Our webs of beliefs are complex — we all hold various mixes of beliefs with differing accuracies. We use these webs or vessels of belief to navigate life — and thus usefulness must be part of our evaluations of beliefs and not just their accuracy.
Using the four diagrams above, I have attempted to illustrate this apparently controversial thought. There we see shifts in the vessels of our religious beliefs as explained below. But first, a caveat: Instead of “naturalist”, I debated whether to use the following terms: atheist, religious-free, non-believer, agnostic, and more. But “naturalist” is what I decided on. I am not stuck on it, but had to choose for the diagram. Below, I mix the terms.
Diagram A: Religious —> Naturalist (1)
Some atheists/naturalists may imagine that when a religious person stops believing in gods, demons, ghosts and such, they suddenly become more reasonable (accurate in their beliefs) and that this new accuracy offers automatically offers them more useful skills to navigate life. But this is often not true.
Diagram B: Religious —> Naturalist (2)
I have rarely seen the fantasy of Diagram A. For example, sometimes I have seen some religious folks give up their faith but then drift into careless, dangerous and/or destructive journeys as a non-believer.
Diagram C: Naturalist —> Religious
I have also seen naturalists become religious and though embracing several new inaccurate beliefs, nonetheless their lives definitely improve! Religions of every sort are full of such testimonies, and I think they are largely true. This is because either inaccurate beliefs mix with other beliefs to have a good outcome or the other items that come with the religious package are compensative.
Diagram D: Religious —> Religious
And as I have written before, I feel there are better forms of mistaken beliefs than others. I think there better forms of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, secularism and all the rest.
My diagrams has all sorts of problems: the metaphor is weak, the words I chose are lacking and more. But does it communicate anything of value? It is useful for me, even with its inaccuracies. Or do you feel its inaccuracies are too costly to be considered truly useful? In a coming post, I hope to show a way to safeguard some of these issues. Until then, what do you think?