Friday, February 27, 2009

When Atheists Call Religion "Supersition:" What We Can Learn form The Defitions

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Robert Boyle



Many atheists make the claim that religion is superstition. One could find many exaples, but the one that I saw most recently and that ticked me off is this one from the CADRE blog:


Blogger David B. Ellis said...

More rationally-inclined people sometimes underestimate just how deep-seated superstition is in the rest of their species.

2/26/2009 02:01:00 PM

I can't wait to see the definition he offers. Ten to one it will be recursive, something like "superstition is believing God or gods." We see an example of that kind of circular reasoning in the definitions below.

Here are Web definitions:

an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear
wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn - Definition in context
Search Results
My belief in God arises neither form ignorance nor from fear. I was a very carefully informed atheist who had spent three summers researching to disprove the bible, and will put my education up against anyone's any time. The presence that I felt when God first revaled himself to me was not a presence of fear. I have felt "afraid" per se in relation to God; although I fequirelntly feel a sense of awe.

1.
superstition: Definition from Answers.com

superstition n. An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.
www.answers.com/topic/superstition - 126k - Cached - Similar pages -

A good epistemologist could argue that about any causal relationship

2.
superstition - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Definition of superstition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.
www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superstition - 34k - Cached - Similar pages -



Main Entry:
su·per·sti·tion           Listen to the pronunciation of superstition
Pronunciation:
\ˌsü-pər-ˈsti-shən\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English supersticion, from Anglo-French, from Latin superstition-, superstitio, from superstit-, superstes standing over (as witness or survivor), from super- + stare to stand — more at stand
Date:
13th century
1 a: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation b: an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition2: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary

As I've already demonstrated my belief in God is not based upon ignorance. To argue that belief in God is ignorance in and of itself the atheist must present that argument proves conclusively there is no God. My belief is not based upon the unknown since I claim to have intimate first hand knowledge (pheneomenoloigcally apprehended).

It might appear to the unwary that this definition says that belief in God is superstition. It does NOT say that! It says "abject" attitude of mind toward.... But iti s alsoa circular definition. This is usual for Webster's to be so lax. but look at it it says

what is the defintion of "superstition?" It is "...abject frame of mind resulting from...superstition."

Defining the word wtih the word.



3.
superstition - definition of superstition


Definition of superstition - An irrational belief - ie, one held in spite of evidence to the contrary - usually involving supernatural forces and associated ...
urbanlegends.about.com/od/glossary/g/superstition.htm - 20k - Cached - Similar pages -
I have made 42 arguments for the existence of God and written several essays about why we don't need arguments. They are all quite good, none of them invole irrationality but demonstrate that belief is rationally warranted.

the clause "usually involving supernatural" is nothing more than propaganda and depends upon how one defines supernatural. I have proved on Doxa that Supernatural is empirical validiated, if we use the original and ture meaning of the term.

Defining supersition as "belief in the supernatural" then using the definition of superstition to prove that belief in supernatural is irrational because it's superstitious is merely circular reasoning.





4.
Definition of Superstition

I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature ...
www.brainyquote.com/words/su/superstition226408.html - 14k - Cached - Similar pages -
The same kind of recursive and circular statement I just got through exposing. What makes it superstitious? Because it's religion. What makes religion superstition? Because it' superstition.


Why do we find so many circular definitions where the word is defined by the word, and religious belief is declared to be something that is derived itself from a criticism of the word used to define it. Religion is superstition, what is superstition?It's belief in religion. Why do we find this state of affairs even in a major dictionary like Webster's? In fact Noah Webster was a devoted Christian so he would not have defined belief in God as superstition per se. I think it's becasue the topic is tainted by the "superstitions" of the enlightenment.

The fault really lies with Newton and Boyle, Christians who were not trying to disprove Christianity but to demonstrate the veracity of their faith through science.They helped to create the attitude of the latter enlightenment that things of the supernatural were superstitious and anti-science. They did this in rebellion against the philosophy of scholasticism.(Willey, Basil. The Eighteenth Century Background: Studies On the Idea of Nature In the Thought of the Period. New York: Columbia University Press, 1941. But it was not because they had made any scientific advances that proved it. They did it purely out of propaganda because they wanted to identify science with their version of the faith. The first step was to identify Newton's physics with science as the only valid model for scientific thought. To do that they had to unseat competing models such as the Cartesian and the Leibnitzian models, or Plenism. They also had to replace the chemical model with the mechanical model. Boyle did all of that by creating his own protocols for scientific experiments and then propagandizing about how scientific he was. This a fascinating story which can be read in Leviathan and the Air Pump by Shappin and Shaffer.(Shapin, Steven and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan And The Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. Princeton University Press, 1985).

Having accomplished that task they then went on to publicize Newton's ideas from the pulpit. Historian Margarete Jacob demonstrates in her ground breaking work The Newtonians that had it not been for the band of rationalist English churchmen known as "The Latitudinarians" Newton's physics might have remained obscure and unknown for fifty years longer, and he may have never been defied to the extent tha the was by English society.Jacob, Margaret C. The Newtonians and the English Revolution: 1689-1720. Ithica New York: Cornell University Press, 1976). The French Philosophes rebelling against the monarchy and the church that supported it on the eve of the French revolution just cast the net bigger and encompass Christian belief of all kinds since that took in the widest possible camp that might be sympathetic to the monarchy.

The birth of modern atheism involved LaPLace and his attempts to draw the circle D'Holbach to its widest possible extent and include even the Philosphe's with their deistic principles outside the circle. The taint took hold and religion was lumped in with superstition, magic, belief in ghost and witches and so forth, at least in the minds of atheists, but not in the minds of the greatest thinkers of age. Although was lost in the taint was very crucial:

(1) A proper understanding of the Sueprnatural, which was pillaged and distorted in order to defame any version of it. The watered down silly version took hold in the public mind as the true nature of supernaturalism.

(2) Scholastic philosophy in so far as it hedged upon the true understanding of the superantural was lumped in with the false understanding of it.

(3) Personal experince or what they used to call "experimental truth" (which was actually phenomenological or experintial) was identified with unreason, with irrational emotionaism and thus with superstition.


The upshot of all of this is that "superstition" is nothing more than a buzz word which atheists use in a propagandist way (complete with circular reasoning and all). Atheists apply their own superstition (fear,ignorance, disconnected logic) in charging religion with being superstitious point blank. The charge is nothing more than a hold over of propaganda from a former age the particulars of which are no longer understood.

9 comments:

David B. Ellis said...

It probably would have been helpful if you had actually waited to hear what I mean by superstitious before attempting a refutation of my view. You'd have saved yourself a lot of wasted effort.

Anyway, my response to your request that I explain what I mean by superstition is now up at the original post in Cadre Comments.

A Hermit said...

Superstition, in my understanding, is the misattribution of a cause to an event where there is no clear demonstrable link. For example, a baseball player has a good game while wearing a new pair of socks; these become his "lucky" socks and he wears them all the time.

Certainly many aspects of religious belief have a similar superstitious nature; the belief in a connection between the water at Lourdes and healing, for example...

Even the belief in God seems to me to be similar in nature; God is posited as the origin of Nature itself, when the the truth is we are ignorant of the Universe's origin.

J.L. Hinman said...

It probably would have been helpful if you had actually waited to hear what I mean by superstitious before attempting a refutation of my view. You'd have saved yourself a lot of wasted effort.

Anyway, my response to your request that I explain what I mean by superstition is now up at the original post in Cadre Comments.


I's not a refutation of your view. I said I'm waiting to hear it. it's a note about the general use of the epithet by many atheists.

J.L. Hinman said...

Certainly many aspects of religious belief have a similar superstitious nature; the belief in a connection between the water at Lourdes and healing, for example...


that can't be. The idea of ether is certainly different than step on a crack break your mother's back. By your logic anytime a scientific hypothesis is proved to be not the case it automatically becomes superstition.

why can't things just be wrong wit out being "superstition."

It's a meaningless insult.

the water at Lourdes has a perfectly logical rationale for healing, it's a symbol of the Holy Spirit, of God's healing power. When it's used it evokes faith. that is totally different form superstition which is based upon understandable connection.


Even the belief in God seems to me to be similar in nature; God is posited as the origin of Nature itself, when the the truth is we are ignorant of the Universe's origin.

If that is what makes an idea superstition, then anything that's wrong is automatically superstition and that means there's nothing irrational about believing superstition because ltos of scientific hypothesis are wrong and believed for rational reasons but are wrong.

also begging the question because if God dies exist then we do know the origin of nature.

David B. Ellis said...


It's a meaningless insult.


Its not meaningless. I gave a distinct meaning to the term as I was using it: an unwarranted non-naturalistic belief.

This, as I explained, seems to me to apply as much to theism, or demon possession, or virgin births, or the resurrection of Jesus as to astrology or "magic" crystals or palm reading or other things christians are themselves often inclined to call superstition.

There is actually no particular reason for you to object to my definition of superstition since, even if you agree with that definition, you disagree that religious belief is unwarranted and, therefore, disagree that religious beliefs qualify as superstitions by my own definition.

The debate might, then, be more profitably focused on whether religious beliefs are warranted rather than on semantics---a matter I'm little inclined to have my time wasted on any further than its already been.

J.L. Hinman said...

Its not meaningless. I gave a distinct meaning to the term as I was using it: an unwarranted non-naturalistic belief.

It's meaningless because the meaning is tautology. You are just saying religion is stupid becasue its' religion. Superstition means religious.

come on now, it can't just mean anything not proved, that can apply to scientific ideas. It can't mean anything not made of matter because energy is not matter, matter is a form of energy. So you are ruling out all kinds of scientific facts.

it can't just mean anything not currently accepted by science because you are ruling future discoveries. What you really mean by that word is "religion. superstition = religious. they are synanimous in your usage.


This, as I explained, seems to me to apply as much to theism, or demon possession, or virgin births, or the resurrection of Jesus as to astrology or "magic" crystals or palm reading or other things christians are themselves often inclined to call superstition.


Yes, because you refuse to see the distinctions, you lump all religious thinking an insulting category for no reason other than that you don't like religion.

In my parlance science and reductionism and number crunching are superstitious.


There is actually no particular reason for you to object to my definition of superstition since, even if you agree with that definition, you disagree that religious belief is unwarranted and, therefore, disagree that religious beliefs qualify as superstitions by my own definition.


what you seem to be saying is that I don't have the right to defend religion. that statement makes no sense at all.


I object to your defition because its meaningless, it could be made to apply to anything, you only use it because you hate religion. But I feel that religious belief is rationally warranted so it's not superstition if by that term you mean unwarranted ideas. But that's not a good definition anyway because lots of things are unwarranted that are not superstition.


The debate might, then, be more profitably focused on whether religious beliefs are warranted rather than on semantics---a matter I'm little inclined to have my time wasted on any further than its already been.

Yes, so stop using epithets and insult terms and put up your rhetorical dukes and show me how religion is unwarranted.

David B. Ellis said...


It's meaningless because the meaning is tautology. You are just saying religion is stupid becasue its' religion. Superstition means religious.


You aren't even bothering to address the actual definition I gave. By my definition superstitions include beliefs which have the two features of being non-naturalistic and unwarranted.

By that definition things that arent religious can be superstition (like palm reading, belief in vampires, etc). And religious beliefs can be nonsuperstitious---so long as the beliefs are warranted.

If you wish to engage with the actual opinions I've expressed I'll be glad to carry on a discussion. If not I will waste no more time here.


what you seem to be saying is that I don't have the right to defend religion.


Please refrain from mischaracterizing my position when I explicitly and clearly said the opposite more than once. To quote what I said earlier:

"The debate might, then, be more profitably focused on whether religious beliefs are warranted rather than on semantics..."

and:

"Only unwarranted supernaturalistic beliefs would fall into the category of superstition. Again, you are free to argue that some or all religious beliefs are, contrary to my opinion, NOT unwarranted and therefore not superstitious."

If you continue to blatantly mischaracterize my views I must conclude that you do not intend to carry out a civil discussion and are unworthy of my time.


Yes, so stop using epithets and insult terms and put up your rhetorical dukes and show me how religion is unwarranted.


It is my opinion that religious beliefs are unwarranted. To prove this would require showing the inadequacy of every argument for religion in every subtle variant for each of them.

It would be absurd to expect someone to do that in a blog discussion----such an undertaking would require thousands of pages of text.

The alternative is obvious, though. Present one good solid argument for your religious beliefs and my contention that christianity is superstition will stand disproven.

J.L. Hinman said...

I am answering your post in the main blog section as a new article.

Kristen said...

It doesn't really work for me to have you use a word heavy with connotation, like "superstition," Mr. Ellis-- and then when someone objects to the term, for you to insist that it only has a certain specialized meaning that you give it.

"Superstition" is connative of ignorance, lack of education, etc. That's the way the word works at this time in our language. To call someone's beliefs "superstitious" is, whether you want to admit it or not, an implied insult. I remember in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,, Humpty Dumpty said that words meant whatever he decided they meant-- not what everybody else meant by them. But it doesn't really work that way. If you're going to use the word "superstition" with regards to people's most dearly held beliefs that give their lives meaning and purpose, don't be surprised if they don't like it-- and if your specialized definition doesn't hold much weight with them.