Postmodern morality

Post-modern moral arguments are pointless.

Post modernism says all moral premises in an argument are groundless. Thus, it is pointless to argue from a post-modern perspective.

Agreed. That is all.

having a moral argument with some one who holds a different moral standard than you is pointless…

-Imp

Further, reason is not a pre-requisit in a post modern argument. Reasons are not essential for initiating action. Post-modern believers do it because they can do it. But that poses a problem for man is finite. If we remove the bars that seperate the finite with the infinite then the thinkers will go mad.

im sure the biggest problem with modern (or even postmodern, can a artistic genre be applied to philosophy so neatly?) morality isnt people going mad from considering the infinite.

In anycase you are wrong. The concensus among humanity agree with what is moral and what is not. Religion is about the only thing that messes it up. Moral debate is in the best state it has been in ever because now we are free to argue it properly and can even have scientific enquiries to see if our ideals match the real world.

For example, i could conceivably convince an atheist pro-life person that abortion is okay if i can convince them that featus’ arent and should not be considered as babies. However, a religious person with the same stance could not be convinced. They are in fact, unreasonable in all moral arguments.

Deciding the fate of mothers and their potential babas seems fairly pointed to me.

Cheers!

Do you mean agree about what is moral and what is not, or am I missing your point?

Two problems with this, firstly I don’t see any evidence that the actual state of moral behavior in the world is any better than it ever has been, open debate or otherwise, even using the most general of moral principals. Secondly, the idea that scientific inquiries can answer moral questions is rather odd. Are you an objectivist?

Your argument here makes the assumption that the religious person's religious beliefs are incorrect.  If they are, then of course any moral beliefs based on them will be unreasonable, that's just a tautology.  If we leave the truth of religious claims open to debate, however, then it's not at all clear that a religious person is behaving irrationally by continuing to believe that abortion is unethical, even if you find some trick of science that justifies you defining 'baby' and 'fetus' in mutually exclusive ways.  What I find most curious, is that you make no attempt to show why the atheist is behaving reasonably by having any strong moral convictions about[i] anything[/i].

Well If we are going to consider Pragmatism post-modern- and I’m not sure what could deserve the term if Pragmatism doesn’t- than the is certianly an ability for moral debate. A key point is that all statements are falliable, so any legitimate debate would have revisable premicies. The fact that there is no firm ground for moral statements should not be trobleing, there is indeed no truly firm ground for any statement. Furthuremore, the ability to mold another persons opinion through reasoning is not dimminised. In fact, one now has a plethora of formal and informal reasoning systems to chose from.

A post-modern debate is two webs of interrelated belifes pushing agianst one another. This can have the effect of norming them towards a sort of avarage or polorizeing them away from that average. Rarely would their be no change in either web.

As it will help clarify these matters here are my current convictions regarding ethics (as has been iterated before):
All morals are relative to our fundamental genetic drives which strive for a flourish self, genes, and species. These three priorities can be in any order depending on the individual. Thus, altruism is placing the species before the self, and being a family guy is valuing your genes.

Since these drives are genetically based it does give rise to the apparant existence of objective moral facts. This is wrong however, as these drives CAN be interpretated rather strangely. As with the ever popular example of Mr. AH who decided that to help his species he needed to remove its apparantly detrimental elements and start a eugenics program.

Uccisore,
Scientific enquiries can of course help. Even a relativist will base her morals on the real world and science helps determine what that real world is. In the example i gave, good science would have told Mr. AH and his mates that the Jews, Gays and Gypsies werent actually all that bad for the human race and everyone would actually be worse off for losing them.

The religious person is unreasonable in the sense that they cannot be reasoned with, their moral opinions cannot change while still being a member of that religion. In effect, they know all the answers beyond all doubt regardless of all contrary or contradictory evidence. The athiest can at least choose to change his mind while still being an atheist.

I agree with LostGuy completely, except of course, i think i have a reasonable idea of where the firm foundation is. It is undenaible that humanity as a species is ethical, so there must be an origin to that. The obvious candidate is genetics. Our species simply wouldnt do as well if it wasnt as it was. :slight_smile:

They could help in determining the best course of action according to moral principals, but science cannot help resolve a genuine moral disagreement. Take your abortion example, for instance. If the scientist can convince the atheist that abortion is justified, by demonstrating that a fetus isn’t properly considered a baby, what is the moral disagreement they are working on? Apparently they already agree that

1.) Taking the lives of babies capriciously, or out of pure self-interest, is wrong.
2.) Abortion is wrong if it involves taking the lives of babies.
3.) Abortion is permissible if it does not involve taking the lives of babies.

All they disagree on is an interpretation of the facts that allow them to apply their shared moral beliefs. In other words, there is no actual moral disagreement in the example you give. But what if the disagreement is about point 1? That is, what if the scientist believes 1 is true, while the atheist believes that taking the life of a baby is permissible if it results in the avoidance of moderate pain (such as, the pain of childbirth), for an adult? This is a genuine moral disagreement, and I don’t see how science could resolve it.

 I think you mischaracterize religious people to say that.  There are a very vocal minority of religious folks here on the forums, for instance, that seem just as capable of critical thinking and self-analysis as anyone else. I don't think I'd be going to far if I said that the more bull-headed and close-minded types in [i]this[/i] community tend to be the aggressively anti-religious posters.  I think the mythical 'close-minded religious zealot' is just a subset of the general close-mindedness of the 'common man' if you'll permit me to use the term.  People that don't actively engage in philosophy just aren't faced with good reasons to change their opinions about anything, regardless of their spiritual views.  

I can’t think of a controverisal moral issue in today’s world for which the debate isn’t just as lively within the religious community as it is without.

Of course, there are objectivist who would agree entirely with your appraisal of the abortion debate, ie, there are no disagreements about moral facts, merely facts about the world. My view is cunningly similar yet marvously relative.

I would take the stance that whatever interpretation of the facts has the most beneficial affect for the people involved, their gene pool and the species is the best and thus most moral course of action. People may disagree but i would argue for what is best for the three priorities, or the priority that i think should hold sway. When do personal rights end in favour of the rights of the species, for example.

Babies are necessary for the species so institutionalised wholesale destruction of them is counter productive if we are to flourish. Thus, abortion as a hobby or sport is wrong regardless.

However, our population is not a problem at the minute, so if a potential baby isnt convenient for the family involved its destruction should be available.

However again, all humans benefit from a fundamental right not to be destroyed. Again, not to have this rule would be counter productive. Thus, if the potential baby can be regarded as a human then it should be protected by those rights. However again and again, i would be inclined to argue that a featus is not yet human and should not yet be entitled to those rights.

Thus in my view, there is not a preset moral belief as such, just a general rule of thumb at best. For example, there are imaginable situations where destroying a living human baby would be entirely ethical (post natal abortion as it were). Not pleasant or desirable, but simply the best course of action for everyone involved. This wouldnt just be a cold utilitarian style calculation of course, we are dealing with genetically encoded emotional drives which guide these decisions and it is up to our intellect to just apply them. Ultimately, i must accept that i am not objectively right in any case, but that doesnt mean i cant pursuade people of my view by any means necessary.

Sorry for the lengthy incoherant posts. Its late again.
I entirely agree with you about character and religion. Atheist is not synonymous with rational or anything silly like that. I am not making any character judgements at all. However, you must accept that as a religious person, person X cannot change their ethical opinions against their religion. Thus, a catholic will never ever ever be in favour of abortion. Its a logical impossibility, like a married bachelor (unless the pope has a change of heart of course). Thus, and ethical argument regarding abortion with a catholic is nonsense. Id be giving them science and they’d be giving me scripture, and each would hold their evidence to be the winner when they simply cannot be compared.

Bottom line, you cant hold a rational debate about X against someone who cannot change their mind about X. Religious dogma cannot be falsified and thus the person cannot even seriously consider an atheists (or differing religions) side of the argument at all while still being of that religion. You will find no serious debate about abortion among catholics, only debates on whether to actively stop it, or how best to stop it.

Cheers!

Obviously it is a truism that if a religion defines a person’s beliefs, then beliefs that go against that religion cannot be held by that person while still being considered a member of that religion. But you seem to think that this is somehow characteristic of religion–it is not. It is true of any label about beliefs–a marxist cannot remain a marxist if he believes in free market capitalism; an atheist cannot remain an atheist if he decides to believe in God. You use this truism to come to the completely false conclusion that people of strong beliefs cannot “seriously consider” the alternatives. This may be the case sometimes. However, it may also be the case that the strengh or conviction of one’s beliefs comes from a very comphrehensive consideration of things. It may be the case that the “serious consideration” you demand has already been given, a conclusion has been reached long ago, and now such a person is occupying his mind with other issues. To believe that this is impossible is simply to submit to the philosophical bias that free thought and open-minded rationality necessarily entails a strong and constant level uncertainty and doubt in regards to all important philosophical questions.

As a point of clairification, when I meant basis I meant epistemological basis. Of course, our beliefs and dispositions and such are caused, perhapse by genetics and perhapse not.

Now as far as scientific or other factual beliefs influenceing moral descisions that certianly happens. Frex, If the water is poisined one hopefully won’t give it to the orphans. However, in any ethical argument there has to be an ethical premise. In this case: killing orphands is bad. On the other hand, I have a feeling that this is an artifact of our language not something essential.

Finnially, I’m not sure how the discussion of religious people comes up in this. Can someone said to be both religious and a post-modern thinker? Certianly, one could be a theist or have any set of spiritual beliefs -[Peirce comes to mind]- , but religion implies to me a immutable structure that just doesn’t conform with post-modernism.

PS: my sigs are old, I’ll change them later.

What I mean to say is that there is such a thing as actual disagreement about moral facts, even within the abortion debate, but those disagreements that can be solved by reference to scientific fact are not such. In essence, the abortion issue is compound, containing both ethical and empirical disagreements.

  Which is the moral point. If I agreed with you thus far, what would be left is to discuss the factual details, to see how best to apply this moral standard which we would both agree on. Any disagreement we had would not be about ethical issues. 
 However, we don't agree on this moral point.  My moral foundation is based around completely different concepts, and thus leads to quite different results.  The core concept of my moral framework is that certain things- namely living beings and some of the institutions they form- have intrinsic* value, and that anything which deducts from that value is a moral wrong.  Science is wholly inadequate to work out our differences on ethical systems, which is part of the abortion debate to be sure. This is the point I'm trying to make. 
  John Kerry claims to be both pro-choice and Catholic (please, no political debate intended or desired). That would be a full stop defeater for your argument, [i]unless[/i] you try to argue that John Kerry isn't 'really' a Catholic for some reason- and what could your reason be, other than because, as you said, a 'real' Catholic would never be pro-choice? And so we fall into circularity.  Your only option is to define 'Catholic' such that anybody who disagrees with the Pope about abortion isn't [i]really[/i] Catholic. Which leads to it's own problems, which I describe below.

I think you’ve got a fallacy of equivocation on two usages of the word ‘Catholic’. First, you employ a definition of the word that includes a stance on abortion (as evidenced by your ‘married bachelor’ comparison). Under this definition, though, many people who claim to be Catholics wouldn’t technically be Catholics at all, and many more besides that would be undecided as to if they were ‘really’ Catholics or not. But then you go on to conclude that it’s fruitless to discuss abortion with Catholics- this time implying to me the more relaxed and common definition, which would include almost anybody who self-identifies as a Catholic. If you really are using the more strict definition of ‘Catholic’ throughout your argument, then the obvious rebuttal would be that attempts to convince a Catholic to be pro-choice ought to just be reclassified as attempts to convince a Catholic to cease being Catholic- which is not impossible at all, under your strict definition.

PhilW.
Of course, there are other systems of belief, i only used religion as a widespread example of one. Also though, a marxist will not have faith in marxism with the consequence of damning his eternal soul for changing her mind. Undermining someones belief in marxism is a damn sight easier than proving the non-existence of God or some such. :smiley:

How much consideration they have previously given to a particular problem is of no concern to me, if they cannot be swayed on an opinion because of their faith; then they cannot be reasoned with on that issue since its very very hard, if not impossible, to undermine someones faith in a rational argument. You also seem to think I am making character judgements based on this. Seriously, I am not, I am really really not that nieve.

And your last sentence is rubbish. Of course, to consider a question, you have to have SOME possible doubt about the answer or else you cannot help but be unreasonable, but that doubt doesnt have to be very strong at all, my argument is, regarding a good number of moral issues religion can be in no doubt at all since the dude who defined Good has already told em. How can I possibly argue without throwing mud in the Guys face and threatening to damn them all?

LostGuy,
indeedly. Any cold premise, any immutable moral fact, does not reflect how we react in the real world IMO. Religion by its divinely stable nature cannot adopt an ethical attitude that isnt divine and stable. I mean, there are some pretty wierd religions, like Jews for Jesus but im mostly talking about the religions that are actually pretty much stable and have a coherant dogma on a range of issues.

Uccisore.
Im still uncomfortable with divorcing ethical issues from the empirical facts. For example, i could argue on non-ethical (not quite scientific, but certainly empirical) grounds that nothing has intrinsic value, only a value that is ascribed by others. Also, i disagree, I think science could indeed find the ethical system which best reflects the reasons why morality exists, ie. IMO to fulfil certain survival drives. There is alot of room for debate there, but importantly it will be debate about the facts of things not purely about preconceived ethical systems (which I do agree, science has no place in).

As for John Kerry. Do i really need to show that politicians sometimes go against their values to get in office? Besides, a ‘true’ catholic could still technically be pro choice, they would just hate themselves for allowing babies to die.
I define a catholic as someone who follows the Pope’s beliefs, yes of course. If they do not, they are merely someone who pays lip service and does not actually hold Catholic values. Therefore, it makes obvious sense to only hold the ‘strict definition’ to be the case or else the label has no ethical import at all, which is kinda necessary when someone is discussing ethics.

As for your rebuttal, that is entirely the point i was making. A catholic would have to cease being catholic to agree with abortion. It is very hard to rationally argue someone to become not-catholic, thus it is unreasonable to argue with them on any of the finer points of catholicism except with the intention of bringing the whole belief system down. Thus i would put John Kerry’s inconsistancy to him as such:
As a catholic you believe abortion is the killing of babies.
As pro choice you agree with abortion.
Thus, you believe in the killing of babies.

If it is the case that John Kerry doesnt mind babies being killed, then i have no qualm with him. He may be pro choice simply because he doesnt believe it is the state’s right to intercede on a dubious and religiously driven ethical matter. He may disregard the whole argument and say that this is where he disagrees with catholicism, but generally he is still catholic. He wouldnt be catholic IMO, since he thinks the pope can make mistakes, but hell, he can call himself whatever he likes, but in an ethical argument, he aint catholic.

Apologies for the rambly reply, but i have class soon.
Cheers!

I put an * after intrinsic, and never followed it up with a footnote. Apologies. My belief technically is that things have a value put upon them by God, who cherishes these things, but for human purposes, the value may as well be intrinsic, since the values aren't subject to our opinions.  The problem remains the same, though- "All things have intrinsic value" isn't a moral statement either. "It is morally wrong always to corrupt or lessen the intrinsic value of something" would be the moral aspect- and your empirical arguments that nothing in fact has intrinsic value would be pointless unless we agree on this moral stance, at least for the sake of argument.  It seems like we're splitting hairs here, though. 

I agree that the facts play an important role in deciding behavior, once a general ethical system has been agreed on.

I still see an equivocation. Your definition of “Catholic” is dependant on someone having a pro-life stance. That’s fine. Under that definition, convincing someone to be pro-abortion is convincing them to cease being Catholic. But then you go on to point out how hard it is to make someone ‘cease being Catholic’. It’s only ‘very hard’ if you mean to make them cease believing in the divinity of Jesus, the Sacraments, and so on. But that isn’t at all a requirement of making them ‘cease being Catholic’, under your first definition (which says, “being Catholic and being pro-abortion is a logical impossibility, like being a married bachelor”) . See the switch-out there? If you still only meant ‘make them cease being anti-abortion’, then it’s really not that hard at all- certainly not hard enough to justify saying that discussing abortion with a Catholic is ‘nonsense’ or doomed to failure. A significant minority of self-described Catholics are pro-choice, and presumably they still believe in the divinity of Jesus and so on.

I agree with your assessment of John Kerry’s views. I would say that he’s an inconsistant Catholic, or a Catholic not in full understanding of his Church’s teachings, before I would go so far as to say that he thinks he’s a Catholic when in fact he isn’t, or that he’s pretending to be Catholic for political gain.

Uccisore.
Intrinsic value. Im not even going to consider that things have intrinsic value based upon the existence of god for obvious reasons. In the absence of such, where would the ethical system orginate from? I answer that it must be the facts of the situation, thus the facts must come first, the morals after, not the other way round.

Catholics/abortion.
I insist there is no equivocation (historically quite a catholic pastime i might add). A non-catholic can still believe Jesus, etc, but if i can argue them around to agreeing with abortion (not merely non-interfering like Kerry might be) they would not be catholic. By bringing the whole edifice down, etc, i mean i would have to prove that the pope can make mistakes and is thus not the mouthpeice of God. This is one of the distinguishing features of the catholic faith, and without it they are simply not catholic IMO.

This really will be hard since they have no rational reason to believe the pope that i can attack or undermine. Thus it is impossible nonsense to attempt to simply pursuade a catholic about a particular issue that the pope has already ruled about. All evidence in the world cannot change a faith, since a faith by its nature is an appeal to an unchanging eternal concept. Thus, it must be replaced to fall in line with the evidence, or ignore the evidence completely.

Uccisore.
Intrinsic value. Im not even going to consider that things have intrinsic value based upon the existence of god for obvious reasons. In the absence of such, where would the ethical system orginate from? I answer that it must be the facts of the situation, thus the facts must come first, the morals after, not the other way round.

Catholics/abortion.
I insist there is no equivocation (historically quite a catholic pastime i might add). A non-catholic can still believe Jesus, etc, but if i can argue them around to agreeing with abortion (not merely non-interfering like Kerry might be) they would not be catholic. By bringing the whole edifice down, etc, i mean i would have to prove that the pope can make mistakes and is thus not the mouthpeice of God. This is one of the distinguishing features of the catholic faith, and without it they are simply not catholic IMO.

This really will be hard since they have no rational reason to believe the pope that i can attack or undermine. Thus it is impossible nonsense to attempt to simply pursuade a catholic about a particular issue that the pope has already ruled about. All evidence in the world cannot change a faith, since a faith by its nature is an appeal to an unchanging eternal concept. Thus, it must be replaced to fall in line with the evidence, or ignore the evidence completely.

the pope holds a council whenever he feels like the irrational and wrong church doctrine is hurting its popularity and profitability. council of trent and vatican 2 were held to fix the incorrect moral statements that fell out of past popes mouths. catholics: is that an incorrect assessment? if it is accurate, is it a reason to trust the pope and his new moral statements slightly less than if he had never been wrong?

i think the thing about absolute morality and relative morality can be reconciled by defining absolute responses to specific internal interpretations

the two sides that i see being argued are

  1. god designated certain specific actions with specific moral values, everybody is expected by him to act in the same way, no matter how or where they were raised
    or
  2. god did no such thing, he doesnt care what we do, any person can learn to be moral in any way according to their different developments, assorted anti-religious, pro-science feelings.

im pretty much going with 2. god created humans equally, but he did not create our situations equally. it is scientifically undeniable that the same human, in a different situation, can believe the same thing to be both moral and non.

what is some moral instance that an absolutist who believes #1 would say is a moral absolute that god does not tolerate being violated? what is a specific action that is NEVER ok, under any circumstances?

does the commitment of this crime require a certain mindset? if i kill someone because i want their cash, surely that is different than if i kill them with a car accident.

if you believe the state of mind to be important in this instance, where do you draw the line?

a native american somewhere in the 1800s grew up learning that the white man is nothing but pure evil. he saw nothing come from white men but broken treaties and unfair trades at gunpoint, and he knew the bloody, damning history involved.

if that native american killed the disease when he saw it, since he saw its mere presence as a threat, you would say that he has no reason for that any more than the guy who kills for money? how would you say god treats him? as harshly as the robber? if not, then why would god treat him badly at all? surely if we full-live-humans have a problem with wolves, god would not hold us responsible for killing the subhumans as soon as we saw them on our property, near our children.

im saying that morality is an absolute statement in the minds of all humans: “treat FELLOW HUMANS as you would like to be treated”

a thief who runs around his own village killing and stealing, in any village, i assume would be hated and despised as morally incorrect.

a gang of warriors running around the great unknown frontier, killing things that look like humans and are beleived to be less than so are not seen by their family members as murderers of humans.

these people are doing the same exact thing. the former knows he is robbing equals and is wrong. the latter knows they are confiscating resources from inferior animals and delivering them to god’s chosen humans and are right.

if the latter are not right, then there are lot of moral decisions currently thought to be right that must be wrong that are not as cut and dry as this example.

if the latter are not right, god has not fairly distributed the opportunity for humans to do good. he made it easier for some humans to do good. either we go through a hindu reincarnation cycle and will be born with different moral opportunities later, or some people are really screwed unfairly.

the problem with this relativism? selfish motherfuckers in charge who want their believers to believe something that the leader knows is wrong, but that the leader knows will help him. what is the ambrosia of selfish motherfuckers who want to be in charge? organized religion with their god damned moral absolutism that changes from bible to bible.

ironic isnt it?

the pope holds a council whenever he feels like the irrational and wrong church doctrine is hurting its popularity and profitability. council of trent and vatican 2 were held to fix the incorrect moral statements that fell out of past popes mouths. catholics: is that an incorrect assessment? if it is accurate, is it a reason to trust the pope and his new moral statements slightly less than if he had never been wrong?

i think the thing about absolute morality and relative morality can be reconciled by defining absolute responses to specific internal interpretations

the two sides that i see being argued are

  1. god designated certain specific actions with specific moral values, everybody is expected by him to act in the same way, no matter how or where they were raised
    or
  2. god did no such thing, he doesnt care what we do, any person can learn to be moral in any way according to their different developments, assorted anti-religious, pro-science feelings.

im pretty much going with 2. god created humans equally, but he did not create our situations equally. it is scientifically undeniable that the same human, in a different situation, can believe the same thing to be both moral and non.

what is some moral instance that an absolutist who believes #1 would say is a moral absolute that god does not tolerate being violated? what is a specific action that is NEVER ok, under any circumstances?

does the commitment of this crime require a certain mindset? if i kill someone because i want their cash, surely that is different than if i kill them with a car accident.

if you believe the state of mind to be important in this instance, where do you draw the line?

a native american somewhere in the 1800s grew up learning that the white man is nothing but pure evil. he saw nothing come from white men but broken treaties and unfair trades at gunpoint, and he knew the bloody, damning history involved.

if that native american killed the disease when he saw it, since he saw its mere presence as a threat, you would say that he has no reason for that any more than the guy who kills for money? how would you say god treats him? as harshly as the robber? if not, then why would god treat him badly at all? surely if we full-live-humans have a problem with wolves, god would not hold us responsible for killing the subhumans as soon as we saw them on our property, near our children.

im saying that morality is an absolute statement in the minds of all humans: “treat FELLOW HUMANS as you would like to be treated”

a thief who runs around his own village killing and stealing, in any village, i assume would be hated and despised as morally incorrect.

a gang of warriors running around the great unknown frontier, killing things that look like humans and are beleived to be less than so are not seen by their family members as murderers of humans.

these people are doing the same exact thing. the former knows he is robbing equals and is wrong. the latter knows they are confiscating resources from inferior animals and delivering them to god’s chosen humans and are right.

if the latter are not right, then there are lot of moral decisions currently thought to be right that must be wrong that are not as cut and dry as this example.

if the latter are not right, god has not fairly distributed the opportunity for humans to do good. he made it easier for some humans to do good. either we go through a hindu reincarnation cycle and will be born with different moral opportunities later, or some people are really screwed unfairly.

the problem with this relativism? selfish motherfuckers in charge who want their believers to believe something that the leader knows is wrong, but that the leader knows will help him. what is the ambrosia of selfish motherfuckers who want to be in charge? organized religion with their god damned moral absolutism that changes from bible to bible.

ironic isnt it?

the one thing keeping the world from living in harmony is the one thing that has been consistently changing for the better over the course of history. more humans consider more other humans their equal neighbors. once that is accomplished, morality will be a lot more simple.

the only things stopping us from getting there are specific leaders who wish to separate their populi for their own benefit. religious fervor and fear of aliens helps the voters pick the ‘morally right/religious pandering’ candidate.

I have know more theists who have turned atheist than marxist who have abandoned marxism.

I do not think you are making a character judgment. I think you misunderstand the concept of faith on the very level of its relationship with belief. Faith is not something that props otherwise weak beliefs up against all evidence. On the contrary faith is, among other things, something that props up strongly confirmed beliefs in the face of arguments that appear strong at first but reveal themselves to be weak over time. To put it better, true faith is not something that exists in spite of the evidence, but rather is something that is come to because of the evidence. I recognize that I can never prove God’s existence or the truth of the Christian faith, but my experience has lead me to believe both of these things to be very likely, and finally to the conclusion that I ought to take them as premises and build my understanding of things from there. Thus my faith was reached through consideration of the evidence, rather than instilled in my consciousness a priori as a mode of continuing to believe something in spite of the evidence that is now presented to me. To tie this back into the topic at hand, many of the beliefs that you have characterized as “derivative of faith in the religion” are, at least for me, conclusions I came to that lead me to faith in Christianity, rather than the other way around.

I don’t claim that it has been exactly this way for all Christians–I only know my own story. I am pretty sure, however, that my story is closer to the experience of most Christians–even those who were born into the religion–than the caricature of faith (the old “people have faith because they are afraid of hell” claim) as you have presented it.