayed before meals: "Thank God for giving us food." Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Hulton/Getty).

after I finished reading Richard Dawkins (1) (Richard Dawkins) 's "God delusion" (2) (The God Delusion)), there was something in the book that impressed me. In response to the question of child abuse by religion, Dawkins replied: "my answer is that sexual abuse is terrible, but there is evidence of the long-term psychological trauma of bringing up children to become Catholics in the first place." it can be worse. " In the five or six years after reading, this sentence still bothers me and makes my thoughts difficult, and its influence is beyond my expectation.

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I have been trained to be a Quaker (Quaker) (3), a member of the Quaker Association since I was a child. I gave up my faith when I was about twenty. Like Dawkins, I am an atheist, but when I look back on my religious education, I have a positive attitude. The church encouraged us young Quakers to think independently, which laid the foundation for my lifelong pursuit of philosophy. The Quaker Society's attention to morality and society is the enlightened master who guides the way of my life. From a completely secular point of view, I see the "inner light" in each of my students-what the Quakers call "the guiding power of God in every soul". So I don't think religious education is the "abuse" of children. I think so, not because Quaker will be a special case. There are some Catholic beliefs that I can never accept, such as the transfiguration of the Eucharist (4) (transubstantiation),) I do not fully agree with Catholic education. But intellectually, I feel inferior to the 19th-century theologian John Henry Newman (John Henry Newman), and socially and morally to people like Vincent de Paul (5) (Vincent de Paul)) and Dorothy Day (6) (Dorothy Day)) who guide their practices by religion.

Dawkins' comments made me think seriously about our choice between theists and atheists. Theism or atheism is not only related to epistemology, that is, the existence of God or (Christian) God. It also has something to do with morality and ethics: should we believe in a certain religion, or specifically Christianity, or should we avoid such beliefs? If I believe in a religion and raise my children to believe in it, am I abusing (abusing) my children?

the views of Alvin Prandinger (Alvin Plantinga), a Christian philosopher and professor at the Indiana University of Notre Dame, are very different from those of Dawkins. As a Calvinist, Prandinger believes that God has given us the ability to know him. As John Calvin (John Calvin) wrote in 1536: "it is indisputable that there is a divine perception in the human heart that (sensus divinitatis), instinctively perceives God." To prevent man from pretending to be unable to know him, (to prevent any man from pretending ignorance), has already put the great ability to know him in man's life at the time of creation. " Prandinger would say that atheists deny the existence of God only because their minds have been corrupted by original sin.

whether we have a moral obligation to believe or not to believe in God seems a bit strange. If I ask, "does the Eiffel Tower exist?" This is a question about epistemology, about knowledge, not about morality. But questions like "do you believe in the Eiffel Tower" or "should you introduce the Eiffel Tower to your children" are simply inexplicable. But the question about God-- now using the Christian God to restrain yourself-- is very different. Generally speaking, we will not bump into God in the supermarket, nor will we see God appear in the skyline (skyline) in Paris. Even if he had a conversation with you-just as he had a conversation with Joan of Arc-he might not have spoken to me. As Joan's interrogators pointed out, we have no evidence that we should believe that God has spoken to her or you. You may be making it up, or you may be insane. We can reach a consensus on the existence of the Eiffel Tower, but on the issue of God, there is room for debate, which requires our judgments and ideas.

the moral aspect of such a problem is also approaching us from two different and related aspects like a flood. first, do we have a moral obligation to believe in or not to believe in God? Second, what are the consequences of faith? Should we promote faith in society and teach our children about God?

should we morally believe in God? William Kington Clifford (William Kingdon Clifford), a nineteenth-century English mathematician and philosopher, mentioned the "ethics of belief" (ethics of belief): you should only believe in things that you have sufficient evidence to prove. If you have a malignant tumor, after testing the doctor told you that you have cancer, so that you have a positive second diagnosis (confirming the second opinion), you can only accept this conclusion. If you are already strapped and spend the last few coins on the lottery, the idea of winning the lottery may give you some comfort, but you should not believe it. It's not just because you shouldn't bet big on what's possible. It's wrong anyway because you don't have the money. And because, as Clifford might say, you shouldn't deceive yourself in the first place. Self-deception is wrong-- a moral mistake.

William Kington Clifford (William Kingdon Clifford), 19th century English mathematician and philosopher

what about God? People are divided here. Some people don't believe in God, such as Dawkins and I. Others believe he exists, such as the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury. People disagree, but you can still choose to be on one side. In my Florida neighborhood, most people don't believe in evolution. I think they are wrong, and I think there is no room for discussion: they are indeed, absolutely, completely and completely wrong. some people think that belief in God is so obvious: there are people in both camps who think that the other side's view is true, absolute, complete and completely wrong. I think if you firmly think so, then no matter which camp you are in, you are aware of your moral obligations, as Clifford might say.

what about people like me? Can I be so sure that the other person must be wrong? Like most sophisticated Christians, I think the Bible is a story about how nomadic people understood the concept of "Creator" and perfected it. In particular, we can see the Old Testament as a record of growth: from infancy to childhood to adulthood until we get the loving God in the New Testament Gospel. Although there are still problems in the literal meaning and metaphorical meaning of the Bible, they can be answered in the end. On the other hand, I think some things make the existence of God untenable. First of all, the concept of God itself is chaotic-the Christian God is an unstable mixture of ancient Greek gods, immutable and immutable concepts, while the Jewish God is related to the individual and part of his daily life. Besides, I cannot accept that God and sin exist together in the world. For me, when Anne Frank (Anne Frank), the little author of Anne's Diaries, died in a Nazi concentration camp in Bergen Belson, so did God. In the end, I think everything about faith is just self-deception.

Anne Frank (Anne Frank), the little author of Anne's Diary

but on the other hand, I can understand why some people choose to believe in God. Why isn't the world empty? I don't mind saying I don't know, but others don't think so. When they say that there must be some truth in it, I think what they say is also quite reasonable. Similarly, I'm happy to believe that "consciousness" and "perception" happen to exist, even if I can't explain how can a meat computer think? But if religious believers can only understand the existence of consciousness through the existence of God, I can't stop them from doing that, and I don't want to stop them. If someone sincerely says that he can understand the existence of heinous evil only through religion, I will not ignore him because he is stupid or hypocritical. The theologian (A process theologian), who followed Alfred North Whitehead (7) (Alfred North Whitehead)) might argue that God gave up his power-that is, divinity gave up (kenosis) so that he could suffer with us. Only by looking at the God who stands beside Anne and mourns her death can we live and make life meaningful. This explanation may not be correct-- at least I don't think it's true-- but I wouldn't say that people who believe in it are morally wrong.

quite frankly, I am still groping for the direction of thinking. But for me, it is immoral to believe in God. In Clifford's words, I shouldn't believe so, because I have no reason to do so. But this is not to say that all those who believe in it are immoral in terms of belief: on the contrary. I am referring to people who try to think about these issues and decide to believe in the existence of God. It is immoral for them not to believe in God. Isn't that self-contradictory? I don't think so. This kind of problem is quite thorny. When those who disagree with you on God have good reason to convince themselves, to some extent you have to respect his integrity. Of course, we may have to take a tougher attitude when it comes to the consequences of these beliefs, just as we will when the reasons for those beliefs prove unreliable.

it's not right for atheists like me and Dawkins to inculcate our children with religious ideas. I have always followed this rule: although I have a deep affection for the Quaker education I received as a child, I have been careful not to impose it on my five children. similarly, I think devout Christians also have a moral obligation to raise their children to be Christians.

of course, this is the problem. If it's just about training kids to be fans of Arsenal Football Club, or Manchester United, or sadly, like me, turning kids into Wolves fans (because I spent my childhood in the middle of England), then no one cares too much. But when it comes to religion, things get complicated. We like to control our own and other people's lives according to our religious or non-religious beliefs. In our society, there are fierce disputes over gay rights, the death penalty, national welfare, the social status of women, especially abortion. Everyone wants to tell others what to do and what not to do in the name of God or other ways. Religious beliefs can influence the society that affects my beliefs and behaviors.

so we began to find that the moral aspect of faith is not as simple as I just pointed out. Suppose a person is a loyal Nazi and believes that Jews are heinous sins. I don't want any children to be raised in this way. But according to my argument just now, do I have an obligation to defend Nazi moral loyalty? I don't think so. I am willing to admit the loyalty of a Christian only because their reasons seem reasonable to me, even if they are not enough to convince me. If nothing else, today's Nazis refuse to recognize the indisputable results of modern genetic research, so in any case, believing in Nazis is a reasonable choice. It is immoral to become a Nazi, and it is also immoral to raise a child to be a Nazi.

if Christianity means being a Quaker, or a liberal Anglican, or a theorist who opposes the Trinity, then I don't mind people holding such beliefs. But let's assume that part of your Christian faith believes that homosexuality is abnormal in some sense. The Catholic catechism (Catechism) reiterates that whether this tendency is inborn or pathological, treatable or untreatable, permanent or temporary, it is an objective abnormality and an intrinsically abnormal tendency. But psychology and biology have taught us so much about the nature and origin of sexual orientation that such claims are untenable. Let's talk about what makes sense. About 5% of people are gay. Not to mention other disciplines, evolutionary biology alone tells us that there are sufficient biological reasons for such proportions because natural selection maintains them. So, obviously, from a moral point of view, (clearly and morally), I don't think you should believe that claim, nor should you teach it to any child, including your child. They don't have enough evidence to prove themselves, so they don't meet Clifford's standards.

I don't like Catholicism or Protestantism to teach their children that homosexuals are "inherently dysfunctional" because such education can lead to misfortune and retrogression of social policy.

although I think Catholicism should avoid the idea of "inborn disorder", I don't think it is an essential element of their faith. The Catholic concept of sex is based on the theory of the law of nature, clearly expressed by Aquinas, and can be traced back to Aristotle (he believes that morality should be consistent with nature). Modern science makes us rethink the nature of non-heterosexual tendencies and behavior. In this context, it can be said that homosexuality is not only not "born abnormally", but also very likely to be very normal. Homosexuals should fall in love with homosexuals and should not fall into the quagmire of "self-deceiving" (mauvoise foi) to cover up their sexual orientation.

religious teachings about homosexuality are not true, which is just one of the reasons why we should reject such teachings. I do not like Catholicism or Protestantism to teach their children that homosexuality is "inherently abnormal" because such education can lead to misfortune and retrogression of social policy. Two of my students are heterosexual and are about to get married, and I, who have just been qualified as a notary, will be their master of ceremonies. Two of my students are gay. It would be too bad if they wanted to get married because gay marriage is forbidden in Florida.

at the same time, I am also worried that the state government will sneak into people's homes and monitor what parents say to their children. It is a greater social evil for the government to force people to be consistent than to allow wrong or even dangerous views to spread at home. But not everyone will agree with me. For example, Plato would rather force people to believe in the wrong things to maintain social harmony. In the Republic, although Plato was skeptical of the gods on Mount Olympus, it was clear that he believed in a certain god. However, he believes that religious belief is necessary to maintain the order of the ideal society he described. In the (Laws) of the Law, Plato proposes that unbelievers should be put in prison, subject to extreme thought control, deserve only the service of slaves, and be buried anonymously after death. I think the two terrible regions of the last century-Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia-have made it clear to us that forced unity of faith is extremely harmful. No matter whether God exists or not, whether it is reasonable to believe in God or not, we simply do not know whether it is good for society to believe in God or not to believe in God.

sociologists have not provided much substantial help. They have done some surveys (which are often supported by religious groups, which may not be surprising), pointing out that religion does help people pursue noble morality and maintain the steady development of society. One of my favorite findings is a 2008 conclusion by the Panas Research Center, a Christian research agency, that religious believers are less nosy than atheists. A more serious piece of evidence comes from American tax returns, which point out that people in more religious states are more likely to donate to charities, although in fact, those charities are usually their churches. On the other hand, many European countries have lower religious piety but have better government-supported social networks, so they have higher levels of health and longevity. In other words, states with Obamacare reform (such as New York) may be happier than non-states (such as Mississippi), even if Mississippi has higher levels of religious piety and charitable donations. A non-believer may be as moral as a believer, except that he prefers to contribute to society through taxes rather than voluntary donations. Another interesting finding is that downloading from the InternetIn Utah, where Mormons gather, the number of porn downloads is the highest in the country.

regardless of the side effects of believing or not, it is not clear whether everyone believes in God or no one believes in God. There is no simple answer, we should let people make their own choices, no matter how tense the situation may become. So I went back to Dawkins and his controversial view that instilling religious ideas in children is child abuse. To some extent, I think he is wrong. If you weigh the evidence and finally choose to be religious, then I would say that morally you should believe. But measuring evidence means taking science and other experiments more seriously, but many believers are reluctant to do so. I would like to say that you must teach your faith to your children or purify your children. However, if someone's religious reasons are contrary to what everyone thinks is reasonable evidence (such as the discovery of modern science), then I would say that he should not teach those beliefs to children, and the rest of us must condemn his actions.

I have devoted most of my life to fighting rough biblical literalism (8) (biblical literalism)), demonstrating its error and moral hazard on the podium, in court, and books and magazines. Children should learn the theory of evolution. But I am not calling for the enforcement of unity of faith. Of course, if parents teach their children potentially harmful ideas, such as women being born with polygamous marriages, then society should intervene. But usually, we have to measure the problem before making a decision. So I won't ask the thought police to check the Sunday school teaching at the local Baptist (Baptist Church) church. You might think my idea is more indecisive than Richard Dawkins's. Maybe you're right. But it's also possible that things are much more complicated than he thought. Although I may not be all right, I am not entirely wrong.

Translation Note:

1. Richard Dawkins: a famous British evolutionary biologist, animal behaviorist, and popular science writer, he is one of the most famous and outspoken atheists and evolutionists alive today. author of "selfish Gene", "extended-expression", "God illusion" and so on.

2. Illusion of God: this book defines God as an illusion, puts forward a large number of strong arguments, boldly negates the existence of God, and points out the scourge of religion and blind belief.

3. Quaker: also known as Quaker or fraternity, is a sect of Protestant Christianity.

4. Eucharist transfiguration: one of the doctrines of Christian theology and sacrament. When Jesus offered holy bread and wine at the last supper, he said, "this is my body" and "this is my blood." In the future, when the church goes to mass, it will be told by the priest of the Lord's ceremony. According to the traditional view of Catholicism, the plastids of bread and wine were transformed into the blood and flesh of Jesus, and the original bread and wine were left in a shape that could only be felt by the five senses.

5. Vincent de Paul: a 17th-century Catholic priest dedicated to helping the poor, revered as a saint in the Catholic Church and made a saint in 1737.

6. Dorothy Day: the most influential American human rights activist of the 20th century. He pursued freedom all his life and was one of the founders of the Catholic workers' movement.

7. Alfred North Whitehead: English mathematician and philosopher. Its "course and reality" (Process and Reality) lays the foundation for the philosophy of process and is a great contribution to western metaphysics.

8. Biblical translations: also known as a canonist, refers to the idea that the literal meaning of the Bible is not metaphorical and symbolic. Biblical literalism is a literal recognition of the Bible, regardless of whether it conforms to faith or not.