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I think the central problem with such broad definitions of belief is the conflation of certain notions.

When people speak of belief in a religious context, it is already two different things:

  1. views about how things are (there are gods, there is ki, evil people go to hell after death, the ghosts of our ancestors are watching over us);
  2. views about how people should act (don't kill, kill infidels, accept your place in society and worship your ancestors, let go of earthy desires).

People seem to find it easier to recognise that views in the first category outside religion don't necessarily qualify as "belief": there is empiricism, and there is a general uncertainty about anything you see, allowing for views to change or even co-exist. Thus, when say consumerism is posited as ersatz religion, one essential element of religious creed is glossed over. Furthermore, there is that difference between non-belief views and religious views: a certain absolutism.

What about the second category? This is the realm of ethics, moral, political views and such. A general absolutism of views in this field could be posited if one likens such belief systems to mathematics: core beliefs are like axioms, assumed truths from which other things follow but cannot themselves be concluded from other ideas. The problem with this is that, unless you're a fundamentalist, belief systems are usually quite obviously internally inconsistent for those who hold them. People struggle with moral dilemmas and constantly re-shape their views -- be it about politics, their marital relationship, or on how to raise children. Thus doubt and uncertainty is a possible trait of non-religious moral views, too, there goes the absolute.

To go a bit further: when non-fundie religious people talk about their moral views and religion, it appears to me that their chosen (or inherited but salad-bar-interpreted) religion only gave them confirmation for views with origins within themselves, rather than views they gained from doctrine.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 16th, 2010 at 03:00:03 PM EST
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