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Religion boils down to psychology
Posted: 24 September 2013 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Lots of good discussion on this thread about so many aspects of religion, belief in god etc. I’ve made relatively few posts, but in my mind they point to the “umbrella” under which everything else falls. I can sum it up as this: religious belief is nothing more than a defense mechanism believers use to deal with the world. It may be a finely tuned one, with thousands of years of discussion and debate behind it, and lots of showy rituals, books, and such. But bottom line, it’s a defense mechanism held in place by a certain psychological/emotional frame of mind.  As such, no amount of reasoning, debate, etc. has any bearing on a believer. 

It’s the psychological state that needs to be changed, and for the most part that’s something for the believer themselves to address.  But if you’re so inclined, one of the little ways I’ve posted to do this is to refer to the god in the feminine.  That wasn’t just a cute little idea. It goes right to the heart of the matter of religion being a psychological crutch and nothing more, in this case the need for a father figure protector.

It sounds kind of trite, but think of all the “death row” conversions that occur, where an inmate suddenly finds religion after getting thrown in jail. Religion in general, I’m saying, is pretty much like that, except the psychological state was usually pushed on the believer by their parents, or caused by some horrible situation, or more likely something more subtle. If you dig deep enough, I’ll bet you find the real psychological reason a person is religious and it has nothing to do with reason or facts, etc.

Thoughts?

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Posted: 24 September 2013 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Why do so many people here insist on boiling religion down to a belief in a god or gods? Yeah, I know, many people think of it that way but it’s not true. As people committed to incisive reason, we should stop being sloppy in our descriptions. Not to mention that we keep ceding important turf to our adversaries - insisting that they take it, in fact! It’s a little like the old Daffy Duck - Bugs Bunny cartoon where Daffy tells Elmer to “shoot me now!”

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Posted: 24 September 2013 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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CuthbertJ - 24 September 2013 10:28 AM

except the psychological state was usually pushed on the believer by their parents, or caused by some horrible situation, or more likely something more subtle. If you dig deep enough, I’ll bet you find the real psychological reason a person is religious and it has nothing to do with reason or facts, etc.
Thoughts?

I’m hearing this as religion being a dsyfunctional state, and I don’t agree with that. Even from the laymen’s point of view, I think you can find ample evidence to the contrary. I have experienced voices, feelings of floating, sudden inspirations and other experiences that map directly to what others report as religious experiences. Interpreting all of these as physical and natural required a bit of study. Finding people who said I had experienced something supernatural was easy. The studying seems much more un-natural than it would have been to continue to accept them as real evidence of something out there.

It doesn’t require a “horrible situation” to stick with religion. I can go to Barnes and Noble and find ample verification that my experiences are proof of God. Most people are perfectly sincere in their searches for truth, they just don’t have time check the sources they use or question the authorities. This is true even for the authorities. I think we are digging into it and finding that these experiences are common and re-creatable. The change that makes me most hopeful is that there are fewer consequences for telling people you’ve had these experiences, and there are fewer people who would consider you special if you have one of them. That’s the direction we need to keep going.

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Posted: 24 September 2013 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Lausten - 24 September 2013 11:07 AM
CuthbertJ - 24 September 2013 10:28 AM

except the psychological state was usually pushed on the believer by their parents, or caused by some horrible situation, or more likely something more subtle. If you dig deep enough, I’ll bet you find the real psychological reason a person is religious and it has nothing to do with reason or facts, etc.
Thoughts?

I’m hearing this as religion being a dsyfunctional state, and I don’t agree with that. Even from the laymen’s point of view, I think you can find ample evidence to the contrary. I have experienced voices, feelings of floating, sudden inspirations and other experiences that map directly to what others report as religious experiences. Interpreting all of these as physical and natural required a bit of study. Finding people who said I had experienced something supernatural was easy. The studying seems much more un-natural than it would have been to continue to accept them as real evidence of something out there.

It doesn’t require a “horrible situation” to stick with religion. I can go to Barnes and Noble and find ample verification that my experiences are proof of God. Most people are perfectly sincere in their searches for truth, they just don’t have time check the sources they use or question the authorities. This is true even for the authorities. I think we are digging into it and finding that these experiences are common and re-creatable. The change that makes me most hopeful is that there are fewer consequences for telling people you’ve had these experiences, and there are fewer people who would consider you special if you have one of them. That’s the direction we need to keep going.

I’m afraid all you have proof of is that others say these phenomena are coming from god. That doesn’t mean they are. No matter how many people make a claim it has no effect on its validity.It is just a common human tendency to attribute to a god anything that can’t otherwise be explained. It has nothing to do with whether a god exists. It means only that a lot of people think the way you do. At one time just about everyone thought the sun revolves around the earth. If you went around asking people whether they thought the sun revolves around the earth you would get almost 100% agreement. That 100% agreement would have no bearing on whether the sun revolves around the earth, just as all the people you ask saying they have experienced something supernatural does not prove the supernatural exists. They have had similar explanations for their feelings, that’s all. To have proof you need repeatable, verifiable, objective evidence.

There is nothing wrong with believing anything you wish to believe. But don’t confuse it with objective evidence. See it for what it is.

Lois

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Posted: 24 September 2013 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Lois - 24 September 2013 03:28 PM

There is nothing wrong with believing anything you wish to believe. But don’t confuse it with objective evidence. See it for what it is.

Lois

I assume you have read some of my other posts Lois, but you’re speaking to me as if you hadn’t. My point was not that the supernatural exists, based on people’s experiences, it was that people have experiences and it is not an indication of a psychological problem if they attribute those experiences to the supernatural.

Take your believers in the earth centered universe. Was there something wrong with them that made them think that way? Or were they just unable to measure the parallax?

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Posted: 24 September 2013 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Lausten - 24 September 2013 04:51 PM
Lois - 24 September 2013 03:28 PM

There is nothing wrong with believing anything you wish to believe. But don’t confuse it with objective evidence. See it for what it is.

Lois

I assume you have read some of my other posts Lois, but you’re speaking to me as if you hadn’t. My point was not that the supernatural exists, based on people’s experiences, it was that people have experiences and it is not an indication of a psychological problem if they attribute those experiences to the supernatural.

Take your believers in the earth centered universe. Was there something wrong with them that made them think that way? Or were they just unable to measure the parallax?

Earlier posts! She acts as though she didn’t even read the one she is supposedly responding to. You clearly didn’t say any of the things she seems to be chastising you for saying.

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Posted: 24 September 2013 08:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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CuthbertJ - 24 September 2013 10:28 AM

Lots of good discussion on this thread about so many aspects of religion, belief in god etc. I’ve made relatively few posts, but in my mind they point to the “umbrella” under which everything else falls. I can sum it up as this: religious belief is nothing more than a defense mechanism believers use to deal with the world. It may be a finely tuned one, with thousands of years of discussion and debate behind it, and lots of showy rituals, books, and such. But bottom line, it’s a defense mechanism held in place by a certain psychological/emotional frame of mind.  As such, no amount of reasoning, debate, etc. has any bearing on a believer. 

It’s the psychological state that needs to be changed, and for the most part that’s something for the believer themselves to address.  But if you’re so inclined, one of the little ways I’ve posted to do this is to refer to the god in the feminine.  That wasn’t just a cute little idea. It goes right to the heart of the matter of religion being a psychological crutch and nothing more, in this case the need for a father figure protector.

It sounds kind of trite, but think of all the “death row” conversions that occur, where an inmate suddenly finds religion after getting thrown in jail. Religion in general, I’m saying, is pretty much like that, except the psychological state was usually pushed on the believer by their parents, or caused by some horrible situation, or more likely something more subtle. If you dig deep enough, I’ll bet you find the real psychological reason a person is religious and it has nothing to do with reason or facts, etc.

Thoughts?

Agreed. Religion does boil down to Psychology, and (science based) Psychology boils down to Neuro-Biology.

This is the reason that atheist activism is probably mostly futile, though; since the capacity for religious/woo belief is biological

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Posted: 24 September 2013 08:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Lausten - 24 September 2013 04:51 PM
Lois - 24 September 2013 03:28 PM

There is nothing wrong with believing anything you wish to believe. But don’t confuse it with objective evidence. See it for what it is.

Lois

I assume you have read some of my other posts Lois, but you’re speaking to me as if you hadn’t. My point was not that the supernatural exists, based on people’s experiences, it was that people have experiences and it is not an indication of a psychological problem if they attribute those experiences to the supernatural.

Take your believers in the earth centered universe. Was there something wrong with them that made them think that way? Or were they just unable to measure the parallax?

I don’t think there is anything wrong with people who attribute their experiences to the supernatural.  What’s wrong is the attribution. Intelligent and faiirly well-educated people in the 21st century should be able to understand that coming up with an idea that seems to answer their questions but which has no objective evidence behind it is not thinking critically and they shouldn’t be so quick to embrace it just because it seems to be a popular answer.

There was even less wrong with those who saw the universe as earth-centered.  They were basing their views on observation—which we know now is a scientific thing to do. It wasn’t their fault for not knowing what they couldn’t know and what we know today. But it doesn’t make them any less wrong.  I’m sure that our descendants will know things we don’t know, too.  If they can show that we were wrong, as with the ancients, it will make no difference to the truth of the matter that we had no way of knowing we were wrong. However, today we have much more knowledge about how the universe works than the ancients did. Intelligent people today have no excuse for not looking at answers skeptically that have no objective evidence behind them and understanding the difference between evidence and popular opinion and what we want to believe.

Lois

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Posted: 24 September 2013 08:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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mid atlantic - 24 September 2013 08:43 PM
CuthbertJ - 24 September 2013 10:28 AM

Lots of good discussion on this thread about so many aspects of religion, belief in god etc. I’ve made relatively few posts, but in my mind they point to the “umbrella” under which everything else falls. I can sum it up as this: religious belief is nothing more than a defense mechanism believers use to deal with the world. It may be a finely tuned one, with thousands of years of discussion and debate behind it, and lots of showy rituals, books, and such. But bottom line, it’s a defense mechanism held in place by a certain psychological/emotional frame of mind.  As such, no amount of reasoning, debate, etc. has any bearing on a believer. 

It’s the psychological state that needs to be changed, and for the most part that’s something for the believer themselves to address.  But if you’re so inclined, one of the little ways I’ve posted to do this is to refer to the god in the feminine.  That wasn’t just a cute little idea. It goes right to the heart of the matter of religion being a psychological crutch and nothing more, in this case the need for a father figure protector.

It sounds kind of trite, but think of all the “death row” conversions that occur, where an inmate suddenly finds religion after getting thrown in jail. Religion in general, I’m saying, is pretty much like that, except the psychological state was usually pushed on the believer by their parents, or caused by some horrible situation, or more likely something more subtle. If you dig deep enough, I’ll bet you find the real psychological reason a person is religious and it has nothing to do with reason or facts, etc.

Thoughts?

Agreed. Religion does boil down to Psychology, and (science based) Psychology boils down to Neuro-Biology.

This is the reason that atheist activism is probably mostly futile, though; since the capacity for religious/woo belief is biological


It’s obviously not futile or the number of atheists would not be growing.  Humans can and do learn and overcome our psychological and biological tendencies. Many of us have learned to think critically instead of accepting claims with no evidence.  Even theists do this when it comes to things other than their religion.  It’s a slow process to overcome natural tendencies, but most people manage to do it most of the time. There aren’t too many people today who think the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it or that there are witches. So there is hope for the human species yet. It’s just a maddeningly slow process.

Lois

[ Edited: 25 September 2013 10:57 PM by Lois ]
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Posted: 24 September 2013 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Lois - 24 September 2013 08:57 PM
mid atlantic - 24 September 2013 08:43 PM
CuthbertJ - 24 September 2013 10:28 AM

Lots of good discussion on this thread about so many aspects of religion, belief in god etc. I’ve made relatively few posts, but in my mind they point to the “umbrella” under which everything else falls. I can sum it up as this: religious belief is nothing more than a defense mechanism believers use to deal with the world. It may be a finely tuned one, with thousands of years of discussion and debate behind it, and lots of showy rituals, books, and such. But bottom line, it’s a defense mechanism held in place by a certain psychological/emotional frame of mind.  As such, no amount of reasoning, debate, etc. has any bearing on a believer. 

It’s the psychological state that needs to be changed, and for the most part that’s something for the believer themselves to address.  But if you’re so inclined, one of the little ways I’ve posted to do this is to refer to the god in the feminine.  That wasn’t just a cute little idea. It goes right to the heart of the matter of religion being a psychological crutch and nothing more, in this case the need for a father figure protector.

It sounds kind of trite, but think of all the “death row” conversions that occur, where an inmate suddenly finds religion after getting thrown in jail. Religion in general, I’m saying, is pretty much like that, except the psychological state was usually pushed on the believer by their parents, or caused by some horrible situation, or more likely something more subtle. If you dig deep enough, I’ll bet you find the real psychological reason a person is religious and it has nothing to do with reason or facts, etc.

Thoughts?

Agreed. Religion does boil down to Psychology, and (science based) Psychology boils down to Neuro-Biology.

This is the reason that atheist activism is probably mostly futile, though; since the capacity for religious/woo belief is biological


It’s obviously not futile or the number of atheists would not be growing.  Humans can and do learn and overcome our psychological and biological temdencies. Many of us have learned to think critically instead of accepting claims with no evidence.  Even theists do this when it comes to things other than their religion.  It’s a slow process to overcome natural tendencies, but most people manage to do it most of the time. There aren’t too many people today who think the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it or that there are witches. So there is hope for the human species yet. It’s just a maddeningly slow process.

Lois

IDK, it seems the growing numbers are the so called “nones” whose beliefs encompass anything outside of organized religion.

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Posted: 25 September 2013 02:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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CuthbertJ - 24 September 2013 10:28 AM

I can sum it up as this: religious belief is nothing more than a defense mechanism believers use to deal with the world.

Hmmm. Can you elaborate a little more on that? Science is also a way to deal with the world, and one could even argue that it is a defense mechanism: it helps us coping with the dangers in life and to secure our material welfare.

How do you cope with the hard facts of life, like illness, ageing and death? Do you just look away, do you have a defense mechanism, or are there other ways you deal with them?

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Posted: 25 September 2013 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Lois - 24 September 2013 08:46 PM

Intelligent people today have no excuse for not looking at answers skeptically that have no objective evidence behind them and understanding the difference between evidence and popular opinion and what we want to believe.

Lois

As you say, “intelligent people today have no excuse”. Where are you setting the bar? I know many people who have college degrees, don’t smell bad and don’t have too many unhealthy habits, yet among them are 9/11 truthers, global warming deniers, believers in the law of attraction and a guy who is making a car that runs on water. As far as I can tell, you can find any of this among professors and statesmen all over the world.

You can rant about this all you want, but attempting to dismiss it as some sort of psychological ailment is useless. What is the point in saying they “have no excuse”? The question is, why? How does the mind work?

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Posted: 25 September 2013 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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mid atlantic - 24 September 2013 09:23 PM
Lois - 24 September 2013 08:57 PM
mid atlantic - 24 September 2013 08:43 PM
CuthbertJ - 24 September 2013 10:28 AM

Lots of good discussion on this thread about so many aspects of religion, belief in god etc. I’ve made relatively few posts, but in my mind they point to the “umbrella” under which everything else falls. I can sum it up as this: religious belief is nothing more than a defense mechanism believers use to deal with the world. It may be a finely tuned one, with thousands of years of discussion and debate behind it, and lots of showy rituals, books, and such. But bottom line, it’s a defense mechanism held in place by a certain psychological/emotional frame of mind.  As such, no amount of reasoning, debate, etc. has any bearing on a believer. 

It’s the psychological state that needs to be changed, and for the most part that’s something for the believer themselves to address.  But if you’re so inclined, one of the little ways I’ve posted to do this is to refer to the god in the feminine.  That wasn’t just a cute little idea. It goes right to the heart of the matter of religion being a psychological crutch and nothing more, in this case the need for a father figure protector.

It sounds kind of trite, but think of all the “death row” conversions that occur, where an inmate suddenly finds religion after getting thrown in jail. Religion in general, I’m saying, is pretty much like that, except the psychological state was usually pushed on the believer by their parents, or caused by some horrible situation, or more likely something more subtle. If you dig deep enough, I’ll bet you find the real psychological reason a person is religious and it has nothing to do with reason or facts, etc.

Thoughts?

Agreed. Religion does boil down to Psychology, and (science based) Psychology boils down to Neuro-Biology.

This is the reason that atheist activism is probably mostly futile, though; since the capacity for religious/woo belief is biological

 

It’s obviously not futile or the number of atheists would not be growing.  Humans can and do learn and overcome our psychological and biological temdencies. Many of us have learned to think critically instead of accepting claims with no evidence.  Even theists do this when it comes to things other than their religion.  It’s a slow process to overcome natural tendencies, but most people manage to do it most of the time. There aren’t too many people today who think the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it or that there are witches. So there is hope for the human species yet. It’s just a maddeningly slow process.

Lois

IDK, it seems the growing numbers are the so called “nones” whose beliefs encompass anything outside of organized religion.


There has been a definite increase in the number of people who declare themselves as outright atheists. Some, though not all of it is attributable to atheism being more accepted than it was even in the recent past..  Throughout history people were forced to pretend they were theists when they were actually atheists For fear of losing jobs, family, friends and social standing. Such was the power and contempt of believers who would not tolerate anyone who said he didn’t believe in god—and it had to be their god. Unfortunately, many are still among us.

People are even more willing to say they are nones. That is probably the first step before they admit they’re atheists, but it offers a little protection from the crazies until they learn to roll with the punches.

Lois

[ Edited: 25 September 2013 02:28 PM by Lois ]
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Posted: 25 September 2013 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Lausten - 25 September 2013 06:20 AM
Lois - 24 September 2013 08:46 PM

Intelligent people today have no excuse for not looking at answers skeptically that have no objective evidence behind them and understanding the difference between evidence and popular opinion and what we want to believe.

Lois

As you say, “intelligent people today have no excuse”. Where are you setting the bar? I know many people who have college degrees, don’t smell bad and don’t have too many unhealthy habits, yet among them are 9/11 truthers, global warming deniers, believers in the law of attraction and a guy who is making a car that runs on water. As far as I can tell, you can find any of this among professors and statesmen all over the world.

You can rant about this all you want, but attempting to dismiss it as some sort of psychological ailment is useless. What is the point in saying they “have no excuse”? The question is, why? How does the mind work?

Degrees and elected office are not indicators of true intelligence. Look around you.  We have more dolts with degrees than ever before in history.  And look at many of our elected officials!

The mind works in strange ways.  In my view, what anyone thinks is determined by millions of factors beyond their control and outside of their awareness. When I said they have no excuse, I was speaking from frustration and emotion.  In fact their excuse IS that most don’t know any better and on that score they really are no different than the ancients. But with all the information at their disposal, one would think they could put more of it to use than they apparently do.

Anyone can get through college today without ever having an original thought. Too many people are not taught to think critically and never manage to learn it on their own. That’s part of the problem. As a determinist I have to take the position that nothing anyone does is a failing on their part because everything is a result of genes, environment and experience—things none of us has any control over.  It’s human nature to blame people for what we see as their inadequacies. I do it too when I speak from emotion and have failed to think it through.

Lois


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Posted: 25 September 2013 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The term the “mind” is just a conceptual construct.  Contrast that with the “brain” which we know actually exists and with “behavior” and “verbal behavior” which we know actually exist.  Lois, you said “The mind works in strange ways.”  (Not that I am criticizing your use of the term.  It is a useful communicative term that we all use, but use of the term can sometimes obfuscate or limit our understanding of what we are really talking about.)  Contrast “The mind works in strange ways.”  with “God works in mysterious ways.”  (Both statements seem to me to be a bit of a cop-out, in terms of really explaining anything.)

Cuthbert, in terms of religious beliefs and religious behavior, they might, in some cases be a kind of psychological defense mechanism, but saying that’s all there is to it, falls short of a full and accurate explanation. 

Lois, your suggestion that anything that anyone does is a “result of genes, environment and experience” seems more accurate to me, although saying that this is something that"none of us has any control over” (though perhaps technically correct from a deterministic perspective) doesn’t lead to a fuller understanding of what is going on, if one stops there. 

Better, I think to ask what is it about our biological make up, and our environment, and our experiences that lead many of us humans to have and to so perseverantly cling to religious beliefs and engage in religious behaviors.

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Posted: 25 September 2013 10:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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TimB - 25 September 2013 06:02 PM

The term the “mind” is just a conceptual construct.  Contrast that with the “brain” which we know actually exists and with “behavior” and “verbal behavior” which we know actually exist.  Lois, you said “The mind works in strange ways.”  (Not that I am criticizing your use of the term.  It is a useful communicative term that we all use, but use of the term can sometimes obfuscate or limit our understanding of what we are really talking about.)  Contrast “The mind works in strange ways.”  with “God works in mysterious ways.”  (Both statements seem to me to be a bit of a cop-out, in terms of really explaining anything.)

Cuthbert, in terms of religious beliefs and religious behavior, they might, in some cases be a kind of psychological defense mechanism, but saying that’s all there is to it, falls short of a full and accurate explanation. 

Lois, your suggestion that anything that anyone does is a “result of genes, environment and experience” seems more accurate to me, although saying that this is something that"none of us has any control over” (though perhaps technically correct from a deterministic perspective) doesn’t lead to a fuller understanding of what is going on, if one stops there. 

Better, I think to ask what is it about our biological make up, and our environment, and our experiences that lead many of us humans to have and to so perseverantly cling to religious beliefs and engage in religious behaviors.

It’s impossible to know. It’s some combination of genes, environment and experience. We’ll never know the exact formula, only that it’s those things that determine our thoughts and actions. it’s much more satisfying to take the position that people are being deliberately dense, but I’m afraid it has nothing to do with conscious thought. We are what we are and we don’t control it, no matter how much we think we do.

That doesn’t mean that people don’t change when their experiences change.  They do, as we all do.  We just have no control over when or how it happens, only that it does.

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