...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.
I agree that we probably won’t ever know the exact formula, as each individual has a somewhat unique biology, environment and experiences. But we can, I think come to some better general conclusions in understanding what “those things” are that lead many of us to have religious beliefs and to engage in religious behaviors.
...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.
I agree that the position, that people who are religious are being deliberately dense, is a weak and inaccurate stance. I disagree with the 2nd part of your statement, however, if you were meaning to say that conscious thought never has an impact on what one’s religious beliefs and behaviors are. I think that what one thinks about, is often one of ‘those things” that determine subsequent beliefs and behavior and/or reinforces established beliefs and emitted behaviors.
But clearly religious beliefs and behaviors are not always a product of conscious thought.
One hypothesis about our propensities toward having religious beliefs is that we are biologically constructed to see patterns, and also to develop superstitious behavior. In conjunction with this, we seem to have an innate urge to explain what we don’t understand. Religious beliefs are a relatively convenient way of explaining things that we don’t understand.
A hypothesis, that I particularly like, about our propensity for believing in a Supreme Being, is that from our earliest (and unconscious) experiences in life, we are completely helpless, and completely dependent on an entity (our caregiver/s) to provide for our every need. It seems to me that this natural and universal experience in infancy could shape us on an unconscious level, to later be predisposed to believing in the existence of a God.
Other hypotheses include that: 1) we have religious beliefs and behaviors because we are taught to do so. 2) similarly, we have religious beliefs and behaviors because these are presented and reinforced within our social groups 3) we have religious beliefs and behaviors because they are comforting in some way.
I imagine that, generally, we tend to have religious beliefs and behaviors due to a combination of these factors (and other factors that have not occurred to me).
Sorry this post was so long. I guess I got carried away by “those things” that determine my posting behavior.