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If we're made to believe that water is composed of billions of molecules actually, but we've never saw it or observed it, still that scientific fact establishes a conceptual notion that yes, things must be that way.

For example, if someone says "I blindly believe that people I see have brains inside their head. Sometimes I question why I so easily believe that which I cannot prove." then the argument is flawed, as compared to assertions a religion makes. If I question the aforementioned assertion that no, there are no brains because I see none, then there'll be a boatload of critical questions, like how people think? How they coordinate their heartbeats? And so on. A lot of existential and historic observations, hereby, go crashing. So even if a scientific fact might not be directly observed by me, it still, rather indirectly, influences many other facts that might be observed by me (people actually think, in this context).

In contrast, if some says to me that "If you do wrong deeds, you'll burn in hell," and there's no proof, no experiments (put aside observations) have confirmed it (like presence of brain or existence of molecules is confirmed), there's no logic (like "Yes, that should be true even if science has no answer to that"), and on top of everything else, if it doesn't influence other facts or concepts we do experience or observe, then aren't religious claims and assertions on a totally different ground?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by James Kingsbery, Hunan Rostomyan, virmaior, iphigenie, stoicfury Jul 21 at 7:26

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You've edited your question to the point that it reads completely differently from the original question I and others responded to. In addition, you're making a clear move into "debate territory", which is outside of the mission of this site. Your question, as currently framed, is more of a ideological assertion phrased as a question than something that could actually garner useful responses. –  Chris Sunami Jul 22 at 2:38
    
Chris is correct; this is now a whole new question. you should in general post a new question when you change the question's angle because now all the provided answers are answering the wrong question... At any rate, I'm still confused why/how this question has anything to do with intrinsically with religion. You are basically just asking "What makes a claim more valid than another?" which is still too broad in my opinion (despite being narrower than your original question). –  stoicfury Jul 23 at 1:20
    
OP requested the deletion of this question because he is posting a new one. For now, I am leaving it closed and converting it to WIKI because there was a lot of effort put into the answers and part of them may be reused depending on the new question, but even outside of that some may have value in and of themselves to warrant not deleting this question. –  stoicfury Jul 23 at 16:56
    
@stoicfury so shall I revert it back to the original question to not let people get confused? –  Abhimanyu Jul 25 at 2:56
    
Reverting back wouldn't be enough because it would remain closed until you improved it as necessary. If you want to ask a different (but perhaps similar) question, create a new post and if it's along the same lines people may still be able to reference there answers here if need be. –  stoicfury Jul 25 at 6:39

11 Answers 11

I think that the key gap behind this question is that for most people, most of the time, the degree of justification required for them to "hold a belief" is much lower than requiring a proof; rather all that is required is some sufficient level of external justification. Thus, believers are not "blindly" following their religion, they have justification (although there are probably many people whose justifications are not well thought-out).

In some cases, people have real experiences that appear to be related to an external transcendent being/essence. These experiences are real experiences, theists interpret them as being sensory evidence of a god (or god(s) or spirits) as relevant as our sensory experience of tables, chairs etc. Thus, people who have had mystical/transcendent/life-altering experiences, have had an experience that serves as evidence.

Other (maybe most) people don't have the direct experience but do have access to a community that re-iterates the stories of those who have -- e.g. people whose lives have "turned around" after finding god. This serves as testimony based evidence, which although it should be modulated by considerations of the reliability the person giving the testimony, can serve as evidentiary support for the belief.

In some cases, there are claims of logical proof (justification) of the god(s) as well: the idea that the universe requires a creator (as a logical necessity) and then linking that to the god(s) can be made into a justification of this sort. However, in my experience most Christians, and possibly theists in general, do not rely on these kinds of logical arguments as the starting point, but rather rely on the other forms of evidentiary support and build outward from there.

In the end, these justifications do not provide a strict proof of the validity of the religion, however for most people, most of the time the criterion for believing a given proposition is much lower than requiring a strict proof; and the external (evidence) support that they have is sufficient (for them) to hold the beliefs of their religion.

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I'm sorry my upvote just bumped your rep to 676. –  Cory Jul 18 at 15:49
    
I just meant that as almost all people are "given" a religion and they then become devoted to that religion, what in scientific reasoning establishes the authenticity of a religion such that such a practice is allowed in the world. Why, al-Queda also has a belief, do we permit their preaching? Now of course that's terrorism, but like with any unscientific belief, like rural taboos, untouchability, etc., why don't we condemn religions too? –  Abhimanyu Jul 19 at 4:19
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I blindly believe that people I see have brains inside their head. Sometimes I question why I so easily believe that which I cannot prove. –  Michael Gazonda Jul 19 at 18:14
    
@MGaz: Nice, now listen to this. People having brains is a scenario which makes sense, and if we say "No there's no brain," it will create a mountain of questions, like how people think then? How people coordinate breathing? And so on. On the other hand, if I think "No religions don't exist," then there's no such question that creates a scenario in which human existence is threatened or critically questioned. That's basically what I always meant by "having logical, scientific, and sound backing to a fact." That's what distinguishes an assertion from a fact or claim. –  Abhimanyu Jul 21 at 2:22
    
@Abhimanyu - That is the same logic that people use to show validity of that which cannot be scientifically proven. That which appears to be common sense has much in common with faith based beliefs. –  Michael Gazonda Jul 21 at 2:37

The main issue here is that you're glossing over your central concept that we can have "proof" of the "flawlessly correct" nature of most of our beliefs. The plain truth is that we have strong support for many of our beliefs about the world, and we have systematic ways, such as science, of building support for many beliefs, but it's unclear that any of this rises to the "flawless" standard you're proposing for religious belief.

The resonance and simplicity of terms like "psychological reasoning" and "simple mathematic problem solving" yield a comforting sense of stability, but they are far from unproblematic once you start to unpack their implications. Why should psychology be considered definitive? And whose psychology are we considering --yours, mine, a believer's, an atheist's, a Hindu's, a Christian's? And in what sense are the important beliefs about the nature of life capable of being reduced to simple mathematics?

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You're right about the limitations of science. However, I do think there's an issue worth addressing, where some religions claim absolute epistemic authority, in spite of the inherent limitations on proof. Religion of that kind tends to perpetuate this notion of "flawlessly correct proof" in a society that has the opportunity to know better. –  Cory Jul 18 at 15:56
    
Of course a thing that's universal MUST have a proof. Just because most of us are religionists and believe in at least some religion, we cannot argue that a phenomenon so widespread needs proof for existence. Any neutral human, untouched from religions, would abolish most of the claims made by any religion. What's the problem is essentially we cannot really have neutral people. –  Abhimanyu Jul 19 at 4:21
    
@Cory - This is true, but it is a different line of argument than the OP was pursuing. –  Chris Sunami Jul 19 at 21:00
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@Abhimanyu - You're making a lot of unsupported claims, as expressed in undefined terms. What qualifies as a proof for you, and what "universals" possess proofs of the sort you would find satisfying? The only way anyone could begin to respond to your claim is through knowing what you mean by it. Without such details, all you're doing is making the same kinds of assertions you attack in your original post. –  Chris Sunami Jul 19 at 21:04
    
@Abhimanyu: To know is to believe, for there is no proof for knowing. You are looking at science for proof, but all science does is look at the past and express an expectation that the same will happen in the future. There are no absolutes involved in that. On the other hand religion at least can lay claim to absolutes, regardless of whether those claims are right or not. So if a human is searching for absolutes - regardless of their form - blindly abolishing those claims is the last thing he can do. –  David Mulder Jul 19 at 21:31

According to psychological reasoning, which can be equated to simple mathematic problem solving, there should be proof, according to any discipline of science or observation to believe in anything. Then what proves that assertions of a certain religion are flawlessly correct?

This are so many wrong assumptions I do not know to start. First of all, there is no such thing as "flawless" proof in science. With a very high amount of observations we have distilled certain statements like energy, momentum or angular momentum conservation which we believe to be correct with an extremely high degree of certainty. That does not mean that they cannot be invalidated with further observations (in fact during extremely short durations energy conservation may be violated), therefore there are not flawless. Mathematics is only flawless because it specified rules in advance (axioms) to be true. These axioms could be extended (like non-euclidean geometry) to get new, unexpecting results. And in all cases human error could always mitigate presented results, so "flawless" is a insurmountable obstacle. Second, there is no need for a "proof" for every thing people believe. I do believe that I am "existing" (whatever that means) without proof. So do I believe that I like vanilla ice. The things which should be regarded as important are things where several observers could have different opinions and there should be only one possible result for all observers. Another problem to find a proof is the Münchhausen trilemma; you must always leave options open which could invalidate your proof. Third, religions do not always claim flawless correctness. While the monotheistic religions have a knack to claim such a thing, many religions are much more open about the interpretation and validity of their belief system.

Also, if a person is bound by a religion, probably due to his or her birth, why should he or she believe in the teachings of a discipline that's not proved? Isn't it misleading people?

We as humans have the need to get an identity. Who are we ? What is our purpose in life ? Our surrounding and upbringing imparts a deep psychological impact into what we think who we are. People will necessarily try to teach their children what they believe is right and good. Given that parents are also very protective of their children by nature, it is a hopeless attempt to prevent that. As everyone can see, many people stop believing their teachings, especially if they find out that their parents do not really believe or believe only that what it convienient to them.

So what ultimately forces me, or any other person, to be binded by a religion and follow it? Of course, I can unsubscribe to a religion, but that cannot happen in all cases, which creates a human society of nearly blind followers.

Nothing except peer pressure can force someone to be binded by religion. The purpose of religion is in my opinion not really related to flawlessly explain the world, but building up a self-image, find a social structure for participating and find a way to cope with the most pressing human problems (purpose of life, love, sorrow, death, loneliness). This also explains why attempts by naturalists of converting people are not so successful as expected; if they could offer a convincing alternative to live a happy and fruitful life, I suspect people will flock to join the given alternative. Monotheistic religions are desired because they offer a easy solution (Follow this rules and you are good, deny them and you are bad), they remove much sources of conflict (This is true, so you do not need doubt and quarreling. This guarantees salvation, so you do not need to think over if your actions are in the best interest of yourself and other people), they are easy to understand and follow (allowing as much people as possible to join the religion) and they give a powerful feedback because everyone will tell everyone how happy he is (even if this is not true).

ADDITION: The question you now ask is if scientific and religious assertions are different in quality. Scientists and philosophers always struggled to come up with a clear-cut, crisp definition what a "scientific assertion" would be, but if you allow to be vague, a scientific assertion in its ideal case should be

  • self-consistent (no logical flaws)
  • it should explain facts and with this explanation it is possible to predict currently unknown facts or shed light in unexplained matter
  • it does not involve anything which is not already known, subjective or superfluous
  • and its predictions should be checkable to evaluate its truthfulness

Just for info: Atoms were seriously considered as incorrect assumption by prominent scientists like Ostwald and Mach during the beginning of the 20th century.

Some religious assertions are illogical: Genesis claims first that animals came before humans and one page after that claims its exact contradiction. Take the four evangelists versions of Jesus resurrection side by side and try to get a consistent picture.
Some are outright bizarre: The all-knowing omnipotent God needs to move after Moses to kill him in an inn ?! (Exodus 4:24).
Some religious assertions are (almost) impossible to verify: Is there a God (if you describe it more from a pantheistic viewpoint) ? Is there a Hell ?

So many, many religious assertions cannot be considered scientific or even rational. Given your previous question I assume that you really want to ask: Why not replacing the religious assertions with scientific ones ?

Uh, well, because it does not work ? The current scientific viewpoint has a severe problem to judge behavior. They are not able to say: This is good and this is bad. You could try to ask the anthropologists for general human laws to form a base of understanding to work from. And they will come back and tell you that they asked the (very aggressive tribe) and the (very peaceful tribe) and it is absolutely hopeless to find a least common denominator. Worse, every attempt to write down a general rulebook of behavior will seriously piss off some cultures and the author will be called supremacist/racist.

And it also ignores reality. The people who call themselves XYZs ignore often inconvienient assertions about their religion XYZ. For your example: Alevi women are not forced to hide their face even if Alevism is considered a part of Islam, so your allegation is not always true. The Western World where most people still call themselves Christian do not stone homosexuals even when the Old Testament strictly demands it. The jewish life is a never ending battle of breaking extremely inconvienient and intricate historical laws in the present by finding loopholes, unintended exclusions and creative interpretations. And people who call themselves rationalists can be exactly as illogical and emotional when conclusions does not fit their worldview. Penn & Teller have served the public a steaming pile of their own bullshit when they questioned global warming and recycling because it offends their liberatarian worldview.

So while people would like to have scientific guidelines, I do not think that it is possible to get ones for the mentioned reasons above.

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Yes, I admit that nothing can be flawless, but I think you get the point. If Islam dictates you go to hell if you're a female and do fancy decorations, then if there's not even a single witness, I won't believe it. On the contrary, I haven't seen atoms. Yes, they're not "flawlessly" established facts, but yet, I believe in them because there's a science, logical science, behind them. –  Abhimanyu Jul 19 at 4:28

The point of view you're taking is called the carvaka school in Indian philosophy; it is sceptical about the claims of the Vedas; that is it is to the Vedas as athiesm in the West is to Christianity.

This sceptism is alluded to in the 10th Mandala of the Rig Veda, the Nasadiya Sukta

इयं विसृष्टिर्यत ।आबभूव यदि वा दधॆ यदि वा न ।

यॊ ।आस्याध्यक्ष: परमॆ व्यॊमन्त्सॊ आंग वॆद यदि वा न वॆद ॥७॥

Whence all creation had its origin,

he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,

he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,

he knows - or maybe even he does not know.

In the Isha-Upanishad, it is noted that two forms of knowledge have to be yoked together; yoked is translated by yoga; in Yeats translation we have:

Pin your faith to natural knowledge, stumble through the darkness of the blind; pin your faith to super-natural knowledge stumble through a darkness deeper still.

That is neither material (natural) nor metaphysical knowledge on its own succeeds.

They that know and can distinguish between natural knowledge and super-natural knowledge shall, by the first, cross the perishable in safety.

But yoking them together, but still distinguishing them succeeds; it is a passage from a form of dualism to monism, in a sense.

Its interesting, that these ancient philosophical poems are written in poetic metre; a number of the pre-socratics, Parmenides and Empedocles amongst them wrote in the same style; in the Western tradition it was Aristotle that turned it towards prose, whereas Plato experimented with the dialogue - essentially philosophy in the form of a drama - given the visibility and honour that Greek tragic theatre had in Athens.

However in the East this tradition of the philosophical poem continued, for example there is the Buddhist Philosopher Nagarjuna and his Madhyamika Karika (verses from the centre).

With that preamble out of the way - to your question.

According to psychological reasoning, which can be equated to simple mathematic problem solving, there should be proof, according to any discipline of science or observation to believe in anything.

Proof is a central occupation of mathematics as it is constituted now through the axiomatic method; but there is the wider question as to why we are justified in taking proof as central; and also is this as central as it claims to be; judgement of course is required in deciding which questions are important.

like I can create my own religion tomorrow with its own principles

This is not so easy! Its not enough to decide to be a prophet or sage, one must accrue followers and keep them, and keep getting them; it is the judgement of posterity that bestows the title of a religion or dharma.

So what ultimately forces me, or any other person, to be binded by a religion and follow it?

One might say one doesn't choose a dharma; it chooses you; Its in this sense that one might say one is possessed or obsessed by a dharma. Or as it is written in the Katha Upanishad:

The Self is not known from discourse, splitting hairs, learning however great; He comes to the man He loves; takes that mans body as his own

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I know very well about Charvak and I've also argued how Charvak can exist within Hinduism to no fruitful answer. However, I'm basing my opinions on science, not some ages old ideology initially created with the intent of being anti-Hindu (probably). –  Abhimanyu Jul 19 at 4:23
    
@abhimanyu: Science in the Western tradition goes back to Greek antiquity; back to the Milesian materialist school the correlative to the carvaka school in some sense. –  Mozibur Ullah Jul 19 at 14:44
    
The boundary between poetic metre and prose may well have been the boundary between oral transmission and written works : to help ensure faithful transmission of oral works, they require redundancy (error correction information) in the form of rhyme and repetitive structure. –  Brian Drummond Jul 19 at 19:17
    
@MoziburUllah: Science is a discipline. You're merely pointing out its origin. Due to constant revisions, updating, and manpower attached, it's now a natural subject, no more an ideology. If charvak was the same, I would've loved to argue on that, but that's reached singularity ages ago. –  Abhimanyu Jul 20 at 7:11

There are many fantastic answers already here, so I will try to not re-invent anything. But one point that I feel is salient and I do not see on here (or I missed) is almost an underlying assumption in your questions that all religions of the world make not only the same kinds of claims about truth, but make the same claims based on the same kinds of evidence.

What I mean by that can be shown by the textual criticism world with regards to transmission of texts (how accurate are our versions of the text vs. what was originally written down). Take the Bible vs. The Vedas vs. The Koran. All three make claims that go back to their texts. All three of these texts have different qualities and particularities to them that need to be looked at individually.

You cannot make a claim about the authenticity of the Vedas texts with regards to their original authors intent by looking at the textual transmission details of the Bible.

As you look into each of them individually, there are going to be differences that either affirm or tear down the notion of faithful textual transmission for each of these texts.

Now, back to your question.

So what ultimately forces me, or any other person, to be binded by a religion and follow it?

It seems that you are blanket-covering all of the religions in a way that would be akin to (in the textual criticism example above) saying that because I cannot prove the authenticity of The Vedas (just to use an example, not making a statement on their authenticity) because of some sort of transmission corruption issue, the Biblical texts can likewise be ignored because they are also a sacred text like the Vedas.

I apologize if I am reading more into this than you put there, that's just how your post struck me.

Going to your first question in the post:

Then what proves that assertions of a certain religion are flawlessly correct?

You cannot make any categorical statements, you simply have to look at the evidence cited for each of the religions on their own and evaluate. Do they make blatantly contradictory statements? Do they make provably-false historical claims (the provably part drawing attention to the fact that lack of evidence is not contradictory)?

Since they make claims using similar pieces of evidence, there is bleed over as to techniques on evaluating claims of a religion, but since only a very few use the exact same pieces of evidence, evaluating one system's claim gives you nothing for evaluating other system's claims.

Whether or not the concept of Religion as a whole holds any water is an appropriate Philosophical question, but ironically, I do not think it necessarily ties down to a particular belief system (as in, you do not have to come from a particular belief system in order to ask if Religion as a whole can give any truth).

Hope this is helpful.

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I didn't read it full, but I understand what you're implying. Here's the point to it. Suppose tomorrow, even if all religions are unified by all means, even in such a scenario, it doesn't prove the authenticity of the beliefs they make in any way. You and I can make our ideologies inside our own houses, and if they both, by some quantum probability, coincide in each aspect, it doesn't establish that our ideologies become universally true. There's no scientific backing? It's false. –  Abhimanyu Jul 19 at 4:26
    
While I can sympathize with the point you're getting at, my concern is that you're treating this far too generically. See forthcoming Edit. –  Aaron Marcus Jul 21 at 12:47

Many religions come with a dogma attached. A written one is best, because it can't be changed when the evidences change. Compare this dogma to reality. A good religion should not have contradicting dogma. If it does, it should have a good reason for the contradictions, such as possibly inaccurate oral narrations, poor translations, or vague meanings.

Experimentation can work, but it has to be done properly, with a hypothesis and controlled experiment proving or disproving it. This is easier with firm, non-allegorical claims. For example, a religion might promise that charity is rewarded tenfold by God. A straightforward experiment would be to test if members of that religion who do acts of charity become disproportionately wealthier.

Things like prayer may be extremely difficult to prove. A prayer would be a request to a deity for a favor. The deity in question may choose to simply deny the favor, especially if it was not made in goodwill. This doesn't mean that the deity doesn't exist.

So what ultimately forces me, or any other person, to be binded by a religion and follow it?

I find that most religions are not about whether god really exists or how the universe is created. It is more about a lifestyle. To paint a very broad stroke of certain religions, Christianity is about error and forgiveness. Islam is about devotion and loyalty. Buddhism is about letting go of luxury/greed. Confucianism is about responsibility.

Of course, all religions have these ethics integrated in some form, but certain religions press the theme harder than most.

You may not agree with the evidences that the religion brings forward, but very often, agreeing with an ethical code is what makes most people decide on a religion.

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in the most general terms possible, people are drawn to religions because religions take the thinking out of life, and therefore, removes sources of doubt and confusion. If we think of philosophy as the study of three questions, "what is there?" "how do i know?" and "what do i do?", all religions generally make claim to answering these questions, being why individuals are drawn to them, because they remove alot of confusion and doubt for the individual, allowing the individual to feel alot more confident by giving them a reason, meaning and purpose, to justify their life.

Central to all religions is a doctrine of faith, i.e. believing in something without proof. This is important because without this faith, the individual would not be able to justify their sense of confidence in themself for having all the questions of life all figured out and would feel as though they have been reduced to a state of doubt and confusion. The feeling of having an answer to all of lifes questions is equivalent to a state of blissful ignorance, which removes the anxiety associated with the experience of acknowledging ones own ignorance.

So you could say that people who follow religions dont need proof, because they have faith, something told to me in many heated discussions with religious peoples. The saddest thing about this is, many people, because they are born into religious societies or famillies, abandon their own reason and conform to the religion (to fit in to the crowd), because challenging a persons belief system (and effectively their sense of indentity and self-confidence) can have terrible consequences on a persons status in a community or family, and cause them to be met with scorn from their peers and closest family members whom they love.

So, to what proves authenticity of ANY religion? There is no basis for proof, no justification for belief, other than that the individual believer chooses to believe. The inherent pscholgical need of human nature, to believe in something, outweighs any requirement of proof. To belive that all humans require proof to believe in an idea, implies that all humans are rational, which is both obviously and definitely not the case.

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Just an observation. Does the statement that "every human needs a proof to believe in something implies that all humans are rational" assumes the belief that "proofs are the only rational method for judging reality/ or the only method avaible to the humans"? In that is case... is the last assumption itself demostrable or at least rational? ps: I do not want to support the point of view of the religious people. –  MphLee Jul 20 at 19:45
    
@MphLee, you are correct, in that the notion of proof is flawed, that to find a first cause would require proof of proofs ad infinitum, i think diference between reasoning methods of people who require proof vs those who dont is important though, the person who requires proof acknowledges that they dont know, which is a justified true belief, whereas the person who doesnt require proof believes theyve got all the answers, which is an unjustifiable false belief. –  musingsofacigarettesmokingman Jul 21 at 2:02
    
Good point! The hope is that rational humans should realize the limits of their knowledge more than the irrational ones. Obviously is not always like this...there are hundred of shades of grey in the middle. –  MphLee Jul 21 at 7:31

Talking about "belief in a religion" is too monolithic. All religions make multiple kinds of claims. For example, if a religion makes the claim "there is a superior being who cannot be observed directly or indirectly in any way and who does not intervene in the natural laws governing the universe," that is not amenable to any kind of empirical consideration. There is literally no argument or evidence that could rationally compel you to accept it. People who believe it probably do so because they have a cultural or other affiliation with the religion as a whole, and they accept that belief as part of their worldview.

On the other hand, the same religion might claim, "human suffering is caused by desire," one could come up with a variety of ways to operationalize those concepts and test them with the normal scientific method. You could come to believe that statement in the usual way, and if you believed enough of its other claims and thought they had important consequences, you might eventually say that you were a believer in the religion.

Some people will follow the pragmatic or testable tenets of a religion, find that they are helpful to them, and from there go on to believe in the untestable ones. It's trivial to see how this reasoning is not logically valid, but to many of those people it doesn't matter -- living a happy life and having psychological assistance doing what they perceive as right and good is more important than having a fully correct and provable set of beliefs. Other people will accept those beliefs and reject the others, such as Jews who are at best agnostic about God but still follow the laws of the Torah and the teachings of the rabbis. They would say that they "believe in" Judaism even though they've only accepted a subset of its claims.

To come back around to your original question, any given religion probably makes some claims that can be proven, and other claims that fundamentally cannot. People will adhere to religions for various reasons, many of which are pragmatically rewarding even if they're not logically airtight.

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According to psychological reasoning, which can be equated to simple mathematic problem solving, there should be proof, according to any discipline of science or observation to believe in anything. Then what proves that assertions of a certain religion are flawlessly correct?

First, you have to understand that people don't necessarily subscribe to the idea that belief requires proof. In fact, many religions are built on the concept of faith, belief, and hope without proof.

Second, as others point out you need to understand that people may have a lower bar for certain beliefs than for others. For instance I might require a higher standard of proof that the brakes in my car will work for me to believe they will prevent an accident that might immediately affect myself or those I care about. Similarly I might require a lower standard of proof that doing service to others will improve my mental or emotional state.

Thirdly, people may be more accepting of a subjective standard of proof than your query suggests. Proof, built on a discipline of science or observation, which is flawlessly correct, is objective. However, someone might accept that their personal emotional state change, when hearing a story from someone they trust, is proof enough of the correctness of the information conveyed.

Also, if a person is bound by a religion, probably due to his or her birth, why should he or she believe in the teachings of a discipline that's not proved? Isn't it misleading people?

It depends on what you believe is misleading. If a religion tells its followers that they will live a more peaceful existence if they throw off consumerism, and a majority of their followers try it, and many believe they are more at peace than they were prior to following the religious counsel, then is the subjective proof inadequate? Have they been mislead?

Belief might be built on several things. Trust in the person delivering the message. Testing the message by living the principle and seeing if you reap the promised benefits. Learning of historical stories with specific outcomes that showed the message's delivered promises.

Take, for instance, the LDS restriction on smoking, alcohol, coffee, and tea. The message was delivered in the mid 1800s, it was more strictly enforced in the early 1900s, and only in the mid to late 1900s did science confirm that smoking lead directly to a significantly increased chance of cancer. A person strictly following the scientific method would probably contend that alcohol, coffee, and tea aren't as life threatening as tobacco, and so the message might only truly be 25% actionable - hardly proof. But another person might instead choose to believe in a lower bar of proof, noting that many lives were probably lengthened by this message over the century after it was given, even though to live it meant giving up more than science has since proven is useful. Perhaps they believe science took over a hundred years to catch on to one item, and may take longer to understand the damage the other three may or may not contribute to the human body.

So what ultimately forces me, or any other person, to be bound by a religion and follow it?

Nothing forces you to. Following a creed, religious or not, is ultimately a choice you make based on your own agreement with its precepts.

Some follow principles that are easily disproved - such as wearing a pair of lucky socks when they watch their favorite team play. For some it provides a sense of control over a world they have little control over. For others it provides explanations for things that happen which they don't like.

Others simply seek comfort, acceptance, society which might provide them many benefits, even if the creed isn't important to them.

Usually you weigh the cost vs the benefit, and then choose. Regardless of proof, religions provide benefits to some that they can't easily obtain elsewhere, or that are worth the cost of following the religion.

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IMO, it has to start with (1) definition of religion and (2) definition of proof. Maybe we can think of religion as having a direct implication that our reality is artificial, created by some Creator(s) and existing only as long as "They" will it to be so. Also, if proof of any particular religion was possible, then there would necessarily need to be proof of religion in general.

For a possible partial analogy, consider a digital movie producer. The 'Producer' creates an encapsulated 'reality' populated with characters. Such a 'Producer' exists totally outside of the created reality. The characters have no apparent possibility of proving that a higher 'dimension' exists in which a 'Producer' resides.

Without specific interaction initiated by the 'Producer', including adding details into the production that would constitute 'proof', how can a character in a movie prove that it's a "movie"? (I.e., that a higher reality exists.)

Then, what is the "movie"? If it's run through a projector to show on a wall, is it the digital impulses within the equipment, or is it the image being watched by the 'Producer'? Would the 'fabric' of the movie reality be the electronic components that make up and execute the bits? Or would it be the surface on which the scenes are viewed?

Such an analogy is probably far from perfect, and maybe better analogies can be proposed. But it seems that we need some way to view the situation from a perspective of a 'Producer' in order to contemplate anything that might logically connect between that reality and any created 'reality'. Once a useful analogous context is determined, perhaps a general method of evidence gathering can be devised. And if enough evidence is compiled, then perhaps a discussion of proof can be started.

If we can't even determine what the characteristics of evidence might be, it's pretty hard to take further steps that don't involve pure faith. At this time, I have to say that the only thing that binds anyone to any religion is just that -- faith.

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I upvoted Thorsten S. response. But I would like to add something about whether a proof is needed to trust the validity of a religion. As some have implied, proofs are not flawless but open to change as we know more. Ironically it would seem that proofs are trusted based on the faith we placed in those who handed them down to us. But enough of that, your desire to sift though the truth of these matters is a worthy question. The whole "what is a proof" question has been addressed.

Certainly if I had a proof you would still need to "believe" it before becoming a martyr, for example. Otherwise what a sad waste of your life if you were wrong! Well, the analogy brings us to the heart of the matter because all these religions are attempting to have us "bet" our very lives on their systems of belief.

I wanted to look at this from another angle. I know more about Christianity than other religions, as I grew up in a Christian culture. But not intending to "push" any one religion, I did want to mention a well-known statement made by another Christian that "it is impossible to please God without faith". What I'm getting at is that proofs are worthless to the believer. Maybe not worthless to you, but then you're not a believer! The meaning of "believer" here is akin to that of a person's trust in what someone else has said. Not what a religion has said.

Some here have mentioned that "experience" can lead to a faith/proof. Hopefully you had a good parent, and that parent told you not to touch the fire or it would be very painful. Did you trust that advice? Or did you ask for proof? I'll bet you trusted the advice because you believed in the person telling you!

Well, with all that, we didn't get one iota closer to sifting through all these religions. True, but keep in mind, it's not "what" you believe, it's "who" you believe. And that's my answer.

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