The Belief In A Thing

Dawkins was right about one thing at least…
The belief in a thing is compounded and affirmed by the propagation of its own illusion of reality. Paraphrasing Dawkins, a person could believe that he is Napoleon, but without another person to corroborate that belief, the claim that the person truly is Napoleon becomes a singular delusion… However, if a person believes something that is immediately accepted by another, and another, then the belief; the delusion, becomes a mass delusion; even though in reality, the delusion is no more true than the previous mass delusion that once captured the aspirations of those who would believe.

Due to the coming solstice, which most would rather call the holidays, I have thought of an excellent example to theorize the mass delusion in the belief of Santa Claus and the “Christmas Spirit” in general. It really needs no in depth explanation as it is rather quite simple: movies and motion picture media.
While the belief in a thing may be propagated by word of mouth from person to person, the strengthening of the believability and immunity against potential falsification is bolstered by visual representation thereof. I cannot begin to count the number of Christmas-themed movies in existence, whether or not regarding Santa Claus, but what is clear is that to the human being, what is viewable by the naked eye is more readily acceptable and therefore validated than denied.

I would not be surprised if there are people in this world who have seen the movie Gladiator (a truly kick ass piece of film making) and believed that the events that were portrayed were based on actual events in history. Using names of historical figures like Aurelius and Commodus; who are valid persons in our history, ensues the perception and view if a thing is at least somewhat valid, it is perhaps mostly valid… and thus the belief is compounded upon itself. We know that Maximus Decimus Meridius is a fictional character, but the movie would infer the possibility through the depiction of likely real-world actions and events (such as the beginning battle sequence and proceeding formalities of Roman life) would validate the character’s actual existence. In fact, actually, there was a Maximus that lived within the lifetime of the real Marcus Aurelius, and he was not a general of the Roman Empire, but a Stoic philosopher that taught Aurelius!

So, coming to Christianity, we have films like The Passion of the Christ and The Last Temptation of Christ, and so on; instituting and propagating the continued delusion, furthering the validity of the belief in the thing.
However, Christianity is an even more interesting example as its support for validity through motion picture is but a recent adaptation of a long lasting tradition! In all seriousness, if I played my cards right, forming a mass of believers in the belief of Future Man as The New Jesus, or Monooq as The Divine One Who Is The Truth, would not the belief be validated further by the building of several hundred temples or churches (places of worship gilded in glorious architecture and design, intending to awe the mind of whosoever should look upon and within it)? The Monooqists would rejoice at the culminating sight of a thousand temples that had been built in the name of The Divine One Who Is The Truth. Of course!

The belief in a thing is so trivial, yet so obsessed upon to the point of being dumbfounded and flabbergasted. The saddest thing of all is that as human beings, we still give in to this formula… we require it. Is nothing true unless it is commercialized, sanctioned by authority, and distributed without a second thought to whom it may offend? I would hope to think so, but I would be proven wrong.

Your right about how the majority of people can be so easily exploited but surely we are on the verge of a more rational age, especially after the events of WWII, it would be disappointing if people continue not to learn from history. Apart from him being very ruthless and insensitive towards thiests when he airs his opinions what do you think Dawkins isn’t right about.

I haven’t had the opportunity to review all of Dawkins’ opinions to assess yet where he is wrong. I’m planning on reading The God Delusion soon, which should, as I believe, will sum up the whole of his logic. However, of what I have heard of him say so far, there is little I’ve found that could be contradicted.

If Jesus’ story was false it would be delusion, is that right?

I understand the point quite clearly. And as usual it seems Dawkins tries to explain things that he does not believe are possible. It’s quite obvious, easy, to understand simple delusion can become mass delusion. But the question still remains, was it delusion? What kind of evolution, Darwins? Or something else. Dawkins is a scientist and explaining things is his job, even under the impression that God does not exist, it’s his job to explain how we work as humans. The God Delusion seems more of an explaination to us, but it has nothing to do with what was true and what wasn’t.

How do mass-accepted beliefs in things that are actually true differ in this mechanism? For example, the believe that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Setting aside the initial core delusion (or fact) that gets a belief started, are widely-accepted truths propogated any differently than wide-accepted delusions?

The distinction lies in that the truth is there for anyone to investigate, while the delusion is without substance.

Heck, people believe soap opera actors are really the character. They think reality shows are actual reality shows, not scripted.

Is it not possible and a good thing that mass delusions bring a solidarity to the masses. It gives strangers something in common to share. It makes people care about strangers just a little bit. It can be rather a frightening world if you are alone in it.

If you don’t believe OK but, why yank the rug out from under those that may need it? What do you get out of doing such a thing? You can say it is for them but, unless you have something to give back to replace such a communion then you are just going to cause a dangerous reaction, like a stampede of frightened sheeple. What good can come of that?

People need common denominators to be able to cope with the the strange and different.

I think Doc S. summed up the answer quite well with his single sentence refutal—

To elaborate further to answering your direct question Ucc, I’ll make an addendum that this mechanism, as you call it, only applies to beliefs that have very little (which is then extremely questionable) or no accountable evidence whatsoever to support its claims. Yes, by default, this mechanism applies to Theism as well as Atheism as neither have not the sufficient evidence to support the concept that there is or is not, respectively, a deity. However, in all honesty, I made this thread to attack specifically the idea of Santa Claus and the subconscious via mental validation it ensues through stories and movies. The fact that the mechanism applies to various other things, like Christianity for example, is not my concern for the purposes of this thread. [size=75](I believe that was a disclaimer of sorts, heh!)[/size]

You’ve brought up a good point there Kris. If it were not soap opera characters, I would just as soon use the example of Leonard Nimoy. The horde of Star Trek fans would accept the belief that Nimoy is Spock, and Spock is Nimoy, but Nimoy put out a book in 1977 called I Am Not Spock. However it was controversial, to the fans at least, and perhaps due to the ongoing prestige of the belief in the Star Trek universe, for whatever reason, Nimoy encouraged (directly or indirectly) the belief that he is Spock with his 1995 book, I Am Spock. Perhaps we may surmise that just as soap opera characters, people believing that someone is a person they only play in a show or movie which was in fact based on the actual person may do little harm, true, but consider that what was just said. Nimoy accepted he is Spock because Spock, like soap opera characters, is based on aspects of the man to support the full reality of the character. Without Nimoy, Spock would not have substance.

It’s all the same as you know me as Sagesound. You don’t know my real name, but the name and characteristics of Sagesound are based upon the man on the other side of the screen, net, etc. The belief in my existence is fortified by actual evidence… to you, I type, therefore I am! But, does the knowledge of only knowing me as the name Sagesound become harmful in some way? (I wouldn’t think so…)

It’s only until we believe in things that have no substance supporting and validating its existence. You have Santa Claus, but how many actors over the years have played Santa Claus? (I am not about to go venturing off to discover the answer to that question, but if you’d like to, by all means…) I know that at least there are more than one due to obvious evidence. So, as there are many different actors playing the same character, they’ve all given their own representation (however slight the difference may be)… They can’t all be the same character, so the evidence is contradictory and congested. It’s all the same with the multiple actors that have played Jesus Christ through the years of movie-making, but they all can’t be the same character exactly, can they?

I think Sam Harris has a strong argument in stating that religious moderation creates a sort of shield that blocks religious fundamentalism from criticism.

We live in a society (in the USA) where one cannot question another’s religious beliefs without being rude. In addition, although many with faith-based dogmatic beliefs are harmless, even allowing or condoning such a belief system is a healthy, protective breeding ground for religious fundamentalists.