Beliefs v Claims: Why bother?

Chris says:
“Hmm, I guess I don’t see the point in dissecting people’s claims unless you want to attack their beliefs. If you’re happy for people to keep holding the beliefs they have and are equally happy to keep holding your beliefs, the appropriate response to any claim would be to mumble something non-committal and change the topic to video games.”

Essentially this is asking why you wouldn’t correct someone who has said something incorrect. There are many reasons why you wouldn’t – don’t care enough about the topic to correct the person, don’t like them, believe there’s not much harm in it, protecting someone else… the list goes on. On the other hand, here are some reasons why you should.

The claimant may not believe what they claim. They could be deceptively lying about believing the claim, for their own amusement and intellectual enjoyment or they might be on a side in a formal debate in which they don’t believe the proposition. The claimant may even feel that they are helping strengthen your beliefs by making and defending claims that they themselves don’t believe in, but recognize that you do.

The claimant may be making claims about beliefs that are not strongly held and does not mind having the claims refuted.

The claimant may be looking for reassurance for beliefs. Often we don’t understand what we believe until we make claims, and then have those claims questioned.

The claimant may be unintentionally or actively causing mental distress to others by making incorrect claims. It could be something as simple as making a lapsing parishioner feel guilt about missing church through to the mental distress of a family who’ve lost a loved one to a cult.

The claimant may be causing danger to others by making incorrect claims. This is especially true in the case of pseudoscientific medical claims.

The claimant may be causing financial distress to others by making incorrect claims.

The claimant may be impeding the advancement of knowledge by actively working against worthy scientific ventures.

And finally, it must be remembered that central to any religion is evangelizing, and to evangelize one must make claims actively. It is demanded of followers that they spread the word of the religion (or pseudosciences or whatever) and so they should not take umbrage when people question them on the often glaringly inconsistencies in what they claim. If someone, after hearing its claims refuted still wishes to believe in the religion, then that’s their business.

4 thoughts on “Beliefs v Claims: Why bother?

  1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    I still don’t get it. I’m not asking why you should correct someone who says something you think is incorrect. Not at all. I’m asking how attacking their claims is distinct from attacking their beliefs. The only examples you give that address this are cases where the claims are for things that the claimant doesn’t actually believe. As far as I can see your distinction is a difference that makes no difference… so is not a difference. Why do you think it is worth making?

    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Yes, I see what you mean. It’s written very much from my perspective where the difference is already assumed. I’ll endeavour to do better in the next post.

  2. Marco

    I personally think it is about whether you are attacking their claims to them rather than talking about it in the abstract behind their back. I have a real problem with talking ill of anyone saying things that I wouldn’t say to their face. It often gets me into trouble as I take my cue off others who are happy to talk about things that are virtually taboo with the person involved. At other times I appear completely disinterested in criticisms that are completely reasonable. I think that goes just as well with issues of weight or issues of stupidity of a claim or belief.

    1. winstoninabox Post author

      “I have a real problem with talking ill of anyone saying things that I wouldn’t say to their face.”

      This is in essence, what I’m hoping to explain is not the case – that one is not the claims he is or makes.


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