Looking for one-on-one discussion with a theist
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11-01-2017, 10:45 PM
RE: Looking for one-on-one discussion with a theist
"There is nothing wrong in believing"

My going in position if that

1) believing anything is an irrational product of the mind, yet the human mind seems to be hardwired into creating beliefs.

2) Believing in something in which a person thinks is or should be the case without any empirical evidence to support the belief.

3) Believing is something is necessary for constructing sense and purpose while navigating through life.

4) Believing is different from knowing in that the latter can generally be proved to be true, even though the event or criteria may not happen again or in the same manner.

Supporting statements

A. Eric Schwitzgebel wrote in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Schwitzgebel, Eric (2006), "Belief", in Zalta, Edward, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford, CA: The Metaphysics Research Lab, retrieved 2008-09-19) that another way of defining belief is “as a mental representation of an attitude positively oriented towards the likelihood of something being true.”

B. Jonathan Leicester in the Journal of Mind and Behavior (Leicester, Jonathan (2008). "The nature and purpose of belief". Journal of Mind and Behavior. 29 (3): 219–239), that the purpose of belief is to guide action, not to indicate truth. Philosophers use the term “belief” to refer to personal attitudes associated with true or false ideas and concepts.

C. A simple definition (http://changingminds.org/explanations/be...elief.htm) is provided: “A belief is an assumed truth. Hence, everything is a belief—including this statement. We create beliefs to anchor our understanding of the world around us, and once we have formed a belief, we will tend persevere with that belief.

The author continued with the conclusion that we will have “one belief system and many disbelief systems.

D. Beth Azar wrote (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/12/believe.aspx): “Religion may fill thehuman need for finding meaning, sparing us from existential angst while also supporting social organization, researchers say.” The following are excerpts from her site:

1) “Harking back to Sigmund Freud, some psychologists have characterized religious beliefs as pathological, seeing religion as a malignant social fore that encourages irrational thoughts and ritualistic behaviors.”

2) Justin Barrett, PhD, director of the cognition, religion, and theology project in the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at Oxford University states that “It’s really your basic, garden-variety cognitions that provide the impetus for religious beliefs.”
Children tend to believe that the natural world was created with purpose. Adults tend to search for meaning and are primed to see signs and patterns in the world around them.

“People also have a bias for believing in the supernatural,” Barrett adds. “What we’re showing is that our basic cognitive equipment biases us toward certain kinds of thinking and leads to thinking about a pre-life, and afterlife, gods, invisible beings that are doing things—themes common to most of the world’s religions.”

3) Psychologist Thomas Plante, PhD, (professor and director of the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University and president of APA’s Div 36 (Psychology of Religion)) stated that research supports the notion that religious thought is in many ways an unavoidable byproduct of the way our minds work and hopes that this view will help people see themselves as “more whole.” “We’ve had this long history of believing that things of the spirit are in one camp and that science and technology are in another camp. Whole people have the biological, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects connected.

4) Jordan Grafman, PhD, director of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological disorders and Stroke, states that “neuroscience research supports the idea that the brain is primed to believe. This tendency is spread throughout the brain and probably arose from neural circuits developed for other uses.” He adds, “contemplation is not limited to religious thought, although certain traditions like prayer or meditation may require selective kinds of thinking processes. In general, the brain uses the same circuits to think about and experience religion as it does to think about and handle any other thoughts or beliefs.”

E. Austin Cline writes: (http://atheism.about.com/od/definitionof...rtant.htm) “every person either has or lacks the mental attitude that a belief is true. No middle ground. Belief is distince from judgment, which is a conscious mental act that involves arriving at a conclusion about a proposition (and thus usually creating a belief).

“(I)f you believe something is true, you must be willing to act as if it were true. If you are unwilling to act as though it were true, you can’t really claim to believe it.

“Beliefs are important because behavior is important, and your behavior depends on your beliefs.”

F. Lastly, Richard Dawkins (known for his opinion and desire for religion to disappear) wrote a letter to his then ten-year-old daughter Juliet, entitled “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing.” (retrieved from http://www.thankgodforevolution.com/node/1950) In this letter, Dawkins wrote that moving on from evidence is a good reason for believing something. However, he named three bad reasons for believing anything: tradition, authority, and revelation.

In tradition, it is akin to what I heard growing up in a church setting: “If it was good enough for our grandfathers, it is good enough for us.” It also leads to parroting. I once asked a little girl to recite John 3:16. She did a good job. Then I asked her what it meant. After bursting into tears, she admitted that she did not know.

In authority, Dawkins describes this as being a belief created because someone important told us it was so. I would not hesitate to marry authority with tradition because authority is usually associated with tradition.

Revelation, according to Dawkins, should appear as immediately suspect and regarded as such. But people tend to follow like sheep the goat or herd-dog simply because the person receiving a “revelation” just happens to also occupy a position authority.

Conclusion

I once had a friend who used to talk about the fairies living in his garden. Much later, I found out he was talking about the mole problem he was combating. It was interesting, however, to see how he was handling the problem. Getting rid of moles was probably as frustrating as the stories people used to tell about getting rid of fairies and other supernatural creatures that plagued mankind since time memorial.

For a child trying to survive in a bewildering kaleidoscope view of this world, allegedly run by adults and adult thinking, there is some juvenile assurance of “everything will turn out all right” by believing in a Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. That adults encourage such beliefs and then destroy the same beliefs later on seems to be counter-intuitive in the long run.

A few children that I have known who had virtually no beliefs tended to be more morose and depressed. Children who believed in things like Santa Claus and Tooth Fairies and monsters under the bed tended to be more creative and willing to absorb life and try out opportunities.
One concept that will always stick with me during my survival training and prisoner-of-war training was the encouragement of the belief that my country would never forget me. It is an easy concept to accept and digest, but when confronted with reality, it is often rather difficult to continue believing. I mean, the number of prisoners who spent years in captivity came back with two thoughts: their personal belief in a God and the belief that their country would not forget them. And there exist a great number of people who are still unaccounted for.

Yet, we continue to serve. We cannot allow any doubts about the veracity of the belief that the nation will not forget us when we are now facing kill-or-be-killed circumstances with the real prospect of being captured, which many felt worse than dying.

A belief connects people. The overarching belief, anyway, because I do not believe that two people believe the same thing exactly. Yet, there is fellowship, a sense of unity when people who acknowledge a belief in something that is common to all get together. Not only that, it creates an atmosphere of being important, being a part of something much larger than the individual, security, mental well-being, and a general feeling of purpose in life.
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12-01-2017, 01:46 PM (This post was last modified: 12-01-2017 01:51 PM by Reltzik.)
RE: Looking for one-on-one discussion with a theist
That was a bit more in-depth of a clarification than I was looking for, but I'll try to give it a good response.

Starting by addressing your opening positions, I've got more in the way of quibbles, queries, and clarifications than outright contentions.

In point (1), I'd question the word "irrational". Would "unconscious" or "unthinking" be better? I agree that the process is not a wholly rational one, but "irrational" also carries connotations of flying in the face of reason, and I'm not sure if you meant to convey that.

I'd quibble in point (2), not any real disagreement with what seems to be your position, but to hold out for the possibility of subconscious (unthinking) beliefs, especially those that run contrary to one's conscious thoughts. Phobias particularly spring to mind as an example of this. But as I say, this is a quibble. Not terribly important.

In (3), I'd ask for a (brief) clarification about what you mean by sense and purpose. I know several ways that this phrase COULD be interpreted, and every time I've pinned down a meaning from someone who uses it in this manner, it hasn't quite matched the meaning of the previous person I've pinned down. So, please clarify.

I found myself in disagreement with two of the sources from Azar's essay, Barret and Plante, which caused me to look more closely for them. The essay itself lacked citations (at least in the format provided), and the academic database I was querying couldn't find any scholarly articles by them, so I wasn't able to track their comments back to their source, leaving me unable to read them in their original context or see what they were based on. It was a bit frustrating, but your choice of quotations gives me a clearer notion of what you meant by belief, and that's really all I'd been asking for.

Taking all your comments together here, I think I've got a better idea of what you mean by "there is nothing wrong with believing". By "believing", you aren't referring to any belief of any sort (eg, that the light that you just saw turn red actually turned red and you aren't just a brain in a vat wired to a computer simulation), or the beliefs of any specific religion, but rather a broad category of spiritual or supernatural belief. By "not wrong", you aren't referring to factual incorrectness or moral violation, but a practical weighing of the consequences of belief as not being negative in balance. Overall, you seem to be advancing the proposition that there are positive psychological and societal benefits to holding spiritual beliefs regardless of their accuracy. Do I have that right?

If so, I'd ask two questions about this proposition. First, does it include in its consideration the negative psychological and societal impacts that can arise from belief? For examples of what might count as negative psychological and societal impacts of spiritual beliefs, I'd cite religious wars and violence, trauma inflicted by a belief in hell upon some Christian believers, persecution of the LGBT community, and so forth. (I doubt it would surprise either of us if entire books could be, and have been, written on the subject.) I'll agree that these are not universal to all spiritual beliefs, but widespread spiritual belief seems to come with these costs attached as a package deal. At the very least, no one seems to have separated them so far, at least not on a widespread scale.

Second, does this position consider alternatives to spiritual belief, rather than just absence of spiritual belief? For example, could a non-spiritual humanism promote altruism in the same way that religion does? Could a sense of integrity and truth-seeking, or a sense of humanism, or another non-spiritual alternative, provide purpose in the same way that belief in a divine purpose-giver does?

Also, let me take a moment to echo your frustration with the unwelcoming committee. I've lost count of the number of times I've almost left the forums because of them, and of the number of newcomers who were swarmed under and driven off who seemed like they could have been excellent conversational partners. The result seems to be a forum where, with a few rare exceptions, the only countervailing opinions that stick around are the most obnoxious and immovable ones. I'm at a loss for how to fix it... hence why I'm so often on the verge of leaving the forums for good.
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15-01-2017, 09:23 PM
RE: Looking for one-on-one discussion with a theist
Regarding to your first quibble. I’m not confident that “unconscious” or “unthinking” would be apropos. I have thought about the “unconscious” part and was planning a future research in that vein.

I understand your reluctance with the word “irrational.” My use stems from a myriad number of conversations another forums as well as Internet literature. Plus which, I feel that the word “irrational” connotes a negative approach to discussion. A put-down in many cases.

So, as we begin to understand each other, I am more than happy to replace the word “irrational” with something else. I still think that people make a conscious decision in defining their beliefs, even if to others there is no rational bases for their decision.

Sense and purpose.

Ah. Let me fall back on the hackneyed question: “What is the meaning of life?”

Back in theological college, this used to be one of our favorite debatable subjects. In the field, parishioners themselves would keep asking the clergy and teachers, what is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Those sorts of things.

A tangent to our discussion, but one of the reasons given for having a religion is to give some kind of explanation of why we live in a world that is 1) non-understandable and 2) trying to kill us. Islam and some sects of Christianity try to simplify it by stating that people are here to glorify God. Buddhism and Hinduism state that this life is one in a string of lives destined to become one with God/Nirvana and whatever is the opposite of this world.

I am at a point where I am beginning to hope that this existence is nothing more than a video game (a la Seth and cosmic consciousness), but at the same time grow more as a spiritual as well as a thinking person. My Chippewa shaman/Buddhist monk supported the concept of reincarnation, and he claimed one of his lives was as a holy man. I questioned him: isn’t being a holy man at the top rung towards moving on to Nirvana? He said no, because there are so many facets that have to be learned in just one lifetime.

It is my general opinion that too many people have more or less given up on trying to understand life and have become flotsam and jetsam in the stream of life.

Living with the Filipinos has opened a new insight on people. They are highly educated, but the job market is severely limited. There is a lot of cultural pressure on getting married and raising a family. Thirdly, they are supposed to be a very religious country, which like the United States is quite questionable. Anyway, because a great deal of Facebook posting is God-related, the belief that is underscored with all the messages posted is that 1) God has a plan for each person and 2) one has to wait for God’s timing. As a theologian, I have qualms about both, but the point I am trying to make is that these religious ideas to instill this kind of belief is attempting to create sense in a almost senseless existence as well as a purpose (“as long as I am living what should I do?”) in living that life.

Your question regarding “you seem to be advancing the proposition that there are positive psychological and societal benefits to holding spiritual beliefs regardless of their accuracy”—yes, that sums it up nicely.

Your question: “[D]oes it include in its consideration the negative psychological and societal impacts that can arise from belief?” Yes. But if I were arguing against myself, I would probably lead with the negativity as an attempt to “sway the jury” that believing—there comes to mind that word “irrational” again—against the benefits of positive belief.

Your question: “[D]oes this position consider alternatives to spiritual belief, rather than just absence of spiritual belief?” I would have to say no. Being a product of my education, I may be locked into the dichotomy of the materialistic and the spiritual. While I can admit that the two might comprise the two sides of the coin, I feel that they are in opposition to each other.

I might, at this point, be accused of splitting hairs. It is just the weird way I think, I suppose. Allow me to create a strawman.

A child grows up in a non-religious environment. It is not necessarily atheistic, but there is no real emphasis on anything religious. The child from the moment of birth is extremely “me”-conscious. “I’m cold. I’m hot. I’m hungry. Change my diaper.” But as the child grows up, he begins to recognize customs of generosity, kindness, helping, etc. If he questions his elders about these customs, he could simply be told that these customs are the best ways of getting along with each other. And, since these customs have worked for a long time, they are accepted.

Now, my brain begins to work. (for a change, ha-ha!)

The human brain seeks pleasure (http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/a/a_03/a...r_que.html) and will drive behavior to acquire pleasure. This drive encourages selfishness at the expense of others (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_egoism), which is described as psychological egoism. But the person realizes that he is not the “center of the universe” and is dependent on other people in the societal spectrum.

Altruism (as defined in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism) could define the customs of this boy’s society. My problem with how some people define altruism is shaped by my understanding of the psychological underpinnings that doing something altruistic is boiled down to my desire to feel good. “What a good boy am I!” But again, that could be a consequence and influence of the religious tapes in my head.

Opinion: When the boy realizes the benefits of following the cultural norms of his society, he transitions to something more spiritual in nature (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enh...ituality), whereby he begins to feel a sense of connection to something bigger than himself. The reference added: “. . . and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.”

------

Appreciated you candor with this site. I am not easily chased off, and I realize it takes a while for others to understand me and where I am coming from.

You frequent any other forums? A long-time forum friend, Rufius, introduced me to this site. The site where I used to be a vociferous contributor dried up after a decade run, and the site that I left and went back only to leave again operates under some very strict rules to where you almost cannot say “boo” without being penalized with some sort of demerit being assessed. I mean, my first run-in with the Nazi-like establishment was over my using the word “gobbledygook.” Because it had the letters g.o.o.k in it, the language policing software raised a racial-slander flag. Took a lot of doing to convince the head-shed that I had not violated one of their precious rules.
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18-01-2017, 11:07 PM
RE: Looking for one-on-one discussion with a theist
With regards to altruism and self-centeredness...

... things change either a lot, or not at all, when we add a degree of empathy to the mix. It's not hard to observe that (most) people prefer to be surrounded by smiling people than scowling people, by happy versus unhappy people, by people who are laughing in delight rather than screaming in pain. Nor is this unique to humans. Most social mammals behave in this manner. Without delving into the exact mechanisms (I keep hearing "mirror neurons" tossed around, but whatever), it's easy to see that this resolves most of the practical problems of self-centeredness.

Give food to a homeless person? See their face light up. Get warm fuzzy feelings. Positive reinforcement. Kick a puppy? Hear awful awful crying. (Or so I would assume.) Get miserable feelings, possibly guilt or possibly just sympathy and pity. Negative reinforcement.

It's hardly the only element in play. Certainly rage, hatred, fear, need for dominance, et cetera can override empathy at times. But empathy provides a secular, non-spiritual path to many of the benefits that you're talking about.

At least, I think it's non-spiritual, or at least not necessarily spiritual.

Now we're venturing into semantic area that's troublesome for me, because I never can get a clear idea of definitions. "Spiritual", "meaning", and "purpose". These are very slippery terms in my experience, very hard to pin down and identify what the speaker means by them.

Since pushing for a definition has not served me well in the past, I'm going to try a different approach. With regard to being spiritual, or having a meaning or purpose, tell me... why should we care?

No, I'm not asking "why should we care" to imply that we shouldn't care. But I think that keeping an eye on the REASONS we care about these things, about the benefits they provide and the pitfalls they help us avoid, can be useful guide to navigating this discussion. In particular, I suspect that those benefits which are demonstrable can be achieved just as well without belief in the supernatural elements, and additionally that many drawbacks can be guarded against by avoiding faith in such things.

So, why should we care about spirituality, meaning, or purpose? List a few possible benefits, please.
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19-01-2017, 06:46 PM
RE: Looking for one-on-one discussion with a theist
(18-01-2017 11:07 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  With regards to altruism and self-centeredness...

... things change either a lot, or not at all, when we add a degree of empathy to the mix. It's not hard to observe that (most) people prefer to be surrounded by smiling people than scowling people, by happy versus unhappy people, by people who are laughing in delight rather than screaming in pain. Nor is this unique to humans. Most social mammals behave in this manner. Without delving into the exact mechanisms (I keep hearing "mirror neurons" tossed around, but whatever), it's easy to see that this resolves most of the practical problems of self-centeredness.

Give food to a homeless person? See their face light up. Get warm fuzzy feelings. Positive reinforcement. Kick a puppy? Hear awful awful crying. (Or so I would assume.) Get miserable feelings, possibly guilt or possibly just sympathy and pity. Negative reinforcement.

It's hardly the only element in play. Certainly rage, hatred, fear, need for dominance, et cetera can override empathy at times. But empathy provides a secular, non-spiritual path to many of the benefits that you're talking about.

At least, I think it's non-spiritual, or at least not necessarily spiritual.

Now we're venturing into semantic area that's troublesome for me, because I never can get a clear idea of definitions. "Spiritual", "meaning", and "purpose". These are very slippery terms in my experience, very hard to pin down and identify what the speaker means by them.

Since pushing for a definition has not served me well in the past, I'm going to try a different approach. With regard to being spiritual, or having a meaning or purpose, tell me... why should we care?

No, I'm not asking "why should we care" to imply that we shouldn't care. But I think that keeping an eye on the REASONS we care about these things, about the benefits they provide and the pitfalls they help us avoid, can be useful guide to navigating this discussion. In particular, I suspect that those benefits which are demonstrable can be achieved just as well without belief in the supernatural elements, and additionally that many drawbacks can be guarded against by avoiding faith in such things.

So, why should we care about spirituality, meaning, or purpose? List a few possible benefits, please.

A tall order. Give me a week, please.
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29-01-2017, 07:52 PM
RE: Looking for one-on-one discussion with a theist
I can think of only two reasons for caring:

- survival
- fitting into society.

I ascribe to the psychological viewpoint where we do anything and everything that either makes us feel good or justifies the acts. We are born with the innate impetus to satisfy our own needs and make demands on others to fulfill those needs. Begrudgingly, we satisfy other people’s needs on a case by case basis.

First, we care about ourselves. If we look to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we see only the self at play. We look to satisfy the very basic needs, which must be satisfactorily satisfied before we can move “upwards.”

When we get to “love,” we start caring not only about our needs but those of others simply because we want to belong. We use other people to survive within a society and maintain a balance in mental health.

I feel strongly that trying to be “all you can be” at the top of the pyramid stems again from caring only about the self. How many times have I thought about getting a PhD, and then asking the crucial question of “what for?”.

I believe that religion sprang out of the roots of caring, rather the other way around. Recognizing the requirement to care within the societal framework, religion instituted a formula for caring and how caring can be measured. Religion, then, becomes both the meter stick and the “carrot” to ensure people care. As an example, people who do not show caring are ostracized and/or shunned, while at the same time, people who care a lot and publicly demonstrate their care are praised to no end. Makes you wonder if the latter were really caring about others or caring about their own self-esteem and public aggrandizement of favor.

People cannot help but care. If for a moment a person can step away from just caring about the self and try to care—truly care—about another person, we might be approaching a definition and example of altruism. I just do not think that is possible and still be human. Even the Buddha in all of his enlightenment realized that whatever he did was for the self, and he sought to minimize the problem by advocating a “middle” way: while it is human to care for the self, we must not become overly concerned with trying to mitigate it or over worry nature but to do our best in trying to recognize it and not fall into the temptation of only caring for the self.

My grandson enjoys taking care of me and volunteering to do things for me. He is only six years old. I feel he enjoys doing these things for me, but there may also be a psychological fear that he will lose me at some point, and he might be acting in this way to ensure my love. Wonder what he will be like when he is sixteen.

I cannot help feeling that a lot of people use religion as an excuse to keep caring much the way my grandson cares about me. In other words: “Did you see me God? I cared about someone today. Tell me that you still care about me.”

The older I become, the greater the pressure not to care anymore becomes. The older I get, the more real how absurd life truly is: eat, sleep, and shit dotted with a few moments of fun. Kind of reminds me of my Vietnam helicopter ambulance pilot—whom I wrote a book about—when he summed up his experiences in this way: sheer boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer terror.

In syntax, “why should we care,” I draw attention to the word “should.”

Obviously, in a secular world, if I am amiss in the caring category, I will soon find myself labeled as anti-social and subsequently be ostracized from society. That action would certainly put a crimp in my desire to both survive as an individual and maintain some kind of position within a society.

It seems to me that there is a great emphasis made on the “should” by elements of our society. The recent marches by women demonstrate this overarching need to care about certain agendas. In fact, I would be so daring as to go out on a limb and state that these vociferous groups regard individuals who do not care as much or ardently as they do are quick to ostracize those individuals. It has come to the point where “my way or the highway” has become the standard for measuring the degree and level of caring.

Other than a few religious notions of “life being precious,” I view most of the protests to be very secular in their motifs. Going all the way back to the Vietnam protests, people were demonstrating on moral grounds, rather than religious grounds. And even if we go back further in time, people protested not from a religious right but for equality and fairness. They cared because they did not like their lifestyles to be impinged upon, and there exists this American impetus that everyone else in the world should have the same rights and freedoms as they enjoy, and it is not so much a caring, in my opinion, as a desire to make the rest of the world more Americanesque.

I found this quote that I thought both poignant and humorous: “Helping each other may be the only revenge we have against life.”

I nosed around the internet and found this particular site: https://www.theguardian.com/notesandquer...93,00.html

You don’t have to read the following responses I chose from the myriad responses in the site. I have left them unedited. The majority of them, I believe, underscore my opinion cited at the beginning of this post.

Before asking why you *should* care, perhaps it would be worth thinking about the fact that you *do* care. Human beings are emotional and moral beings - we simply aren't capable of observing other people's behaviour without reacting emotionally and morally (though not always rightly!) to it. Because we are good at thinking, we can learn to override our initial emotional reactions and behave as detached, scientific observers in certain circumstances. But this requires an effort, even if we don't recognise it as such.We care about other people because we can't help it. When we cease to care altogether, we cease to function as humans. The important question, then, is how we live with caring about other people, given how painful and demanding that is.
Eleanor Toye, Cambridge, UK

And if we do not care - then what are we doing? I suppose we are living in a state of existential ennui, rather like that defeatist Sartre. Why bother its all hopeless anyway. The attitude denies the existence of God, which is rather like denying the existence of water - it is a magnificent denial, of course, but it is an utterly stupid one as well.
Eugene Silver, Los Angeles, USA

In response to Mr Silver, summing up Sartre or the existential point of view as 'Why bother its all hopeless anyway' (you obviously don't bother with punctuation, I see) is as idiotic as summing up Christianity, Judaism and the many other religions as 'Why bother, God will look after us anyway'. I wouldn't distort your beliefs to support a trivial argument, regardless of how wrong I think you are, so please don't do it to mine.
Andrew Griffiths, Witham, Essex

No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne
Anon, London

My own reason is that while it is far easier not to care, the rare times when caring and helping pay off you get far more back in return, and it is something you can never get any other way. Anytime you do something good, you should do it without expectation of reward -the world doesn't work like that- but for me at least, it is better than living with the fact that i could have helped and didn't.
d, London England

If God doesn't exist, then it doesn't matter if you care or not, but if god does exist then you had better start caring.
Bob, Sotton UK

I don't know but the dilemma is well illustrated in Joseph Heller's Catch 22. The lead character, Yossarian, is bemoaning the fact that he has to fight in the war. Yossarian "Why should I care?" Chaplain "What if everyone thought that way?" Yossarian "Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way wouldn't I?"
DD, Cardiff, Wales

Because you have a brain. Millions of years of evolution have given you this information processing device designed singularly to increase your ability to reproduce. It forces you to care about where food and safety are, where warmth and comfort are, and where the opposite sex are. Existential ennui is a consequence of having all your base desires sated, yet your immature dreams of being a rock-star / astronaut thwarted. You should care because there's a lot of needless suffering in the world, and if you are rich enough to waste time on the internet then you are capable of changing things for the better.
Stuart Bray, Nottingham England
An evolutionist would argue that you should only care if doing so leads to a greater probability that your genes will be replicated. Maybe in the survival of human beings in developed countries, in the immediate future is so assured, that even from a purely selfish point of view it is advisable to start thinking long-term. I for one fancy giving children's, children a chance. Surely this can only be achieved by caring.
Ilya Maclean, Edinburgh UK

Why care? Not so hard to figure out why you should, a utilitarian approach works well on simple mass judgements like this. You care simply because it produces goodness for those whose lives are touched by your deeds, and this necessarily comes back to you. simple really.
Duncan James, Zurich Switzerland

Actually, it doesn't matter a wit if you actually care or not - so long as you behave as if you do.
Robert Wright, Bristol UK
Caring must come near top of the list of how we do things which help define us at our most empathetic, giving, tender, reflective and nurturing , something most often seen within the same species of the animal world, and something increasingly sacrificed by man at the altar of consumerism.
Alan, Zagreb, Croatia

Don't forget psychology. When you cease to care, it's the defense mechanism 'discounting'. You literally make it nothing. You kill something's existence in your mind and equally kill your cognizance of a situation and a small fraction of yourself. The more you don't care about, the more thoughts, feelings, actions, and memories are dead to you, the more of your internal self is dead. I hold this reasoning and have trouble with people saying "I don't care", because they are killing other people's existence in their own mind.
William, Lakewood US

I have often felt curiosity is the core component of human nature. If you are willing to ask the question "why should I care ?" then obviously you care enough to want an answer. True caring leads us to better shelter, food and mates, but caring is a value in and of itself. If you don't care about and respect yourself why should others care about you? Please keep in mind that it actually is basic common courtesy as well as manners that actually make this world a somewhat bearable place. Know however that there is only so much your caring can accomplish, be realistic. I care so much about this beautiful and wonderful world that it sickens and saddens me when people choose cop outs that deny basic obvious truths such as, people like me do care. I do so without a God and without religions which keep us week and divide us. Care enough and we can and will do more!
Jeffery Hoover, Lubbock, Tx. United States of America

Life starts to sucks a lot when you stop caring about what's going on in it. Not only because you're neglecting those things that make life enjoyable and (more importantly) valuable, but because you're denying yourself. You're denying your need for and to love, your need to succeed and foster success, your need to strive, to get up and LIVE. And through this denial, you're sure to suffer much more than you would by actually caring. It's a psychological fact. Living life well is the most surefire way to find a way to love it. Always give in to your higher tendencies, especially yours to care and to appreciate the beauty of everything and to love, and you'll experience for yourself in your own mind a reason to care. I promise — I'm more certain of this than I am of most things. Also, obligatory "God does not exist and anyone escaping existential despair through him is doing so through a culturally inherited lie" statement.
Jordan Gunn, West Columbia South Carolina, USA

It's mentally impossible for a person not to care about something, we are humans and we have a complex mind that analyze things before we even really think about it. It's a survival strategy, if we didn't care, we probably wouldn't have even been here in the first place... If you didn't care, you wouldn't be reading this sentence or debating the subject. If I didn't care, I wouldn't feel the need to share my personal opinion on the matter, so ask yourself again, 'Why should I care??' you care Because you care... As simple as that!
Robert Kingsley, Richards Bay South Africa
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