Why atheism is not popular

Tad Trenton's Ghost
Tad Trenton's Ghost
Total Posts:  389
Joined  23-11-2006
10 October 2008 16:48

I was reading one of the recent articles on this site, and I found one discussing why people believe. Here is a quote form it:

All of the respondents generally imagined life without God as “entailing fear, sadness, interpersonal isolation and loss of meaning and hope.”

There it is in a nutshell; why people don’t want NOT to beleive in God.

I’ll have to say I agree with the sentiment here. I remember Micheal Medved interveiwed Sam Harris once. He chastised Harris for suggesting that criicising Christian Fundementalists is not popular these days. “What planet have you been on?” he asked. Medved is a movie critic, and knows whereof he speaks. Traditional faith is very often mocked in the movies. But where Harris should have countered him (and didn’t) was that making fun of religious crazies and conservative bigots is one thing; denying the existence of any God at all is a different ball game. Most Hollywood types beleive in some spiritual being and some afterlife. And speaking of which, when it somes to the afterlife, what really makes us want to believe, is not so much for nonesixtence for ourselves (though that’s bed enough) but the thought that our most cherished loved ones will be nothing but maggot-fodder mouldering away in their graves—and that’s it. Phillip Pullman (author of His Dark Materials Trilogy) tries to put a pretty face on oblivion—but let’s be honest. If this is correct (and I honestly hope it’s not), it sucks big time.

According to Bertrand Russell in his essay, “Why I am Not a Christian” belief in God springs from fear, and desirre to have a big brother or father figure looking out for you. I have a question about this though. It doesn’t really sound so bad to want a benevolent deity looking out for you, whether it happens to be true or not. So why is it that we have things like suicide bombers, the barbarism in Dueteronomy, the obsession with sexual purity, anti-gay sentiments, the inquisition, 9/11, and the rest?

These things are often under scruntiny on this site, but why does beleif in God entail all this meaness? I think part of the answer is the religion is often an excuse to make barbarous actions sound just, but what do you think?

Total Posts:  626
Joined  15-06-2006
12 October 2008 04:57

All of the respondents generally imagined life without God as “entailing fear, sadness, interpersonal isolation and loss of meaning and hope.”

What survey was that? A survey of religious believers, presumably; in other words people who have got into a certain habit of mind.

I know I keep saying this, but it would be more interesting to me rather than to discuss the pros and cons of the habit itself - which is endless and pointless - to look at why it’s there in the first place.

If you look at animals you can see that habitual behaviour is a more efficient way of doing things than having to learn behaviour anew all the time. That’s why habitual behaviour is wired into all living things by evolution (with the proviso that organisms that adapt fastest to changing environments are the smartest).

As far as we can tell, the habit of belief in God goes back to anthropomorphic constructs concerning the energies perceived to be in things. From that, you get to religion, and religion can be an excuse for anything you want. All our barbarism and all our moral sense come from an evolved set of reactions to everyday situations. Religion just serves those hard-wired reactions. It’s easy enough to demonstrate this fact, and Sam Harris has done so.

That’s why people like to fight each other on this forum and elsewhere. It’s endless and pointless, but they just like scrapping. As in the larger world of politics and the smaller world of the school playground, bullies determine the prevailing culture. This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with psychology.

The answer to the question of why people believe things for which there is insufficient evidence lies in the study of human psychology. (Not clinical psychology but the whole structure of the human mind.)

Jung’s proposition, which goes a long way towards explaining the phenomenon of belief, is that the conscious mind occupies much less of our processing power than levels of mind hidden from the conscious level, maybe as little as 10% or less. Subconscious and unconscious levels of mind have much more power over our behaviour than the conscious level, which is why it is possible to make a decision to do something and not do it, or end up doing the opposite.

There is a whole topic there and I probably should start one.