Thursday, December 20, 2012

2D Religious Belief

How people approach religion goes well beyond whether they believe in the supernatural or don't. Here's a more detailed perspective:
I'm sure you can get into a lot more detail than that, but at least this gives a continuum: a 1-7 scale of belief:

But, as with any viewpoint, I find there are at least two components: (1) your perspective, and (2) how much you care about the topic. 

I think some people tend to still see religious views as kind of one-dimensional anyway. Maybe religiosity correlates to passion, so people think of it something like this:

Or maybe certainty correlates to passion, so people think of it like this:

Personally, I don't find either of those quite right (although I think the 2nd one is closer to the truth than the 1st). I think it's more like this:

I've met strong atheists who are very passionate on the subject, and de-facto theists who don't seem to put much thought into it at all. Personally I'd say usually I'm somewhere between Pure Agnostic and Weak Atheist, and probably about two notches up toward the Care Passionately side. And I've noticed that I tend to be more satisfied with people on the Care Passionately side almost no matter where they are on the belief scale, compared to Strong Theists, Strong Atheists, and everyone in between that tends toward Completely Indifferent. 

Although, come to think of it, I don't think I've personally met a Strong Theist who is Completely Indifferent. I suppose that makes sense. If you're 100% sure there isn't a god, you probably have less reasons to care about religious belief at all. If you're 100% sure there is a god, you may have a lot of reason to care about what that means in your life.

And then of course there's one more factor you can add to just about any topic: are you able to discuss it in a respectful way, or are you a jackass about it?

I was going to say there seems to be some correlation between how much people care and how much they act like jackasses, but I immediately thought of several exceptions, both theists and atheists. I suspect the respectful/jackass scale is more a function of personality than passion.

So really my favorite people to talk to are going to be anyone on the Respectful and Care Passionately end, but anywhere along the belief scale.


  1. I had seen another of these posted by the atheist club at my school. The x-direction went from theism to atheism, and the y-direction went from agnosticism to "gnosticism" (that is, whether it could be known). So you could believe there is a God but not believe we could know it, or that there is no supernatural and we could know it, or there may or may not be supernatural and we absolutely could know it, or other combinations.

    But theirs was limited to only offering 9 "alignments" whereas yours provides sliding-scales.

    1. Yeah, I have a hard time understanding believing in something but not thinking we could know it, because without the disclaimer, to me, saying you believe in something means your sure. I guess it doesn't have to be that way.

      But I definitely don't understand thinking we can "absolutely know" that there may or may not be a supernatural world. I mean I guess we can absolutely know that there may or may not be *anything*, since those are, you know, the two options. It just seems nonsensical to say it that way.

      I like mine better. :P

  2. I think agnostic/gnostic scale makes sense. Like some people believe that there are aliens but that we will never encounter any evidence of them in our lifetimes; that's similar in nature. So a person might believe that God exists, but that there is no way to "know" this for sure, requiring "faith" (I think Nathaniel is of this mindset, or he was last I checked [which was in 2009]).

    I think we could absolutely know there was a spiritual world if a denizen thereof made an appearance in the physical world and filled us in. Like if an angel showed up. We couldn't ever absolutely know that there wasn't; we'd have to just keep staring at the sky and waiting and wondering where all the angels were.

    I think for that reason it is very hard to find atheists who admit to "absolutely knowing" that there is no God, as they tend to better recognize logical barriers like proving universal negatives. They usually say there might be some minimalist god somewhere, but that our experience would so limit him/her/it that it would be unrecognizable by theologians as "God". But the strength of conviction that they display (and that's not always a bad thing) seems to suggest greater certainty than admitted. Or at least they have "absolute knowledge" that the God of the Bible doesn't exist.

    Now I'm just rambling, I'll stop :P

  3. I did a similar post, and made that first graphic you used here.

    1. Your post must've been very popular then, as I think I found the graphic by searching Google images for "Dawkin's Scale." Well done!

    2. The post was just moderately popular, but the image was used often on Facebook and a couple Patheos blogs.