Is Religious Belief Part of Human Nature?

***Update***: Since the posting, I’ve learned that this study was funded by the Templeton Foundation.

Also, check out Paul’s comment below, where he notes this was not peer-reviewed in a scientific journal, nor was it vetted by science journalists.

A new study co-directed by Oxford University professor Roger Trigg says that “Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings.”

Trigg is co-director of the three-year Oxford-based project, which incorporated more than 40 different studies by dozens of researchers looking at countries from China to Poland and the United States to Micronesia.

Studies around the world came up with similar findings, including widespread belief in some kind of afterlife and an instinctive tendency to suggest that natural phenomena happen for a purpose.

“Children in particular found it very easy to think in religious ways,” such as believing in God’s omniscience, said Trigg. But adults also jumped first for explanations that implied an unseen agent at work in the world, the study found.

None of this is surprising. When we’re younger and we see a rainbow for the first time, hear thunder, see a mirage, we always want to know what’s going on. And when an explanation isn’t close at hand, we might make up our own hypotheses… or we might go to our parents — people we trust — to see what they have to say. Sometimes, their reasoning isn’t any better.

We all want answers, but some questions can’t be answered. Not yet. So religion suggests there’s an explanation — a higher power — and we simply can’t understand.

The problem with this, of course, is that we have figured out quite a bit about how the world works. We know why we look like our parents, we know how diseases spread, we know how weather patterns work, we know how our species came into existence — and we also have a good idea of what we don’t know.

When you’ve been satisfied with religious explanations your whole life, finding out there are better explanations available is a huge epiphany.

I remember Julia Sweeney coming to terms with that realization in her show Letting Go of God:

I’m embarrassed to report that I initially felt dizzy. I actually had the thought, “Well, how does the Earth stay up in the sky? You mean, we’re just hurtling through space? That’s so vulnerable!” I wanted to run out and catch the earth as it fell out of space into my hands.

And then I thought, “Oh yeah, gravity and angular momentum is gonna keep us revolving around the sun for probably a really long time.” Then I thought, “What’s going to stop me from just, rushing out and murdering people?” And I had to walk myself through it, why are we ethical? Well, because we have to be. We’re social animals. We’re extremely complex social animals. We evolved a moral sense, like an aversion to wanton murder, in order for communities to exist. Because communities help us survive better in much bigger numbers. And eventually we codified these internal evolved ethics inside of us into laws against things like wanton murder. So I guess that’s why I won’t be rushing out and murdering people!

The study in question doesn’t offer any evidence that god exists — only that a lot of people want to believe that god exists.

Justin Barrett, the project’s other co-director, put it this way:

“This project does not set out to prove God or gods exist. Just because we find it easier to think in a particular way does not mean that it is true in fact,” he said.

They even know how atheists are going to respond:

Famed secularist Richard “Dawkins would accept our findings and say we’ve got to grow out of it,” Trigg argued.

Damn right we do. We need to let go of our insatiable need for answers. We’ve learned quite a bit during our time on this planet and we’re learning more daily. We have to also accept that there are some questions we will never know the answers to — like if anything happens to us after we die or why we exist at all.

If religious leaders were honest, they’d say from the pulpit, “This is our faith’s best as to what happened. But we probably have it wrong. If we want the truth, we’ll have to turn to science instead of making up our own explanations and shutting down further discussion.”

A sermon like that wouldn’t bring in the donations, but at least they’d be telling the truth.

(Thanks to John for the link!)

  • Jamssx

    This seems closely related http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9360000/9360157.stm It’s all about imaginary friends which are much more common then one might think, or as common as one might think if you count deities.

  • cat

    Unless, of course, “human beings” includes autistics, who generally do not think that way. It took me forever to figure out what the heck NTs were talking about when they kept wanting everything to have a “purpose” and even though I get that they tend to default towards that sort of thinking, I still do not do it.

  • Evan

    I know you didn’t really mean it, but I have to nitpick.

    We need to let go of our insatiable need for answers.

    On the contrary, our insatiable need for answers is what drives us. It forces us to explore, investigate, and learn. What we actually need to let go of is the acceptance of simple answers that do not progress our understanding of the universe around us. Religion gives us the simple answers in the form of “Goddidit”, while science provides the mean to dig deeper.

    I know you pretty much concluded with that. I just felt it was a really poor sentence to lead into it.

    (Hemant says: I could’ve phrased it better, but I think you’re misunderstanding me. I’m all for curiosity, and you’re right that our need for answers drives us. I’m saying, however, that we need to accept that we will never have the answers to everything. Let’s focus on what we *can* know and accept what we can never know.)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    Is Religious Belief Part of Human Nature?

    No.

    Nope.

    Absolutely not.

  • Larry Meredith

    Next project: Is it human nature to mock people for believing absurd fairytales?

  • Militant Maggie

    Didn’t Dawkins already go over this? Seriously, I’m pretty sure I read this last night in The God Delusion.

    Frankly, I think science has answered FAR more questions that religion.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    I think that childhood dependency creates a strong need for gods. We are born helpless and only survive because big, powerful, all-knowing adults meet all our needs. Then we grow up and are cast adrift in a harsh, cold world without caregivers, protectors and someone with all the answers. Gods fill that empty slot.
    It’s no accident that gods are often described as powerful father figures; and that xtians refer to god as “Our Father”.

  • SAL

    Hemant,

    I find this interesting:

    We need to let go of our insatiable need for answers. We’ve learned quite a bit during our time on this planet and we’re learning more daily. We have to also accept that there are some questions we will never know the answers to — like if anything happens to us after we die or why we exist at all.

    I pegged you as more of a convinced atheist than an open-minded agnostic. This open-mindedness is much appreciated. Please continue this and encourage others here to do so.

  • SAL

    @Militant Maggie

    Frankly, I think science has answered FAR more questions that religion.

    This is a pretty naive statement. First of all, which “religion” are you referring to? If you are referring to all religions, you have “answers” for every question you could ever think of. It’s not about who answers the most questions. Most religions have some kind of belief on any given subject, so it’s not about who answered the question, its about who’s right. Maybe that’s what you meant when you said that science has “answered” more questions.

  • SAL

    @Larry Meredith

    Next project: Is it human nature to mock people for believing absurd fairytales?

    Unfortunately, Larry, it seems that this is the case.

  • Gail

    I think spirituality or deism might be human nature in some cases, but not religion. If you didn’t have any scientific evidence, you could come up with a creator for the universe and such, but I don’t think anyone can look at a rainbow and suddenly feel the need to believe a complex religious dogma like that of Catholicism as part of human nature. I’m not sure if I’m making any sense here–I can see where someone uninformed or not intellectually mature could jump from unexplained incident to there is a higher power, but I don’t think anyone jumps from unexplained incident to a higher power who impregnated a virgin and sent his son to die for everyone’s sins and then raised him from the dead.

    I mean, I don’t know how I would have reacted to our environment without the scientific evidence we have available now–I might have ended up a deist. But I just don’t think the incredibly complex religions that exist today can possibly be human nature. It doesn’t make much sense to try to find a reason for something unexplainable with a complex dogma that is equally unexplainable. Looking at some of the earliest religious beliefs that focus mainly on the earth and universe, I think those are the kind of things you could believe from human nature. It’s human influence, not nature, that persists the religions we have today.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    “Children in particular found it very easy to think in religious ways,” such as believing in God’s omniscience, said Trigg.

    Provided they’ve been introduced to those ideas in the first place. If they haven’t heard about gods, I don’t think “religious ways” would come naturally to them. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that children have the natural inclination to invent gods out of thin air, let alone have the desire to worship them.

    Once again, I find myself wishing we could do a social experiment and raise children in isolation to see what (if any) religious beliefs would arise naturally. Modern children in the modern world (with access to scientific answers) are very different from primitive cave-dwellers. Would they invent gods? It would certainly be interesting to find out.

  • Maverick

    I was at a lecture about religion and one of the things mentioned by the speaker was how ancient and universal religion (in its various forms) is. Afterwards, I pointed out that as religion arises in even primitive cultures, but the first recorded areligion/atheism required a far more advanced culture, it appears atheism is far more advanced than religion. IIRC, the speaker (being religious) didn’t quite agree with my conclusion.

  • Mark Plus

    Children who grow up in American culture learn to believe in Santa Claus and form a religion around this belief. So for the first few years of their lives, they believe in Santa, believe in Santa, believe in Santa – and then one day, BANG! they stop believing in Santa and become Clausphemers like the rest of us.

    If human nature disposes us towards religiosity, how do children manage this deconversion without experiencing existential angst, trauma, demoralization, the loss of meaning in life and other forms of suffering attributed to atheism? You would find it odd to encounter a newly enlightened child who lamented that he had based all his hopes on a lie (the Santa delusion?), and now has no reason to go on living.

    You would find it even stranger to meet an adult who still believes in Santa, and who writes apologetics to try to refute the arguments of Clausphemers.

  • Mark Plus

    @Anna:

    Once again, I find myself wishing we could do a social experiment and raise children in isolation to see what (if any) religious beliefs would arise naturally. Modern children in the modern world (with access to scientific answers) are very different from primitive cave-dwellers. Would they invent gods? It would certainly be interesting to find out.

    This sounds like the sort of experiment Frederick II would have tried in the 13th Century CE:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_II,_Holy_Roman_Emperor#Science

  • Pseudonym

    So given that religion is inevitable, antitheism sounds increasingly like a losing battle, just like the way that some religious groups fight sex. You can’t fight human nature.

    All the more reason to encourage the more benign forms of religion, no?

  • lackinginsanity

    We need to let go of our insatiable need for answers.

    I’m going to have to disagree with the need to let go of our need for answers. I agree that we need to accept that some things we won’t be able to answer, but that doesn’t mean we should stop looking. The purpose of Science is to find answers, and not finding or finding that we cannot know the answer is not the same as proving that god exists.

    As it works now, every bit of knowledge we gain opens doors to even more questions that we want to answer. I don’t know if the cumulative knowledge in the universe is finite or not, but I have a feeling that we aren’t going to reach the end of it any time soon.

  • Jalyth

    We need to let go of our insatiable need for answers. We’ve learned quite a bit during our time on this planet and we’re learning more daily. We have to also accept that there are some questions we will never know the answers to — like if anything happens to us after we die or why we exist at all.

    I realize others have quibbled about this, but “letting go” was part of my deconverersion. Ironically, since it was never part of my belief, no matter how much I was supposed to “surrender”.

    As a Christian back then, I was very concerned that my life was too short to know everything. The feel-good dissonance I created in myself was largely due to wanting more…more life, more knowledge, more experiences. When I left, I started doing more research about lots of stuff, and I suddenly felt that I could know enough.

    Then the internet got bigger, and I realized my terrible memory isn’t such a bad thing, cause I can just remember where to look things up. I can study physics and NOT biology, and be happy. And satisfied/fulfilled. I definitely have found more answers in learning about science and literature than I did in the bible.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Hemant, I know you’ve already responded to this:

    We need to let go of our insatiable need for answers. We’ve learned quite a bit during our time on this planet and we’re learning more daily. We have to also accept that there are some questions we will never know the answers to — like if anything happens to us after we die or why we exist at all.

    I don’t ever want to give up my insatiable need for answers. I want to know why things are as they are and how it all works. I want to know the answers to questions that I haven’t even thought of yet. I want to know why people accept the answers that they are given without ever bothering to question them.

    I do not accept that there are some questions that we will never have answers to. I may never have answers to them and I accept that but we, the human species, have the potential to discover the answers to all kinds of questions. What we need to do is ask intelligent questions rather than nonsensical ones.

    “Why do we exist?” is a pointless question. The answer is obvious to anyone who knows a thing about reproduction but give that answer and the silly sods will say that they meant “why does the universe exist?” or somesuch. That at least shows a bit of curiosity and there are some theories as to why there is something rather than nothing. The questions have to be meaningful to be of any value. Part of the fun of seeking answers is finding out exactly what it is that you’re trying to find out.

    Also we already know what happens when we die. The process of decay is well understood.

    Children have such a great curiosity about the world and ask the questions that many of us, as adults, would find embarrassing to ask. That curiosity should be nurtured and stock answers like “goddidit” should be avoided. They don’t answer the question but misdirect the curious mind into a cul-de-sac of self conceit. It has been said that there are no stupid questions and I agree. It remains incumbent to continue to ask them when an answer raises more questions. A lot of people don’t.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

    So given that religion is inevitable, antitheism sounds increasingly like a losing battle, just like the way that some religious groups fight sex. You can’t fight human nature.

    All the more reason to encourage the more benign forms of religion, no?

    Agreed — that is one of many very good strategies. Another: teaching how to leave your faith more gracefully. Another: realizing how intuitively deceptive religion is and waging a firm war against her evil manifestations.

    Lots of approaches — may people pick up styles best suited for themselves.

  • Cortex

    Is religion part of human nature? Of course it is. Humans do it, so it’s part of human nature. “Human nature” is one of those silly terms that don’t really mean anything. Yes, religion is part of human nature. So are computers and genocide and cheerios.

    It makes sense that a belief in an afterlife could take root, given the fact that our brain is, at its core, a sensory-motor system. We can only think in ways that the structure of our brain allows, and so our imagination has predictable limitations. Most importantly for a belief in the afterlife is that our perceptual systems can’t really be used to imagine a total lack of experience. It’s easy to imagine experiencing a whole lot of nothing, but extremely difficult to imagine a context where experience itself loses all meaning. If you want to test this (and you’re sighted), imagine what it would be like to have a complete lack of vision – not a lack of stimulus, where you’d experience total blackness, but an actual lack of visual experience.

    And there’s no need to get all doom and gloom about what this means for atheism. Another great thing about human nature is our ability to build societies that shape people in ways that they wouldn’t be if left alone. Just as we put braces on a kid’s teeth to make them straighter than they’d be “naturally,” or hell, even teach them irregular verbs, we can intervene in ways that teach children to identify and discount the patterns of thinking that contribute to religiosity.

  • Silent Service

    It’s already been said, but no way should we give up our insatiable need for answers. We just have to give up our irrational demand that we have those answers now. We may not ever know everything, but we should never stop looking. Sometimes we figure out that the answers we thought we had are not right. If we stop looking, we’re just another religion with a standard dogma.

  • JustAGuy

    “Children in particular found it very easy to think in religious ways,” such as believing in God’s omniscience, said Trigg.

    My child likes to eat boogers. I’m just sayin’.

  • Doug Kirk

    Since spousal abuse is part of human nature, anti-spousal abuse is doomed. Maybe we should focus on encouraging the more benign forms of spousal abuse.

    Since rape is just part of human nature, anti-rapism is doomed. Maybe we should just encourage the more benign forms of rape and rape culture.

    Since authoritarianism is part of human culture, democracy is clearly doomed. Maybe we should just encourage benevolent dictatorships.

    After all, you can’t fight human nature. We, every single last on of us, is completely and totally slave to all of our natural impulses and feelings and entirely incapable of any enlightened thinking whatsoever.

  • Doug Kirk

    Not me though. I am, of course, special.

  • ACN

    Thank you Doug Kirk.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    A new study co-directed by Oxford University professor Roger Trigg says that “Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings.”

    Smallpox also comes naturally to human beings, but thanks to science we now have effective vaccines.
    “Natural” != “Good.”

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Afterwards, I pointed out that as religion arises in even primitive cultures, but the first recorded areligion/atheism required a far more advanced culture

    Atheism dates back about as far as it would be possible to identify it. See “Carvaka.”

  • Blacksheep

    I’m saying, however, that we need to accept that we will never have the answers to everything. Let’s focus on what we *can* know and accept what we can never know.)

    Hemant often does a wonderful job at articulating some of my personal reasons for belief in God.

  • ACN

    Some aspect of knowledge appears at present to be inaccessible.

    Therefore a god. Therefore christian god.

    *eyeroll*

  • Steve

    It’s exactly that kind of thinking that humanity needs to grow out of. The primitive need to fill all the gaps with superstition and the supernatural.

    As said here plenty of times, we must never give up our thirst for knowledge. If anything is part of human nature it’s that. But faith isn’t knowledge. It’s pretending to know in the absence of knowledge. We just need to accept that we don’t know some things (yet) and leave it at that.

  • Doug Kirk

    Something I don’t get about the “god of the gaps” argument is its inherent asymmetry. Science answers “how,” but not “that” (because “that” are observable things in the world and don’t need to be ‘answered’ as much as they are answers in themselves, being facts and all) and then *insert religion* claims that if science can’t explain “how,” it gets to assert “that” (“that” being the existence of the supernatural).

    Can’t you people see you’re conflating knowledge of how the chemical process photosynthesis happens with the knowledge that plants take in Water and Carbon Dioxide to make Sugar and release Oxygen? That you’re conflating the theory of relativity with the observation that things fall? If god or the supernatural is real, we first need an observable “that.” Then you can figure out “how.”

  • http://cafephilos.wordpress.com/ Paul Sunstone

    Hemant says, “None of this is surprising.”

    On the contrary, Hemant! Please allow me to submit that there are at least two quite surprising things about the early reports of the Cognition, Religion, and Theology Project’s findings.

    First, there is no mention in those reports of any intention to submit the findings to a peer reviewed scientific journal. Instead, the project’s director seems intent on bypassing peer review and intends to bring out the results in two books to be published in the future.

    Second, it does not appear that these early reports of the Project’s findings are based on an official press release — but are instead based on information leaked to a very few journalists — none of whom are science writers.

    I think there are additional reasons to be suspicious of the Project’s findings as represented in the early reports, but those first two reasons should by themselves give us pause.

  • Blacksheep

    Some aspect of knowledge appears at present to be inaccessible.

    Therefore a god. Therefore christian god.

    *eyeroll*

    Who said, “Therefore”?

    It’s simply that one facet of faith is being comfortable with not knowing things with absolute certainty – and being OK with that.

    As far as why to choose the Christian God, for me it comes down to being drawn to the Christian message and following Christ as he is described in The Bible.

  • http://www.magpiesmarbles.com The Pint

    I’m all for curiosity, and you’re right that our need for answers drives us. I’m saying, however, that we need to accept that we will never have the answers to everything. Let’s focus on what we *can* know and accept what we can never know.

    I see what you’re saying here, but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree that this isn’t quite explicit enough, Hemant. “Accepting what we can never know” still skirts too close to giving “I don’t know” as a final answer, which also easily leads to shutting down discussion.

    I think the caveat there is to accept that there are something things we may never know in our lifetime but to continue questioning and analyzing and evaluating never the less. Because even if WE don’t come up with the answers, someone else can pick up where we left off, rather than having to start from scratch again. I think the problem is more due to the impatience in human nature and the desire to have all of the answers we want NOW instead of accepting that we may never know some things and yet not give into the desire to attribute what we’re not able to understand to a supernatural, untestable explanation.

    Accepting that we may never discover all the intricacies and mysteries of the Universe in our lives is fine, just so long as it doesn’t become an excuse for defaulting to simplistic answers like “We don’t know, therefore God!” in the meantime.

  • http://www.magpiesmarbles.com The Pint

    Some aspect of knowledge appears at present to be inaccessible.

    Therefore a god.

    I think you just nailed my biggest problem with the “there are some things we may never know” angle. I see where Hemant’s going with his post and explanations and I agree mostly. The problem here is that the all too human temptation to plug “god” into the gaps in our knowledge, rather than truly accept that we don’t know, FULL STOP is obviously very powerful. We have to be able to say “we don’t know” and mean it, not use “we don’t know/may never know” as code for “lack of human explanation=proof of god.”

    And once you’ve plugged the concept of “goddidit” into those gaps, it becomes that much harder to push the lines of inquiry into those gaps further because there are going to be believers there guarding those gaps, who would rather they remain explained by nothing other than “goddidit” because to prove otherwise would be one more pillar of their belief destroyed.

  • Blacksheep

    Can’t you people see you’re conflating knowledge of how the chemical process photosynthesis happens with the knowledge that plants take in Water and Carbon Dioxide to make Sugar and release Oxygen? That you’re conflating the theory of relativity with the observation that things fall? If god or the supernatural is real, we first need an observable “that.” Then you can figure out “how.”

    Fair question. To many Christians, our “observable that” is the evidence in our own lives and the lives of millions of others over the past 2000 years that have been changed, uplifted, or infused with peace of mind and a less selfish attitude.

    Another “that” that we observe is that religion, and Christianity specifically, offers the only explaination for human pain and suffering that makes sense to “we people”.
    We believe that anxiety and depression, for example, would only cause the very real pain that they do if they were intrinsically and universally “broken” states of mind. A chemical imbalance explains the cause, but not the associated despair. Christianity acknowledges the idea of a world out of sunc with the way it should be.

    We see the “How” as our Christian faith.

    I’m expecting the usual onslought of comments about bad things that have been done “in the name of” Christianity, but I see that very bad things have been done by humans in the name of almost anything, or nothing at all.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    This sounds like the sort of experiment Frederick II would have tried in the 13th Century CE.

    Yes, I’ve always been fascinated by that! There were a few other similar experiments that took place in earlier centuries, too. Of course, something like this would be nearly impossible to carry out in the modern world, but it sure would be interesting to see the results.

  • Doug Kirk

    We believe that anxiety and depression, for example, would only cause the very real pain that they do if they were intrinsically and universally “broken” states of mind. A chemical imbalance explains the cause, but not the associated despair. Christianity acknowledges the idea of a world out of sunc with the way it should be.

    I’m not going to parade around “bad christians” or anything of the like. I am simply going to gape in astonishment that you have obviously never heard of or seen anything to do with psychology, neuropsychology and the biology of the mind.

    This, as an argument, isn’t just not right; it’s not even wrong. I understand that you think mind and body are two separate things, but you’re still just asserting that they are. There is still no evidence (anywhere, at all, seriously none, zip, zero, zilch) that emotions like despair are separate somehow from the mind.

    In fact, your “evidence” is evidence against you! The fact that a chemical imbalance can cause depression supports the view that the physical chemistry of the brain is responsible for consciousness.

    Excuse me while I facepalm…..

  • http://www.magpiesmarbles.com The Pint

    Christianity acknowledges the idea of a world out of sunc with the way it should be.

    So how exactly does that make Christianity different from any other myth from the long march of human history that’s done the same? The ancient Greeks, for instance, blamed all the ills of the world on Pandora opening a box, which really isn’t any more or less plausible sounding than laying the blame for human suffering on a trickster serpent and two hungry humans snacking on a piece of fruit.

    I’m expecting the usual onslought of comments about bad things that have been done “in the name of” Christianity, but I see that very bad things have been done by humans in the name of almost anything, or nothing at all.

    Right then. So since bad things have been done in the name of Christianity, just as bad things have been done in the name of any other human philosophy or belief system throughout history, what again exactly makes Christianity an exception more “true” or worth following than any of the others?

  • http://www.pbase.com/jfinite Justin Bonaparte

    I’m expecting the usual onslought of comments about bad things that have been done “in the name of” Christianity, but I see that very bad things have been done by humans in the name of almost anything, or nothing at all.

    If both good and bad things have been done ‘in the name of’ Christianity, how does that support the idea that it is true?

  • ACN

    As far as why to choose the Christian God, for me it comes down to being drawn to the Christian message and following Christ as he is described in The Bible.

    Liking the message doesn’t make it true. I feel drawn to the story of “Star Wars”. It is still just a story. I feel drawn to the story of “The Iliad. This does not make the Greek pantheon true.

    Fair question. To many Christians, our “observable that” is the evidence in our own lives and the lives of millions of others over the past 2000 years that have been changed, uplifted, or infused with peace of mind and a less selfish attitude.

    I feel uplifted, infused with peace, and less selfish when I ponder the smallness of Earth in a large universe, when I sing musical numbers, and when I donate to charity.

    Is this an “observable that” atheism is also true?

    Personal anecdotes are not data. I can find equally pleasant sounding anecdotes about atheism, hinduism, buddhism, islam etc. Neither of us accept that these anecdotes make the metaphysical claims of these religions true or even plausible. I apply the same criticism to yours.

    Another “that” that we observe is that religion, and Christianity specifically, offers the only explaination for human pain and suffering that makes sense to “we people”.

    I have a better explanation that requires none of your unsupported postulates.

    Bad things happen. Sometimes other humans are involved. Sometimes no intelligent agent is at work.

    You may want your suffering to have a deep meaning and then ascribe it to some divine plan. This does not make it true. I want Thor to be true god of lightning and thunder. It gives me a pleasant feeling inside to be a part of his divine storm plan. This does not make it true.

    We believe that anxiety and depression, for example, would only cause the very real pain that they do if they were intrinsically and universally “broken” states of mind. A chemical imbalance explains the cause, but not the associated despair. Christianity acknowledges the idea of a world out of sunc with the way it should be.

    But you’re postulating a mind-body dualism that there is NO evidence to support BECAUSE you want to make god swoop in as a savior. This is incoherent.

    Do you see the problems you’re creating for yourself? Instead of basing your beliefs in reality, this construction of your beliefs takes place exclusively in a fantasy world of wishful thinking. Believe it if you want, but don’t try to tell me that you have evidence for your religious nonsense.

  • Tim

    Belief is not part of human nature.
    Credulity, fear of the unknown, the inability to accept mortality, lack of reason for existence, and penchant for chocking unexplainable events up to a higher power, are.

    Anyone who can overcome all those things and emerge a rational nonbeliever has made a great accomplishment.

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    Why we can never know everything:

    Gödel’s incompleteness theorems

    This doesn’t mean “godidit”, though…

  • Maverick

    @Reginald Selkirk:

    Thank you for the information.

    However, if the Wikipedia article is correct then: 1) this areligion postdates religion by many thousands of years, and 2) it arose from philosophy. This doesn’t contradict the characterization that areligion requiring a more advanced culture than religion.

  • http://cafephilos.wordpress.com/ Paul Sunstone

    I got an email this morning from the U of Oxford’s press office with a link to the Project’s official news release. For those who are interested, that news release can be found here.

    Apparently, the first three news reports of the Project’s findings came out several hours ahead of the official news release.

    I think anyone who reads the news release with care will appreciate that it is carefully worded spin.


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