To theists: How do you distinguish between reality and wishful thinking?

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by greenberg, Oct 30, 2007.

  1. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Adstar, you still haven't answered my questions from the OP.

    That's how you read??

    I say

    eventually, I realized I wasn't sure whether what I thought was God, truly was God or just my wishful thinking, my fantasy

    and to you, this means that

    I stated that my Christian faith was just wishful thinking a fantasy and that I rejected my Christian faith because I decided that the Christian faith is a result of wishful thinking, a fantasy

    If this is how you are going to misinterpret me, then there is no point in continuing this conversation.

    That is YOUR conclusion.

    You gave an example of what wishful thinking would be for you. I don't have the same ideas of wishful thinking as you.

    Good for you. What about me? How do I arrive at the surety you have?

    If I end up going to hell, then this will be a sure sign that I have wasted my life.

    How did they arrive at that point? How do they know they aren't just indulging in wishful thinking? How do they distinguish between reality and imagination? What are their criteria for making this distinction?

    Please, answer the questions from the OP.
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  3. Godless Objectivist Mind Registered Senior Member

    Is it not part of your religion? If you believe such nonsense then is it just wishful thinking to believe that buybull is based on reality and truth. Wishful thinking is to believe all that I listed part of an objective reality!

    Is this not what your taught in your religion? That god created heaven and earth in 7 days, to believe in such nonsense wouldn't that be "wishful thinking?" When the scientific facts have shown this not to be the case?

    Is it not your wishful thinking that a messiah existed at all? You obviously have no evidence if these stories written in your buybull , which you have faith and buried your head in the sand to query any assumption of which you where taught to be fact. Your devoid yourself of reason in favor of faith, blind faith on the assumptions and superstitions of others! That is wishful thinking to believe that yours is the true faith amongst thousands..

    Re-read again what I said, I didn't claim "U" said you wanted us to spend eternity in a lake of fire, however that is what your "religion" teaches, it's a con job, believe as I do or else! How certain are you in the face of thousands of religions all claiming to be the way to salvation that your in the proper one? Is it not wishful thinking that you've picked the right one, amongst thousands?

    Cool, now go teach that to the other thousands of religions sects murdering themselves over some god concept!

    Nice! now teach that to the multitude of murders done in the name of religion, many of which claim to be Christian!

    Hate to tell you this, but all religions seek to have world domination! Read the Qua'ran, buybull or even the book of mormon.. to name a few..

    This is a contradiction to your god's omniscient nature. He had no choice! He already had foreknowledge of the outcome!

    So flooding the world was a fluke?

    This contradicts your god's nature of omnipotence, he didn't have to tolerate evil whatsoever or even work out any mechanism, he should have just snapped his fingers and wala it would have just happened! No more evil!

    It's only by reason and secular morality that I'm able to have an opinion on the matter without being persecuted and condemned to death for denying your god, and it's thousands of religions baggage that drag the world in stagnation and suffering of wars by forcing these superstitions on one another! Thank goodness I live in a country which still allows this freedom, though with you religious folks on the helm these may become a thing of the past, and yet again one will be persecuted for being atheist, non theist or opinionated.
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  5. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Grantywanty, you have not answered my questions. You have only brought up some circumstantial observations.
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  7. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    Show me how it's done. Use as a model a belief in something not tangible that might be said to satisfy wishful thinking on your part and I will do my best to follow your model.
  8. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    Oh, yes. Make it an actual belief that your hold.
  9. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    I don't understand this, or why these requirements (like "something not tangible").

    The questions in the OP are clear.

    An example - If a person thinks they have heard God speaking to them, or that something was a sign from God - how can they know for sure it really was from God, and not simply their own imagination, their own desire to hear and see God?

    I have the desire to believe in God. I see and hear all sorts of things that I suspect could be from God. But I'm not sure. Perhaps it is just my wishful thinking, my fantasy and that those things are actually not from God.

    How can I know for sure that the voice I sometimes hear in my head is in fact God's?
    How can I know for sure that the things I see and think they are from God, in fact are from God?
  10. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    I think it was pretty clear. I wanted you, a non+thiest to show the ways in which you answer these questions about a specific belief. I did this for two reasons. 1) it will make it clear what you will consider an answer to your questions. 2) I think it is a very complicated process. If you are willing to really go into it and not just take potshots from the sidelines, well, OK. I think also we will find that any belief is open to criticism because it has intuitive jumps in it.

    I asked for a belief that might be criticized as wishful thinking so that your explanation for why this is a rational belief on your part would also show how to prevent this kind of criticism. I could have worded it as a belief in something that pleases you, but the idea would be the same.

    I asked for not tangible since I don't have many experiences of touching God. I am a pantheist so I suppose I could argue that I do, but in actual fact it is through other senses that I experience God. Rationalists have many beliefs in non-tangile things. So the restriction is hardly unfair.

    Then you should be able to answer them in relation to one of your beliefs.

    That is an example of someone else's belief.

    How can you be sure? Well, in my experience belief does not generally come all at once. It builds up. I may realize suddenly something that I have half consciously noticed, or suppressed for a long time, but if I look at myself as a whole, it takes time for a belief to form and it is not solid and consistant at all moments.

    How can we know that the person we love and live with actually loves us and will not at the drop of a hat shit all over us?

    How do you know it will be you who will wake up in the morning, but not what is essentially a clone having or a copied bit of software made by the hardware of your brain?

    Certain kinds of experiences have qualities that we recognize or feel and we base our beliefs on them. WE may bolster our belief with rational or empirical checking. We may go back again and again to other kinds of experience that might confirm or deny the belief.

    And certainly some people have poor intuitions. And certainly many people belief in things because they want to. Politicians and religious leaders and advertisers all use this hole in us to get what they want:a war, followers, more sales. But just because some people have poor intuitions, or have a poor handle on how their own needs affect their beliefs does not mean that other people actually base their beliefs on experience and good intuition.

    I loved Donnie DArko by the way.
  11. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member


    How do you distinguish between reality and wishful thinking?
    What are your criteria for making this distinction?

    I am taking this distinction for granted. Which is good enough for a part of everyday life; but is disasterously insufficient when it comes to seeking to figure out the purpose of my life, for example.
    So I want to find something better, more reliable.

    One of the main reasons that I'm wondering about these things is this:
    Many theists level charges and accusations against non-theists, such as, "you are being dishonest", "you are lying to yourselves", "the Truth is obvious, but you just refuse to accept it".
    And since they do this so readily, I am presuming that the whole thing is really easy for them. So I'd like to know how they resolved the problem of distinguishing between reality and imagination.

    But if there is only One True God, only One True Faith, then they are blameless, impossible to criticize, don't you think?

    Like I said above, I realize I take things for granted. I'm sure this will earn me the scorn of many and even worse.
    But for the life of me, there isn't a thing I would be sure of, there isn't a stance I couldn't find persuasive arguments both for and against.

    I don't understand - how is this an example of someone else's belief?

    Sure, I agree. But what you're saying above is also consistent with the phenomenon of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    If the reality vs. imagination distinction is valid, then in the case of belief in God, it should be possible to distinguish between the belief that has been arrived at by direct knowledge of God, and the belief that is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the latter being true, the other one false.

    I don't know that.


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  12. VitalOne Banned Banned

    What do you mean? The distinction is reality is how things really are and wishful thinking is how you would want it to be....pretty simple distinction
  13. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    the standard response is that there are three authorities in theistic testimony

    1. saintly persons
    2. scripture
    3. guru

    on any given point, all three should not be incongruent

    Out of all three, the most valid is scripture - the problem is that one has to be an authentic practitioner (and also familiar with the standard with other authentic practitioner) to fully penetrate scripture.

    IOW I cannot validate any theistic claim by my hearsay - I also cannot validate anything by spouting some scriptural quote - I can validate a theistic claim by indicating how it is in line with these three things.

    Therefore you could say that the first issue for discerning notions of god is to have a good grounding in theory - namely what words like "god" actually mean and what is the job description of authentic practitioners - then one has a proper footing for applying one's discrimination
  14. Frud11 Banned Banned

    My take on where the notion of an external, unknowable 'intelligence' came from is our notions of the infinite.
    When we first started to think about what numbers are, and how counting is conceptually a process that can continue forever, we came up with the notion that there will always be some number(s) beyond any counting (available to finite minds), that we cannot ever 'know'. Since we cannot know this, there must also be other things we cannot know, and the only explanation is that the 'unknowable' keeps it from us (maybe we'll die if we 'see' it).

    That said, there is a lot of evidence that humans are capable of 'realisation': of an inner truth, which is, since humans are part of the whole show, external also (in the world), because of the inner reality. There is an inner light, celestial sounds, nectar (the well of life), and at least one other 'fundamental' energy that can be found inside us.
    This is all laid out in the many Hindu, Jain, Zoroastrian, and other scriptural records. These guys figured something out about our inner nature a long time ago. Jesus talked about light, and I believe mentions other Indo-Aryan notions of 'knowledge' -of the self which is God...
    The Christian faith has many parallels with earlier religions (not just Judaism -which itself appears to borrow from the beliefs mentioned above).
  15. VitalOne Banned Banned

    How do atheists distinguish reality and wishful thinking? I can't ask that quesiton, the topic will be locked
  16. Adstar Valued Senior Member

    Wait a minute. Your saying that your unsure? If your unsure then how can you make a definite decision to reject the Christian faith?

    Accepting is a positive. Rejecting is a negative. But being unsure is a neutral.

    So your actions in Rejecting the Christian faith is not an outcome of being unsure. It is a decision that must be made with conviction that Christianity is wrong, a fantasy, a delusion. Your actions in Rejecting the Christian faith shows that you are not unsure, because if you where really unsure you would not make any firm decisions on such a central issue of existance untill you where sure.

    I read the Bible and accepted the Words of Jesus.


    All Praise The Ancient Of Days
  17. Adstar Valued Senior Member

    Now i understand. You do not understand what the term "wishful thinking" means.

    Wishful thinking is hoping that something is true because you desire it to be true.

    Faith is thinking something is true because you trust in the source of the knowledge.

    All Praise The Ancient Of Days

    Oh and The Name of the Book is the Bible.
  18. Frud11 Banned Banned

    If you 'talk' to or 'commune' with an inner sense of peace and all that, you can call it 'Fred' if you want to.
    "God" is a term that already means a lot of things to a lot of people. But try to get them to define what that meaning is...
    There are language and semantic problems (even between people who speak the same language). If you think about God, that isn't the same as 'being' with God -or being (part of) God. If you call it "Fred", then Fred is a subjective experience. Fred is hard to describe (but plenty have tried to do this) perhaps because Fred only 'appears' in a fundamental, non-intellectual or non-philosophical way to anyone. In other words, our minds can't conceive of Fred, but that doesn't mean Fred is "wishful thinking", or imagination (ask anyone who 'believes' in Fred)...
  19. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    OK. I wasn't quite sure if it was a genuine interest in determining something or a way of getting answers to take shots at. I think to get a very good, solid answer to this - and even this might not be satisfying - would take the kind of work I don't think of as internet forum work, like thesis level carefulness and re-editing. The issue is relevent to everyone who believes in anything, but tends to get focused on theists or anyone who has a 'superstitious' belief.

    I wouldn't and don't say those things. I think there are even monotheists who would avoid that kind of stuff. I do not think it easy, at all, for most of us. I think we have all undergone a lot of bad training. We are trained to believe things because of authority, tradition, family, because it says so in a book - the Bible, the Origin of the Species, whatever book. Of course some people actually chew their way through available research or deep religious experiences - meditation, whatever - and arrive at a more complete, solid belief, but I think these people are rare both on the rationalist side and the theist side. To undo training takes effort and courage. I think on the side of what are called supernatural phenomena we have been heavily trained not to notice, not to trust, not to think we could be special enough to experience them, that it is irrational or sinful to make claims, even in the privacy of our own heads, that we have heard or seen something out of what we are trained to see as the norm. We have a slightly different experience and the so called rational part of the mind rushes in and tries to explain it away. It was really _________. Messages of guilt and shame are also called up. Who do you think you are? Why would you experience this? Or if you are coming from a more fundmentalist background you might start thinking you are possessed, that it is Satan, because really you should get your religious ideas through the priest or reverend.

    I am oversimplifying, but my main point is that as a person in this day and age we have been trained heavily both by rationalists and by religious people that we are silly, evil, crazy etc. if we take certain perceptions seriously.

    For more than a thousand years the religious people have included torture, excommunication and death in the ways they have trained us not to have certain experiences. In the last few hundred years there has been a counter-trend that while physically vastly more restrained - except in communist coutries - has very effectively psychologically used shame and anger against people who have experiences outside the norm.

    And the effects of this training are so fast - I cannot emphasize this enough - that anomalous experiences are dismissed by our well trained minds often before our conscious minds notice them. We may not even focus on how the mind explains away something. It happens so fast.

    So I do not think it is easy or obvious given the state we are in. I am not a monotheist and I have a lot of problems with their churches and traditions and ideas about who we are and what we should be, etc. So you will obviously get very different responses from them.

    Well, I don't buy the premise so the conclusion just ain't the way I see things.

    I could have said that at certain times in my life and I feel that way at various times. You know, often when people ask me what I believe or if I believe in a certain thing, I tend to push them on this idea of belief. I think a lot of people confuse their official position with what they believe. If they really feel and experience their own beliefs I think they will notice they shift over time, there are periods of doubt and so on. I think I have come to some core beliefs, ones that slowly built up over time, but it is not this monolithic structure: I BELIEVE. If you have a kind of fascist self-control, which a lot of training can give you, and you don't notice and don't want to notice how complex your reactions, feelings, opinions, can be, well then I guess it is easier to lie and make absolute proclamations about one's own belief.

    Well, you said 'a person' so I thought it was hypothetical. Maybe I was wrong. Let me know.

    I'm afraid you're not going to like the answer: you have to trust you gut. I can guess an objection. You see people who trust their guts or claim to or seem to and they seem to believe in a God you don't like. Or you think they believe, actually for other reasons. Or they believe Jews are Satanic. Or gays should be killed. Or the Moon is made of cheese. And you don't want to be like them. So you have a judgement about this trusting your gut. It seems to lead to all sorts of bad things and how can one know if in your case it will or has led to a bad thing. Here's the thing. You already trust your gut, but about less (at least seemingly) charged or controversial things.

    You read a paragraph in a book. You understand what you read. So you go on to the next paragraph. But wait a minute. Your brother read this same book and you remember that what he said happened and what it was about now seem clearly loopy. He misinterpreted things. He missed the whole scene with the duck. When you started asking him about it he got mad. He said he KNEW there was no duck in the book. He was sure. So how can you be sure you read the last paragraph correctly. Maybe you deluded yourself like he did. Skipped some key words. Etc.

    But the fact is some people are better readers. And the fact is your gut feeling that you read that paragraph well is generally right.

    I hope this metaphor is clear. Just because some people have poor intuitions and self-insight does not mean that you do. If the voice you mentioned tells you to get an Uzi and kill people with hats, my intuition tells me that you will not do this. It will scare you. We build up trust in our intuitions over time, but to actually get out of the corner we have been painted into, we must start allowing the time we open to certain perceptions to become longer. If you get scared that you have gone to far, are starting to delude yourself, well spend time with that feeling. You might find that you can connect that fear to things that happened to you in the past. You can begin to connect the feelings not to the perceptions but to what I have been calling training, something that can include things so subtle as your father tightening his jaw when certain questions are asked.

    It CAN be a self-fulfilling prophecy in some cases. But if we all stopped acknowledging the skills we have because of what is possible no one would have any talents. And an enormous % of what we do and what we are good at includes leaps based on intuition and self-trust.

    Yeah, I can sympathize. And I bet people who worry about such things are vastly more likely to enjoy Donnie Darko. And my intuition tells me that your intuition will get what I mean by this.

    You know there are voices in the head that are bad too. Unfortunately religions (even secular ones) have called this voice the voice of reason or conscience.

    That voice often says - or even worse quickly implies - things about who we are, as individuals - that are crippling. Then freeze us, shock us, wind us down in sequences of 'if that is true, then that might be true, and if that might be true.......' and on an on. Bits of truth tossed in to make sure the knife goes deep.

    And I think part of the reason we listen to that voice is because we are so afraid of what we might do, think, notice, and especially feel if we trusted ourselves. And this is because of the past and what happened before that we think must happen again.

    Pehaps this will seem rather oblique or unclear, but I am trying to answer your questions as directly as I can.

    Just because other people's clarity and certainty has been so aweful does not mean that yours will be when you slowly and carefully allow yourself to be more and more certain and clear.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2007
  20. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    that is absurd. Accepting is bad if you accept something bad. Rejecting is good if you reject something aweful.

    It is manipulative to tell someone that accepting is good in a general way.
  21. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    Even the title of the thread should make it clear that he is asked something different. How can one distinguish between the two? How can one be clear or really know that one is right?
  22. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    I didn't make that decision. You assume that I did, and you take your assumption to be the truth about me.

    I never rejected the Christian faith. I have become distant, yes. But I could take up praying and going to church anytime; occasionally, I still do.

    And you still haven't answered the questions from the OP.
  23. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Agreed. I'm taking a break from that real work, having run at an impasse.

    Other than that, it seems many theists IRL and here online do not realize the sort of credence people like myself are willing to give them - they take it for granted. This says a lot about the worth of (their) theism.

    Of course. But sometimes I fear that there is nothing but conditioning, nothing but training. That conditioning is all there is to "us".

    Consider that people worldwide believe in Jesus and that he will save them. But if anyone were to say they saw Jesus, those same people would probably call him a heretic and put him in a mental institution ...

    Discussing philosophical and spiritual issues is often a futile, alienating and embittering endeavor, esp. in real life. That's why I don't like to do it all that much, considering the negative consequences (even lawsuits).

    I think so too. There is the "presentable official position" and then there's the true chaotic state of a mind. But some people don't seem to suffer from this dichotomy. This is one more reason that motivated me to start a thread like this.

    I started out generally, and then gave a person example in 1st person.
    If the reality vs. imagination distinction is real, then I suppose it should make no difference whether a phenomenon is stated in 1st person or generally.
    In the teachings given by theists, there often is no difference supposed when saying "If a person ..." and "If I ..." It seems they expect that their teaching applies objectively.

    But since you are a pantheist, this thread might not be suitably formulated for you. Before I posted this thread, I didn't think of the possibility of a pantheist responding, so I formulated things more in line with monotheistic views.

    There's a popular mantra: Don't believe everything you think.

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    But my gut feeling doesn't help me when it comes to issues about God; my gut feeling remains undecided on the matter.

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    My gut feeling is really mostly only about things like what food I'd like to eat, what breathing feels good, whether I should adjust the position of my body ...

    When it comes to abstract concepts, my gut feeling tends to say "grey" and "muck". And it's really alienating, I feel so foreign and misplaced in comparison to other people who seem to be so swift and clear in dealing with concepts.
    Really, my primary reaction (but which I usually don't show) to a question like "Does God exist?" is a blank, dumb stare.

    Thank you.

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