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What is the atheist rebuttal to the alleged power of faith?

What is the atheist rebuttal to this? I've assumed I knew, but thought I'd better ask an atheist.

When I use to have a problem (any problem, big or small), I would try to do something either to solve the problem or to protect myself from it. Now instead of doing anything, I accept the problematic situation and whatever I fear may flow from it. Once I get to that emotional/intellectual point, oftentimes something fortuitous happens which solves the problem for me, or shows me the advantage of what I took to be a problem. Religious folk who experience this phenomenon attribute the fortuitous event as having been the work of an omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent God. I'm not sure you have to believe in God to witness the phenomenon, although believing a God is out there ready to help makes it easier to achieve the emotional equanimity required in the face of your problem.

I've assumed that an atheist, hearing me describe this, would gently remind me of the power of subjectivity, that anytime you believe something, your beliefs will distort your perception of events to make them seem to confirm your beliefs. I've assumed an atheist would say I've simply been deluding myself, that an interior posture of faith can't reach outside of me to actually manipulate the events of my life, that I must be fooling myself.

I've got a few replies to that rebuttal, but this post is already too long. My main question is: am I correctly describing the atheist rebuttal to the alleged power of faith to effect events? And are there other rebuttals I haven't considered.

Many thanks,

Bill McKee

Bill,

I think you have a good sense of the problem. There are many mind games at work here. Confirmation bias is certainly a big part of the problem. Testability is perhaps another.

If someone ever proposes the "power of faith" as a good thing, ask how an objective person would go about testing it and whether such a test could conclusively prove there was anything more than mind games going on. If there's nothing supernatural, then the whole question has little to do with religion. People who meditate have some measurable benefits, but nobody is seriously proposing anything supernatural.

--Don

Don,

It appeared to me that my faith wasnât simply changing how things looked. Faith is more like negative thinking than positive thinking (ie, faith is not the same as a petitioning prayer where one begs God the Butler to please do something for me). Often entire events happened. I seemed to be witnessing new events, not a new perspective on events.

And the correlation between these good events and my being faithful was so consistent that it seemed very unlikely to have been a coincidence. I am not normally so lucky.

Of course, I could have been fooled as to both of these factors. The events were never miraculous. They were always something that could have happened anyway.

But wouldn't I then have been overwhelmed by the problems I faced but did nothing about? Instead I seem to have fewer problems and those I confront are less disruptive. I've now been "conditioned" to be faithful. Faith would seem to be the worst possible evolutionary strategy dooming the naive to repeated failure. But many who try it persist.

Bill

Bill McKee wrote: -- -- "Faith is more like negative thinking than positive thinking" -- -- "And the correlation between these good events and my being faithful was so consistent that it seemed very unlikely to have been a coincidence. I am not normally so lucky."

Bill,

When you start from "I am not normally so lucky" and "negative thinking", you are prone (biased) to overvalue good events (as "odd", "faith-explained") and ignore bad events (as "normal").

Problems are called problems just because we cannot foresee solutions for them with easy. Difficult problems always seem unlikely to be solved, thus we value their solution whenever they happen to occur. We are not neutral to evaluate our own problems, and we are strongly motivated to value any solution for problems that seemed unsolvable just a few moments ago.

Bill McKee wrote: -- -- "When I use to have a problem (any problem, big or small), I would try to do something either to solve the problem or to protect myself from it. Now instead of doing anything, I accept the problematic situation and whatever I fear may flow from it. Once I get to that emotional/intellectual point, oftentimes something fortuitous happens which solves the problem for me, or shows me the advantage of what I took to be a problem."

Bill,

It seems that you changed your way to face problems. In special, you are not going to do precipitate and imprudent actions that could make your problems worse. And you have achieved, when you face a problem, some emotional stability which allows you to perceive/be aware of convenient and opportune events which may lead you to better times.

Also you don't classify anymore some circunstances as problems, but as advantages instead -- therefore your relative number of problems/advantages is lesser than would be otherwise. That is a positive and constructive approach to solve problems: you can see the cons of a circunstance, and also can see its pros, you have achieved a more refinated way to deal with the reality, not discarding opportunities along with their related problems.

Thanks Hudson. Would it be fair to say you think I have underestimated the ability of subjectivity to fool me, that the events I tell myself I'm witnessing are merely the distortion of reality I have created for myself by believing that faith makes things better? In which case, how does an atheist know when his or her view of the world is in fact clear, and not similarly prejudiced by the atheist's beliefs?

And can I get your take on my contention that, if you're right that I'm fooling myself with my pollyanna opinions, why haven't I been crushed by all the problems I face in an average year but now no longer do anything about? Can I really be being slammed regularly and not only not know it, but think that that I am actually doing BETTER than before?

Bill McKee wrote: -- "Would it be fair to say you think I have underestimated the ability of subjectivity to fool me, that the events I tell myself I'm witnessing are merely the distortion of reality I have created for myself by believing that faith makes things better?"

No, I don't mean either "fooling" or "distortion of reality". (Please read again my response and its relation to your quoted excerpts.)

I am supposing your life is being actually better recently due to a change of the way you are facing problems.

To consider faith as explanation, one should be aware of its placebo effect. Faith/belief is indeed effective in some cases (since it affects the behaviour/actions of the believer), it does not matter much what is the specific faith object: faires, gods, voodoo, daemons, sprites, elves, astrology... Moreover, alternative hipoteses should be also considered, and only should be discarded with good reasons.

Bill McKee wrote: -- "In which case, how does an atheist know when his or her view of the world is in fact clear, and not similarly prejudiced by the atheist's beliefs?"

Any view of the world is just that: the view from some point or angle. I think there is no way to achieve a completely objetive "fact clear" view. The best we can do is to be skeptical, then look for evidences and use reason to be as objective as possible; to consider several potential explanations for something and evaluate the explanations in order to find the most probable one. In several cases, we don't have enough information to decide which hipotesis is the correct one, but we should be patient within our limitations.

Belief is just a wager.

Most problems have a simple solution. Nobody slaves over little problems; it's pretty stupid because they usually solve themselves. That's why you can turn them over to God. When an answer to the problem comes - or the problem goes away - it's a miracle. It's the big problems that require human intervention.

Thanks Linda. Although I do turn even some pretty big problems over to faith, I haven't stopped taking the medications I'm prescribed. I guess I'm clever enough to think of an excuse for doing that which would still be consistent with my views on faith. But I agree, it would be a stretch.

And there is what I call the Holocaust Example: "Would the Nazi's have stopped if the Jews had been faithful?" I don't have the stomach to advocate that we should be faithful in circumstances like that.

So yes, my notions about faith are far from water-tight.

I'm correcting the error on line 3 - It should read - When (an) answer to the problem comes - etc.

So, all I wanna hear from you is, You ain't got no problem.

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