The Instigator
CerebralCortex
Pro (for)
Losing
4 Points
The Contender
Tin_Man
Con (against)
Winning
16 Points

Religion is not the best strategy to achieve worthwhile human goals

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/20/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,441 times Debate No: 7015
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (4)

 

CerebralCortex

Pro

My argument starts by saying that most of us,
even if unaware,
define our goal in life to maximize our own well being.
Note that when striving to maximize our well being,
our conscience is also a factor,
thus harming others is usually a bad strategy.
Moreover our strategy for maximizing our well being should not necessarily be greedy,
just like a when a financial company wants to maximize profit,
it would still make investments that do not return immediate profit.

Herein, so far we have a goal: to maximize well being.

Now we need to decide on an effective strategy to achieve this goal.
In order to understand what affects our well being we must engage in the study of the truth,
which means the study of what really effects our well being.
If we lie to ourselves while studying this,
then we will not be able to find the truth about
how to maximize our well being.
Note that it is possible that in the conclusion of our sincere study of our own nature we will find that maximizing our well being requires lying to ourselves and abandoning the truth,
but that can only be concluded by means of truthfully studying our own nature.

Now in religion a certain truth is assumed by way of faith.
The word faith implies belief in the absence of evidence.
Therefore this can not be the best strategy for studying the truth,
and so it follows that it also can't be the best strategy for maximizing well being.
Science is our most sincere effort in the study of the truth,
therefore the means by which we study our nature and our universe must be scientific in order to achieve our goal.

If anyone has a better goal or a better strategy you are invited to make your arguments.
Tin_Man

Con

I would say that the first paragraph is fraught with assumptions that work toward your point without consideration of any alternatives. I would agree for the sake of the integrity of the debate that most of us in some way attempt to maximize our own well-being. However, your argument that "conscience is also a factor" would ironically be completely against the idea of using logic in order to maximize happiness, since the conscience is primarily formed by society and religion itself, if not merely by the laws of society (which oftentimes themselves are not based upon completely logical thought). The conscience doesn't require thought or proof; something is simply right, or it is wrong, according to the conscience. Therefore, if one really can use their conscience as a guide to reach self-actualization, then religion is a COMPLETELY valid path to attaining this.

I think the main problem is what we have to define as "maximizing well being." Is well-being simply health? Happiness? According to dictionary.com, it is: "a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity."

Alright, let's go with that. In order to understand what affects our well-being, it is true that we must study the truth and "what effects[sic] our well being." I will agree wholly with this, being a psychology guy myself. We cannot understand what makes us happy and satisfied (well) without understanding the truth about how things work, for instance, within the brain. Your next point, though, doesn't seem to be at all connected with the rest of your argument.

You argue that if we lie to ourselves while studying this, we can't find out the truth about maximizing our well-being, and therefore somehow can't attain wellness. This is a logical fallacy, because it makes the assumption that in order to receive the benefits of wellness, we actually have to understand how we go about being happy. This was not the same point you made earlier. You were arguing what it takes in order to understand wellness, not in order to partake in wellness. Observe your argument:

A) In order to understand wellness, we need to study the truth.
B) If we lie, we cannot understand the truth about wellness.
______________________________
C) We cannot be well unless we understand the truth (and therefore how we are able to be well).

In other words, your argument tries to state that we have to understand wellness in order to be well with no real logical connection as to how that works. So, as you stated later in the second argument, human beings are completely capable of both understanding and fully accepting what makes us well, but also understanding that the truth of one situation is not necessarily the ideal way to achieve that wellness. In other words, people are quite capable of understanding the truth about what makes us well, and if that wellness stems from something outside of normal logic, that does not in any way affect their ability to enjoy it and feel satisfied.

The third argument, in light of the above fallacy, becomes much weaker. If a person understands the truth about what makes him or her well, and the truth is that faith in religion makes him or her well, then partaking in religion is therefore the best way for that individual to attain self-actualization. And, because knowledge of technical wellness is not logically linked to the ability to be well, even someone who knows nothing about HOW they become well can still, in fact, be well by enjoying religion. Implicitly, if they decide they are not satisfied without religion, then they don't even really need to know HOW to make themselves more well, only that they feel their best when religious.

How's that?
Debate Round No. 1
CerebralCortex

Pro

"I would say that the first paragraph is fraught with assumptions that work toward your point without consideration of any alternatives"
Not at all, look at my last sentence.

Regarding my point about conscience.
I am not saying that conscience is logical or that its not and I am not saying if it came from religion or not,
all I am saying is that it seems to be a factor in our well being that we must take into account when we consider our well being.
Would you not agree its a factor of our well being ?

"You argue that if we lie to ourselves while studying this, we can't find out the truth about maximizing our well-being, and therefore somehow can't attain wellness"
Close -- but that's not what I said.
What I said was:
"If we lie to ourselves while studying this, then we will not be able to find the truth about how to maximize our well being."
This doesn't mean you can't attain some wellness by other means,
its just that you can't know that you have really tried to maximize it.
For example if I tried out something on myself, and it didn't make me feel so good,
but I lie to myself that it did, and so I conclude that it makes me feel good,
then I would not be able to ever achieve my goal.
Isn't this true ?

"In other words, your argument tries to state that we have to understand wellness in order to be well with no real logical connection as to how that works"
Same problem, I am not talking about just attaining wellness, I am talking about maximizing it.

"In other words, people are quite capable of understanding the truth about what makes us well, and if that wellness stems from something outside of normal logic, that does not in any way affect their ability to enjoy it and feel satisfied."
Yes, of-course but to reach any conclusion you must be engaged in an honest study of your well being and things that may affect it,
so what tools would you use to do this study ? The answer is, the best tools you have for the job.

Your final argument is:
"The third argument, in light of the above fallacy, becomes much weaker. If a person understands the truth about what makes him or her well, and the truth is that faith in religion makes him or her well, then partaking in religion is therefore the best way for that individual to attain self-actualization."
That is theoretically possible, of-course, but in reality no one can really claim that he found out for certain that this is the best strategy to achieve his well being.
It is only when one can truly claim (without lying) that he has completed his study and has full knowledge of the world and his own nature when he can honestly make that informed decision to start lying to himself
and to discontinue the study of truth, since he already found the answer with pure certainty.

So all I am saying is that we need to be engaged in the truthful study of our nature and the universe to really know what the best strategy is,
until this research concludes we should not make any claims on best strategies, but to keep seeking the truth.

Note that I never said that religion is not a good strategy to achieve well being,
I just said it is not the best.
Tin_Man

Con

Asking other people to come up with an alternative that somehow defeats a relative standing of "the best" is not YOU considering alternatives, and it's only arguable that such a statement even warrants the assertion that you could consider any alternative. But we'll see.

"Would you not agree its a factor of our well being ?"
Of course I am, but I was merely pointing out the irony. Your argument is that religion is not the best means to wellness due to it's irrationality and inability to be proved. However, you assert that the conscience, which often promotes values both from religion and values that have no real logical or rational basis, must be taken into consideration. Why should religion be discounted when something equally as vaporous in evidence or logic require consideration?

"This doesn't mean you can't attain some wellness by other means,
its just that you can't know that you have really tried to maximize it.
For example if I tried out something on myself, and it didn't make me feel so good,
but I lie to myself that it did, and so I conclude that it makes me feel good,
then I would not be able to ever achieve my goal."

Well... that's subjective. Are you really trying to assert that every single religious person is lying to themselves about what makes them feel better? I doubt that was your point, but it seems to be implied.

Regardless, I'm not sure exactly where you are trying to go with this. If you're saying that religion only hinders the ability to maximize wellness, there isn't much evidence that agrees with you. There are numerous sources (common knowledge in health psychology, actually) that support the assertion that religious people on average not only seem to be happier than those without religion, but also healthier. Here's a few articles that cite specific cases:

http://www.find-health-articles.com...
http://www.find-health-articles.com...
http://www.find-health-articles.com...

I'm not exactly sure how you intend to prove that anything is "the best" (which would be the only way for you to disprove that religion is not, in fact, the best) way of maximizing wellness. Can you prove to any one person that they could, in fact, be better off than they are? In order to do that, you would have to have an in-depth look at their own personal histories, values, and even chemical differences in their brain. It seems to me that it would be impossible to prove that for any one person, religion couldn't be the ultimate method for achieving that person's own personal self-actualizing state.

I suppose in order to continue this debate, you are going to have to give a concrete, solid definition of how any one person can know that they are at the maximum apogee of wellness. If we don't know what constitutes maximum wellness, then how would you intend to prove that religion can't be the best way of reaching it?

What constitutes "the best tools" we can use in order to measure the degree of wellness a person is feeling? We can use a survey or statistics, but as I cited above (and what you can find in any well-defined Google search), religious people still have the edge there. We can use an MRI to measure pleasure centers, I suppose, but again, all that tells us is that a person is, in fact, feeling pleasure when engaged in religious activities, regardless of whether or not they understand why or how.

In fact, it isn't a stretch to say that people who live a lie can certainly feel much better about themselves than those who study the truth. After all, we have little reason to lie except when it benefits us, and the idea that the conscience tortures everyone for every lie is unlikely, since we have all gotten away with a lie at some point in our lives and have had no second thoughts about it. In essence, the truthfulness of the existence a person choose to lead in no way affects their level or ability to become well. How is it logical to say that just because a person lies to themselves about religion in order to be happier isn't the happiest he or she can be? Do you have any sort of proof that reality is that much better than a fantasy someone can create? That goes against the definition of "fantasy."

"It is only when one can truly claim (without lying) that he has completed his study and has full knowledge of the world and his own nature when he can honestly make that informed decision to start lying to himself and to discontinue the study of truth, since he already found the answer with pure certainty."

So you are making the assumption that every single person who is religious is lying to themselves when they claim to find this. I can think of many different religious people who reached such a state of self-actualization through religious activities.

And think of it this way... we are human. Even if a person were to go to the effort of abandoning EVERYTHING in order to study their own ideas of happiness, there is no proof that anyone could actually consider EVERY aspect. After all, all we can do is trial and error in this field, whether that's done within religion or from a perfectly scientific stance. Whatever you were to find in your study has no real objective way of being measured against the methods a religious person would use in order to reach the same conclusion.

"Note that I never said that religion is not a good strategy to achieve well being, I just said it is not the best."

Unfortunately, then, this argument isn't likely to go anywhere, because "best" is quite relative in this area of debate. The only way you can actually "prove" anything is to find people who undergo a certain method of achieving wellness and you are able to prove that, on average, this group of people produces "more well" people than religion does. So far, even in this laughably absurd method of measurement, religion still beats non-religion, and that isn't surprising. The idea of immortality, someone all-powerful looking out for us, and being rewarded for being good in a tough world would obviously make someone happier overall, even if it's a lie, than someone who is scientifically able to deduce that cheesecake is the best, non-religious way of becoming well.
Debate Round No. 2
CerebralCortex

Pro

I think you are missing my point.
Its rather simple if you think about it.

Imagine I had a company that wanted to maximize revenue.
Not make a lot of revenue but actually maximizing it,
thus selecting a strategy that provides revenue x
such that any other possible strategy will produce revenue <= x.
(I say <= because there can be many best strategies)
So in order to find this strategy one would have to honestly, truthfully study how to maximize profit.
To do that he would use the best tools he can to study the truth about how to maximize profit.
Agree so far ?
Now if some incorrect assertion was made,
hence an assumption that Z is a step that a best strategy must make,
then it would be impossible that any strategy based on assumption Z would work to maximize profit.
This is by definition because the assumption was wrong.
Still it may be possible to find a good strategy by making erroneous assumptions,
but not the best as required.
BTW -- the more wrong assumptions one would make the less the revenue would be, but that's beside the point.
Hence a strategy to really maximize profit must be perfect,
thus it can contain no errors, no false assumptions,
it must have perfectly studied all the factors without making any errors.

I argue that it works the same way when you look at one's well being.
Want to maximize it ? That would require perfect understanding of it and all that effects it,
no false assumptions can be made. Only an honest study of the truth will do.
Where ever this study will lead, that's fine by me.
If it leads to religion, then that's fine.

Now regarding my point about religion.
Religion makes huge assumptions which are not based on concrete evidence.
From specific claims like a virgin birth or a talking burning bush or a profit riding a flying horse and ripping the moon in half,
to more general claims like god has a plan for us, god wants us to do this or that ...
Making such claims about the universe requires extraordinary evidence,
which does not exist.
Can anyone really claim that religion is the best methodology we have to study the truth ?
Can religion really make accurate predictions ?
How can one honestly know that he is maximizing his well being without religion offering any means by which this can be measured ?
Notice that I am not claiming that I have some dogma that would maximize your well being,
or that I know how to measure well being.
All I am saying is that to achieve it humanity must dedicate itself to the study of truth,
not to blindly follow extraordinary claims that are not based on any solid evidence.
Why not ?
Because they are not the result of honestly seeking the truth.

-----
If seeking the truth is your business then skepticism should be your best friend not faith.
-----

Faith is actually a deadly enemy of truth because it makes assumptions it can't possibly prove.

Having said all that,
the only case in which faith based belief can be claimed to be the best strategy there is,
is after an honest study of the truth reveals that it is !

Now regarding the tools we can use.
This is a philosophical debate,
I am not talking about specific technologies we have today like MRI, CT and such.
I am talking about something abstract --- the truth.
And the tools we can use are also abstract, they are methodologies.
Right now the best methodology is the scientific methodology.

"So you are making the assumption that every single person who is religious is lying to themselves when they claim to find this. I can think of many different religious people who reached such a state of self-actualization through religious activities."
I am saying that they lie to themselves if they claim that they have all the necessary information
(which is basically all the information in the universe)
to make the claim that they have found the best strategy.
I am not proving an alternative dogma -- I am just saying -- study the truth.

Now to make all this a bit more down to earth and less philosophical,
I don't know if we can ever really maximize our well being or not,
since we may not ever be able to know all that is true about the universe,
but we can strive to do so, and I think its safe to assume the following formula holds:

lim[z->W](h(z))=h_opt

Where W is all the knowledge in the world,
h(z) is the value of our well being when using the knowledge z to construct the best strategy
and h_opt is the maximal possible value of one's well being

So the more we know, the happier we can be
(if we choose to apply our knowledge for that purpose)

As faith is an obstacle in the study of truth, it is also an obstacle for maximizing well being.
Tin_Man

Con

My computer's been restarting randomly, and I don't want to type for long just to end up with my arguments erased, so I can only offer a brief response to each argument.

First off, bringing calculus into the equation isn't logical for this particular problem, because while revenue and money can be measured, "wellness" cannot be done the same way. What is a unit of wellness? How can you KNOW that you have reached the maximum wellness? What are the solid variables, and how can we measure and compare them? Is it even possible? I would imagine that if it was, we would have done it by now, but "wellness" cannot yet be defined by hard sciences. Your argument was that religion is not the best way to reach maximum wellness. You have yet to prove that, though, since you haven't been able to offer any real alternative. We can talk theoreticals all day; theoretically, there IS a maximum wellness, and theoretically, it can be measured. But because we don't live in a theoretical world, the theoretical method of how we might reach maximum wellness is NOT the best way of reaching maximum wellness, since we haven't been able to reach this theoretical point (hence it being... theoretical).

So what are we left with? Well, we are left with our own minds. If we cannot study scientifically how to reach the maximum amount of wellness possible, then we are left with reaching the maximum wellness we can. That peak may rise based on new information, but all that means is that a new maximum is set, and without having any way to find or realistically define an absolute maximum, then the best way of reaching the maximum wellness humanly possible (rather than theoretically possible) certainly can be religion. The afore-cited articles would agree with me on the science of that.

Second, once again, the truthfulness of the stories of religion in no way affect the ability for one to know that they are essentially happier than they have ever been. The main disagreement we have, I think, is that you believe it is important that there IS a maximum possible wellness value, while my point is that if it does exist, it doesn't matter, because we have no way of understanding it (at least not that you have been able to show). Therefore, the ONLY maximum we can rely upon is an individual maximum set for each person who can say honestly, "I am as well or more well than I have ever been." If they can say that, then they HAVE reached the maximum wellness they can. "Maximizing our well-being", your original stated objective of all humans, does NOT mean, "reaching the maximum well-being possible." If a person is as happy as they have ever been, then they have, in their own context, maximized their well-being, even if that means using what you see as false truths to do so.

Third, the "scientific methodology", as I pointed out, cannot apply to something as ethereal as well-being. I can guarantee that if it were possible to discover the maximum possibility of wellness scientifically, it would have been done by now already, and there would be thousands of books written about how to attain it.

The ultimate problem comes down to this. If you cannot possibly find the maximum well being, whether the problem is a bad formula, a variable we can't measure, or whatever, then you cannot use that as a standard by which to measure any possibility of maximizing well-being. Therefore, the only truly experiential way of observing maximum well-being is on a more subjective, personal level based almost entirely upon the person's feelings of wellness (unless we wanted to go so far as to measure brain activity). If that is the case, then the ONLY way we are capable of measuring wellness is to compare groups of people attempting to maximize wellness, and compare the relative happiness of all groups to each other. Then we pick the group that uses the method producing the highest mean of wellness. It's a silly experiment, but it's all we can do at this moment.

Your argument was originally that religion is not the best way of reaching maximum wellness. Without a usable definition of maximum wellness, a scientific process that is NOT theoretical and could actually be used in true measurement, or a method that, using the possible experiment above, could produce a higher wellness than religion, you have not been able to prove your original assertion.

I will admit that it is POSSIBLE that religion is not the best way of maximizing wellness, but until we come up with a way to measure religion against ANY other alternative, there is no way to PROVE that.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Molokoplus 7 years ago
Molokoplus
Excellent debate on both sides. This, like many religious debates, contains two truthful statements that are very difficult to pick one over the other. Great read.
Posted by crackofdawn_Jr 8 years ago
crackofdawn_Jr
Well duh...unless everyone chooses the same religion. o_0
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Vote Placed by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
CerebralCortexTin_ManTied
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RoyLatham
CerebralCortexTin_ManTied
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Vote Placed by Molokoplus 7 years ago
Molokoplus
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Tin_Man
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