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Religion boils down to psychology
Posted: 26 September 2013 12:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Lois - 25 September 2013 10:56 PM
TimB - 25 September 2013 06:02 PM

...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.

I disagree.

Lois - 25 September 2013 10:56 PM

It’s some combination of genes, environment and experience. 

I agree.

Lois - 25 September 2013 10:56 PM

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.

Lois - 25 September 2013 10:56 PM

...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.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 26 September 2013 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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GdB - 25 September 2013 02:02 AM
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?

Saying science is a defense mechanism is a bit of a stretch. A toolbox would be a defense mechanism if that were the case. I mean strictly a mental state.  And sure, we all have defense mechanisms. Maybe I hug my favorite teddy bear who’s been with me my entire life, and talks to me, and comforts me. The difference is, I don’t try to convince others that my bear is real by resorting to fancy logic and twisted reasoning. 

If I were to draw an analogy it’d be I believe in teddy bears, Sally believes in unicorns. For us to pretend, in this day and age, that teddies and unicorns are anything but mental crutches we need to get by is just plain silly and fruitless.  Yet that’s exactly what Christians and others do.  They fight tooth and nail, and we respond tooth and nail, to prove their teddy bear is really real, and not fake like that silly unicorn. And we take them seriously as if we’re engaging in serious conversation.

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Posted: 26 September 2013 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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PLaClair - 24 September 2013 10:36 AM

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!”

Well religion does for the most part mean belief in some form of god or gods or spirits.  Sure there are belief systems we might call religion that don’t have these things, but that’s not what we’re talking about here, and in any case, they are not part of the “big 3” that constitute the bulk of religious folks.

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Posted: 26 September 2013 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Cuthbert,

Well religion does for the most part mean belief in some form of god or gods or spirits.

With respect I think you’re just wrong about the emphasis on *belief* - if I were to take your words literally.
Most religious people don’t dwell on their belief, even if beliefs underpin their actions. Most of the time I don’t think about God’s existence, still less my belief in it, except when ‘doing’ philosophy.

To be precise, we can most easily *talk about and debate* belief. However, easiness isn’t the criterion for what a religion is ‘for the most part.’ Otherwise wouldn’t any system of beliefs, say Special Relativity, be a potential religion?

And empirically, atheists often criticize Christians, for example, for their hypocrisy or for the way the atheist in question was treated by others. That’s not *exactly* about beliefs. I doubt that Fred Phelps would be much improved by becoming an atheist (tho’ he’s got nowhere to go but up!); how likely is it he’d just be an abusive atheist, too, unless he repents of the way he *treats* people?

A long interview has just been published of Pope Francis, where he criticizes an overemphasis on talking about beliefs, to the exclusion of how we shall act towards each other.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 26 September 2013 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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inthegobi - 26 September 2013 10:43 AM

To be precise, we can most easily *talk about and debate* belief. However, easiness isn’t the criterion for what a religion is ‘for the most part.’ Otherwise wouldn’t any system of beliefs, say Special Relativity, be a potential religion?

A long interview has just been published of Pope Francis, where he criticizes an overemphasis on talking about beliefs, to the exclusion of how we shall act towards each other.

Chris Kirk

I don’t know anybody who expects Special Relativity to lead to a utopian kingdom at the end times, or who prays to Special Relativity for favors. If you don’t think there is something out there listening, some energy to tap in to, something beyond the stars to hope for, then you’re not religious.

I think you mischaracterized the Pope. He was complaining about emphasis on things like abortion and gay marriage, not belief in general. The Pope is not going to suggest we don’t worry too much about Jesus existing.

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Posted: 26 September 2013 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Lausten,

My criticism was only aimed at characterizing a religion as about beliefs ‘for the most part.’ It is of course necessary that I believe in God to act in certain ways. If a friend wants an abortion, my beliefs about abortion are necessary components of how I act toward her - but not sufficient. And in any case, most of us don’t *dwell* on our beliefs.

Francis has a slightly tart reply for people (reporters, that is) asking him about beliefs. ‘The Church’s teaching is clear.’ But of course it’s natural for atheists to dwell a lot on beliefs, and no deep problem to engage on that level.

But there are difficulties even there. I had an atheist roommate who was lugging The God Delusion around. He began arguing with me (in a friendly way) about God. As things progressed I quickly realized he was much more angry about his own father, who sounded like a tyrant, than some Father in Heaven that he didn’t seem all that interested in anyway. So even there, the reality of our interaction had little to do with *beliefs* about God, except tangentially (tyrant father who is religious, tyrant God - who needs either?). His belief against God’s existence wasn’t really *animating* him in that debate. To have continued to hammer at a philosophical argument, however politely, would have been amiss. And I suspect many ostensibly religious debates among private persons have just such a character.

What to do generally about that, I don’t have a single answer, except for a truism: one should be aware of when it’s time for a debate, a dialogue, a change of subject, a little compassion, and a rhubarb.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 26 September 2013 06:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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inthegobi - 26 September 2013 11:23 AM

Lausten,

My criticism was only aimed at characterizing a religion as about beliefs ‘for the most part.’ It is of course necessary that I believe in God to act in certain ways. If a friend wants an abortion, my beliefs about abortion are necessary components of how I act toward her - but not sufficient. And in any case, most of us don’t *dwell* on our beliefs.

Chris Kirk

Not sure where we’re not connecting here. I mostly look to the variety of religious around me for evidence. Quite a few will use the words God or Jesus on a regular basis and interject it into conversation on a regular basis. It seems to be on the top of their minds at all time. Others, with God less central, will still have a ready answer if I ask just who they think Jesus is or how the universe was created. Even when I was a total heathen, we still would come up with belief systems. So I’m still going with ‘for the most part’ even for those who say they only go to church for the community.

Much of what you said seems more like the definition of “religiously”, that is, something done in a ritualistic or well ordered fashion with a passion that may or may not be rooted in logic.

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