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  #1  
Old 05-06-2012, 01:10 AM
The Bith Shuffle The Bith Shuffle is offline
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Everyone is willing to be comfortably ignorant.

Delusional beliefs are often discussed alongside the pleasure they may bring. Religion comes up quickly: atheists think of religious beliefs as pleasing, but without any real basis in facts or logic. I happen to agree with this view of religion.

But I occasionally hear people say something like "I just care about the truth" or "I won't believe lies just to make myself feel better." And what I'm saying, in this thread, is that that statement is always not true. The reason for this is that a person could, conceivably, devote all their living energy to refining their worldview until it was as accurate as it could be. But nobody does that. People do all sorts of things, like debating whether or not to have a cappuccino or an americano, that do not in any way, or at least in a very minimal way, help them understand the world. I say "very minimal way" because technically, everything we do helps us understand the world in some way, but the degree of understanding achieved varies greatly. A person who ponders which coffee drink to buy may come to understand his preferences at that exact moment slightly better by doing so. But in those same minutes he might have learned an important fact about human health by reading wikipedia. And that fact about human health would have had a lot more relevance as far as understanding the world goes than would his musings about which coffee drink to order.

Essentially, we do things that are not optimally efficient for understanding reality-at-large. We play tennis instead of learning physics (the fundamental laws of our universe!). We masturbate instead of reading about psychology. We read fantasy novels instead of reading non-fiction books about history. We make the former choices because we enjoy them, but we would understand the world more if we just tried to figure out the way the world is.

So we are all comfortably ignorant. This evening, I had several cups of coffee with ice cream. This probably had at most a neutral, but probably negative impact on my health. I enjoyed it though. Instead, I might have disabused myself of some false beliefs I am no doubt carrying in my head right now, or understood some economic or psychological theory I am not familiar with.

Given that we all trade understanding for enjoyment, it is simply no good to talk of "just caring about the truth" or anything like that. There may be specific times and reasons in which we do not want to be blissfully ignorant. But blissful ignorance is a staple of human mental life and both religious and non-religious people are participating in it willfully all the time.
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  #2  
Old 05-06-2012, 01:41 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is online now
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Just because someone isn't some obsessive loon who has being factually accurate as the one and only one desire in life doesn't mean they "are comfortably ignorant". You're just forcing that conclusion by choosing an inhuman definition of "caring about the truth".
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:43 AM
Grumman Grumman is online now
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This thread is like a freakish crossbreed of "Atheism is a religion too!" and "How can you enjoy yourself when there are starving children in Africa?"

You're reaching, Bith, you really are.
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  #4  
Old 05-06-2012, 02:29 AM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post
Delusional beliefs are often discussed alongside the pleasure they may bring. Religion comes up quickly: atheists think of religious beliefs as pleasing, but without any real basis in facts or logic. I happen to agree with this view of religion.

But I occasionally hear people say something like "I just care about the truth" or "I won't believe lies just to make myself feel better." And what I'm saying, in this thread, is that that statement is always not true. The reason for this is that a person could, conceivably, devote all their living energy to refining their worldview until it was as accurate as it could be. But nobody does that. People do all sorts of things, like debating whether or not to have a cappuccino...
Yes, resources are limited.

When people say something like, "I just care about the truth", they are speaking in a particular context. What they mean to say is that they weigh veracity heavier than reassurance. Or perhaps they find veracity itself more reassuring than stories that press different buttons.

Nobody seriously argues that they care about the truth more than breathing, for example. And everyone acknowledges a variety of human drives. It's just that some have an aversion to falsehood, ignorance or non-rigorous argument more than others.

My take is that those who attach themselves to information sources that are repeatedly shown to be factually incorrect lack personal character. I do not put most mainline religions in that category, since they typically find refuge in non-falsifiable argumentation. That is something different.
-----

More deeply, there is a huge gap between having multiple drives and preferring blissful ignorance. Give me free knowledge without any effort on my part and I'll take it. That's not the case for everyone, or rather some have sufficient emotional baggage that certain knowledge could never be free. Men and women of character lack such insecurities or at least don't succumb to them.

Last edited by Measure for Measure; 05-06-2012 at 02:32 AM..
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  #5  
Old 05-06-2012, 02:53 AM
Odesio Odesio is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post
Essentially, we do things that are not optimally efficient for understanding reality-at-large. We play tennis instead of learning physics (the fundamental laws of our universe!). We masturbate instead of reading about psychology. We read fantasy novels instead of reading non-fiction books about history. We make the former choices because we enjoy them, but we would understand the world more if we just tried to figure out the way the world is.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned as an undergraduate was that it's okay not to know everything. Furthermore, I refute the idea that reading fiction means that you are not learning about reality at large. Shakespeare's Macbeth certainly taught me a bit about human psychology, ambition and betrayal. Works of fiction can certainly enhance your understanding of reality at large.
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Old 05-06-2012, 07:53 AM
Napier Napier is offline
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That there are limits to what we can comprehend and cover does not mean that we are willingly and comfortably ignorant. To struggle to understand, as do many of us, is to be unwillingly ignorant and uncomfortable with it.
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  #7  
Old 05-06-2012, 10:31 AM
cosmosdan cosmosdan is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post

So we are all comfortably ignorant. This evening, I had several cups of coffee with ice cream. This probably had at most a neutral, but probably negative impact on my health. I enjoyed it though. Instead, I might have disabused myself of some false beliefs I am no doubt carrying in my head right now, or understood some economic or psychological theory I am not familiar with.

Given that we all trade understanding for enjoyment, it is simply no good to talk of "just caring about the truth" or anything like that. There may be specific times and reasons in which we do not want to be blissfully ignorant. But blissful ignorance is a staple of human mental life and both religious and non-religious people are participating in it willfully all the time.
Interesting. I don't think many people claim to ONLY care about the truth. I think most people do claim to prefer the truth. You seem to be talking about priorities.
Where is truth, where is discovery and realization, furthering our knowledge, on our list of priorities?

People are diverse so clearly, for a lot of people the truth, and furthering their knowledge is not a high priority. Some people have all they can do just to survive.
We are also emotional being as well as intellectual. Emotions, bith conscious and subconscious have a lot to do with priorities. Some people value attention, approaval, material gain.
Ultimately I think there is a part of us that does not want to know the truth, because the truth is often uncomfortable or even painful. The truth can require things of us that we may not want to do, or face. The result seems to be that we occasionaly get people who fervently seek to bring one aspect of the truth into the public consciousness.
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  #8  
Old 05-06-2012, 10:50 AM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is online now
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post
But I occasionally hear people say something like "I just care about the truth"
Context is everything. It almost never means they don't care about having fun, enjoying less than healthy food, etc. It means when it comes to drawing a conclusion, they only care about what is true rather than other things such as what is comfortable.
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  #9  
Old 05-06-2012, 11:02 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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I'm surprised you guys are reacting to this. It's a self-evident truth. An happy lie that doesn't negatively affect me is better more than an unhappy truth that also doesn't affect me.

No one values the truth 100% of the time. And if you only thought about the truth, you would be horribly depressed. There's a reason depression therapy teaches you to challenge negative thoughts and not positive ones.

Heck, it's even been shown that guys who think of themselves as more attractive than they are have a greater chance at reproducing. Pleasant lies are built into our very evolution.
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  #10  
Old 05-06-2012, 11:49 AM
monstro monstro is offline
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Some of us of non-believers don't care much about finding "truth" as we care about acknowledging that certain things are simply unknowable. So yes, I am comfortably ignorant. I don't believe that I have to know absolutely everything to go through life.

There's a huge excluded middle in your argument, in other words.
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  #11  
Old 05-06-2012, 12:58 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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Knock knock.

Who's there?

The interrupting sheeple.

The interrupting sheeple who?

[long pause]

I'm too complacent to speak up.
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  #12  
Old 05-06-2012, 02:44 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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I think BigT made the argument better than the OP.
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Originally Posted by BigT View Post
I'm surprised you guys are reacting to this. It's a self-evident truth. An happy lie that doesn't negatively affect me is better more than an unhappy truth that also doesn't affect me.
IME, happy lies tend to bite back eventually. That doesn't make them inferior necessarily: it's a matter of cost/benefit.
Quote:
And if you only thought about the truth, you would be horribly depressed.
I challenge that empirical claim. There are many truths, not all of them unhappy. Besides, those of a blase temperament are able to address certain unhappy truths (eg death, taxes) with a shrug.

Perhaps the topic should shift to, "What sort of happy falsehoods -internal falsehoods- are, generally speaking, preferable, other than ones made out of politeness?"

We've had threads on questions related to, "Does this dress make me look fat?" I think there's more scope for accuracy than is typically acknowledged. That said, certain accuracies are impolite to voice. But this diplomatic issue is a separate one from the internal issue in the OP.
Quote:
Pleasant lies are built into our very evolution.
Undoubtedly. Polling shows that most people believe themselves to be better than the average driver.* I don't. And that keeps me on my toes.



* Heh. Just looked that up. It's 57% over all, which isn't substantially above 50%. Interestingly women clock in at 48%, while men are at 66%. http://www.harrisinteractive.com/New...t/Default.aspx Insurance companies tend to have a different opinion, though some of the data is skewed by the fact that men tend to drive more.
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  #13  
Old 05-06-2012, 07:36 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is online now
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Originally Posted by BigT View Post
An happy lie that doesn't negatively affect me is better more than an unhappy truth that also doesn't affect me.
Except that lies happy or not do tend to hurt you. And you probably won't see it coming. And you can't judge which are harmless and which aren't because by definition if you believe lies you are not making choices according to the truth.
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  #14  
Old 05-06-2012, 10:12 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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h t, uh t, h ut, uh ut

Then again unhappy truths can hurt you as well. The difference is that you don't get caught unawares by them.

Also, we do have shields against happy untruths. We may believe something false, but operationally act as if it were true. Social scientists have observed differences between what people say in public opinion surveys and how they behave in the marketplace. One example might be the indignation some physicians express at the suggestion that gifts by drug reps may affect their prescribing behavior (that would be unprofessional) and the vast sums spent by the drug companies on this sort of marketing. One group or the other is fooling themselves and they are both very smart.


Re the OP: I don't think we're going to make much progress on this topic speaking generally. There's presumably a taxonomy of examples that could be constructed, so that we could weigh the benefits and harms of self-deception on a class by class basis.
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  #15  
Old 05-06-2012, 10:53 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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Ubiquitous false certainty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Measure for Measure View Post
Also, we do have shields against happy untruths. We may believe something false, but operationally act as if it were true.
Better example. People will hold and voice all sorts of strong opinions, but when asked to place a wager will demur or harrumph that they don't bet. Typically it doesn't matter whether the stakes are nominal, say 25 cents. Clearly they don't truly believe what they are saying, and furthermore they were fooling themselves about their certainty. This behavior is very common: we can see it on this very board.

That's one reason why I like to pull intrade.com into the discussions here. It focuses minds.
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  #16  
Old 05-07-2012, 06:11 AM
cosmosdan cosmosdan is offline
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Originally Posted by BigT View Post
I'm surprised you guys are reacting to this. It's a self-evident truth. An happy lie that doesn't negatively affect me is better more than an unhappy truth that also doesn't affect me.
What if it affects someone else.

Quote:
No one values the truth 100% of the time. And if you only thought about the truth, you would be horribly depressed.
Why is that? Maybe the issue is not the truth, but our own attitudes about reality and what it takes to be happy.


Quote:
There's a reason depression therapy teaches you to challenge negative thoughts and not positive ones.
What does that have to do with the truth? Again, this seems to be about our attitudes rather than about the truth.

Quote:
Heck, it's even been shown that guys who think of themselves as more attractive than they are have a greater chance at reproducing. Pleasant lies are built into our very evolution.
Isn't the degree to which someone is judged good looking almost entirely subjective? Perhaps the issue is perception and a positive attitude. Again, this doesn't seem to be an issue with the truth.
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  #17  
Old 05-07-2012, 06:39 AM
cosmosdan cosmosdan is offline
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Originally Posted by Measure for Measure View Post
I think BigT made the argument better than the OP. IME, happy lies tend to bite back eventually. That doesn't make them inferior necessarily: it's a matter of cost/benefit.
I hold a somewhat extreme position that the truth is always preferable, but what we need to learn is how to deal with the truth with compassion. I think we accept flasehoods far to casually which has an overall negative affect on society.

Quote:
I challenge that empirical claim. There are many truths, not all of them unhappy. Besides, those of a blase temperament are able to address certain unhappy truths (eg death, taxes) with a shrug.
I'd suggest that it is our own perception and value system that needs examination and changing, rather than avoiding the truth. IOW, maybe the reason the truth becomes less attractive is our own failure find happiness within the truth.
Quote:
Perhaps the topic should shift to, "What sort of happy falsehoods -internal falsehoods- are, generally speaking, preferable, other than ones made out of politeness?"
I suggest that a rather casual attitude about the truth, that casual lies are preferable out of politeness, have an overall negative impact on society , and a comittment to the truth a more positive one.

Quote:
We've had threads on questions related to, "Does this dress make me look fat?" I think there's more scope for accuracy than is typically acknowledged. That said, certain accuracies are impolite to voice. But this diplomatic issue is a separate one from the internal issue in the OP. Undoubtedly. Polling shows that most people believe themselves to be better than the average driver.* I don't. And that keeps me on my toes.
How much of what we refer to as the "truth" is really just a subjective judgement. I think there's a lot to be said for tempering the truth with compassion and consideration. We're not obligated to express our opinions and there are ways of doing so that are more diplomatic. In my experience people often avoid the truth out of their own self interest and then call it "sparing someone's feelings" I've come to the conclusion that in almost all cases being truthful is an act of respect and consideration toward others.

The truth is we can't go through life avoiding discomfort and degrees of suffering and pain. IMO learning to deal with the truth of that is better for us as individuals and as a society.

Depending on how this thread goes, I'd also be interested in a thread about specific details of the truth and the polite flasehoods of society.

Last edited by cosmosdan; 05-07-2012 at 06:39 AM..
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  #18  
Old 05-07-2012, 07:46 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Life is short: I'd like to spend at least some of it having enjoyable experiences.
It's not like if I try hard enough I'll understand everything and ascend to god status.

And I don't think anyone has made the point yet that not all knowledge is equal.
Ignorance is more significant in some areas than others.

I am fairly ignorant of the history of Bulgaria; I am not proud of this, but it is unlikely to cause me or others any problems. Being ignorant of how to read English however would be a different matter (I live in an English-speaking country).
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:52 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is online now
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Life is short: I'd like to spend at least some of it having enjoyable experiences.
It's not like if I try hard enough I'll understand everything and ascend to god status.
In fact you'd actually probably ultimately understand less, since at some point you'd probably suffer some kind of breakdown if all you did every waking moment was study.
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:53 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post
A person who ponders which coffee drink to buy may come to understand his preferences at that exact moment slightly better by doing so. But in those same minutes he might have learned an important fact about human health by reading wikipedia. And that fact about human health would have had a lot more relevance as far as understanding the world goes than would his musings about which coffee drink to order.
Or any number of other things - it just isn't always possible to divine the perfect use of time without knowing everything about the world already, and without knowing the future. And even if we did have those facts at our disposal, the analysis by which we arrive at the correct choice could be quite time-consuming - and it might turn out that all choices are equally futile and that the analysis-time could have been better spent drinking coffee.

It's impossible for humans to make perfect choices all the time. That doesn't mean we can't ever make imperfect-yet-good choices, or that we can't discern between those choices that are important (and require analysis) and those which are probably trivial (where comfort and ignorance, if that's what it is, just probably doesn't matter at all).
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:30 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post
But I occasionally hear people say something like "I just care about the truth" or "I won't believe lies just to make myself feel better." And what I'm saying, in this thread, is that that statement is always not true. The reason for this is that a person could, conceivably, devote all their living energy to refining their worldview until it was as accurate as it could be. But nobody does that.
Then it seems the best conclusion to reach is that you have misunderstood what people mean when they make such declarations.
Quote:
Essentially, we do things that are not optimally efficient for understanding reality-at-large.
How are you measuring efficiency?
Quote:
Given that we all trade understanding for enjoyment, it is simply no good to talk of "just caring about the truth" or anything like that. There may be specific times and reasons in which we do not want to be blissfully ignorant. But blissful ignorance is a staple of human mental life and both religious and non-religious people are participating in it willfully all the time.
Given that we all trade understanding for enjoyment, perhaps you overestimate what is realistically possible for people to achieve and use this overestimation to wrongfully interpret phrases like "I just care about the truth."
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:41 PM
PandaBear77 PandaBear77 is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post
There may be specific times and reasons in which we do not want to be blissfully ignorant. But blissful ignorance is a staple of human mental life and both religious and non-religious people are participating in it willfully all the time.

Boy ain't that the truth (see what I did there?)

Most people don't want THE truth. They want whatever truth they happen to believe in this week.
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Old 05-10-2012, 12:02 AM
Kozmik Kozmik is offline
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Originally Posted by PandaBear77 View Post
They want whatever truth they happen to believe in this week.
I want whatever truth I happen to believe in this day.
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  #24  
Old 05-10-2012, 10:19 AM
Mtgman Mtgman is offline
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The OP is not the only philosopher to notice the all too human tendency to be disinterested in learning things which don't contribute to their well-being. In Economic theory this is known as Rational Ignorance. And guess what, it's pretty darn rational. Most of the things we do in life are pretty simple. Most decisions have either clearly understood dominant terms which can be evaluated and the subtler effects of the decision disregarded because they're more easily mitigated if the choice causes issues with them. In our society we're most familiar with this dominant term having a dollar figure attached to it. You may look at lots of cars when choosing what car to buy, but the primary factor in most decisions is cost. You can be ignorant of typical wiper blade life for that make and model, even though it will affect you at some point, because it really doesn't matter in comparison to the major factor in the decision.

So yes, everyone, including you, is willing to be comfortably ignorant about lots of things. And this is entirely rational and should need no justification.

Enjoy,
Steven
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Old 05-10-2012, 11:29 AM
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There are lots of reasons we don't spend all our time figuring out the truth.

Our cognitive resources are limited. There are lots of things where the truth would be hard to find - even if we searched on-line, we might see lots of contradictory answers. If we invest a lot of energy in determining the truth, we will not have the energy to consider other truths, and the payback may not be so great. There are plenty of areas in which believing in a lie does not bite you.

We're programmed to not see the truth. Studies have shown that we think the incidence of events such as murder and suicide depend on the number of stories we see about them, not their actual rates. Most people believe there are more murders, which is not the case.

Then we sometimes believe in contradictory truths. Getting to an accurate position causes all sorts of psychic churning. It might not be worth it for some people. The average Alabama ditchdigger won't profit much from studying evolution and rejecting creationism, but he might get kicked out of his local church and suffer a lot more for reject their "truth."
It is more surprising that we spend as much time as we do on the truth.
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Old 05-10-2012, 10:43 PM
mac9891 mac9891 is offline
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The short answer is yes, when people feel disconnect they tend not to care at all, people are not saints most only care about themselfs and the ones they love or feel close to and could give a damn about people they have no interactions with. The world would be better if people did care more but you can't force them.
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Old 05-11-2012, 02:26 AM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bith Shuffle View Post
atheists think of religious beliefs as pleasing . . .
Since when?
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