Why Do So Many People Believe in God? August 3, 2009

Why Do So Many People Believe in God?

Once again, I’m going to be interviewing someone soon for a project. The subject I will be discussing is why so many people believe in a god. (Could that many people really be wrong?!)

I could use some help in compiling questions to ask.

Here are some questions I thought of that are the kind I’m looking for:

  • Do atheists really believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs?
  • Can we deny someone else’s personal testimony about God?
  • Why would so many people believe in a god if we have natural explanations for so many phenomena attributed to God?
  • What is the biggest stumbling block for people from accepting a world without divine intervention?

What else would you add to this list?


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  • sc0tt

    Whom are you interviewing and who is your audience?

    Don’t need a name but some sort of reference.

  • How the world and universe around us works is often counter-intuitive. If you think the god answer is technically wrong, do you think it’s perhaps the more intuitive one for many people?

  • Hemant

    sc0tt– I’m interviewing an atheist who is something of an expert in this area.

  • jemand

    actually, I’d be interested if atheists really think more people are “wrong” than a believer in any given religious sect does….

    honestly there are probably more atheists than most single interpretations of religions…

  • Go watch the movie, Contact, when Jodie Foster’s character is being interviewed by the politicians.

    Or, how about this exchange:
    Memborable Quotes from Contact, re: IMDB

    [Ellie challenges Palmer to prove the existence of God]
    Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?
    Ellie Arroway: What?
    Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?
    Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.
    Palmer Joss: Prove it.

    or:

    Ellie Arroway: So what’s more likely? That an all-powerful, mysterious God created the Universe, and decided not to give any proof of his existence? Or, that He simply doesn’t exist at all, and that we created Him, so that we wouldn’t have to feel so small and alone?

    or

    Ellie Arroway: Why did you do it?
    Palmer Joss: Our job was to select someone to speak for everybody. And I just couldn’t in good conscience vote for a person who doesn’t believe in God. Someone who honestly thinks the other ninety five percent of us suffer from some form of mass delusion.
    Ellie Arroway: I told the truth up there. And Drumlin told you exactly what you wanted to hear.

  • SarahH

    Here’s one of the questions/assumptions that makes me *facepalm* the most:

    “Ah, well you just haven’t been reading the right books/learning about the right interpretations/etc. How have you decided there’s no God without fully considering [insert personal religious preference here]?”

    The sheer multitude of different facets and sects and interpretations of religious beliefs leave almost everybody a version of God/gods that they can get behind – from the fundamentalist, fire & brimstone versions of God to the “spiritual-but-not-religious,” deist, universalist versions of God. Why give up belief in God completely when you can simply pick your favorite flavor of comfort?

  • (Could that many people really be wrong?!)

    Of course they could, argumentum ad populum is a simple fallacy. Example: for most of history, almost the entire world believed that slavery was an acceptable social institution. It’s only been very recently that that changed. For much of the 20th century, a majority or near-majority of Americans smoked tobacco. Did that make it a good idea?

    Besides, there’s no one God that any significant number of people agree on. Even among large “faiths” like Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam, various sects and individuals believe in variants of a god or gods that are so different they can scarely be said to believe in the same thing.

    If five billion people believe in ten thousand different, contradictory supernatural entities, I have no trouble at all grasping that they are in fact all wrong.

  • Mariana

    What about cases (if there are any) where someone converts to a religion after being an atheist? What convinces them to change their minds so fundamentally? It would definitely be interesting to hear from that point of view…

  • CiCi

    Looking at the development of humans through societal history, does anything indicate that religious beliefs and superstition will one day lose all their current relevance in society?

    Do you think it’s possible that they will ever become, more or less, totally nonexistant? If so, can anyone give their most reasonalbe estimate as to how much time that devlopment will take?

  • In my experience, people’s personal weaknesses get the better of them and compel them to believe in god. Not too long ago, I was talking with someone on an Evangelical forum about finding meaning in life, and I made the comment that my friends and family are huge contributing factors to my personal significance in life. The Evangelical tried scare tactics — “What if something happens to your family or friends, and you’re left alone? What then?” — to which I responded, “I still have my memories of them, and I’ll use them to motivate me to build a new life with new friends and a new family, both in their honor and in the interest of moving on with my life.”

    At one point I told her that there is meaning to be found for anyone who is willing to look, and that her willingness to give in to a belief in god just because of that fear of vulnerability was, in my view, a major weakness.

    What I gleamed from this reasoning of hers was that she felt she HAD to believe in god, just because without an eternal Big Brother to keep an eye on her, she would live in fear that those whom gave her life meaning currently may eventually disappear and leave her with nobody; the very idea that it’s even *possible* to be truly alone in the world, even for a short time, is enough to scare a lot of people into believing in god.

    Which leads me to my first conclusion; that many people believe in god based on a (false, IMO) pretense that we’re “not supposed” to be alone or feel afraid in this life; if we fear something, or if we value something and fear losing it, then something is wrong. To me, that’s a part of life; part of valuing something is the fear of it being taken away. I don’t let that fear control me, I use it to motivate me to be stronger. Believers tend to let that fear control them, and the result is the creation of a personal value that can never be taken away because it’s “magical” and “eternal:” god.

    My second point revolves around that great togetherness that I always hear believers (specifically Evangelical Christians) refer to when they talk about god. Let me tell you something; I went to a concert this past week in Atlanta (Warped Tour~) with two friends. We went expecting crowds of people, and little in the way of common courtesy.

    Once we got there and started getting into the sets and seeing the different bands, I started to feel a sense of community with the other people there; we were all there, together, just for the sake of having fun, a bunch of complete strangers from all across the tri-state area, brought together from our obscure corners of reality just to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing our favorite bands. I met some of the coolest people I’ve ever met at that concert….but the real moments for me came not from the individual meetings, but just from the sense of friendship and community from the group overall. It was one of the defining moments of my life that I will never forget. For that moment, I knew that this was what people were talking about when they said that “they felt god.”

    Of course, I see it as anything BUT a god. To me, that is the sense of community that humans crave naturally, that we seek in one another. We feel happy and content when we’re around people we can relate to and share experiences with, who can appreciate the same things that we can. It makes us feel closer, and it kind of pops us off the page of life (so to speak) and makes us feel more real; it gives us more dimension and makes us feel more a part of the world around us, instead of just silent passengers.

    After hearing from Christians for so long, I realize that it’s this sensation they worship, not some god; they worship the sense of togetherness and community that people have when they share interests and motivations in life. They worship the feeling that this environment fosters, the feeling that “I should just do random nice things for random people because it’s nice;” that feeling that makes you just want to be a person like everyone else and acknowledge that everyone else is a person just like you — forgive their shortcomings, it’s all good! That kind of thing. When you have this feeling, all of the petty shit stops mattering, and you can suddenly see the important stuff very clearly.

    I think that’s what believers really crave, and I think it’s a shame that this world conditions them to believe that it can only be found in an environment shaped by archaic (and sometimes horribly discriminating, self-deprecating or just otherwise harmful) religious doctrines. There are plenty of ways to experience human interaction; too many people are just too scared to take the chance for fear of rejection.

  • Epistaxis

    Go watch the movie, Contact

    No, don’t do that! They ruined the ending. South Park was right. Though in some ways it surpasses the book.

  • Thilina

    I would like to know why it is that religious people can’t look at the mass delusions of others and compare it to theirs. A christian will easily say that scientology is complete BS without a second thought but won’t look at their own religion with that same skepticism.

    Also If atheists suffer from any similar delusions.

  • Why do so many people equate morality with obedience to authority? How can we reframe the discussion so that people will begin to see it as the situation and context dependent process that it is rather than a divinely decreed set of rules? (eg. Instead of asking “Is X right or wrong?”, asking “How should I act given situation Y?” — or anything else along those lines.)

  • Whom are you interviewing and who is your audience?

    sc0tt — I forgot to answer your other question. The audience is mostly atheists or people who might be considering it. I don’t know that many Christians will check it out.

  • Ask him what he thinks of the idea that God is a property-basic belief comparable to belief in color perception, a belief that is non-inferentially knowable, dependent on a subject’s relationship to something specific, and yet a totally justifiable belief.

    Or whether knowledge of God might come from an intuition comparably non-inferentially known as the logical laws are (like the law of non-contradiction, that A =/= ~A is not known by inference but simply intuited. Could God be grasped similarly non-inferentially?)

    Ask about the plausibility of Feuerbachian accounts, whether there are any sophisticated possibilities in contemporary terms for accounting for God as a personification of our values.

    Ask if he knows anything about theories that God seems plausible to people because they have modules in their brain for recognizing family members or other people that get triggered by accident.

    Ask if there are any comparable phenomena to some of what cognitive science is discovering about how schizophrenics hear what are to them actually audible voices because their normal thoughts are registered to their minds as though from an outside source. Is there any fruitful possibility for figuring out if there are different ways that people cognitionally experience intuitions of God’s will from other thoughts that just come to them? Has anyone tried brain scans to that effect?

    Finally, how plausible is it that God is just an extension of our animistic habits of thought which tend to personify even inanimate objects and concepts?

  • Tony

    Here is my question: What percentage of people who profess to believe in God do so because they fear death or hell?

  • vivian

    I was having problems with the computer, so I hope I’m not double posting.

    Stupid people pro-create faster and larger than those with common sense (e.i. the all-holy Duggar family from “18 and counting…”). These people blindly believe what their parents told them and then teach that to their kids. Once in awhile someone questions what they’re taught and viola! a person usually becomes an atheist.

    I’m trying to do my part by teaching my daughters to question and think about what they’re taught, but there’s only 2 of them. So atheist GO PRO-CREATE and maybe we can outnumber the religious. hee-hee

  • Revyloution

    IdahoEV said “near-majority of Americans smoked tobacco. Did that make it a good idea”

    Me and my briar pipe collection say yes.

    The cigarette companies with their stinky paper, stinky chemicals, and wasteful packaging ruined the beautiful thing known as ‘smoking’.

    ____

    I hated that line from Contact, with Joss asking to prove love. I had an instant answer when I heard it at the theater. Add up the evidence (the birthday cards I made, the fact I always remember to call, the little things I’ve done for him, how I speak about him to others, etc etc etc) And add up the evidence that I don’t have love (er…) The evidence heavily shows an emotional attachment. Now what tangible things has your god done for you?

    Sagan did a great job writing Joss. He seemed like a theist you could really get along with. Yet, when you deconstruct his arguments, they are nothing but fluff.

    _____

    As for Hemants question, I would ask this of a good skeptic.

    Statistically, the more education a person receives, the less likely they are to be religious. Those who remain religious are less likely to subscribe to a fundamentalist position.

    What could be the cause? Is it the effect of education on critical thinking, or the cultures of our universities? Are there any (real) universities in the world that have an opposite trend? What is the rate of recidivism to religion after college?

  • Matt

    My question is based off an Alan Watts lecture: “Very few people today really believe in God … They say they do, but they really hope there is a god. They don’t really have faith in God. They fervently wish that there was one and feel that they ought to believe that there is…”

    Does your interviewee feel that people believe truly? Or do they feel more or less like they “have to” believe for whatever reason (be it the unexplainable, comfort, fear, tradition, etc.)?

  • Brad

    Another possible question:

    Why are atheists so determined to believe that God doesn’t exist, when scientifically you can’t prove the non-existance of God.

  • Revyloution

    Brad, what or who can you prove is non-existent, scientifically? I was under the assumption that proving non-existence is impossible.

  • Ryan W.

    Why would so many people believe in a god if we have natural explanations for so many phenomena attributed to God?

    Which phenomena? Just curious.

    Is there any objective information on the reason that people become atheistic compared to becoming theistic?

    Is theism functional on the societal or individual level. Does it yield some kind of benefit to adherents?

    How can we tell if problems that people have with religion are inherant to religion or to human nature. Are there any objective studies of behavioral changes that occur when a person gives up religion?

    Tim D. –
    Two comments; looking at Christianity from a Buddhist perspective… perhaps we’re not supposed to fear death and losing things because these fears often lead people to delusional behavior. Kurzweil is brilliant with technology but some of his ideas about where technology is headed seem more based on emotional need than on an objective study of where technology is headed.

    I realize that it’s this sensation they worship, not some god; they worship the sense of togetherness and community that people have when they share interests and motivations in life.

    To some extent, I think that’s true. Of course, there are numerous things that people do that get in the way of this type of experience which religion, if working properly, helps to correct.

    Of course, these communities have a source, both on the individual and the political level.

  • georgie

    I agree with Tony, I think many people fear being dead, they fear nothingness. I’m not sure about them believing in god because they fear hell, like Tony also mentions, perhaps it’s more that they like the idea of hell and that somehow they can think that justice will be done to those who deserve it in the after life. God will punish people and that makes them feel good in some weird sort of way.

  • Richard Wade

    Do atheists really believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs?

    I think for most atheists, no evidence = no belief, and it ends there.

    No evidence does not equal believers are wrong. It just means that they believe without evidence, something that most atheists don’t do.

    With or without evidence, a belief can be right or wrong, but a lack of belief cannot be right or wrong. For most atheists, zero evidence brings zero belief, an empty set that cannot hold correctness or incorrectness.

    For most atheists, it is not a question about the right thing to believe, it is about the right thing to do, which is simply to refrain from beliefs in the absence of evidence.

  • Do atheists really believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs?

    This question is quite simple to answer. If you have differing opinions on a subject you can test assertions made, you can examine the evidence, explore other possibilities. Those opinions that are better supported by facts are more likely to be correct. billions of people’s beliefs are unsupported by any form of evidence. They may not be wrong but unless they’ve tested those beliefs they can’t say they are right either.

    Anyway moving on to questions.

    Why do so many people hold on to their beliefs in spite of contradictory evidence? Young Earth creationists are one example.

    If the God of the Old Testament (or another god of your choice) magically made his presence known to everyone in some incontrovertible way you could no longer claim to be an atheist. However, would you worship such a being?

    Do you think Jesus, the man, existed and why?

    If you could show a typical Christian that they were wrong about their faith in a way that would strip them of their religion completely, would you?

    Do you think the world would be a better place if religion just died off in the next few generations? Do you think it needs to be replaced with anything?

  • Stephan

    Do atheists really believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs?

    Seems to me that whether or not a god exists, due to the differing natures of religions the vast majority of humanity HAVE TO BE WRONG.

  • Ask:

    Many secularists are typically well-read, open-minded and intelligent. However, there are many people (secular and religious) who are quite simply, stupid.
    Do you believe our entire society could exist without religious beliefs?

    AKA can stupid people live without God?

  • Heidi

    If the God of the Old Testament (or another god of your choice) magically made his presence known to everyone in some incontrovertible way you could no longer claim to be an atheist. However, would you worship such a being?

    That’s a really good question, and I definitely think it should be addressed. My answer would be no. Anybody who thinks it was ok to murder all those Egyptian firstborns (and everybody else he murdered in that book) gets no worship from me, period. I don’t think Christians get that. I have judged their god, and found his morals despicable.

  • Religion has clearly been successful in keeping our species going over the generations. It seems to be a good evolutionary trick that helps civilizations prosper over those without religion or with inferiors religions — inferior in terms of spreading itself and its believers.

    Given we now have this knowledge of the evolution of religions, is it any surprise that so many people still believe? We’ve had thousands of generations of evolution refining our ability to live in powerful groups under the same religious banner. Even if we know this we’re pre-programmed to believe in gods, and we have to work hard to break the programming.

    Wait… that’s not a question.

  • Two comments; looking at Christianity from a Buddhist perspective… perhaps we’re not supposed to fear death and losing things because these fears often lead people to delusional behavior. Kurzweil is brilliant with technology but some of his ideas about where technology is headed seem more based on emotional need than on an objective study of where technology is headed.

    Well, obviously fear is “bad” in the sense that it’s not a pleasant sensation. What I meant was that we can expect to feel fear and discomfort at times in this life. It’s completely and 100% unrealistic to think that you should never feel any kind of negative emotion in life, which seems to be one of the root causes of this fear-based conversion that I encounter so often — that we HAVE to believe in god because if we don’t, we have to deal with the normal system of learning to value something and then accepting that it may one day be taken from us. To me, that is a fear-based belief system.

    2nd…I don’t know who Kurzweil is….

    To some extent, I think that’s true. Of course, there are numerous things that people do that get in the way of this type of experience which religion, if working properly, helps to correct.

    I think that any good community effort — religious or otherwise — can help to correct certain behaviors that work against this, yes. But I dare think that to say that religion, “when working properly,” is the solution, is somewhat of a copout; when is religion working “properly,” exactly? What about that community is exclusive to religious principles?

    I mean, I could easily say that human interaction, “when performed properly,” fixes those same issues.

  • TJ

    # Do atheists really believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs?

    Yes.

    # Can we deny someone else’s personal testimony about God?

    What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    # Why would so many people believe in a god if we have natural explanations for so many phenomena attributed to God?

    # What is the biggest stumbling block for people from accepting a world without divine intervention?

    Two words: childhood brainwashing.

  • Ron in Houston

    What about some question regarding whether we’ve been evolutionarily conditioned to believe in God?

  • poejavlo

    “Do atheists really believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs?”

    pretty much 100% of the Earth’s population thought the earth was flat at one time.

  • EnthusOcn

    I would say billions of people are probably wrong about lots of things. Why is one more thing that they may be wrong about such a leap?

    I’m sure you could get a billion people to think that monarchies are wrong, and find a billion people who think monarchies can be great and are good. You have a billion people wrong about something.

    Anything there is an opinion of. I’m sure there are a billion people eating something today they think is healthy, but is not. A billion people who have some piece of misinformation about the Roman Empire, or how computers work or the merits of Locke’s philosophical works. We shouldn’t be surprised that people can be wrong about something.

  • valdemar

    Atheists think billions of people were indoctrinated as small children to believe a host of absurd things, and most of these billions never give much serious thought to their beliefs in later life. There’s a big difference between that view – which seems to sum up the atheist position, by and large – and asserting that billions of adults are just plain stupid.

  • I was discussing similar matters with a friend the other day. He is an atheist but believes that most people need religion. He takes the cynical view that most humans are too thick to grasp the realities of the universe and need a religion to fall back on to keep them from acting in a way that is damaging to society. I said that that sounded an awful lot like saying that morality comes from god. He says no, god comes from humans trying to understand the moral compass built into their biology. I am not sure I agree but then I have much more angst toward religion than he does.
    I posted on a few of my reasons for not believing on my blog… http://feveredintellect.blogspot.com/2009/08/five-reeasons-

  • What other aspects of our culture have been influenced by historical religious belief?

    Do these other aspects have merit on their own or do we need to rethink them if we no longer have these religious beliefs?

    For example, if “go forth and multiply” was a sentiment commanded by “God” and enabled by agriculture resulting in a culture of continual expansion at nearly any cost, in what context does that put modern environmental issues without that religious justification?

  • jdhuey

    Question: For the average religious believer out there in the world how much of their belief is based on an intellectual examination of the evidence and how much is predicated on non-intellectual factors (such as acceptance of authority and tradition or a desire for social conformity or etc.)?

  • Brooke

    (Could that many people really be wrong?!)

    Ha! I just had to laugh at that line, Hemant. I made that exact statement in the closing sentence of a paper I wrote in a high school science class many years ago (I found the paper a few years ago and that line stuck out at me). The paper was on creation/evolution. My argument was that evolution clearly exists, as there is so much evidence to back it up and there is nothing known to disprove the theory; however, right at the end I threw-in a few lines about the potential of there being some hand (“god”) initiating the whole process. It wasn’t until I got to college that the “everyone else believes” argument failed to do it for me.

    I would guess that there are other people that only believe in god because there are so many people that do.

    I guess I just answered a question instead of providing others…sorry about that.

  • jdhuey

    A lot of what determines the questions you should ask is based on what is the purpose of your interview. If your purpose is to explore the research and findings of this expert then that leads to a certain type of question. If the purpose is to request insight into this specif topic then that is a different type of question (or a different focus of the questions).

    Here are some open ended questions that might be useful:

    What is the basis for peoples religious belief? Is it the same basis around the world? Across cultures? Across individuals?

  • Richard Wade

    Do atheists really believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs?

    Perhaps a better question would be: How many of those billions only wish they believed and only pretend to believe? Maybe we shouldn’t assume substance by surface appearance.

    Can we deny someone else’s personal testimony about God?

    What do you mean by “deny”? Not buy it? Sure.

    Let’s see: Six and three-quarters billion people times an infinite number of possible personal testimonies each, equals six and three-quarters billion infinities of possible personal testimonies, which can change in each individual from one day to the next, and often change in individuals over years, all the while none of those many billions of ever-changing testimonies have ever been accompanied by acceptable evidence. So, yeah, like TJ said, quoting Hitchens, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Why would so many people believe in a god if we have natural explanations for so many phenomena attributed to God?

    Because science is not as easy to understand as fairy tales. It takes skill and patience to explain natural phenomena. We fail to make science easily understandable to the masses. If we teach it at all, we only teach what science knows, but not how science knows. We must teach more how to think instead of just what to know.

    What is the biggest stumbling block for people from accepting a world without divine intervention?

    Two equal stumbling blocks: One, poor education, even in developed countries. (see above) Two, many, many people never fully emotionally grow up. They remain child-like, wanting simple, cut-and-dry answers that never change. They want a parent figure to tell them what to do, instead of having to use their own judgment and take the consequences of their decisions. Religion provides all those things, and in doing so promotes that emotional retardation. A self-perpetuating system of immaturity and ignorance.

  • sc0tt

    I’d like to read the guest’s stories on how religion has evolved to deal with changing social and scientific issues and what directions that will lead religion in the future.

    I’ve had Christians tell me that if scientists ever create life in a test tube they’ll re-evaluate their belief in God, but I suspect they simply think it’s a safe bet and will never happen. What new scientific or social frontiers might challenge the theistic beliefs of large numbers of people?

    @ Richard Wade – you’re supposed to offer more questions, not answer them (assuming you’re not the interviewee).

  • Robert S.

    Having made the escape from Christian fundamentalism myself, I – like many of you with similar experiences, no doubt – have put a lot of thinking into this. I think the answer’s pretty easy, which is kinda of unfortunate because it speaks to the power religion has over people. I think people keep believing the nonsense they believe simply because of the tremendous psychological and sociological pressure placed upon them to do so. That’s it.

    You grow up within a tight family, church, community, culture and people feel, in the back of their minds, intuitively, the tremendous impact changing their beliefs would have upon their lives. In many cases, they would lose valuable relationships, lose access to valuable networks if they ruffled feathers. I’m not saying people intentionally don’t change their minds. Quite. In fact, I think people do suffer from anxiety and likely often depression because they have doubts they refuse to allow their minds to explore.

    That’s how it was for me. And that’s only anecdotal, I realize. But when I look around, I see this sort of thing unfolding among others, too, I’m quite sure.

  • freebirdiebites

    Revyloution Says:
    August 3rd, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    “Brad, what or who can you prove is non-existent, scientifically? I was under the assumption that proving non-existence is impossible.”

    IMO, there is proof for the non-existence of the biblical god. The Christians god comes from the bible, science has proven the bible false. Can’t forget all the contradictions also. I was very religious.Basically grew up studying with the JWs. {was never baptized} Science, the contradictions and common sense turned me into an atheist. For me,a negative was proven. Same goes for all the other “pagan gods.”

  • Siamang

    My questions are more like:

    What new ways can we have conversations with the religious that make progress and don’t just wander the same familiar charges and counter-charges?

    (Like Stalin, Mao were atheists, atheists have certainty, atheists can’t derive their morals… etc)…

    Is there any kind of culture-jamming, meme-engineering, meta-conversation strategies we should employ to get ourselves heard past the filter of people’s barriers to outside points of view?

  • Richard Wade

    sc0tt,
    Yeah, sorry. I asked one alternate question and then got on my soapbox about the others. Maybe my answers could be said in the form of a question. “I’ll take religious social psychology for 100, Alex!”

    Here’s a question: As more people and more societies become increasingly secular, do you think there is a tipping point, a percentage of non-believers or non-practitioners where secularism will begin to greatly accelerate? If so, have you seen any local, national or regional examples of that? Will we reach a global tipping point for secularism, and if so, when?

  • Richard Wade

    Oh, one more question to ask any expert who is patient and open to your questions:

    If you were to meet an expert in your field who is ten times more knowledgeable than you, what questions would you want to ask that person?

    Sometimes learning new questions from experts can be just as interesting and useful as learning new answers.

  • I would say that so many people believe in God simply because they WANT to believe it on a purely emotional level. If religion didn’t promise an “afterlife” or the parental substitute of a “higher power” looking out for them, then things would surely be very different.

    The sad thing is that when challenged on their belief, they will go to ridiculous ends to rationalise it because by that point it has completely consumed their own self identity.

  • Mountain Humanist

    How much is the propensity to believe in a deity rooted in our biological makeup (as addressed in the book SuperSense)? Is it genetic?

    What psychology need, if any, (ie. Maslow) does god-belief meet?

    When I was a believer, I can remember thinking of God as a sort of bodyguard. Even though I knew that Christians were maimed and killed as often as non-believers, I had this irrational feeling that God would not allow me to come to harm since I “clearly” had some mission to fulfill for him (kind of like the Blues Brothers). For a while after my deconversion, I felt some fear when in a more dangerous situation (out in a lightning storm, etc.,) and I admittedly missed that security blanket until I was able to adopt a more mature attitude about death.

  • Religious belief is popular because it is easy. The premise is that by the simple act of believing in certain things, you get an infinite payoff in eternity. It’s part of human nature to want something for nothing. That is why the human species has been religious for so long and why many will continue to be so.

    Its also quite silly.

  • Simon

    If the God of the Old Testament (or another god of your choice) magically made his presence known to everyone in some incontrovertible way you could no longer claim to be an atheist. However, would you worship such a being?

    My experience (upwards of 30 yrs) in Christianity was a constant struggle because I actually READ the bible. I tried very hard to make excuses for that nasty bugger of a god just as so many Christians do. Sheesh!

    When I finally decided to give honesty a try, I concluded that the only thing scarier than being alone on this planet WITHOUT that god, was being alone on this planet WITH that god.

    Been an atheist ever since and have come to feel that it’s not scary to conclude there’s no one governing the stars. It’s just a little more quiet.

  • Andrew

    Now I have a question. What gives the person the right to determine whether or not a person actually believes in something? Come on people stop being idiots. Also atheism is belief in no god, agnostic is the belief that the truth can’t be known. Atheism still requires a degree of belief whether you want to admit it or not. This is just the pot calling the kettle black. Now I imagine some one here is going to insult me, but hey insulting me would only prove I have struck a nerve.

  • Believer

    Because Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.

  • sleepyhead78

    Millions, (possibly billions if you do the maths) of people, for hundreds, if not thousands of years, thought the earth was flat. Turns out it isn’t…
    So yes.. atheists really do believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs.

    Luckily, not everyone on earth is a sheep. Some people like to go outside of the norm, of whats accepted or believed, and challenge it properly. They’re called scientists and atheists.

  • sleepyhead78

    That’s called “blind faith”, which can be very dangerous…

  • sleepyhead78

    I completely agree with you. And it’s not just the pressure of not wanting to be different, but also the fear of “what if there is no God?”, which of course people like you and I have already come to realise and accept that it’s highly likely to be the case that there is no God.
    Besides which, God is something we as humans created, a concept we devised, full of extremely human only related traits and emotional linkage. So if it’s something we created, something we thought of and then preached and taught, that surely doesn’t make it true? I could start preaching some utter nonsense that I conceived and people would laugh at me, but in reality it’s no different to believing something someone else once told you to be true…

    God made man in his own image? Man made God in his image more like… lol

  • sleepyhead78

    I think you’re absolutely right. I’m atheist and I believe there is no god. My belief is just as valid, just as important and just as realistic as someone’s who believes in a god’s existence (one of the 2700 available to be believed in…)
    I don’t think it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black though, most atheists I know are more than happy to agree that their belief is still only a belief after all.

  • sleepyhead78

    Yes, it’s called science.

  • sleepyhead78

    I’m atheist and that’s not my view…

  • sleepyhead78

    Millions, (possibly billions if
    you do the maths) of people, for hundreds, if not thousands of years,
    thought the earth was flat. Turns out it isn’t…
    So yes.. atheists really do believe billions of people are mistaken about their beliefs.

    Luckily, not everyone on earth is a sheep. Some people like to go
    outside of the norm, of whats accepted or believed, and challenge it
    properly. They’re called scientists and atheists.

  • sleepyhead78

    If the God of the Old Testament (or another god of your choice)
    magically made his presence known to everyone in some incontrovertible
    way you could no longer claim to be an atheist.

    Actually, you could still claim to be an atheist in this scenario. It’s basically like the reverse of what’s happening right now, where there is no proof of God’s existence, yet billions of people believe he exists. It would simply be a case of there is proof he exists, yet people would claim the opposite, even though the evidence is staring them in the face that he does exist. A belief after all is still just a belief. I can believe anything I want to, it doesn’t make it true, or right or wrong. It’s just a belief. And a belief is just a conceptual thing humans do because we can. Other animals in the animal kingdom, and other biological creatures don’t “believe” in things, simply vecause they aren’t capable of doing so. Which is kind of more proof that it’s unlikely there is any higher power out there.