Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Good comment. I agree that our sense of military might as an useful tool in foreign affairs is vastly over rated and dangerous for all types of reasons: further delusions of military grandeur, etc. And not least because we end up killing a lot of innocent people unnecessarily when we use it.

As to religiosity, it's an interesting, if squirrely point. My thinking is that religiosity itself is more a measure of how you want to be thought of in terms of 'religious beliefs' not necessarily what you actually practice. So the discrepancy between what people say to a pollster and what they practice on the surface, though interesting in its own righ, may not be especially relevant to my larger point that the US is an especially religious culture. The point that they are saying it (or feel compelled to say it based on cultural norms) probably indicates, at minimum, the strength of the religious culture in which they live. Certainly, the same poll taken in Europe would probably be in the low teens, I would suspect. Again, as much an indication of the culture norm as what folks actually practice.

On the other hand, I find this is very interesting and I hope it's true:

I can't be sure, but it seems that there is a new mindset emerging. The religious critics like Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett are starting to make it acceptable for people to acknowledge their unbelief. In addition with people like Dobson leaving the stage the religious are turning more to good works and away from politics. Having been promised social changes for 60 years (from abortion to sex education to gay marriage) and having seen none of these programs delivered in any meaningful way they are becoming disillusioned.

Finally the younger generation is much less religious than their parents. About 50% of the children of evangelicals drop out as adults, for Catholics the numbers may be even higher.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 05:59:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you haven't read Daniel Dennett's latest book you might find it interesting.

One of his points (similar to yours) is that many people don't actually believe, but they believe in belief. That is the think that it is social useful for people to believe and try to instill this in their children. This is even the premise of the famous religious fallacy (from Descartes ?) that it is better to believe than not because if you don't and discover an afterlife then you will be punished for your disbelief, but if it turns out there is no afterlife then you have lost nothing by believing while alive.

The fallacy is that if God is really omnipotent than espousing a belief that you don't really hold or only hold out of fear won't "fool" him, so you gain nothing.

The real danger, of course, is that you have spent your life being the tool of some religious organization which has been telling you how to live your life.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 06:20:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember that! "Pascal's wager" after the mathematician, pretty much exactly as you've described it.

Once, kind of drunk at a party with a bunch of hardcore libertarians who were in denial about global warming, I used it to defend supporting 0 C02 emmissions technology. I called it the green wager, going something like this:

If global warming is false and you support 0 CO2 technology, nothing is harmed, you find useful and marketable alternatives to petrol which you will need down the road anyhow, because oil don't last forever.

On the other hand if global warming is true, and you support 0 CO2 emissions, you've help save all of humanity.

It wasn't an exact fit, but close anyhow...Thanks for the Dennet book recommendation! Sounds fascinating.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 07:34:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fallacy is that if God is really omnipotent than espousing a belief that you don't really hold or only hold out of fear won't "fool" him, so you gain nothing.

I think his 'wager' comes with a bit more... He writes as well that belief is constituted by 'acts of belief'. That by following very formal rules of fate, praying, engaging in rituals etc, 'belief itself' will follow, or possibly that this is all there is to 'belief'? (Was a while since I read this...) The wager is a wager on belief, not a wager on God. (Or as well, in addition to a wager on God, one on belief?) It is not a matter of 'tricking God', but of assuming 'belief' which is already 'belief'?

I kind of like Pascal, in a funny sort of way. I used to quote him on belief when teaching a computational model in an intro comp sci class. It turns out that most of my idiot students when introduced to the model would freak out, going on about not understanding it, etc. "Explain, explain! Explain again!" they would shout. I would tell them, that the way one 'understands' such a model, is to blindly assume it, work in accordance with its rules in a step by step fashion, and through the process of enacting the formal parameters of 'understanding', 'understanding itself' will follow... I am not sure the students adequately appreciated the cleverness of Pascal. Ungrateful little bastards, they were!

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 03:11:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series