December 21, 2014 at 6:21 am #43538
Will religion ever disappear?
19 December 2014
A growing number of people, millions worldwide, say they believe that life definitively ends at death that there is no God, no afterlife and no divine plan. And its an outlook that could be gaining momentum despite its lack of cheer. In some countries, openly acknowledged atheism has never been more popular.
Theres absolutely more atheists around today than ever before, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of humanity, says Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author of Living the Secular Life. According to a Gallup International survey of more than 50,000 people in 57 countries, the number of individuals claiming to be religious fell from 77% to 68% between 2005 and 2011, while those who self-identified as atheist rose by 3% bringing the worlds estimated proportion of adamant non-believers to 13%.
While atheists certainly are not the majority, could it be that these figures are a harbinger of things to come? Assuming global trends continue might religion someday disappear entirely?
Its impossible to predict the future, but examining what we know about religion including why it evolved in the first place, and why some people chose to believe in it and others abandon it can hint at how our relationship with the divine might play out in decades or centuries to come.
Scholars are still trying to tease out the complex factors that drive an individual or a nation toward atheism, but there are a few commonalities. Part of religions appeal is that it offers security in an uncertain world. So not surprisingly, nations that report the highest rates of atheism tend to be those that provide their citizens with relatively high economic, political and existential stability. Security in society seems to diminish religious belief, Zuckerman says. Capitalism, access to technology and education also seems to correlate with a corrosion of religiosity in some populations, he adds.
Crisis of faith
Japan, the UK, Canada, South Korea, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, France and Uruguay (where the majority of citizens have European roots) are all places where religion was important just a century or so ago, but that now report some of the lowest belief rates in the world. These countries feature strong educational and social security systems, low inequality and are all relatively wealthy. Basically, people are less scared about what might befall them, says Quentin Atkinson, a psychologist at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Yet decline in belief seems to be occurring across the board, including in places that are still strongly religious, such as Brazil, Jamaica and Ireland. Very few societies are more religious today than they were 40 or 50 years ago, Zuckerman says. The only exception might be Iran, but thats tricky because secular people might be hiding their beliefs.
The US, too, is an outlier in that it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but also has high rates of religiosity. (Still, a recent Pew survey revealed that, between 2007 and 2012, the proportion of Americans who said they are atheist rose from 1.6% to 2.4%.)
Decline, however, does not mean disappearance, says Ara Norenzayan, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and author of Big Gods. Existential security is more fallible than it seems. In a moment, everything can change: a drunk driver can kill a loved one; a tornado can destroy a town; a doctor can issue a terminal diagnosis. As climate change wreaks havoc on the world in coming years and natural resources potentially grow scarce, then suffering and hardship could fuel religiosity. People want to escape suffering, but if they cant get out of it, they want to find meaning, Norenzayan says. For some reason, religion seems to give meaning to suffering much more so than any secular ideal or belief that we know of.
This phenomenon constantly plays out in hospital rooms and disaster zones around the world. In 2011, for example, a massive earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand a highly secular society. There was a sudden spike of religiosity in the people who experienced that event, but the rest of the country remained as secular as ever. While exceptions to this rule do exist religion in Japan plummeted following World War II, for instance for the most part, Zuckerman says, we adhere by the Christchurch model. If experiencing something terrible caused all people to become atheists, then wed all be atheists, he says.
The mind of god
But even if the worlds troubles were miraculously solved and we all led peaceful lives in equity, religion would probably still be around. This is because a god-shaped hole seems to exist in our species neuropsychology, thanks to a quirk of our evolution.
Understanding this requires a delve into dual process theory. This psychological staple states that we have two very basic forms of thought: System 1 and System 2. System 2 evolved relatively recently. Its the voice in our head the narrator who never seems to shut up that enables us to plan and think logically.
System 1, on the other hand, is intuitive, instinctual and automatic. These capabilities regularly develop in humans, regardless of where they are born. They are survival mechanisms. System 1 bestows us with an innate revulsion of rotting meat, allows us to speak our native language without thinking about it and gives babies the ability to recognise parents and distinguish between living and nonliving objects. It makes us prone to looking for patterns to better understand our world, and to seek meaning for seemingly random events like natural disasters or the death of loved ones.
In addition to helping us navigate the dangers of the world and find a mate, some scholars think that System 1 also enabled religions to evolve and perpetuate. System 1, for example, makes us instinctually primed to see life forces a phenomenon called hypersensitive agency detection everywhere we go, regardless of whether theyre there or not. Millennia ago, that tendency probably helped us avoid concealed danger, such as lions crouched in the grass or venomous snakes concealed in the bush. But it also made us vulnerable to inferring the existence of invisible agents whether they took the form of a benevolent god watching over us, an unappeased ancestor punishing us with a drought or a monster lurking in the shadows.
Similarly, System 1 encourages us to see things dualistically, meaning we have trouble thinking of the mind and body as a single unit. This tendency emerges quite early: young children, regardless of their cultural background, are inclined to believe that they have an immortal soul that their essence or personhood existed somewhere prior to their birth, and will always continue to exist. This disposition easily assimilates into many existing religions, or with a bit of creativity lends itself to devising original constructs.
A Scandinavian psychologist colleague of mine who is an atheist told me that his three-year-old daughter recently walked up to him and said, God is everywhere all of the time. He and his wife couldnt figure out where shed gotten that idea from, says Justin Barrett, director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and author of Born Believers. For his daughter, god was an elderly woman, so you know she didnt get it from the Lutheran church.
For all of these reasons, many scholars believe that religion arose as a byproduct of our cognitive disposition, says Robert McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not. Religions are cultural arrangements that evolved to engage and exploit these natural capacities in humans.
Hard habits to break
Atheists must fight against all of that cultural and evolutionary baggage. Human beings naturally want to believe that they are a part of something bigger, that life isnt completely futile. Our minds crave purpose and explanation. With education, exposure to science and critical thinking, people might stop trusting their intuitions, Norenzayan says. But the intuitions are there.
On the other hand, science the system of choice that many atheists and non-believers look to for understanding the natural world is not an easy cognitive pill to swallow. Science is about correcting System 1 biases, McCauley says. We must accept that the Earth spins, even though we never experience that sensation for ourselves. We must embrace the idea that evolution is utterly indifferent and that there is no ultimate design or purpose to the Universe, even though our intuition tells us differently. We also find it difficult to admit that we are wrong, to resist our own biases and to accept that truth as we understand it is ever changing as new empirical data are gathered and tested all staples of science. Science is cognitively unnatural its difficult, McCauley says. Religion, on the other hand, is mostly something we dont even have to learn because we already know it.
Theres evidence that religious thought is the path of least resistance, Barrett adds. Youd have to fundamentally change something about our humanity to get rid of religion. This biological sticking point probably explains the fact that, although 20% of Americans are not affiliated with a church, 68% of them say that they still believe in God and 37% describe themselves as spiritual. Even without organised religion, they believe that some greater being or life force guides the world.
Similarly, many around the world who explicitly say they dont believe in a god still harbour superstitious tendencies, like belief in ghosts, astrology, karma, telepathy or reincarnation. In Scandinavia, most people say they dont believe in God, but paranormal and superstitious beliefs tend to be higher than youd think, Norenzayan says. Additionally, non-believers often lean on what could be interpreted as religious proxies sports teams, yoga, professional institutions, Mother Nature and more to guide their values in life. As a testament to this, witchcraft is gaining popularity in the US, and paganism seems to be the fastest growing religion in the UK.
Religious experiences for non-believers can also manifest in other, more bizarre ways. Anthropologist Ryan Hornbeck, also at the Thrive Center for Human Development, found evidence that the World of Warcraft is assuming spiritual importance for some players in China, for example. WoW seems to be offering opportunities to develop certain moral traits that regular life in contemporary society doesnt afford, Barrett says. People seem to have this conceptual space for religious thought, which if its not filled by religion bubbles up in surprising ways.
Whats more, religion promotes group cohesion and cooperation. The threat of an all-powerful God (or gods) watching for anyone who steps out of line likely helped to keep order in ancient societies. This is the supernatural punishment hypothesis, Atkinson says. If everyone believes that the punishment is real, then that can be functional to groups.
And again, insecurity and suffering in a population may play a role here, by helping to encourage religions with stricter moral codes. In a recent analysis of religious belief systems of nearly 600 traditional societies from around the world, Joseph Bulbulia at the University of Wellington, New Zealand and his colleagues found that those places with harsher weather or that are more prone to natural disasters were more likely to develop moralising gods. Why? Helpful neighbours could mean the difference between life and death. In this context, religion evolved as a valuable public utility.
When we see something so pervasive, something that emerges so quickly developmentally and remains persistent across cultures, then it makes sense that the leading explanation is that it served a cooperative function, says Bulbulia.
Finally, theres also some simple mathematics behind religions knack for prevailing. Across cultures, people who are more religious also tend to have more children than people who are not. Theres very strong evidence for this, Norenzayan says. Even among religious people, the more fundamentalist ones usually have higher fertility rates than the more liberal ones. Add to that the fact that children typically follow their parents lead when it comes to whether or not they become religious adults themselves, and a completely secularised world seems ever more unlikely.
For all of these reasons psychological, neurological, historical, cultural and logistical experts guess that religion will probably never go away. Religion, whether its maintained through fear or love, is highly successful at perpetuating itself. If not, it would no longer be with us.
And even if we lose sight of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu gods and all the rest, superstitions and spiritualism will almost certainly still prevail. More formal religious systems, meanwhile, would likely only be a natural disaster or two away. Even the best secular government cant protect you from everything, says McCauley. As soon as we found ourselves facing an ecological crisis, a global nuclear war or an impending comet collision, the gods would emerge.
Humans need comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and many need to think that theres something more after this life, that theyre loved by an invisible being, Zuckerman says. There will always be people who believe, and I wouldnt be surprised if they remain the majority.December 21, 2014 at 11:53 pm #43539
Of course, the problem with these articles is that they tend to focus on Western religions. Western religions are doctrine and dogma “faith-based”, and ultimately fail under the common-sense meter due to admonitions against things that modern folks recognize as perfectly normal. Eastern religions, esp. Daoism, are direct-experience and practice-based. Unfortunately these are typically not considered when discussing “religion”. The Daoist idea that everything that arises is natural, intended, and based on unconditional acceptance/love, is hard-to-beat. I predict a continued rise in an awakening of Daoism acceptance despite this “rise in secularism” . . . S
Were putting an end to religion: Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher and the exploding new American secularism
Saturday, Dec 20, 2014 11:30 PM UTC
What is going on? How do we explain this recent wave of secularization that is washing over so much of America?
The answer to these questions is actually much less theological or philosophical than one might think. It is simply not the case that in recent years tens of millions of Americans have suddenly started doubting the cosmological or ontological arguments for the existence of God, or that hundreds of thousands of other Americans have miraculously embraced the atheistic naturalism of Denis Diderot. Sure, this may be happening here and there, in this or that dorm room or on this or that Tumblr page. The best-sellers written by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harrisas well as the irreverent impiety and flagrant mockery of religion by the likes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, House, South Park, and Family Guyhave had some impact on American culture. As we have seen, a steady, incremental uptick of philosophical atheism and agnosticism is discernible in America in recent years. But the larger reality is that for the many millions of Americans who have joined the ranks of the nonreligious, the causes are most likely to be political and sociological in nature.
For starters, we can begin with the presence of the religious right, and the backlash it has engendered. Beginning in the 1980s, with the rise of such groups as the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, the closeness of conservative Republicanism with evangelical Christianity has been increasingly tight and publicly overt. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, more and more politicians on the right embraced the conservative Christian agenda, and more and more outspoken conservative Christians allied themselves with the Republican Party. Examples abound, from Michele Bachmann to Ann Coulter, from Mike Huckabee to Pat Robertson, and from Rick Santorum to James Dobson. With an emphasis on seeking to make abortion illegal, fighting against gay rights (particularly gay marriage), supporting prayer in schools, advocating abstinence only sex education, opposing stem cell research, curtailing welfare spending, supporting Israel, opposing gun control, and celebrating the war on terrorism, conservative Christians have found a warm welcome within the Republican Party, which has been clear about its openness to the conservative Christian agenda. This was most pronounced during the eight years that George W. Bush was in the White House.
What all of this this has done is alienate a lot of left-leaning or politically moderate Americans from Christianity. Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer have published compelling research indicating that much of the growth of nones in America is largely attributable to a reaction against this increased, overt mixing of Christianity and conservative politics. The rise of irreligion has been partially related to the fact that lots of people who had weak or limited attachments to religion and were either moderate or liberal politically found themselves at odds with the conservative political agenda of the Christian right and thus reacted by severing their already somewhat weak attachment to religion. Or as sociologist Mark Chaves puts it, After 1990 more people thought that saying you were religious was tantamount to saying you were a conservative Republican. So people who are not Republicans now are more likely to say that they have no religion.
A second factor that helps account for the recent rise of secularity in America is the devastation of, and reaction against, the Catholic Churchs pedophile priest scandal. For decades the higher-ups in the Catholic Church were reassigning known sexual predators to remote parishes rather than having them arrested and prosecuted. Those men in authority thus engaged in willful cover-ups, brash lawbreaking, and the aggressive slandering of accusersand all with utter impunity. The extent of this criminality is hard to exaggerate: over six thousand priests have now been credibly implicated in some form of sex abuse, five hundred have been jailed, and more victims have been made known than one can imagine. After the extent of the crimesthe rapes and molestations as well as the cover-upsbecame widely publicized, many Americans, and many Catholics specifically, were disgusted. Not only were the actual sexual crimes themselves morally abhorrent, but the degree to which those in positions of power sought to cover up these crimes and allow them to continue was truly shocking. The result has been clear: a lot of Catholics have become ex-Catholics. For example, consider the situation in New England. Between 2000 and 2010, the Catholic Church lost 28 percent of its members in New Hampshire and 33 percent of its members in Maine, and closed nearly seventy parishesa quarter of the total numberthroughout the Boston area. In 1990, 54 percent of Massachusetts residents identified as Catholic, but it was down to 39 percent in 2008. And according to an American Values survey from 2012, although nearly one-third of Americans report being raised Catholic, only 22 percent currently identify as sucha precipitous nationwide decline indeed.
Of course, the negative reaction against the religious right and the Catholic pedophile scandal both have to do explicitly with religion. But a very important third possible factor that may also account for the recent rise of secularity has nothing to do with religion. It is something utterly sociological: the dramatic increase of women in the paid labor force. British historian Callum Brown was the first to recognize this interesting correlation: when more and more women work outside the home, their religious involvementas well as that of their families tends to diminish. Brown rightly argues that it has been women who have historically kept their children and husbands interested and involved in religion. Then, starting in the 1960s, when more and more British women starting earning an income through work outside the home, their interest inor time and energy forreligious involvement waned. And as women grew less religious, their husbands and children followed suit. Weve seen a similar pattern in many other European nations, especially in Scandinavia: Denmark and Sweden have the lowest levels of church attendance in the world, and simultaneously, Danish and Swedish women have among the highest rates of outside-the-home employment of any women in the world. And the data shows a similar trajectory here in America. Back in the 1960s, only 11 percent of American households relied on a mother as their biggest or sole source of income. Today, more than 40 percent of American families are in such a situation. Thus it may very well be that as a significantly higher percentage of American moms earn a living in the paid labor force, their enthusiasm for and engagement with religion is being sapped, and thats playing a role in the broader secularization of our country.
In addition to the above factorsthe reaction against the overt mingling of religion and conservative/right-wing politics, the reaction against the Catholic priest pedophile scandal, and the increase of women in the paid labor forceI would add two more possibilities concerning what might also be at least partial contributors to the recent rise of irreligion in America: the greater acceptance of homosexuality in American culture and the ubiquity of the Internet.
Since the days of Stonewall and Harvey Milk, more and more Americans have come to accept homosexuality as a normal, legitimate form of love and pairing. For many, acceptance of homosexuals simply boils down to a matter of fairness, civil rights, and equality before the law. The overall stigmatization of homosexuality has weakened significantly in recent decades. We see that those Americans who continue to malign homosexuality as sinful or immoral, and who continue to fight against gay rights, do so exclusively from a religious vantage point. And it is turning some people off religion. In my previous book, Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion, which was based on in-depth interviews with Americans who were once religious but are no longer, I found that many of those who have walked away from their religion in recent years have done so as a direct consequence of and reaction against their respective religious traditions continued condemnation and stigmatization of gays and lesbians. The fact that Americans today between the ages of eighteen and thirty are the generation most accepting of homosexuality in the nations history, and are simultaneously those least interested in being religiousand the fact that the states that have legalized gay marriage tend to be among the most secularmight be coincidental, but I highly doubt it.
Next, the Internet has had a secularizing effect on society in recent decades. This happens on various levels. First, religious people can look up their own religion on the Web and suddenly, even unwittingly, be exposed to an array of critiques or blatant attacks on their tradition that they otherwise would never have come across. Debunking on the Internet abounds, and whether one is a Mormon, a Scientologist, a Catholic, a Jehovahs Witnesswhateverthe Web exposes the adherents of every and any religious tradition to skeptical views that can potentially undermine personal certainty, rattling an otherwise insulated, confident conviction in ones religion.
We see direct evidence of this happening more and more. For example, in her ongoing research on nonbelieving clergy, Linda LaScola has found that many pastors and ministers who have lost their faith in God cite their time spent on the Internet as a factor in their emergent atheism. In another study of an extremely segregated, close-knit, almost secretive Satmar Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, sociologist Hella Winston also found evidence of the Webs secularizing potential. Many of her informants went online, often secretively, and what they found there helped to erode their religious provincialism, sometimes directly prodding their emergent questioning and even abetting their eventual rejection of their religion.
Second, the Internet allows people who may be privately harboring doubts about their religion to immediately connect with others who also share such doubts. In other words, the Internet fosters and spurs secular community. Nascent atheists, skeptics, humanists, agnosticseven those in the most remote or fundamentalist of communitiescan reach out to others online, instantly finding comfort and information, which encourages or strengthens their secularity.
Third, and perhaps most subtle, the Web may be partly responsible for the rise of irreligion simply by what it is, what it can do, what it can provide, how it functions, and how it interfaces with us and our minds and our desires and our lives. The Internet may be supplying something psychological, or feeding something neurological, or establishing something cultural via its individual-computer-screen nexus, something dynamic that is edging out religion, replacing religion, or weakening religion. The entertainment available on the Internet, the barrage of imagery, the simultaneity, the mental stimulation, the looking and clicking, the hunting and finding, the time-wasting, the consumerism, the constant social networking, the virtual communicationall of it may be undermining religions ability to hold our interest, draw our attention, tap our soul.
* * *
Dr. Barry Kosmin is the founding director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, housed (none too ironically) at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut. This institute, founded in 2005, is the first of its kind in Americaor the world, for that matter. Its goal is to advance understanding of the role of secular values and the process of secularization in contemporary society and culture. Dr. Kosmin is emphatic about the need to understand the rise of irreligion. As he argues, We need to study secular people because theyre a growing proportion of the population. This has political, social, intellectual, and moral implications. While the salience of religion has been duly studied, we also need to see what is happening on the other side. We need to examine the nonreligious portion of humanity. If we only study religious people, and we ignore secular people, we are not getting the whole spectrum, the whole picture.
I couldnt agree more.
There is an important, durable line that links the ancient Carvaka, Kohelet, Lucretius, Wang Chung, and Muhammad al-Razi to Sally, the American mom of the twenty-first century. It is a fascinating, compelling linepart philosophical, part practical, part political, part personaland it courses through history and winds ever strongly through our contemporary society. But it is a line of human culture that hasnt been adequately recognized, scrutinized, or appreciated. The Sallys of the world simply havent been studied much. And this is not only strange but unfortunate, as it skews our understanding not only of what it means to be secular or religious, or what it means to be American, but what it means to simply be human.
Its Only Natural
Given that secular people are now more abundant than ever before, and that social scientists such as Barry Kosmin are finally beginning to study secular people with real deliberate rigor, hopefully our ability to counter some of the gross mischaracterizations out there concerning secular people will mature and strengthen. And the mischaracterizations out there concerning secular peoplepeople like Sallyare quite troublesome. For example, many people characterize atheists or nonreligious men and women as some sort of aberrant, anomalous, or unnatural species of human being. And Im not talking about Roman Catholic Inquisitors of the sixteenth century making such assertions but contemporary academics.
Consider Christian Smith, who is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. At a 2012 roundtable conference held at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, Professor Smithwho is one of the most prolific and erudite sociologists of religion in the country, as well as a really affable guyput forth the thesis that religion is natural to the human condition, while secularity is not. By way of analogy, he characterized being religious as akin to walking forward and upright on two legs and being secular as akin to crabwalking backward on all fours; the latter can be done, but it goes against our true human nature.
And Professor Smith is far from alone in espousing this viewpoint; it is a fairly widespread notion, held by academics and nonacademics alike, that religiosity is the sort of natural, innate default position of humankind, while being secular is some sort of oddity, corruption, or aberration. Sociologist Paul Froese characterizes religiosity as essential, universal, and fundamental to the human condition, thereby rendering the secular condition as ultimately unnatural and untenable. Psychology professor Justin Barrett further argues that humans are literally born believers, and thus atheism is a problematic, indoctrinated retardation of an otherwise natural, normal human predilection. Theism, such individuals tell us, is simply in our wiring, in our human naturewhile atheism is decidedly not.
* * *
I hear various permutations of this position all the time, and it basically goes like this: Religion has existed in every human society and culture, right? Religion is basically a universal, isnt it? So doesnt that mean that religion is an essential and intrinsic component of the human condition?
First off, one can readily agree that religion is pervasive the world over. And one can also happily acknowledge that religion has existed, in some form or another, in every society and culture for which we have data. Good enough. But that does not mean that every member of any given society or culture is religious, nor even necessarily a majority of any given society or culture. For example, 42 percent of the Dutch today describe themselves as being nonreligious, and another 14 percent describe themselves as being convinced atheistsmeaning that being religious in the Netherlands today is actually to be in the minority. Same thing in the Czech Republic. And Japan. And anthropologists such as Daniel L. Everett have even lived among indigenous tribes deep in the Amazon rain forest whose members dont believe in anything supernaturalno gods, no ghosts. So just because religion is culturally and historically widespread does not mean that it is embraced by everyone.
By way of analogy, consider dance. Dance is just as universal as religion: it has existed, in one form or another, in every culture and society, past and present. And yet we know that many individuals dont care much for dancing. Many find it awkward. Many find it embarrassing. Many more are simply uninterested in it, or are downright oblivious to it. And still others are actively opposed to it, finding it to be immoral or wicked. So while dance may be universal, that does not automatically mean that all humans are dancers. Millions are not.
For yet one more analogy, consider violent crime. It is just as widespread as religion and dance. It exists in all societies and cultures, past and present. And yet we know that not all people are violent criminals. Most arent. So just because a phenomenon exists in all human enclaves does not make it innate or natural to all people. And I would argue that this is exactly the case with religion: not all humans are religious. As nineteenth-century abolitionist and feminist Ernestine Rose argued over a hundred years ago, We are told that Religion is natural; the belief in a God universal. Were it natural, then it would indeed be universal; but it is not.
Which leads to my second point: as the earlier part of this chapter revealed, there are a hell of a lot of secular people out there in the worldaccording to recent analyses, approximately 450 to 700 million nonbelievers worldwide. Given those numbers, it is problematic to consider something so widespread as an unnatural aberration. As sociologists Marta Trzebiatowska and Steve Bruce have recently argued, The proposition that all people are innately religious might have been plausible in 1800, but there are now so many people . . . who do not hold supernatural beliefs, who have no involvement with religious organizations, and who describe themselves as non-religious that . . . we have enough non-religious people to defeat the universal claim.
Third, even if we can recognize that there are certain innate neurological, psychological, and/or cognitive predispositions that might tend to make humans religious (for example, the proclivity to see patterns, the tendency to assume some sort of agency behind certain phenomena, the desire to feel a sense of connection, to be part of a like-minded group)as the work of such scholars as Pascal Boyer revealsthat does not mean that there arent other similar, simultaneous, competing, or complementary innate predispositions that tend to make some humans skeptical, agnostic, atheist, religiously indifferent, or affirmatively secular.
So while the author Nicholas Wade writes of a faith instinct, we can certainly argue that there is also a doubt instinct or a reasoninstinct that is just as persistent and inherent to our nature. As cognitive psychologists Armin Geertz and Guomundur Ingi Markusson so astutely argue, Atheism . . . draws on the same natural cognitive capacities that theism draws on, and both religiosity and atheism represent entrenched cognitive-cultural habits where the conclusions drawn from sensory input and the output of cognitive systems bifurcate in supernatural and naturalistic directions. The habit of atheism may need more scaffolding to be acquired, and its religious counterpart may need more effort to kick, but even so, that does not, ipso facto, make the latter more natural than the former. Amen to that.
Excerpted from Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions by Phil Zuckerman. Published by Penguin Press. Copyright 2014 by Phil Zuckerman. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.August 24, 2015 at 5:50 pm #43541
People just repeat what the TV says.
In India the TV says “be Hindu”, and so people say “I am Hindu”.
In the West the TV says “be atheist”, and so people say “I am atheist”.
Now, if you bring one of the Indian guys and some of the Western guys together, the former will be saying “I am Hindu” and the later “I am atheist”.
They seem very different. But actually they are not, they are identical. They just repeat the TV. (without noticing)
They repeat the TV, and add “and this is MY belief”. When actually they are … just repeating the TV.
Until you find someone who is not repeating the TV (perhaps 1 in 10 of people) then there is no discussion to be had.
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