Believers in Belief

Archived comment from this SR thread:

Let’s not forget to distinguish between what people believe, and what they believe they believe.

Plenty of people do not believe in a deity, who sincerely believe that they do.

One way to distinguish between them: it is commonly recognized at this point that people who know they are being observed by others behave differently than when they think they’re alone. People who believe they believe in deities who are supposedly persons usually act according to that pattern. If they genuinely believed, they would never think they were alone and wouldn’t follow the pattern.

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2 Responses to “Believers in Belief”

  1. Another way to distinguish between them, if one is talking about religious people, is to see whether they actually follow their self-interest according to their “beliefs”. For example, if you have a Muslim, who “believes” that he will get 72 virgins and so forth if he performs a suicide bombing, yet does not do it, this suggests that he does not actually believe it. (Pointed out by Dawkins)

  2. I recall Bryan Caplan quoting Gaetano Mosca on that matter in Terrorism: The Relevance of the Rational Model.

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