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Old 08-09-2010, 09:21 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Do you believe in magic?

I recently wrote a blog post regarding skepticism in which I described a magic trick that a magician could perform. The trick, while appearing to all of your senses to be real, would still not amaze you beyond wondering where you were fooled. You would not for a second believe that the magician actually performed any real magic. This is skepticism, and well-placed skepticism at that. After all, no matter how you look at it, the magician was playing a game he created, using his own rules and props and he used your own perceptive weaknesses to accomplish his task.

The question I then pose is this: Why don't we apply the same level of skepticism to other claims of incredible happenstance?

More pointedly, I wonder why people believe things like gods, spirituality, prayer, natural medicine, metaphysics, Republicans, et al. actually do the things they claim, in the way they claim it. From a rational standpoint, it is easier to realize that you're mistaken than to consider that the fundamental rules of physics don't apply to everything. This is EXACTLY why we know a magician only fools our senses and not the laws of nature. So, why can't many of us see the same fudging going on with "supernatural" and "metaphysical" claims that have no support in the way of empirical evidence?

One observation of mine is that "magic" is "right before your eyes" - it is simply too incredible to believe. I mean, we all know a magic trick or two, so we know how it works, but we'll eventually come across a magician who is so good that he even fools other magicians. That still doesn't make what he does actual magic. Meanwhile, many of our beliefs and the incredible claims of new age/old age quackery are not so in-your-face. This subtlety is exactly what your brain needs to operate without anxiety. After all, skepticism is basically anxiety created by the conflict of an observed thing versus a person's known reality. Without anxiety, your brain absorbs ideas like a sponge. Once it is absorbed, we have a tremendous number of mental processes that harbor our ideas to make them valuable to us, like possessions. This is when we are no longer rational and we no longer subject our beliefs to the same skepticism that we apply to other things.

What's your take?
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Old 08-09-2010, 09:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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People believe because they want to believe, not because of any evidence, when it comes to magic, religion or Santa Claus.

I'm still amazed at people who try to find a rational explanation of faith. It's like trying to critique the Mona Lisa by applying Einstein's theory of relativity.
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Old 08-09-2010, 09:49 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FuglyStick View Post
People believe because they want to believe, not because of any evidence, when it comes to magic, religion or Santa Claus.

I'm still amazed at people who try to find a rational explanation of faith. It's like trying to critique the Mona Lisa by applying Einstein's theory of relativity.
I disagree with your semantics. The act of having faith can be rationally explained. The faith itself cannot be rationally supported.
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Old 08-09-2010, 10:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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We all have faith to some degree. It seems to me that the issue you are taking isn't with faith itself, but with certain things people have faith in.
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Old 08-09-2010, 10:19 AM   #5 (permalink)
 
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it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock n roll
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Old 08-09-2010, 10:35 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Halx View Post
I disagree with your semantics. The act of having faith can be rationally explained. The faith itself cannot be rationally supported.
So are you looking for an anthropological explanation of faith?
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Old 08-09-2010, 10:38 AM   #7 (permalink)
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it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock n roll
Thank you.

I immediately thought of that song when I saw the thread title.
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Old 08-09-2010, 10:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I think that phsiologically faith provides neurochemical relief when reality would
scare/depress/etc.. the hell out of you.
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Old 08-09-2010, 11:15 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Baraka_Guru View Post
We all have faith to some degree. It seems to me that the issue you are taking isn't with faith itself, but with certain things people have faith in.
Well obviously. If someone were to point out something that I have faith in that I am wrong to (by this I mean that if I believe something that goes against observable reality) then I'd be happy to re-examine my beliefs. I am pointing out the more popular reality-contradictors.

I want to state that I think I know WHY people believe, and it isn't as mystical as rock n' roll. Believe me, I've heard a lot of reasons. What I'm looking for is for people to answer the question themselves and maybe surprise me.

"Why are you not skeptical of your own beliefs?"
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Old 08-09-2010, 11:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FuglyStick View Post
People believe because they want to believe, not because of any evidence, when it comes to magic, religion or Santa Claus.

I'm still amazed at people who try to find a rational explanation of faith. It's like trying to critique the Mona Lisa by applying Einstein's theory of relativity.
Belief in something because of evidence is rational. Belief in something despite lack of evidence (or worse, in the face of contrary evidence) is faith. Faith is, by definition, irrational, or it would not require faith.
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Old 08-09-2010, 11:44 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Halx View Post
Well obviously. If someone were to point out something that I have faith in that I am wrong to (by this I mean that if I believe something that goes against observable reality) then I'd be happy to re-examine my beliefs. I am pointing out the more popular reality-contradictors.
So you mean, specifically, things such as a belief in God. There's a problem, however, with the fact that what people define as "God" varies, and so you can't get a single answer as to why they have faith and why they are wrong to believe in it.

It's common for nonbelievers to think that most people regard God as a white-bearded man in the sky, lording over His Children. There are many people who view God much like many of us would generally view the universe. As an example, Christians who believe in evolution and the importance of science will more than likely view God as the ultimate and full extent of the inner workings of the universe. What the universe is and how the universe works is what they consider God.

And so you get this empirical reality they tie into their spirituality. They see a seemingly infinite reality and they try to tap into it as they determine the best way they should live their lives. They use it to inspire their ethics and how they treat others, and how they struggle and try to overcome hardship. Many of these faithful look inward, not up to some Man-God. They try to feel a connection to the universe and to humanity, as they see links via experience and reality. It's more in tune to the senses and experience than, say, those who are constantly hoping for the return of Jesus.

I feel I haven't yet explained this to the best of my ability, but this is a start.

Quote:
Originally Posted by telekinetic View Post
Belief in something because of evidence is rational. Belief in something despite lack of evidence (or worse, in the face of contrary evidence) is faith. Faith is, by definition, irrational, or it would not require faith.
There are many situations where we have built up a certain amount of empirical data but still have no conclusive knowledge, and yet we go by a kind of faith regardless because it is promising. This happens a lot in issues of human health. The evidence, as it builds and changes, leads us to change what we think of things. Eggs used to be bad for you, now many of us believe they are generally good.

Also, I have not seen the evidence as to how air travel works. Does this mean it is irrational for me to have faith in that it will get me from Toronto to Vancouver in the sky?

But these are all in tune with material realities. The issue, I think, is in the realm of the non-physical: emotions, thoughts, communication, etc. Without any sort of faith, a human cannot hope to be a part of a society. Faith is based, in the very least, on trust in something one may not have any control over. Without a certain level of trust placed in various areas, I can't see how a human being can function on a healthy level.

Again, I don't know if I'm describing what I'm trying to say to the best of my ability. I'm currently taking a break from working on a book, so my head is swimming somewhat.
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Old 08-09-2010, 11:58 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Baraka_Guru View Post
Also, I have not seen the evidence as to how air travel works. Does this mean it is irrational for me to have faith in that it will get me from Toronto to Vancouver in the sky?
Do you know others who have flown on planes successfully? Have you ever personally seen an airplane fly? Have you ever, in fact, ridden in one successfully? Do you have reports which are congruent with your direct observations from sources which you have no reason to disbelieve as to the statistical safety of airliner flight as a general practice?

If you were able to provide me that much weight of empirical evidence for ANYTHING, I would of course believe it immediately, for at that point it would be irrational not to. It doesn't require faith to board a plane when you have no empirical reasons to doubt your statistical safety or the utility of flight.

What if, on the other hand, I heard you needed to get to Vancouver and I said "Oh, I have just the thing. I have invented a teleporter! You get in this coffin, and then I pour liquid nitrogen all over you, and then I point this laser at you which scans (and disintegrates) all of your molecules, and then you appear at your destination!"

Barring any of the empirical evidence you have for flight (second hand accounts, first hand observations, first hand experiences, reports from trustworthy vetted sources), would you hop right in on my say-so, without gathering some of the above? What if I let you read the instruction manual that I or one of my associates had written that said it was perfectly safe, would your worries be assuaged then? Letting me freeze you and disintegrate you with a laser, in hopes that it would teleport you to Vancouver, despite all of the common sense and evidence to the contrary would be a huge act of faith. Boarding a 737 is not.
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Old 08-09-2010, 12:31 PM   #13 (permalink)
 
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most everything we do or know or know about is frame-contingent.

i think that there's only anthropological or sociological explanations for different types of faith. the faith in engineering to the exclusion of other ways of thinking is a function of the social and intellectual norms that shape a particular community's relation(s) to information. same kind of thing with religious people (different communities, different norms obviously). very little about what people know or believe is self-contained.

this includes the knowing of people who try to understand communities, what the norms are, how they operate, how people come to bind together their worlds through them, by using them, what those processes are like, how you account for them, what accounting for them means, who gets to say.

because it seems to be the case that what's true is only true because it's run through a proof (explicit or implicit) and doesn't violate the rules.

if that's the case, then there's only zones and scales of knowing. which is fine once you get used to it.

that's one of the most basic reasons why empiricism is so limited, why claims to "universal" reason are one-dimensional. both operate within social spaces one of the defining quirks of which is to deny the fact that the operate in social spaces.
it's not much different from the way a christian evangelist might think, structurally

magic. well, you go to a magick show and you walk in the door and you're already deciding whether or not you want to suspend disbelief. and you either do or you don't. there's not much in the way of Higher Understanding in it, i don't think, unless you assume people are really fucking stupid. and there are really fucking stupid people. i met one on friday. he put his index finger into my beer. but i digress. there are stupid people but it makes little sense to assume that about people and still less to assume that about almost everyone. people suspend disbelief in significant measure because the social space of a magic show invites it. that works because you know the codes that make a magick show recognizable, and your recognition of it as a particular kind of situation pushes you into making choices about how you're going to interact.


think contemporary art except you know how to act.

so it's not like religion, really, except in the ways that it is.
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Old 08-09-2010, 12:33 PM   #14 (permalink)
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TK:

I used that as an example mainly because I had (and still have, but on a much lesser scale) an irrational fear of flying.

Maybe now I have an irrational faith in pilots.
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Old 08-11-2010, 09:08 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I believe in things that I cannot explain... I have seen things that i cannot explain.... as to believing in magic, I believe in things bigger than us- hell, we still cannot explain why gravity works..... as to magic in a mumbo jumbo, power of christ compels you way, not so much.....
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Old 08-11-2010, 09:34 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I saw David Copperfield when I was a little kid. Not the classic Charles Dickens character, the magician. One moment he was walking into a giant fan on stage and the next minute he was like 200 feet away popping out of the middle of the audience not two rows in front of me. I still can't figure out how he did it. It was a hell of a trick.

That said, magic is by its very nature supernatural. Tricks are wonderful fun, but they don't violate the laws of nature. As soon as the claim is made that the laws of nature have been broken, you must supply evidence capable of establishing that... which is impossible because the supernatural cannot be demonstrated using natural means. It can't be done. So, bearing that in mind, I remain unconvinced.
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:02 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Jewish belief there is magic. If i am an illusionist I am not a magician, they are 2 different things. What magic is, how it exists is a whole other conversation but I do fully believe in its existence.

I will say this I have met true Chacham Rabbi's who have spent decades learning Kaballah (not the fake Madonna crap) and who have never met me or anyone I know before I needed a translator to talk with them, since my hebrew was not fluent enough. They told me dead on accurate information about not just me, about a family member (I did not mention anyone but ask for a blessing for myself and my wife) and how she is being abused (which she was) etc... And also said a few other things that just blew my mind.

Is that magic, no that is to me Torah, but to me the concept of Magic exists and is very real. It is not something I talk about or think of, or tangible but that does not mean that it is not out there.
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Old 08-16-2010, 12:47 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I do believe in the Lovin' Spoonful

Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart
How the music can free her, whenever it starts
And it's magic, if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie
I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul
But it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll
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Old 08-27-2010, 11:06 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I believe in magic because I'm thinking about it. I want more, but that's probably enough. I'll never understand girls...boys...hearts. Magic is one of those cool, catch-all words of which we can all partake if we're willing.
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Old 08-29-2010, 04:16 PM   #20 (permalink)
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If there's evidence, I accept it. If there isn't, I try to figure out what looks like the most likely explanation. I have neither the time nor patience to believe in things.

I don't need to believe in something bigger and better than us, the universe is wonderful and mysterious enough as it is. There are four identified fundamental forces, I don't see why magic needs to be added to the list considering we don't even know what makes up over 90% of the universe. Illusions and performance are great entertainment, but what we know to be real already fills me with a childlike wonder. I once again refer to this old thread of mine.
http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/general...e-science.html
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Old 08-29-2010, 04:25 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Old 09-03-2010, 01:57 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I believe that there are 3 kinds of magic out there in the world.

There is the Slight of hand carnival act stuff, we all know and love.

Then there is the kind that exists to be proven wrong with time. Such as if we where able to travel to a primitive world or back in time... We walk up to a cave man and pull out a lighter and light it. The Cave man will see that as magic as the fire came from your hand. But to us it was just a lighter.

Then there is the kind that is just unexplainable. You can run it through Occam's Razor and there is nothing left. Now granted this may just be us in the caveman's shoes. However i have seen some crazy things that just don't make sense to any rational mind. So that leaves me to believe that there is more out there then what can be quantified. So if you where to ask me if there was the type of magic out there that is of the mystical kind I would have to say yes, but don't for a moment think I will not try to debunk the hell out of it.
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Old 09-03-2010, 02:12 PM   #23 (permalink)
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There is a difference between something that operates outside of the laws of physics (the supernatural) and not understanding the laws of physics (ignorance) or having your sensed duped (magic tricks, optical illusions, etc.).
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Old 09-03-2010, 02:45 PM   #24 (permalink)
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There is a difference between something that operates outside of the laws of physics (the supernatural) and not understanding the laws of physics (ignorance) or having your sensed duped (magic tricks, optical illusions, etc.).
But how much of the supernatural is us being the caveman do you think?
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Old 09-03-2010, 03:45 PM   #25 (permalink)
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But how much of the supernatural is us being the caveman do you think?
Are you asking how much of what we consider supernatural is actually natural?
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Old 09-03-2010, 06:45 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Are you asking how much of what we consider supernatural is actually natural?
Many primitive cultures warn of the dangers of leaving the group/campfire at night because of some belief in mythological monsters waiting the the darkness to do horrible things. While there may not be monsters, there are venomous snakes, bears, wolves, etc that are all very active at night and are best avoided. Perhaps he is referring to some sort of ingrained inclination to believe in the supernatural as a survival mechanism?
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Old 09-03-2010, 09:11 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Are you asking how much of what we consider supernatural is actually natural?
No in my example I stated that if I traveled back in time and walked up to a caveman and pulled out a lighter and lit it. From the caveman's primitive mind to him that would seem supernatural, because he had not encountered that technology before.

In my third explanation what i was saying is at this stage. We as the human race "may" be like the Caveman when it comes to thinking about Magic.

When all things being equal the simplest answer must be the correct one. Occam's Razor.

If you cant explain it at all, if Occam's Razor fails that leaves you with 2 choices:
1) there maybe some yet unknown or lost to the ages, forces out there that we can't quantify yet. Its just that we have not advanced to that stage, and we don't understand yet.
2) Its Supernatural.

Case in point when I was 8 I was awoken in the middle of the night for a strange reason I woke up in time to see the head of my great grandmother float across my room from my bed to the door. As a kid with no adult around I thought it was a ghost and got scared. When I told my mother in the morning she said I must have been dreaming and i awoke so fast that my mind carried a bit over. I like to believe it was my great grandmother coming to check on me in my sleep. Even though deep down I know my mother is probably right.

It all boils down to perception and what you want to believe.

i hope i cleared up the confusions.
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Old 09-03-2010, 09:22 PM   #28 (permalink)
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In my third explanation what i was saying is at this stage. We as the human race "may" be like the Caveman when it comes to thinking about Magic. [...]

It all boils down to perception and what you want to believe.
This is what I thought you meant. What you're saying, then, is that some of what we think to be supernatural is actually not the case. I guess one example would be telepathy. Let's say 50 years down the road, neuroscientists figure out a way to "unblock" telepathic channels in our brains that are naturally underdeveloped because of our current place along our evolutionary adaptation.

Assuming (for the sake of argument) that telepathy is real, what this means is that we are currently "cavemen" but 50 years down the road, telepathy will be as real as dreaming or meditation. The "supernatural" has become understood to be natural.

Yet, if telepathy remains elusive in terms of being able to prove its effectiveness, then it will remain to be considered a supernatural ability.

I'm still not 100% sure if this is what you're getting at. Is it?
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Old 09-03-2010, 09:31 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Baraka_Guru gets a Gold Star. Yes sir that is what i meant.
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Old 09-04-2010, 06:44 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Woo-hoo!
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Old 09-04-2010, 08:01 AM   #31 (permalink)
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That's what you get for being able to communicate so magically.
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Old 09-15-2010, 11:00 AM   #32 (permalink)
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yes, I believe in magic

In the words of John Constantine:

"I'll tell you the ultimate secret of magic. Any cunt could do it."
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Old 09-23-2010, 01:45 AM   #33 (permalink)
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yeah i believe in magic.

some of the stuff i've seen is amazing
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Old 09-25-2010, 02:30 PM   #34 (permalink)
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The problem with stage magic is that no matter how impossible and amazing it looks, It's still just a stage trick. If this magician brought this magic into the real world and disappeared an evil dictator with the snap of his fingers people WOULD believe him. He'd have worshipers immediately.

There's was an opinion article in the NY times a while ago written by a professor at Princeton. It wasn't really about magic but it dealt with how people remember things and when presented with a false statement along side a disclaimer that it is in fact false they can recall it later as being true, having forgotten the disclaimer. It goes on to talk about how people are more likely to remember things that fit in with their world view.. Actually instead of talking about it I'm just going to link it. HERE!

As for religion, I think people are looking for answers. They see their lives and they shrug and ask "Is this it?" I think many people would just breakdown completely if the only answer they could find is "yeah.. This is all there is..." As for republicans, I have no fucking idea.
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Old 09-26-2010, 08:36 PM   #35 (permalink)
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believing in something such as magic is just a way for us to escape from reality
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