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What about believing even if you know it is not true? Pragmatic Theism or spirituality.

A friend is very pragmatic concerning spirituality. She is spiritual and I asked her what if the belief is not real but the results are beneficial? Would you want to know the truth. Lets say a family member died and you prayed to spirits and it made you feel better but the spirits did not exist. Would that matter? Would you care? She said no.

I would want to know the truth even if it did not make me feel good. She is of the opinion that as long as it does no harm and may actually help it does not matter.

Lets take another example. A shamen says wash in the river three times a day to clean onself of demons and you will no longer be sick.
The person does and washes away bacteria and does get better as a result. The magic did nothing but the belief of magic caused then person to have better hygiene and thus did get better.

The belief though wrong did cause a positive action that was beneficial though accidentally.
I would rather know the truth that washing keeps one from getting sick. She says it does not matter as long as in the end people are washing and get a benefit.

This is a pragmatic approach to spirituality or theism. What is your take on this? How would you deal with this with a close freind, family member or partner?

DavidLaDeau 8 Jan 17

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I really don't care what people believe. If it helps them get through the rough spots in life, that is fine by me. What l don't like is when those beliefs affect our laws and the rules of our society.

@Gwendolyn2018 There have been times I have wished I had something like that to lean on, but my brain just doesn't work that way.

@Gwendolyn2018 I agree. My fraternal grandmother was religious. I am pretty sure her faith grew out of the fact that my grandfather and my father, her only child, made it through WWll. She never judged people. She never tried to persuade us to join her in that faith. She really walked the walk, and l always respected her for that.


What about believing even if you know it's not true?

Sorry, believing is not something you can just switch on and off. It's not a choice.

If you 'know something is not true' you do not believe it, all you can do is PRETEND to believe it. This is where 'Pascal's Wager' falls apart. If you don't believe in god, and SAY you don't believe, you're a honest atheist. If you don't believe in god and say you do, then you're still an atheist - just a dishonest one.

Hmm. Makes you wonder how many dishonest Atheists there are in church. Almost every church goer I know admits to some amount of doubt (talking snakes and donkeys virgin birth ect...). They like the social aspect of church and a need to belong to a group.


I think you're well within your rights as a human being to put pineapple on your pizza. as long as you keep it on your side of the pizza... nor join any group that is going to Advocate all pizzas have to have pineapple just because you like it. and don't tell me how great it is after i have told you I don't like it.


....groan. Incidental benefit already has a name - serendipity.

Sounds like a waste of skull sweat to me.

Personally, I prefer to use my brain for something other than keeping my eyeballs from rolling back into my head.


Lot of cognitive dissonance there.

5 you lie to yourself about other things too? For example, buy a size 6 when you are a size 18? Just as silly IMO......

It's simply not practical to lie to oneself about anything.


"What about believing even if you know it is not true?"

Sorry, David, but it doesn't work that way. You cannot believe something you know is not true. You can only pretend, which is NOT the same thing, and I wish more people understood that.


I leave people with flawed religious thinking alone, unless they actually ask me about it, which isn't likely to happen. Even then I'd hedge, depending on how strong their beliefs are.

For instance, I would never argue with a Buddhist - I'd just let them be Buddhist.
Besides, I agree with many/most of their inclusive beliefs, and even meditate twice a day, while hiking.


Some people just can't be bothered with thinking. See that a lot in politics as well.

I think you are wrong about the politics bit there. I think they think very much about how to enrich themselves, day and night.

@Jolanta I was thinking of voters.


You can't believe something that you know is not true. That's not how the mind, or language, works.


Pragmatism as defined by "giving up and going along"? So, rather than educate people about germ theory and microbes, just let them believe it's evil spirits, as long as they do what they need to do?


My personal take is that this bullshit is still bullshit.

How would you deal with this with a close friend, family member or girlfriend?

@DavidLaDeau Let's see, close friends are smart, won't even worry about bogus things like spirituality, my family are all catholics, my wife is a buddhist, hence already enough spirituality for them, yet they all know what I think of it, a crapload of bullshit


From a pragmatic standpoint, if you exercise a belief and it results in a positive outcome but for an unrelated reason, why waste your time on this kind of indirection? Wouldn't it be better to know what actually caused the good results so as to concentrate time and effort there, instead of accidentally getting a benefit because a belief happened to coincide with reality? Seems you could multiply the good outcomes that way by deliberately pursuing effective methods.


Arrrgh...people everywhere in our society are using that word "spirituality" but with no clear definition of it. Of course, you're free to define it any way that you want. It's a free country. However, I do use the word now and then, but I have a very clear definition of it. And it does NOT include any gods, angels, ghosts, goblins, and things that go BOO in the night. And my definition remains free of the dastardly sin of Belief.

Every living thing has some form of energy inside it. And we are free to use the word "spirit" to name that form of energy. So you, the reader, and I, the writer (in this case) both have a "spirit" inside somewhere. If we don't have a spirit, then we are said to be "dead."

Now then, MY definition of "spirituality" in MY case is this: Anything that has to do with the form of energy inside me known as my spirit I CHOOSE to call spirituality. Learning and practicing deep mind meditation has allowed me to learn some things about my spirit, chiefly who I am and what I am at my deepest levels all without the masks and delusions created by my conscious thinking mind.


If it's a case of "I truly don't have enough evidence to make a decision" then fine -- do what you will. (Subject to the 'if it does no harm' caveat.)

I personally think it's a shame when a person's ignorance has to be used to fool them into beneficial behavior as with the magical 'thinking' for bathing above.
The people involved don't have all the knowledge. What if the river is contaminated?

Making decisions in ignorance can work out -- even a broken clock is right twice a day.
But it's not a desirable situation. We should always work to be as informed as possible.


"Believing" even if you know its not true? Huh? I think we have different definitions of the word "believe" 🙂

They, they.

@DavidLaDeau Yes. "You" in the collective/3rd party sense, as in "even if one knows its not true".


What is the point of all this??

Self-justification for lame excuses.


Lame excuses for the weak-minded.
It's still intellectually dishonest.
The truth is the moral and intellectual imperative. Always.

How would you try to help them understand that?

@DavidLaDeau I wouldn't.


Sounds like Pascal's Wager 2.0.


I know people, I think, that believe this way. It’s easier and more convenient to just fake belief rather than to delve into the realities. Also, It’s easier to fit in than to stand out. Say.. to go along with a group prayer than respectfully abstain, even when you don’t believe praying works. I think a lot of people practice “pragmatic theism” because it’s just easier to fit in and not question the status quo. Personally I think it’s 👎🏽


"She is spiritual and I asked her what if the belief is not real but the results are beneficial? Would you want to know the truth. Lets say a family member died and you prayed to spirits and it made you feel better but the spirits did not exist. Would that matter? Would you care? She said no."

Ask her "what about people who believe blood transfusions are against God, follow their belief and watch their child die? Are you not doing the same things as them to a lesser extent?

Heroin makes people feel good every day, is that a viable reason to take up heroin?

"She says it does not matter as long as in the end people are washing and get a benefit."
So the ends justify the means?

I did address harm due to false beliefs and she said then it would matter. She at this time does not see that harboring false beliefs are harmful because they are false.

@DavidLaDeau So that is a position of the ends justify the means.

To me it is convieient, less troublesome for the person involved, to let them believe bs IF it also helps in some way, except that belief is part of a system, and if you endorse one part and deride another you lose credability with the natives. Then if another part of that system is killing them, they are less likely to believe you.

If you show them a new way, they may not believe initially, but if they can see results can shift thier view and in so doing create credibility.

Seems like a lazy way to go about it and likely to produce negative long term outcomes, for a short term gain.


Placebo effect. At best, setting onesself up for disappointment later. At worst, tragedy.

Deb57 Level 8 Jan 18, 2020

That seems like an oxymoron of the highest order. I have never heard of pragmatic theism/spirituality and I'd venture that neither exists.

It does. I know many that think this way and have interviewed the extensively to make sure I understood their postion. This particular person made it clear that she did not care if the beliefs were true if it was benifital. I clearly asked would you want to know if it was not true. She said she wwould not care.


I am with her. Why is it so important for you to push your own beliefs onto others. Does it harm you in any way if she believes it?

I don't care about beliefs. I do care about when peple I love make lifes decisions based on mythology, that that is not real. That can and does have a negative affect on everyone.

@DavidLaDeau If it makes them happy then that is up to them.


if you know something is not true, how is your belief actually belief? it is pretense, even to oneself, of belief. how is that pragmatic? i don't have to deal with it in anyone. i don't care what people believe unless they push that belief upon others. it's none of my business. but i am still capable of having an opinion, and i have no respect for such pretense.


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