Monday, April 15, 2013

Are believers a bunch of sheeple?

It is an interesting stereotype amongst religious skeptics that they think people who believe believe like sheep, without thinking or questioning. In general, I have not found this to be the case in my experience. 

29 comments:

Jim S. said...

That reminds me of a quote by Dallas Willard:

"The test of character posed by the gentleness of God's approach to us is especially dangerous for those formed by the ideas that dominate our modern world. We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and character. Only a very hardy individualist or social rebel -- or one desperate for another life -- therefore stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today. Today it is the skeptics who are the social conformists, though because of powerful intellectual propaganda they continue to enjoy thinking of themselves as wildly individualistic and unbearably bright."

unkleE said...

I have just been having a discussion with a non-believer who argued that the extreme diversity of belief among christians indicated that the christian God doesn't exist. Which argument is true, his argument or the sheeple one??

Papalinton said...

""Are believers a bunch of sheeple?""

The characterization is ad hominem. It is the central tenets of the Christian belief system that are bizarre. The universals of humanism interwoven into the mythos are laudable. The fabric of the mythos itself is unnecessary and unneeded.

This is germane equally with respect to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism etc etc.

It is the nature of the universal truths of humanism that bind us together, not the various culturally-derived mythical carrier signals on which these universal truths are transmitted.

B. Prokop said...

Question: Which argument is true, his argument or the sheeple one??

Answer: Neither. The only thing one could logically conclude, given the "extreme diversity of belief among Christians", is that no one person knows the Whole Truth. Your friend's argument says nothing about whether or not "the Christian God" exists. His conclusion that He does not (on the basis of this argument) is a true "leap of faith".

David Marshall said...

Victor: Get ready for a lot of baaaaaaad puns.

B. Prokop said...

Oh, no! Not ewe, too!

David Marshall said...

I'm so very sorry for ruining this thread! (Walks away with a sheepish look on his face.)

B. Prokop said...

Well, nobody goated you into it!

Chad Handley said...

I seem to recall a study from a few years back that measured the level of superstitious belief by religious affiliation. It surveyed people of varying faiths to see how likely they were to believe in things like astrology, ghosts, broken mirrors and black cats being bad luck, etc. The study showed that religious believers believed in these superstitions at about the same (very low) rate as atheists, and were much less likely to be superstitious than agnostics and undecideds. IIRC, Catholics were rated the least superstitious of all. I can't find a link to the study now, but I remember Bill Maher, of all people, mentioning it on his show.

BeingItself said...

My experience has been much different from Victor's. For example, most Christians I know are extraordinarily ignorant about the history of their own religion and their holy book. It just never occurred to them to look into it.

So yes, in general, most Christians are sheeple.

Victor Reppert said...

BI: You need to get out more. Meet some different kinds of people.

I could never believe the anti-Christian propaganda of people like Russell (back before Dawkins came on the scene), because I knew too many Christians who were as tough of questioners of their own beliefs as anyone I knew.

Further, I do think there is something "sheeple-ish" about people who are dittoheads for the New Atheism. (Not mentioning any names, of course).

B. Prokop said...

Thanks for saying that, Victor. BI's description of Christians doesn't match anyone I know. In my own church, we have a number of evening and weekend activities specifically dedicated toward informing each other of the various aspects of the faith. I myself run a Friday evening movie night, which is invariably both preceded and followed by quite challenging discussions that run the gamut.

Syllabus said...

So yes, in general, most Christians are sheeple.

How are you moving from "most Christians I know are simpletons" to "therefore, most Christians are sheeple"? That's not a valid inference, unless there's some other factor you'd like to share with the class.

B. Prokop said...

The other inconvenient nuance that BI is missing is that, even if ALL Christians were "sheeple", that would have absolutely zero bearing on whether or not what they believed was true or false.

I would imagine that the overwhelming percentage of GIs in WWII had no idea why the Allies were fighting the Axis, and wouldn't understand if you explained it to them, but that does not mean they were not fighting on the Right Side.

Papalinton said...

Chad Handley
"It surveyed people of varying faiths to see how likely they were to believe in things like astrology, ghosts, broken mirrors and black cats being bad luck, etc. The study showed that religious believers believed in these superstitions at about the same (very low) rate as atheists, and were much less likely to be superstitious than agnostics and undecideds. IIRC, Catholics were rated the least superstitious of all."

Of course Catholics compare to atheists in believing in things like astrology, ghosts, broken mirrors and black cats being bad luck. But atheists don't have a set of substitute myths as do Catholics; you know, spirit world, supernatural netherworld, parthenogenesis, levitation, revivification of corpses, talking burning bushes, walking on water, suicidal swine filled with Satanic evil rushing off into the water, etc etc.

"IIRC, Catholics were rated the least superstitious ..." And there is a very good reason for this. The Catholic magisterium has directed them that such superstitious beliefs are anathema to Catholic teachings. The magisterium in their wisdom spotted the conundrum at ten paces, such black magic beliefs would be a direct challenge to and in direct confrontation with its own spray of superstitious beliefs. If one believed in black magic, astrology, ghosts and broken mirrors who's to say where the madness of believing in all sorts of supernatural superstition would end?

One need only read the Vatican's response and what some of the Cardinals had to say when Dan Brown's book, The Davinci Code, hit the stands:

""In terms of the Opus Dei -- where, by the way, there are no 'monks,' contrary to what Dan Brown proposes in his book -- not only it is an institution approved and praised by the Catholic Church, but its founder, José María Escrivá (1902-1975), has been canonized as a saint by the Pope in 2002.

"Dan Brown's 'information' comes from an association of ex-members and other people hostile to the Opus Dei, known as The Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN), mentioned explicitly in the novel, which is connected to a much larger 'anti-cult movement.' ... ODAN's aggressive opinions on Opus Dei and its founder are in no way shared by the Catholic hierarchy."
From ZENIT, Rome's Catholic website.

"... comes from an association of ex-members and other people hostile to the Opus Dei" A conspiracy, according to the Vatican. Yes, a conspiracy of one set of ghosts, broken mirrors and black cats against a different and competing set of ghosts, broken mirrors and black cat equivalents.

David Marshall said...

Origen rebutted this argument 1800 years ago.

B. Prokop said...

I've finally gotten around to reading Papalinton's last comment. Absolutely stunned - I'm picking my jaw up off the floor. I can't believe he's actually using that potboiler The Da Vinci Code as part of an argument. This is a new low. And this guy wants us to take him seriously?

Good grief.

BenYachov said...

Wait Bob till Paps goes into his attic and digs up his old copies of Chick Comics back when he was "religious".


It's almost better then MST3K.

Almost.....

Papalinton said...

" I can't believe he's actually using that potboiler The Da Vinci Code as part of an argument. This is a new low. And this guy wants us to take him seriously?"

See THIS news report.

In part it recounts:

"And now it has become the first book ever to have an archbishop dedicated to debunking its contents.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Archbishop of Genoa and a possible successor to the Pope, has been appointed by the Vatican to rebut what the Catholic church calls the "shameful and unfounded errors" contained within The Da Vinci Code. He is organising a series of public debates focusing on the conspiracy theories and what the Vatican sees as the blurring of fact and fiction at the heart of the thriller, the first of which will be held in Genoa tomorrow."


Serious enough to appoint an Archbishop no less. As I said, no organisation that propagates one set of ghosts, broken mirrors and black cat analogues wants a different set of ghosts, broken mirrors and black cat aficionados as their competition.
:o)
;o)
:oD

But I absolutely agree with you, Bob. The Da Vinci Code is all fiction. Always was, is and always will be. But it was popular, so popular it was a major success in 2004 outstripped only by J. K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix', another book that the Catholic hierarchy slammed. See HERE. To give their due, after initial misgivings, the Vatican did eventually embrace Harry Potter, as the L'Osservatore Romano "enthusiastically embraced the Harry Potter series and debated many of the issues raised by the children's series."

But they really do, the Vatican that is, protect their patch of woo well against others that might encroach on their territory.

Papalinton said...

"Origen rebutted this argument 1800 years ago."

Yes, and Justin Martyr argued: "when we say ... Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propose nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you consider sons of Zeus." (1 Apol. 21).

I guess Justin Martyr has been rebutted as well, right?

Papalinton said...

"Absolutely stunned - I'm picking my jaw up off the floor. I can't believe he's actually using that potboiler The Da Vinci Code as part of an argument. This is a new low. And this guy wants us to take him seriously?"

Classic example of Bulverism, no? I rest my case.

B. Prokop said...

No. As I told im-skeptical, if you consider that Bulverism, then all you're saying is that you don't understand the meaning of the term in the least.

Papalinton said...

Here is a debate between our very own David Marshall and Richard Carrier. See the FULL DEBATE HERE.

H/T John Loftus

David was creamed.
And listen to David's amazing conflation of coincidences and miracles. Simply mind boggling.

Papalinton said...

Try HERE for the debate.

Ilíon said...

VR: "It is an interesting stereotype amongst religious skeptics that they think people who believe believe like sheep, without thinking or questioning. In general, I have not found this to be the case in my experience."

There is nothing interesting about that (false) stereotype, itself. What *is* interesting is the unthinking tenacity with which God-deniers hold to it.

The fact is, human beings in general are "sheeple" -- and Judeo-Christianity militates *agains* this natural human tendency.

David B Marshall said...

Linton: You are, as usual, living in a fantasy world. Carrier didn't come within a thousand miles of responding effectively to any one of my three main arguments.

In fact, Carrier's lame rebuttal of my argument for the gospels provides something as near proof as you can get in history for the essential truth of the gospels:

http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2013/04/historicity-index-and-fingerprints-of.html

Anyone who thinks Carrier won, can cite the transcript at christhetao.blogspot.com, and try to show exactly what point he made that defeated any of my major arguments. Carrier repeated plenty of popular applause lines for the bobblehead skeptics in the crowd, but really didn't even seem to follow my arguments, let alone refute them.

B. Prokop said...

Thanks so much to Papalinton (and to Loftus) for pointing out this debate. What were those two thinking? Marshall ate Carrier for lunch! Not even close.

How on Earth can both Papalinton and Loftus not see that they just posted a brilliant refutation of their bankrupt worldview???

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, The BIGGER QUESTION is the universality of conditioned responses, including intellectual ones. You don't think that anyone who has adopted and integrated a world view doesn't eventually wind up responding to various questions aimed at their views with reflexive responses? It may take a while to develop such automatic responses, but everyone does develop them. And the Christian God of course is going to judge people eternally even though we naturally develop such reactions and responses and have a NATURAL difficulty communicating with one another across the ravines of our varying world views. HECK, IT TAKES TIME TO DEVELOP NEW NEURONS OR NEW NEURONAL CONNECTIONS ON A BIOLOGICAL LEVEL. I guess God has no patience and is going to damn people on this planet filled with natural difficulties of communication, and limitations of life and time for study, and limited personal experiences. We've got to take the great doctrines and dogmas of Christianity on faith.

The efficacy of blood sacrifice for instance, how "sin" apparently works, and how one man's fall led to the need of another man's execution, and how that led to God's wrath abating so that Jesus' crucifixion and shedding of blood now "covers" your "sin" of talking back to your parents when you were sixteen and had hormones raging and had confusion and desires or what not, or your "sin" of touching yourself. Just keep in mind bloody bloody Jesus.

Or we have to take for granted the inspired truth of one collection of writings above all others.

Or we have to take for granted miracle stories or one particular sort, and what the tellers of those tales aimed to demonstrate compared with a host of different kinds of weird coincidences and NDEs, and mixed signals and a mixed bag of miracle stories in general from around the world.

And take for granted Jesus being "fully God and fully man" whatever that means. To me it suggests not just a "Trinity" (whatever a Trinity is), but if Jesus is fully man, he remains so, no? So humanity is also part of the Trinity, whatever that is. Call it a Quaternity maybe?

Why should it matter so much that Christianity has a single incarnation when eastern religions have incarnations galore, and preach compassion, karnua?

And why was God skimping on prophets, sending them only to Israel? Why not to every nation, every people? More miracle working prophets, all preaching the same message? Why not miracle working prophets today? Why not some big miracles today?

Why not make a God who made sure Mohammed also preached the same thing as Paul, and Mohammed would then have become the apostle to Arabia and India. Instead, Islam conquered the Christian east, Constantinople, and the whole of Christian North Africa, including Augustine's home town. Nice job God, letting these other holy writings and prophets arise. And also nice job letting seven billion humans live and die before Moses or Jesus was born and holy books started being written.

And nice job God, letting a whole hemisphere not hear the Gospel preached to them until 1500 years after Jesus' death, and the preachers carrying the plague to the inhabitants of the Americas dying out in massive numbers (and with the inhabitants of the Americas only giving back to European Christians in so much smaller measure, syphilis).


david jones said...

They don't search out truth for themselves. The graze with their pastor (pasture) once a week.