Ambigamy

Insights for the deeply romantic and deeply skeptical

What to Believe and How to Believe It?

Applying a page from Calvinism’s answer to the question behind all our questions
Jeremy Sherman
This post is a response to The Arrogance of Prayer by Jeremy E. Sherman, Ph.D.

I like the way the Calvinist religion has boiled its doctrine down to a simple acronym: TULIP, and have crafted an acronym in response, not for my atheist doctrine, but one that lays out the fundamental question I think is at the heart of the conflict between us over what to believe and how to believe it.

Here’s the Calvinist acronym.

  1. Total depravity: This doesn't mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one's being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.
  2. Unconditional election: God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.
  3. Limited atonement: The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect.
  4. Irresistible grace: When God has chosen to save someone, He will.
  5. Perseverence of the saints: Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time.

Now here’s mine on the question: what should we believe and how should we believe it?

I’d love to hear your response to the question, but also any objections you might have to any of my 12 precepts. However to avoid a double standard, anything answers or objections you make applies to your beliefs as much as they do to anyone else’s. Whatever you say can and will be used for and against your beliefs too:

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

PUFF MEDS WHEN?

  1. Personal interpretation:  We each form our own personal beliefs.
  2. Underlying reality:  Still there is the underlying reality independent of what we believe about it.
  3. Fitness prized:  We all believe that it’s better when our beliefs conform to underlying reality.
  4. Fitness Subjectivity:  We have divergent beliefs about which beliefs better conform to reality, and we have no final arbiter of which conform better other than the good and bad consequences of our interactions given underlying reality. We each predict which beliefs will have better future consequences and since the future is not here to prove us right or wrong, our predictions are all fallible.
  5. Method Subjectivity:  We form beliefs about which methods of forming beliefs are more likely to yield beliefs that conform to reality.
  6. Elbowing Beliefs: Living and making decisions together, we elbow each other with of our divergent subjective beliefs, beliefs about which beliefs best fit reality and beliefs about which methods form better beliefs.  Our beliefs have consequences for each other.
  7. Deliberation and intuition:All of us form our beliefs through some combination of active deliberation and confident intuition.  On any aspect of reality some of us have done more work in forming our beliefs than others.
  8. Subjective Sufficiency: No amount of active deliberation or confident intuition ensures that our beliefs conform to reality. We can all identify cases in which we think deliberation and intuition have succeeded and have failed.
  9. Wondering works: Nonetheless, and on the whole, active deliberation tends to refine our intuitions and beliefs over time, as shows from our increasing ability to yield good consequences within reality. 
  10. Healing beliefs:  Though better beliefs conform to underlying reality, one of one of those underlying realities is our individual emotional reality.  Beliefs increase or decrease our personal comfort, self-confidence, esteem, happiness.  Beliefs can puff us up, serving as medicine to heal and improve our emotional reality independent of how much they conform to the rest of reality.
  11. Entitled happiness:  We believe everyone is entitled to find happiness through whatever beliefs serve them.
  12. Necessary belief:  Still, given that we believe it’s better when our beliefs conform to underlying reality, and given that we live and make decisions better and therefore that our beliefs affect one another. We will therefore have conflict over which of our beliefs to impose upon each other, in other words, which are the better meds for our emotional realities and which are the better fitted to overall reality.
  • ?:  When then should we tolerate or fight other people’s beliefs which we believe are puffed up meds? 

Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.

more...

Subscribe to Ambigamy

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?