The reason that I want to move from a critique of beliefs to a critique that includes meta beliefs is that it is occasionally possible to hold beneficial beliefs that you know to be untrue. Parables and moral tales are things that you can "believe in" but not hold to be true.
For example: My mother lost her second, and much beloved, husband to cancer several years ago. He was the mostly rigorously demonstrated "good soul" I have ever met and his name was Rudy. She lost the dog they had together about a year later. She had been a very sweet dog by the name of Ally. In the aftermath of Ally's passing my mother said something really profound to me. She said something like "I had a dream last night where Rudy and Ally where together in heaven; and it gives me a great sense of peace to think of them together like that . . . Of course all that's horseshit, but still its nice to think about."
She was going to emotionally believe that her husband and dog were together in heaven. A heaven she did not believe existed. A mind more afflicted with hobgoblins would take one of two naive routes. One is to expunge the idea from you mind and deny yourself the solace of a harmless fiction. The other would be to take this same desire for superficial consistency and let the emotional solace of the belief drive you into the arms of a religion who's world view contained such a heaven for your loved ones to exist in.
What my mother did was emotionally sophisticated, but according to the rules of logic and meaning that I learned at Tufts it was intellectually inept. And it is this conflict that I would like to address. Are we to hold ourselves to "rationalism" to the point where we deny ourselves the comfort of stories? Do we trust ourselves so little that we see "Just So" stories as the top of a slippery slope towards fundamentalism?
Part of why I want to have a conversation about meta beliefs is that it gives us a way to talk about emotional sophistication in a way that just discussing belief denies us. In order to describe the state of my mothers beliefs you need a subtler set of categories than theist/atheist/agnostic. Using the idea of meta-beliefs makes that possible. Those beliefs that have a positive emotional impact but have crazy intellectual implications can be believed and not believed at the appropriate levels.
The pie in the sky goal here for me is to produce a set of intellectual rules that would make emotionally sophisticated stances intellectually palatable to my more rigorous friends.
I would love to get some criticism here as I want this idea persuasive, and don't worry about my feelings about my mom or whatever.