Maarten Boudry on the nature of religious beliefs

April 18, 2016 • 1:30 pm

Over at 3 Quarks Daily, a site I find of extremely variable quality, there’s a decent post up today (PCC[E] said self-aggrandizingly). It’s by my philosophy colleague Maarten Boudry, whose help and collaboration gave me Philosophy Cred, and it’s called “Disbelief in Belief.

Boudry’s piece is a concise, popular exposition of the paper that Boudry and I wrote for Philosophical Psychology, a paper whose thesis is that religious people often really believe, in a factual sense, much of the doctrine they take as true (e.g., the Genesis creation story or the inerrancy of the Qur’an). We wrote it because another philosopher, Neil Van Leuuwen, claimed that, in reality, religious believers see such “truth” claims as “fictive imaginings”—something different from empirical claims like “the Earth orbits the Sun.” We took issue with his claim in our paper, and then answered Van Leeuwen’s attempt to rebut us.

The links to the papers are embedded in Maarten’s piece, and my offer to send pdf files of our two papers still stands.

Finally, a reason to have “belief in belief”

November 10, 2014 • 12:23 pm

This is the best reason I’ve seen yet for promoting religion even if you don’t accept it yourself. It stops people pissing on the walls! Or so say Ranjani Iyer Mohanty in a piece in the The Atlantic, “Only God can stop public urination.”

If you’ve been to India, and I have (many times), you can’t help but notice the prevalance of public defecation and urination, for private toilets aren’t ubiquitous (almost nonexistent in villages), and public excretion has become a noxious custom, even in the large cities. How do you stop it? As Mohanty describes, you put up tiles or murals depicting the gods on walls customarily used for male urination.

I suspect it won’t work.  If you gotta go, you gotta go, so you’ll just move your outdoor activities to another place.  But here are some photos of the urination-preventing devices:

Janny McKinnon/Flickr
A pee-proof wall in Mumbai painted with images of Jesus Christ and the Hindu guru Sai Baba, along with the slogan, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” in Hindi (Reuters)

Mohanty has other suggestions:

My daughter, a firm believer in national integration, has suggested that these god tiles also include Muslim, Christian, and Sikh iconography. After all, if there’s one thing Indians have in common, it’s their god-fearing—or at least god-respecting—nature (pollsreveal that roughly 90 percent of Indians view religion as an important part of their lives). I wonder what would happen if I placed a few god tiles around my daughter’s room; after all, messiness cannot be next to godliness.

In fact, the concept has already expanded to several faiths. In documenting how tiled Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Sikh gods arrived in Mumbai’s streets (they replaced or supplemented written messages ranging from the polite “please do not sully the wall” to the more aggressive “son of an ass, don’t pee here”), the Indian photographer Amit Madheshiya recently marveled at the “harmonious existence for the gods” in such “cluttered and messy spaces”—especially in a predominantly Hindu country that “is often irreversibly divided along the coordinates of religion.”

Unfortunately, panaceas are rarely perfect. The other day, as I was leaving my neighborhood, I spotted a man on the same road urinating against those same walls. I was shocked. Who could be so bold as to disregard the presence of all those gods? And then it dawned on me: He might be an atheist.

Yes, we have here something rare: a completely novel critique of atheism!

h/t: Brian ~