Tag: belief

Conditions of Belief in A Secular Age: Secular Age Round 1

I finished Charles Taylor’s monumental A Secular Age last summer, and it was one of those books that you finish reading and the world feels like an entirely different place. In this book, Taylor examines not only the emergence of Western secularism, but the experience of living in it. His project is phenomenological as much as it is genealogical; tracing the winding paths and new terrain that deposited us in this creedally pluralistic society, while also examining the pathos, the uncertainty, the limitations and fruits of navigating our way through the midst of many plausible alternatives of how to believe and how to live.  For this reason, I found the book not only intellectually enlightening, but spiritually awakening. In this series of blog posts, I hope to sketch some of his insights and observations on the history of our secular condition and the “cross-pressures” we experience within it. I will interweave some musings on some of the implications for or intersections with [my experience of] Mormonism. In other words, consider this a very selective [1] Cliffnotes version with some commentary.  In these first few posts, I’ll start with the introduction and try to tackle sequential chapters in following posts–though Taylor admits his work is not linear, but rather a series of interlocking essays (so don’t expect too much linearity in how I proceed, though I’ll do my best). Here it goes! First, terms. What does Taylor mean by a “secular” age? Taylor outlines…

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

This post is a follow up to my two previous posts As Much As I Know Anything and What It Would Take To Not Believe. I have to start out by clarifying something that I didn’t define well enough in a previous post. I made the statement that we cannot not believe, but that depends on a definition of belief that isn’t universal and that I should have made more clear. Obviously we can choose to not believe in lots of things individually. But when I think about belief I have something more holistic and systemic in mind. Our really important beliefs tend to weave together in a web that makes it impossible for some strands to be pulled without having an effect on the entire fabric. At this point we’re not just talking about individual propositions. We’re talking about a world view, which is a cohesive whole that includes not just beliefs, but also values, emotions, and memories. I’m tempted to use the phrase “ecosystem,” but the term I like the best for this network of propositions and relationships between propositions is constructed reality. It is the working model we each have of the world around us. It governs not only what we think is true right now, but also what we think will be true in the future based on our actions and the actions of others. I went into much greater detail (and linked the topic to why…

What It Would Take to Not Believe

There was one question in response to my last post that I particularly wanted to answer, but wasn’t able to at the time. This is the question, which was posed by Sebastian Dick: “What would it take to convince you that (in as much as you know anything) propositions such as God exists or the BoM is historical are false? Or do you consider such propositions unfalsifiable?” This post is my answer. It is not a trite cliché that everyone has to believe in something. It is the literal truth. When your life has ended and you look back and see the decisions that you have made along the way, the pattern of choices will imply a corresponding constellation of beliefs. Those facts and principles that you affirm as relevant and true because they are made logically necessary by your actions are the things that you believe. This perspective is a generalization of the economic theory of revealed preferences, so we can call it the theory of revealed beliefs. It eschews subjective feelings about what is true for the simple reason that we often do not know our own feelings. We sometimes think that we believe in something, but then behave in ways that contradicts that belief. These instrumental or fictitious beliefs are not, in my mind, the genuine article. For the same reason, Paul Samuelson (who invented the theory of revealed preferences in 1938 and became the first American…

Persecution or Freedom?

Just a week after he was named chef de mission of the U.S. Olympic Team for 2012, Peter Vidmar has resigned because of objections to his beliefs—specifically his opposition to same-sex marriage. Vidmar, an LDS Church member and a member of the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. He is also the highest scoring gymnast in Olympic history. But in 2008 Vidmar publicly campaigned for Proposition 8 in California.