Is God a valid foundational belief?

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Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:30 pm

I am starting on new thread on Moonwood's argument that religious belief is justified as a foundational or self-evident belief and so does not require the kind of evidence that other types of beliefs should. I hope that's fair, or, if not, he can please correct me.

He's spoken about this in various threads, such as in Re: Why do Christians say that the serpent in Paradise is Satan?, but more recently in Re: Burden of proof for a "response" positive assertion, where he laid out a summary of his claim.

Moonwood the Hare wrote:My claim is this: religious belief does not depend on argument or evidence.

I have backed it up by giving examples of other kinds of belief that do not depend or knowledge that do not depend on argument or evidence I can back it up further by exploring what it is about religious belief that make it more like the kinds of claim for which we do not need argument or evidence than the kinds for which we do. Essentially religious belief is a belief that there is something that has a non-dependent status, in the case of Christianity or theism generally this is God. All other associated beliefs are secondary to this belief about God's non-dependent status. A belief of this type is unavoidable in the sense that everyone must hold this type of belief about something whether that is something within the cosmos or something distinct from it. Whatever religious belief one holds it is not a hypothesis which can be inferred since in order to make this inference one would need to isolate in thought whatever it was one thought was non-dependent and this is not possible. Therefore we derive this belief not through inference and therefore not from evidence but from experience.

Experience is a valid ground fro belief. That is the claim. It is not defeated by comparison with kinds of belief that do rely on evidence since such beliefs are of a fundamentally different nature. This is not special pleading since religion is not a unique case but comparable to the way we know other basic beliefs such as the foundations of maths, logic and empirical experience. It is absurd to say I think there is a world external to myself but I could be mistaken. The belief in an external world is a foundation of knowledge not a hypothesis; it is something we reason from not something we reason to. In the same way for those who experience God as a reality God is something we reason from not something we reason to.

That's what I have


I brought this over here with Moonwood's consent to discuss it in more detail. I'll be replying below. Anyone else is welcome to comment, but note that this is the CL, so please be substantive.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:34 pm

Moonwood, I have agreed that some beliefs are foundational as you described, but I'm not sold that theism should be one of them. I do agree that it's justified to believe that there is some aspect that is self-existent in or about the cosmos (with the qualification that I'm open to the reality being some very different concept unknown and maybe indescribable by current frameworks), but I don't see how that it follows that this self-existent thing gets you to God in a religion like Christianity. That God has various attributes beyond self-existence, like possessing a mind and personality, and other theological specifics. Would your argument mean that all religious beliefs and religions (monotheistic only?) are equally justified? If given the bare foundational belief of the self-existent, why is Christianity itself justified?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Rian » Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:31 pm

Yes, that sounds interesting - Moon, could you please elaborate a bit more?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:16 pm

Essentially religious belief is a belief that there is something that has a non-dependent status, in the case of Christianity or theism generally this is God. All other associated beliefs are secondary to this belief about God's non-dependent status. A belief of this type is unavoidable in the sense that everyone must hold this type of belief about something whether that is something within the cosmos or something distinct from it.


Buddhism, famously, denies this premise completely. This is why, if one truly understands Buddhism, one sees that Buddhist philosophy negates the very possibility of God and hence is the ultimate form of atheism. Buddhists state there is nothing anywhere that has this vaunted non-dependent status, and further says that the world as we see it would be impossible if there were such a thing. There is no essence, only relational processes.

Given this, I am not going to grant Moonwood his premise. Sorry.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Thu Nov 12, 2015 1:09 pm

Sayak, I don't think Moonwood is arguing that the self-evidency of the belief means the belief is a universal belief nor a necessary belief. In any event, I am willing to grant him this narrow premise.

Also posting to add another question for Moonwood. Is your argument here derived from or related at all to presuppositionalism? I recall you mentioning Van Til in the past.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby mitchellmckain » Fri Nov 13, 2015 8:34 am

sayak wrote:
Essentially religious belief is a belief that there is something that has a non-dependent status, in the case of Christianity or theism generally this is God. All other associated beliefs are secondary to this belief about God's non-dependent status. A belief of this type is unavoidable in the sense that everyone must hold this type of belief about something whether that is something within the cosmos or something distinct from it.


Buddhism, famously, denies this premise completely. This is why, if one truly understands Buddhism, one sees that Buddhist philosophy negates the very possibility of God and hence is the ultimate form of atheism. Buddhists state there is nothing anywhere that has this vaunted non-dependent status, and further says that the world as we see it would be impossible if there were such a thing. There is no essence, only relational processes.

Given this, I am not going to grant Moonwood his premise. Sorry.

Particles wrote:Sayak, I don't think Moonwood is arguing that the self-evidency of the belief means the belief is a universal belief nor a necessary belief. In any event, I am willing to grant him this narrow premise.

Also posting to add another question for Moonwood. Is your argument here derived from or related at all to presuppositionalism? I recall you mentioning Van Til in the past.


Yeah the only fault is in the statement "Essentially religious belief is a belief that there is something that has a non-dependent status." We do not need to grant that this is neccessarily the case for a religious belief, since sayak has produced a counterexample.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Aaron » Fri Nov 13, 2015 3:56 pm

Does Moonwood know about this thread?! We ought to let him know, it's one of the best I've ever seen, good job Particles.
sayak wrote:Buddhism, famously, denies this premise completely. This is why, if one truly understands Buddhism, one sees that Buddhist philosophy negates the very possibility of God and hence is the ultimate form of atheism. Buddhists state there is nothing anywhere that has this vaunted non-dependent status, and further says that the world as we see it would be impossible if there were such a thing. There is no essence, only relational processes.

Given this, I am not going to grant Moonwood his premise. Sorry.

For sayak: If there is relationship there are members. If it is true that no member has vaunted non-dependent status, then all members have non-dependent status, for no member is dependent on another. That is to say then that God is all and all is God, perhaps in a theoretical way that would be like saying what is now is what Christians believe was before God created.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Fri Nov 13, 2015 5:29 pm

Aaron wrote:Does Moonwood know about this thread?! We ought to let him know, it's one of the best I've ever seen, good job Particles.
sayak wrote:Buddhism, famously, denies this premise completely. This is why, if one truly understands Buddhism, one sees that Buddhist philosophy negates the very possibility of God and hence is the ultimate form of atheism. Buddhists state there is nothing anywhere that has this vaunted non-dependent status, and further says that the world as we see it would be impossible if there were such a thing. There is no essence, only relational processes.

Given this, I am not going to grant Moonwood his premise. Sorry.

For sayak: If there is relationship there are members. If it is true that no member has vaunted non-dependent status, then all members have non-dependent status, for no member is dependent on another. That is to say then that God is all and all is God, perhaps in a theoretical way that would be like saying what is now is what Christians believe was before God created.


Buddhists deny the ontological reality of wholes that contain parts within it. Wholes are merely conventional designators for a certain collection of causally co-dependent simples and is a mere fiction constructed for either utilitarian reasons or due to limitations of our cognitive perceptions. So while the simple partless "atoms" of phenomena lack intrinsic and independent essence as they are causally co-dependent on each other for their arising, characteristics and demise; the complex wholes (things like the table, the universe, the self, the causal network etc.) are not only dependent on its various internal parts for its existence and characteristics, they are also dependent on the conventional and utilitarian paradigms of observers and hence are actually convenient fictions existing only in and totally dependent upon the minds of the person (or animal) in whom that concept of that particular whole is conceived. Thus such wholes also cannot function as the independent ground of reality/being that a theist might be looking for.

A Buddhist would believe that math and logic are also useful fictions and are at best conventionally true. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fictionalism-mathematics/).
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Aaron » Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:08 pm

sayak wrote:Buddhists deny the ontological reality of wholes that contain parts within it. Wholes are merely conventional designators for a certain collection of causally co-dependent simples and is a mere fiction constructed for either utilitarian reasons or due to limitations of our cognitive perceptions. So while the simple partless "atoms" of phenomena lack intrinsic and independent essence as they are causally co-dependent on each other for their arising, characteristics and demise; the complex wholes (things like the table, the universe, the self, the causal network etc.) are not only dependent on its various internal parts for its existence and characteristics, they are also dependent on the conventional and utilitarian paradigms of observers and hence are actually convenient fictions existing only in and totally dependent upon the minds of the person (or animal) in whom that concept of that particular whole is conceived. Thus such wholes also cannot function as the independent ground of reality/being that a theist might be looking for.

A Buddhist would believe that math and logic are also useful fictions and are at best conventionally true. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fictionalism-mathematics/).

The Buddhist claim that there is no reality of wholes seems to kill itself, for as soon as the idea is conceived it has nothing to apply to, for if there are no wholes there is nothing distinct therefore there is no way A can operate on B because A is B and B is A, therefore there is no way a line of reasoning can be used against another thing, there is no other thing, the line of reasoning is the thing and vice versa.

Furthermore since a Buddhist appears to believe (quite wisely I do think) in the limitation of our cognitive perceptions the only sensible basis for a universally (those conventions are hard to avoid aren't they!) implicative claim is faith that it is true, but if that is the case then I do not see any systemic issue within Buddhism which would keep me from having the belief that a human being could have a belief that actually was reality and have that based in faith that it was true. For truly a Buddhist must believe that their beliefs are true.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Fri Nov 13, 2015 8:59 pm

The Buddhist claim that there is no reality of wholes seems to kill itself, for as soon as the idea is conceived it has nothing to apply to, for if there are no wholes there is nothing distinct therefore there is no way A can operate on B because A is B and B is A, therefore there is no way a line of reasoning can be used against another thing, there is no other thing, the line of reasoning is the thing and vice versa.


Why is this the case? Consider the universe made of simple partless elementary "atoms" of particulate phenomena that are causally interacting with each other, being dependent on each other for their continuous creation and destruction. Buddhists claim that the complex wholes are merely conventionally binned populations of such simple particulates of phenomena and therefore dependent on these particulates for their existence and dependent on the mind that is conceiving that bin as a whole in the first place. Simple particulates are conceived to have distinctions in which simple property/phenomena/quality they possess, but crucially their individuating distinctiveness is also based on the previous simple particulates which caused it to exist in the first place.

Suppose we have two simple particulates A and B. They interact at instant of time t1. This cause the destruction of both these particulates and the creation of two new simples A* and B* with new individuating characteristics that are dependent on the previous individuating properties A and B had. This is conceived to be the relational mechanism behind all phenomena.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Aaron » Sat Nov 14, 2015 1:12 pm

sayak wrote:Why is this the case? Consider the universe made of simple partless elementary "atoms" of particulate phenomena that are causally interacting with each other, being dependent on each other for their continuous creation and destruction. Buddhists claim that the complex wholes are merely conventionally binned populations of such simple particulates of phenomena and therefore dependent on these particulates for their existence and dependent on the mind that is conceiving that bin as a whole in the first place. Simple particulates are conceived to have distinctions in which simple property/phenomena/quality they possess, but crucially their individuating distinctiveness is also based on the previous simple particulates which caused it to exist in the first place.

Suppose we have two simple particulates A and B. They interact at instant of time t1. This cause the destruction of both these particulates and the creation of two new simples A* and B* with new individuating characteristics that are dependent on the previous individuating properties A and B had. This is conceived to be the relational mechanism behind all phenomena.

If in Buddhism there can be such distinct things as pA [t<t1], pB [t<t1], pA* [t>=t1] and pB* [t>=t1] then I say there can also be a distinct thing G [t < t1 and t >= t1] from which all other things are from. We can place bins around whatever we wish, but from what I am gathering this does not effect the existence of the things that exist, whatever is there before the arbitrary bin is placed will be there during the bin's life and after the bin's life has expired. This means then that simply because I, a mere arbitrary human concept generator, have placed a bin does not mean that the bins placement is without good grounds, there is no reason why I couldn't accidentally place a bin around something which really should have a bin around it.

Also shouldn't it be possible to sufficiently generalize Buddhism so that we can remove the arbitrary human concept of relationship?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Sat Nov 14, 2015 2:37 pm

The question is not what can exist (everything can possibly exist) but what does exist. Buddhist deny the actual existence of such a G and provide arguments regarding how analysis of experience shows the absence of such a G.

The bins do not exist. They are concepts that are used for convenience. Buddhists deny the ontological existence of "natural kinds" or "universals". They favor nominalism
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nominalism-metaphysics/

The question whether your version of stable substantial essences are true or Buddhists idea of essence-less relational co-dependent processes is true is a question of further arguments and justifications. What I am not granting Moonwood and you is that the existence of such intrinsic essences are somehow self-evidently and pre-theoretically true.

This means then that simply because I, a mere arbitrary human concept generator, have placed a bin does not mean that the bins placement is without good grounds, there is no reason why I couldn't accidentally place a bin around something which really should have a bin around it.


The grounds are conditioned upon the specific characteristics and causal connections that are associated with the bin of "simples" that is conventionally designated as "you" and the bin of other "simples" that is conventionally designated as "the world". The grounds for binning, according to Buddhists, are always context dependent and pragmatic (for example the interests of the bin called you to continue to express a state property called alive).

Buddhists would say all talk of persons, relations etc. are on the nominalist level and people (like every other complex wholes) do not have some intrinsic essence. Therefore the no-soul and no-self doctrine. Its not that a complex thing called the self can be invoked for the ease of doing business, like saying "let us define these kinds of complexes exhibiting these classes of global properties as the self" ... but there is no foundational essential "you" behind such a definition.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Sat Nov 14, 2015 5:05 pm

Moonwood, something for you to consider.

Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God (abstract)
Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God (pdf of full text)


Some have argued that belief in God is intuitive, a natural (by-)product of the human mind given its cognitive structure and social context. If this is true, the extent to which one believes in God may be influenced by one’s more general tendency to rely on intuition versus reflection. Three studies support this hypothesis, linking intuitive cognitive style to belief in God. Study 1 showed that individual differences in cognitive style predict belief in God. Participants completed the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT; Frederick, 2005), which employs math problems that, although easily solvable, have intuitively compelling incorrect answers. Participants who gave more intuitive answers on the CRT reported stronger belief in God. This effect was not mediated by education level, income, political orientation, or other demographic variables. Study 2 showed that the correlation between CRT scores and belief in God also holds when cognitive ability (IQ) and aspects of personality were controlled. Moreover, both studies demonstrated that intuitive CRT responses predicted the degree to which individuals reported having strengthened their belief in God since childhood, but not their familial religiosity during childhood, suggesting a causal relationship between cognitive style and change in belief over time. Study 3 revealed such a causal relationship over the short term: Experimentally inducing a mindset that favors intuition over reflection increases self-reported belief in God.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Aaron » Sat Nov 14, 2015 5:47 pm

Particles wrote:Moonwood, something for you to consider.

Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God (abstract)
Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God (pdf of full text)


Some have argued that belief in God is intuitive, a natural (by-)product of the human mind given its cognitive structure and social context. If this is true, the extent to which one believes in God may be influenced by one’s more general tendency to rely on intuition versus reflection. Three studies support this hypothesis, linking intuitive cognitive style to belief in God. Study 1 showed that individual differences in cognitive style predict belief in God. Participants completed the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT; Frederick, 2005), which employs math problems that, although easily solvable, have intuitively compelling incorrect answers. Participants who gave more intuitive answers on the CRT reported stronger belief in God. This effect was not mediated by education level, income, political orientation, or other demographic variables. Study 2 showed that the correlation between CRT scores and belief in God also holds when cognitive ability (IQ) and aspects of personality were controlled. Moreover, both studies demonstrated that intuitive CRT responses predicted the degree to which individuals reported having strengthened their belief in God since childhood, but not their familial religiosity during childhood, suggesting a causal relationship between cognitive style and change in belief over time. Study 3 revealed such a causal relationship over the short term: Experimentally inducing a mindset that favors intuition over reflection increases self-reported belief in God.

http://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2013/06/24/can-you-correctly-answer-the-cognitive-reflection-test-83-percent-of-people-miss-at-least-1-question/#.VkfSeiv5F40
I got them all right, but only because I knew they were going to be tricky, otherwise I would have missed the first one by my intuition, but I think I would have got the other two, especially the last one. The other problem is that I have been trained to rely more on my analytical side than my intuitive side through my education and job (electrical engineer), though I would say I am naturally a more intuitive person than anything else, if I am given a mental arithmetic problem my mind will often spit out a ball park figure very quickly and I am sometimes taken aback by how accurate it is, because the trained side of me knows that I didn't go through a rigorous process like I should have to do to get the answer, it is like in a flash I compare numbers as if they were shapes with proportional sizes and spit out an estimate. It doesn't always happen though, as soon as I think about it it goes away, but sometimes the accuracy is astounding...
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Sun Nov 15, 2015 12:58 pm

Particles wrote:Moonwood, I have agreed that some beliefs are foundational as you described, but I'm not sold that theism should be one of them. I do agree that it's justified to believe that there is some aspect that is self-existent in or about the cosmos (with the qualification that I'm open to the reality being some very different concept unknown and maybe indescribable by current frameworks), but I don't see how that it follows that this self-existent thing gets you to God in a religion like Christianity. That God has various attributes beyond self-existence, like possessing a mind and personality, and other theological specifics. Would your argument mean that all religious beliefs and religions (monotheistic only?) are equally justified? If given the bare foundational belief of the self-existent, why is Christianity itself justified?

I didn't even know this was here, too busy playing Mornington Crescent, so it will take a while to get through all this. I would say all religious beliefs are justified by experience and the only sense in which a religious belief could be less justified was if it was shown either to be at odds with other things known to be true or to be internally incoherent. Both these charges have been levelled at Christianity and I would agree that if they stick that is a real problem.

There are different kinds of understanding of the relationship between the divine and the cosmos. There are those views of this that regard some part of the cosmos as divine. These views are sometimes called pagan; I prefer the technical term pancosmistic but it is not a widely known term and pagan will do as long as this is not tied to closely with pagan worship and can include non-worshipping forms of paganism like modern materialism

There are theistic views which see the divine and the cosmos as distinct so that the cosmos depends on something external to itself.

And there are a set of views which unlike paganism which locates the divine in the cosmos locate the cosmos within the divine. These views are sometimes misleadingly called pantheistic and they seem to include many forms of Hinduism and Buddhism. Whether this accurately portrays all Hindu and Buddhist views is a matter for debate.

Finally why do Christians experience Christianity as true. That is because we believe God has communicated with us through scripture and tradition and we also believe that in the experience of becoming a Christian the scales are removed from our eyes and we are enabled to form true beliefs about the nature of the divinity.
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