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Biotech Science

Humans Hardwired to Believe in Supernatural Deity? 1852

dohcrx writes "According to a Sunday New York Times article, 6 in 10 Americans believe in the devil and hell, 7 in 10 believe in angels, heaven and the existence of miracles and life after death, while 92% believe in a personal God. The article explores the possibility that this belief structure may be ingrained into our genetic makeup. 'When a trait is universal, evolutionary biologists look for a genetic explanation and wonder how that gene or genes might enhance survival or reproductive success ... Which is the better biological explanation for a belief in God — evolutionary adaptation or neurological accident? Is there something about the cognitive functioning of humans that makes us receptive to belief in a supernatural deity?'"
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Humans Hardwired to Believe in Supernatural Deity?

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  • Old, old news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:35PM (#18229678) Homepage
    Something like this was in Newsweek almost three years ago. The matter poses no difficulty to either atheist or theist philosophers of religion, for while one side can argue that this must mean belief in God is some built-in override of reason, the theist can argue that the direction towards worship is part of the Creator's plan.
  • by amplusquem ( 995096 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:36PM (#18229688)
    There's no "gene" per se that explains why humans believe in God and the supernatural. Humans believe in God because they want to believe that their life means something, that we are living for a reason. It comforts humans "knowing" that there is something bigger than them out there, it comforts them "knowing" that when one dies, they just go up to heaven to live a better life. Humans believe in God simply because they want to believe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:36PM (#18229696)
    .... and belief in a rosy afterlife will make you live longer and pass on that trait. I mean, what's the size of an average Catholic family compared to the lonely angry atheist?
  • Genetics? No way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormx2 ( 1003260 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:37PM (#18229700)
    From what I've seen this is all about nurture, and not nature. America's Christianity feeds itself, with a father instilling his faith in his son. I'm attending secondary school (high school) and the majority of us are atheists, and some of those who were previously christian or other faiths have become agnostic or more.

    You can beleive something your childhood years without questioning it. If you fail to question it before you reach adulthood, the chances are its sunk into the way you reason. Hence, you'll be a little more stubborn.
  • by Eideewt ( 603267 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:38PM (#18229714)
    It's a good thing we've got you here to clear everything up.

    I wonder if there's a gene for believing you have all the answers.
  • by agm ( 467017 ) * on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:38PM (#18229716)
    As Grissom would say: The evidence doesn't lie. What happens though when the evidence doesn't speak at all?
  • by LinuxGeek ( 6139 ) * <djand.nc@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:41PM (#18229758)
    I am probably much like most of the rest of you slashdotters; smarter than most of the population (at the 98th percentile), technically adept and grew up an atheist in a home where we did not regularly attend church. The people around me that were religious seemed only to be mental midgets that needed psychological crutches to help them hobble through the day.

    That was my view for my first 25 years of life, the next 15 have been quite a bit different. If we have a genetic disposition to need God, why is atheism more common among the young people that I have known and still know?
  • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:45PM (#18229802)
    I was raised Christian, so I always had a hunch that this was indeed the case, that God made us genetically likely to look for Him.

    Of course, you're asking about the other direction. I would ask, where would this genetic trait have come from? The article seems to indicate it isn't an "evolutionary adaptation," so it was either put there by a force other than evolution, or its an entirely random accident that didn't have enough of a negative side effect to be weeded out - and managed to dominate over the lack of this trait in other strands of humanity. I think the former case is more plausible.
  • Assuming for the sake of argument that God can and does work through evolution and genetics.

    The most relevant monograph for this discussion that I know is Swinburne's Responsibility and Atonement [amazon.com] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989). Swinburne sees no problem with humans naturally recognizing God, though through reason (essentially the cosmological and design arguments) instead of a gene, and argues that Christian notions of the Fall can work with the concept of evolution in positing that the first sentient ape-man to reject an obvious responsibility towards his Creator was the first to sin. Since the argument from design already posits, well, design, I don't think any Christian philosophers of religion hold that evolution is not a viable option.

  • The Big Flaw.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeremy_Bee ( 1064620 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:46PM (#18229816)

    "According to a Sunday New York Times article, 6 in 10 Americans believe in the devil and hell, 7 in 10 believe in angels, heaven and the existence of miracles and life after death, while 92% believe in a personal God.
    The big (obvious) flaw here is that this is a survey of Americans only. It's well known that the US is one of the most religious countries on the face of the earth. The number of "true believers" in the US has always been astronomical, the number of people who self-identify as "born again" Christians or fundamentalists is off the charts relative to almost any other western country you want to name. The level of education in the US is also corespondingly low relative to other western countries.

    If a significant portion (in this case in the high 90 percent range due to the claim made), of the entire world's population bleived in these things the author might have a point. I doubt the figures will bear such an argument however.
  • by JDevers ( 83155 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:46PM (#18229822)
    This makes the huge assumption that American's are representative of humanity as a whole. I think the fact that religion pervades the average American life from birth might be an important consideration. Also the fact that people who aren't at least passively religious are more or less condemned in many circles might have something to do with how one answers these questions regardless of their actual beliefs...
  • by R2P2 ( 193577 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:46PM (#18229826)
    I think that's got more to do with Catholics not believing in using contraception.
  • Re:Logically (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:46PM (#18229828)
    stop insulting logic you piece of shit
  • Re:Logically (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Treacle Treatment ( 681828 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:51PM (#18229886)
    [If nobody knows everything then what knows everything?]

    There is no requirement that there be a what that knows everything.
  • even wierder .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:51PM (#18229898) Homepage Journal
    I'd believe it if similar gene pools showed the same breakdown - here in NZ it's more 50-50 - so maybe there are different 'evolutionary pressures' ....

    More likely it's social pressure - the Monty Python/'Every Sperm is Sacred' school of thought - if you've got the pope saying 'fuck like bunnies because god says so' vs. the atheists saying 'smaller families are better for the planet, and we can afford better education for our kids, and ...' stands to reason you're going to get more kids indoctrinated into religion - think of it as a memetic advantage rather than a genetic one ...

  • by haluness ( 219661 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:52PM (#18229906)
    This still does not explain why it is *so* widespread. Why is it better for me to know that when I die, I'm going to heaven and somebody will be there for me? What is the benefit of the belief to the believer?
  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrBuzzo ( 913503 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @05:57PM (#18229966) Homepage
    it's always been interesting to me the number of religions which develop independently across different cultures and which seem to have similar themes. Generally there is a creator or creators and good forces as well as bad. Religions with a single God usually have other characters, such as patron saints or legends of profits, to make it more interesting. The creator or gods or spirits are often "above" looking "down" from heaven, the sky, the sun, Mount Olympus. There is often a Hell or "underworld" and it, conversely, is often bellow. Sacrifices are common across cultures, as are ordained priests or priestesses and temples or churches which are filled with ornate objects to honor the deity.

    The afterlife is a very common thread amongst religions and so is a mechanism which encourages one to be obedient and follow the laws of it, be it Karma, the threat of hell, the threat of sickness or a bad harvest. You also see, obviously, the cultural centrism of a religion. The Jews believe they are chosen, the Islamic god prefers the language of Arabic and the Indian and Hindu gods may ride elephants, but not grizzly bears or kangaroos. Can one imagine a religion which believes "There are chosen people, but they're not us"

    I think this cuts down to a basic human need. The need for a foundation of explanation or an imparting of significance to one's life and where it is going. Even though science may now be able to explain many of the natural forces which could once been explained only by magic or religion, there is still something people have trouble accepting about the idea that a disaster or loss "Just happened because of randomness." It's much easier to say it was because of a larger plan. People also have trouble accepting injustice, and the idea of justice in the afterlife is comforting.

    But above all else, it may be the inability to accept mortality in the sense of ceasing to exist. If a loved one dies and the idea is "Well, they're worm food now. They are no more." There is no comfort in that. There is an urge to reach for something else. And similarly the idea of not being is both unsettling and difficult to conceptualize.

    But above all else, it may be that people simply do not like the idea that they are not in control in any way or that all is hopeless. The idea that "The cancer is terminal and there is nothing that can be done" is much more difficult to accept than the idea that "the cancer is terminal but we can pray."

    I am not a believer, and I doubt you will be able to convince me otherwise. However I have one question for believers in a higher power or higher powers:

    When you look to other religions and say "that's ridiculous" at the idea of a wine god or a god with the head of an elephant or spirits and ferries or Zeus or Thor wielding his hammer, have you ever considered one thing.... is your religion any less ridiculous????
  • by limecat4eva ( 1055464 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:00PM (#18230014)
    "smarter than most of the population (at the 98th percentile),"

    Every time I hear someone say this—scratch that, every time I see someone write this, since I've never actually seen this said outside Slashdot—I can't help but substitute "more arrogant" for "smarter."
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:03PM (#18230062) Homepage

    Humans are primates. Their primary distinction from ordinary primates is the capacity of conceptual processing - which includes imagination.

    Humans are the only primates who are AWARE of death as an abstract. Coupled with the inbuilt fear of death, humans would be at an evolutionary disadvantage if they didn't have some means of coping with that all-pervasive fear. potentiated by their ability to be continuously aware of it, not just aware when under direct threat.

    So evolution selected for humans with the capacity to fantasize a "solution" to death. Never mind that the solution was no solution in reality. It worked. The same conceptual processing capability that allowed humans to manipulate their environment also allowed them to manipulate themselves - to fool themselves that they had a "solution" to death even when they didn't. This allowed them to function well enough to advance human development.

    Unfortunately the "solution" also did NOT work. It caused most humans to be unable to come up with a rational solution to the problem of death. Only with the slow advance of rationality and science and technology has it become possible to contemplate a rational solution to death. In the meantime, their fantasy "solutions" resulted in murders, suicidal behavior, oppression and war. As usual, most human "solutions" lead to the exact opposite of their intended goals.

    Over the millenia, quite a few attempts to (more or less) rationally deal with death were attempted. This was a result of the human capacity for conceptual reasoning. The Gnostics, the Taoists, and others attempted to find ways to deal with death by means of theories of the functioning of the universe and the human body. It would appear most and probably all such attempts failed. Some of them, however, led to the inventions of science and technology.

    Now, however, we have nanotechnology and biotechnology. A rational solution is clearly feasible.

    Unfortunately, the bulk of the human race continues to behave according to irrational belief systems. These belief systems threaten the security of everyone on the planet when coupled with military weapons technology.

    The ignorance and irrationality of the citizens of the United States and Israel at this time, coupled with the insane lust for power of the controllers of these countries, are the greatest threat to peace on this planet ever known in the history of this planet. Compared to that, the so-called "threat" of Islamic fundamentalism pales because Islamic fundamentalists have little power to threaten any significant percentage of the world. The US and Israel, however, nuclear powers both, have the capacity to kill millions of people and to start wars that will kill millions, perhaps scores of millions, more.

    Unfortunately, given the number of irrational humans, nothing can be done about this situation until the development of sufficient nanotechnology to take down the US and Israeli states. Israel could be dealt with by merely stealing one of its own nuclear weapons and taking its government out. But the US is not so easily dealt with - even the destruction of Washington, D.C., by a nuclear weapon would not eliminate the US threat to the world.

    So the result over the next few decades will be more wars and the slow bleeding to death of these two states economically, militarily and geopolitically, until their threat is reduced. Unfortunately, this will result in the deaths of millions of civilians in the Middle East and elsewhere until this slow, irrational process is completed.

    The fall of empires is never easy.

    And it's all because evolution is sloppy in the way it selects for survival. Had evolution selected for higher rationality and less fear in humans, we would not be in this situation.

  • by Strangely Familiar ( 1071648 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:05PM (#18230074) Homepage
    Your first sentence was right on the mark. We think that we forgot everything we experienced when we were little. I think instead, we just remember it differently. Before the age of one year, our relationship to our parents is like our adult relationship to god. The parents are those huge things up in the sky, all powerful. They can lift us up in the air, make things appear, give us food, punish us. "Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses..." Are we god-fearing folk? Probably grew up with parents who punished early. So, the reason we believe in god, is because we actually remember him/her. Very deeply. It's ingrained, and we can't shake that feeling that he's up there, watching us, judging us, getting ready with the rewards or punishment.... I think it is genetically useful to remember these early experiences deeply, and to believe in them most strongly. They are your life's first impressions. First impressions are the ones most likely to be repeated....
  • And yet ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Grashnak ( 1003791 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:07PM (#18230084)

    According to a Sunday New York Times article, 6 in 10 Americans believe in the devil and hell, 7 in 10 believe in angels, heaven and the existence of miracles and life after death, while 92% believe in a personal God.
    And yet, in other news, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 0.005% of Americans actually seem to be acting on those beliefs and behaving in a manner consistent with the ultimate love expected of a all-compassionate god, or with the fear of eternal torment expected from a judgemental, vengeful god. Go figure...
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:10PM (#18230118) Journal
    Its actually quite relevant to society at large. While some of the endeavors in this area seem a bit hoax-ish, I have always been curious about patients who have had 'religious' or spiritual experiences during brain surgery.

    While some might say that was the angels looking after the patients while in surgery, others will imply that religious or spiritual experiences are a byproduct of brain activity rather than external influences.

    There is not a lot of hard science or evidence on this and I think it deserves more attention. It is relevant because if spirituality is a function of the brain, we can all forget organized religions and get on with living our lives free of their interference.

    Studying this and similar theories gives us possible hard evidence of things thought to be from god or angels etc. Religion has by far been the most destructive motivational force on the face of the planet. Proving it either right or wrong with physical evidence is a really important thing to do.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:12PM (#18230152) Homepage Journal
    Virtually everyone we talk to in the West is from one of the Abrahamic religions, but look at the world as a whole.

    Shinto isn't really theistic, Buddishm and Confucianism are about right living and not about the supernatural, and animism is found all over.

    What seems to be universal is the ability to have mystical experiences that feel transcendent and change people's lives.
  • by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:17PM (#18230218) Homepage
    I have always wondered why it is people choose to believe rather than not believe

    Check out C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity." It presents a logical argument as to why someone would become a Christian.

    The gist of it is this -- we all seem to have some innate sense of morality that transcends culture and societies. (The idea that actions can be right and wrong is pretty much ubiquitous, regardless of whether a particular act is socially acceptable.)

    The idea is that this sense of morality must come from somewhere, or else you could ignore it without feeling any guilt or remorse. If you believe that there is some supernatural force instilling this in us, then you have a sound basis for acting according to a certain moral code.

    If your conscience is merely something that society has taught you, then logically you have no reason to comply with society's proscribed values other than avoiding retribution for your anti-social actions. This tends to lead toward the moral relativity direction, which I think most people find uncomfortable and counter-intuitive.

    So, the reason some people would choose to believe in a god is that they'd prefer to live in a world with a moral absolute. Otherwise their decisions and actions are fairly meaningless beyond their own gratification.

    But this leads to one of those basic questions -- is there a moral absolute or not? I guess I'll leave it to the college freshman in dorms late at night to decide that.

  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:21PM (#18230292) Homepage Journal

    Humans are the only primates who are AWARE of death as an abstract.

    That we know of.
  • Re:This is why... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VidEdit ( 703021 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:23PM (#18230316)
    But are you agnostic to **all** religious claims?

    You write:
    "My point is this: either until God manifests himself in whatever form happens to fit our definition, or until we can prove that we know all there is to know, I will remain curious, but nothing more."

    Indeed, a thinking person must keep his mind open but there are limits. If you are keeping your mind open to the general idea of "god" are you also keeping it open to the possibility that the entire pantheon of Greek Gods? It is one thing to admit that certain general and un-restricted propositions, like a vague "god", cannot be disproved or falsified yet it is another to actually keep your mind open to all possibilities. I would be surprised to find out that you are **truly** agnostic and believe that any and all specific claims of god(s) are possible and I'm going to guess that you actually have ruled some of them out. Zuess? Thor? Mithras? Ganesha? L. Ron Hubard? The Rev. Moon?

    The reality is that "true" agnosticism is as untenable as absolutist, positive atheism.

  • Re:Hmm, so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IngramJames ( 205147 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:25PM (#18230352)
    Religion evolved?

    Sounds like a sure way to piss off the religious and atheists alike :]

    Well, speaking as an atheist, it doesn't annoy me in the slightest. The reason why humans always seem to create a religion, regardless of where they live or which society they are from is an interesting subject; I fail to see why it should be offensive.

    It's like asking why humans walk upright, or why all humans developed language. A fascinating subject, in short, and well worthy of examination, I'd say. Science is only ever offensive if you know you are likely to disagree with its findings in advance :)
  • by thewils ( 463314 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:26PM (#18230362) Journal
    well, try this one for size...

    Just as science can "prove" that a shape made up of straight lines and 4 corners of 90 degrees is a square and not a triangle, and circles don't have corners...

    It is possible to attribute qualities to a deity figure that simply cannot co-exist. Attributes such as "all-powerful" and "all-knowing" are two such attributes. If a deity is "all-knowing", meaning that they are said to know everything that has happened, is happening and will happen, then such a deity themselves do not have any choice as to what they are able to do - because they already know what it is that they will do. Therefore they cannot be "all-powerful" enough to exercise free will.

    Just a thought, that's all.
  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:31PM (#18230424) Homepage
    Nearly every human I know believes in something he refers to as "laws of physics", some sort of hypothesized way in which objects behave consistently according to rules.

    Do we need a genetic predisposition to explain this?

    Is there a specific genetic predisposition to think that people who laugh at their own jokes a lot are usually not funny?

    How do we distinguish between "predisposition to believe X" and "observing X"?
  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:33PM (#18230462)

    These belief systems threaten the security of everyone on the planet when coupled with military weapons technology.

    And what happens when a rational atheist, holding no irrational fantasies about any mystical nature of man's existence, is in charge of the military weapons technology instead?

    I'd answer that for you, but I'd be invoking Godwin's Law.

    Don't put atheists, deists, or anyone else on a pedestal. They are all susceptible to the same foibles as the early crusaders. In your own post, for instance, you suggest that the solution to "the greatest threat to peace on this planet ever known in the history of this planet" is, in essence, genocide itself. If that's rational, you can keep it. It's not even human.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:35PM (#18230484)
    >I am probably much like most of the rest of you slashdotters;
    >smarter than most of the population (at the 98th percentile),

    The dumbest people I've ever known claim themselves as "slashdotters".

    Funny that as I post this as message AC, the captcha says "idiots".
  • by visualight ( 468005 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:40PM (#18230556) Homepage
    Nobody wants to be the only guy that believes in the flying spaghetti monster. Whenever someone says "I'm telling you the truth of God because I care about your soul" I hear "I'm somewhat insecure in my own faith and I need you to believe with me"

    A few times I've gone as far as making this idea an accusation against the missionary at my front door. I don't do it anymore because doing so seems to make them less likely to go away.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cannon fodder 0109 ( 787777 ) <toybhoyuk@yahoo.co.uk> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:43PM (#18230602) Homepage
    Summary of the above:

    "The invention of a god or gods will occur when a self-aware organism comprehends the inevitability of its own death."
  • Re:Missing option (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:45PM (#18230608)
    The science community should not limit the posibilities. Anything is possible until it can be eliminated. How about the possibility of created that way?

    At the risk of starting a flame war (what? On slashdot?), yes, anything is possible until it is eliminated. That's different from plausable, rational or probable. It is possible that God created mankind. It is possible that the Universe was sneezed out of the nose of a huge giant, and that we should all live in perpetual fear of the Coming Of The Great White Handkercheif.

    It is possible that there is a small red teapot which remains perpetually equidistant between Earth and Mars, containing a magical green geenie who will grant three wishes to the first astronaut to find it and rub it.

    I know where I want NASA to invest its money; and it's not in green geenie research.

    If you want to be religous: fine; just don't bother people who think.
  • Re:IQ v Belief (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Krilomir ( 29904 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:52PM (#18230714)
    >Infact, less than 10% of people with an IQ above 120 have any faith/religous belief.

    It's not that I don't believe you or anything, but do you have any sources for that statement? :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:55PM (#18230752)
    At least he citied a reference. Who did you cite for your "megachurches are filled with atheists" factoid? Hmmm?
  • by iamnotaclown ( 169747 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @06:58PM (#18230782)
    And it's all because evolution is sloppy in the way it selects for survival. Had evolution selected for higher rationality and less fear in humans, we would not be in this situation.

    However, when a treatment for life extension becomes available, it seems very likely that religious leaders will call it an aberration and unnatural. Those who refuse to take the treatment will die off in a generation. Those who shun technological advances quickly become a minority, e.g. the amish.
  • Re:Hmm, so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:00PM (#18230810) Homepage
    As an athiest, I too don't comprehend how this notion would be offensive. If it turns out that religion is genetically coded, so be it. Athiests by nature are probably a group most accepting of fact. So if it is provably true that religious susceptibility is genetic, then that's simply a fact like any other proven fact, albeit a very interesting one.

    What religious people seem to fail to comprehend is that atheism is not a religious belief, it is the lack of religious belief. So there is no reason for an atheist to get all political or freaked out if it turns out that there is a biological basis for religion.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by j35ter ( 895427 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:05PM (#18230888)
    Talking to a ________________ (fill in your favorite - ie. priest,rabbi, imam,...)
    Q: how do you know that *your* scriptures are the true word of God?
    A: It is written in the scriptures!
    Q: Yes, but how do you know your scriptures are authentic?
    A: They came from God!
    Q: Ok, how do you know that?
    A: Well, it is written right here in the scriptures!!!

    Sometimes one has to think that religious people have some kind of mental blockade when it comes to critical thinking about (ones) religion.

    OTOH There lies a great comfort in following religious rules. You can do some of the worst things a human being is capable of and just say "God wants it!". If things go bad, "God is testing me!". If things go well, "Thank God for this". Should you really screw up, "God forgive me"....

    Taking responsibility for your own actions is often a very uncomfortable way; so, why don't we just delegate responsibility for *our own* actions to a higher deity?

    As long as there is "religious freedom" there will be people justifying their deeds with the wishes of a deity, thus giving the rest of humanity a bad time!

    I am not opposed to religious feeling, but many people tend to abuse these feelings, and even more people let themselves be abused; thus delegating responsibility for their actions. When will we have a religion that truly holds you responsible for your actions?
  • by SlappyBastard ( 961143 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:15PM (#18230978) Homepage

    The most recent surveys I've seen are showing between 15-20% of Americans are atheists. 8% sounds nowhere near my own experience. I've knew a guy who went to church and didn't believe there was a God but didn't want to upset his wife. Perhaps they're counting his wife as a god-figure.

    Also, wouldn't some of this depend on how you classify borderline religions like Buddhism? After all, Buddhists don't believe in a god or gods overtly in the way Westerner religions do. I'd offer that some forms of animism, ancestor worship and shamanism don't quite qualify as god-figure religions, either.

    And then of course there is the sticky question of classifying agnostics. Where do they fit?

  • Re:Missing option (Score:2, Insightful)

    by awhite ( 179035 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:23PM (#18231048)
    Follow the lesson, then look at the biblical description of the origion of the universe. It's so close to the same to bring into question "Was this created?" Who Wrote the first book in the Bible and how did he know how the universe started when nobody else had a clue.

    Leaving creation out of consideration does upset the church leadership and should upset the scientific community who are finding a strong corrolation between the two accounts.

    Is this a joke? There is no correlation between the bible's description of creation (either one -- there are actually two creation accounts in the bible) and modern theories about what actually happened. Even ignoring the "6 days vs. 12 billion years" discrepancy, the order of creation in the bible is completely wrong. Plants before the sun? The earth before the stars? If you took each individual event mentioned in the creation account and scrambled them randomly, you'd likely wind up with a creation order that isn't much worse than the bible's.
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:25PM (#18231082) Journal
    "You can't point to a single effect that this belief has that exist outside of your head."

    God spoke to me,"Good News" then I recieved a Good News bible from my dad. It wasn't just God speaking to me, he also delivered to me the Bible which he spoke about. If you read my website, there is ways you can see that God is real outside of just believing in my miracle. For example, notes about Jesus' life was layed out clearly in the book of Isaiah which was written 700 years before Jesus. The bible predicts future events in older books, and in newer books the events unfold. There is even times when prophecy is fufilled when it wasn't even mentioned to be a prophecy before it happened.
  • by Lawrence_Bird ( 67278 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:30PM (#18231144) Homepage

    The number of "true believers" in the US has always been astronomical, the number of people who self-identify as "born again" Christians or fundamentalists is off the charts relative to almost any other western country you want to name. The level of education in the US is also corespondingly low relative to other western countries.
    BS on all fronts. What exactly is a "true believer" in your book? Anyone who is not an atheist? As to the born again/evangelicals, please come back with a % of total US population - its nowhere near as high as you think. As to other countries being more or less religous - many are more so, such as Latin America and southern Europe. That the UK, Germany and France are now less so is only a relatively recent change.

    From Wikipedia:

    In addition, the ratio of college-educated adults entering the workforce to general population (33%) is slightly below the mean of other developed countries (35%)[5] and rate of participation of the labor force in continuing education is high.[6] However, a recent study showed that "A slightly higher proportion of American adults qualify as scientifically literate than European or Japanese adults".
    Has being smarter on math tests actually made the Germans (or others) richer? Check on per capita incomes.
  • "If you don't believe me, look at environmentalism, the new urban religion"

    I'm sure that there are lots of people who behave like it's a religion. On the other hand, the 'scripture' of environmentalism has hard science to back it up. There's really no need to believe in it; the pressures caused by environmental effect such as global warming will be felt and dealt with.

    No, I'm not of the school that there's some mythical 'point of no return'. Even if there is, we'll get close, we'll notice it's a bit too warm out, and we'll fix it. Hell, we're doing that now.

    By the way, calling environmentalism a religion is a disservice to low-emissions engineers and environmental scientists everywhere.
  • by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:38PM (#18231226)
    In the U.S. there are many places where atheists are threatened (certainly more than the other way around). One such place is at work, where religious fanatics sometimes campaign to get an atheist fired or denied a promotion. In higher level poitics, atheism is a big negative. Atheists often find it necessary to hide their views in order to make their lives easier. No adult with children wants to lose a job because some jerk doesn't like his nonbelief.
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:45PM (#18231306) Homepage Journal

    I'm attending secondary school (high school) and the majority of us are atheists, and some of those who were previously christian or other faiths have become agnostic or more.

    OTOH, my (anecdotal) experience is that many teens question and even deny God, but find as they become an adult that they do have a need for belief. I think it's a phase that many teens go through, part of the process of rejecting authority and finding themselves. If their authority figures are religious, they have a strong tendency to reject religion, a tendency that is exacerbated by their newfound ability to perform rational analyses and their discomfort with their newly-energized emotions.

    Later, as they become more comfortable with their status as adults, discover that the world is more complex and less amenable to rational analysis than they had thought, and come to terms with their own emotions, a significant number of them return to religious ideas.

  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abigor ( 540274 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:54PM (#18231376)
    Prove that I don't have a wonderful magical blue puppy (fluent in five languages, including the long-dead tongue of the Hittites) in my living room. You can't?

    Do you see the problem? The burden of proof is on the claimant, not the claimee. Agnosticism is not a logically tenable position to hold.
  • by gd23ka ( 324741 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:00PM (#18231466) Homepage
    --"A belief in God, be it Christian or Jewish (the two dominant samples, obviously) conferred survival advantages in the camps. It seems that men who had Someone to pray to, something to hope for, gained a psychological edge that could mean the difference between life and death under extreme conditions"

    I didn't know you interviewed German POWs at the infamous Rheinwiesen Death Camps

    http://www.rheinwiesenlager.de/andernach.htm [rheinwiesenlager.de]

    I'm not trying to disgress here too far but the atrocities enacted on German PoWs are something I'm sure
    most Americans do not know about. Most people associate Germany's surrender with positive imagery of
    liberation from Nazi rule andthe Berlin airlift. As always however there is however an uglier truth
    lurking below the surface.

  • Re:Hmm, so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) * on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:01PM (#18231480) Homepage Journal
    No, because if people are created by God (as I believe), then it would make sense for God to give us a innate tendency to believe in Him, but if we are not created by God, then religion can be explained as a side effect of this psychological tendency.

    Of course this won't prevent some people from either side using the fact as proof that they are correct or to badmouth their opponents.

    Rick (who wishes we all didn't also have an hardwired tendency to be jerks)
  • Re:there is No god (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tet ( 2721 ) <slashdot@a s t r a dyne.co.uk> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:09PM (#18231572) Homepage Journal
    Agnosticism is not a logically tenable position to hold.

    Perhaps true. Ignosticism, on the other hand, is probably the only logically tenable position to hold. But then some consider ignosticism to be a form of agnosticism anyway...

  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sinclair44 ( 728189 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:10PM (#18231584) Homepage

    If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent him.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GoMMiX ( 748510 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:19PM (#18231672)
    I'm one of those people who goes back and forth on ideas of God a lot, but one thing I know for sure is I don't believe in hell. Being a father is the closest thing I can acquaint to the idea of a God - and as a Father I could never condemn my son to such a thing, for any act.

    Another thing I believe, as a father, is that the most hurtful thing a son can do to his father is deny him.

    Lastly, while I do question all these things frequently - I also believe that if there is a God - he made me this way. He gave me this ability to question these things, and what father would condemn his son to eternal damnation for merely doing what is natural?

    Certainly no father I'd care to believe in.
  • Re:Hmm, so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:22PM (#18231704) Homepage

    then this is not a deity worthy of belief; let alone worship.
    This is a little bit silly. If there is a god, particularly the variety of god that most Christians would describe to you, then that god defines what is moral. So, if there is a deity that your particular moral system deems "not worthy of belief or worship", but this deity has defined morality such that it is worthy of belief and worship, then your moral system is wrong.

    Certainly one can imagine gods which do not define any sort of morality, even gods which do not have any power to define morality for a variety of reasons. However, since one can imagine gods which can and do define what is right and wrong, making an argument against belief in that sort of god based on morality is rather silly, except in the imaginable cases where the god has defined morality such that it is not worthy of belief or worship.

    There was a cool bloke once, who suggested that the most important thing in life is actually to love thy neighbour, and not get caught up in the minutae of rules,
    Incorrect actually. According to the historical record of what Jesus said, what he actually claimed as the most important thing in life is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. He came right out and said that this was the first and most important commandment. (of course, he didn't say it in english... But you get the idea) Loving your neighbor (as you love yourself... in what ways exactly do you love yourself, hmm?) was cited as the second, not the first and most important.

    Well, ok. In the bit I quoted from you, you didn't actually claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the one who said this, so yes, there might well be a "bloke" who could be described as "cool", who suggested that the most important thing in life is actually to love thy neighbor and not get caught up in the minutiae of rules. There probably have been a large number of such "blokes", and some of them might even have been named Jesus, particularly the ones in Mexico. But, unless I misunderstand your post, you were actually referring to the Christ worshipped by Christianity, in which case you are incorrect.
  • by Tatarize ( 682683 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:22PM (#18231708) Homepage
    People think and see crazy things while some guy fiddles with his brain. Really! That is odd.

    As far as science can tell, religion is absolutely false. I do think it is a proposition worth looking into, but we have. The world doesn't fit what we would expect to find if religion were true. In fact, the world we have is exactly like the world we should have if there were no gods.

    There certainly exists some reasons for seeing aliens or angels and those reasons are fairly interesting. We have managed to trigger certain parts of the brain which give people either a religious experience or of aliens. Hard evidence for their existence is a waste of time, but finding why you see them is a fairly important point.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WhiplashII ( 542766 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:37PM (#18231862) Homepage Journal
    Look at it this way:

    If God is our father and we are here to learn to be like him, then some are going to be better at that than others. Let's say you have two kids - one is dutiful, always listens, and is completely trustworthy. The other is a druggy, always take the easy way out, etc. Now you are retiring and you want to leave the family business to one of them. Obviously, you choose the dutiful one. The other one believes that you are leaving him in hell - but really, he just made his own hell.

    I don't think God sends people to hell for the most part - he just elevates people out of it.
  • by Copid ( 137416 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:48PM (#18231962)

    The Humanist ethics considered the norm in Western Countries are the direct outgrowth of Christian morals.

    There are plenty of other morals to choose from. Choose them if you want to be free of Christian taint.
    If you remove from the Christian set of moral codes those codes that overlap with a lot of others (e.g. don't murder people and take their stuff), what are you left with that's uniquely Christian, though? Is it reasonable to say that Christianity is necessarily the root of Western moral codes, or is it simply a particular embodiment of a set of codes that almost inevitably arises? I tend to think that we westerners give too much credit to Christianity for moral codes that, by all appearances, other cultures have managed to arrive at without any input from Jesus.
  • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:48PM (#18231976)
    the concept of God is entirely implausible

    Why? How is God more implausible than Pluto? Or string theory?

    evolution is a fact

    a) Why?
    b) More of a fact tham, oh, Newtonian mechanics?
    c) What the hell (no pun intended) does this have to do with the existence of God?

    As a matter of fact, If my God weren't powerful and smart enough to be able to design a system as elegant as evolution that would eventually result in the creation of advanced species, and instead had to brute-force the design of every single species, even though a lot of them are obviously very similar and would benefit from the ability to adapt, I would have real problems calling Him omniscient and omnipotent.
  • Re:Hmm, so... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ClaraBow ( 212734 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:06PM (#18232128)
    I would think that if you believed in God you would want to go to him as soon as possible. So why would one fight death? Wouldn't death bring us to our God and heaven? I just don't get it. I bet the soldiers who survived had some woman or man waiting at home for them. Thinking about getting laid is what kept them going!
  • Re:This is why... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VidEdit ( 703021 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:08PM (#18232154)
    "So if agnosticism and atheism are both untenable, what's left?"

    You've mis-summarized my point. I said that " 'true' agnosticism is as untenable as absolutist, positive atheism." The difference hinges on the absoluteness of the two qualified positions I laid out. "'true' agnosticism" would be the "we can never know anything for sure" position and "absolutist, positive atheism" would be the "it's physically impossible for any kind of god whatsoever to exist" position. Both extremes are untenable.

    In everyday life and in science when something is sufficiently proven it becomes a "fact" and we accept it as true until proven otherwise rather than say "until we can prove that we know all there is to know, I will remain curious, but nothing more." We will never "know all there is to know" and to withhold judgement until then is a silly solipsistic position which isn't practical, or, I think, reasonable or valid.

    So, I think one can take the strong atheist position and say that there is no reasonable, scientific reason to believe in the existence of the god of Christianity--and to say that absent such reason it is reasonable to say such a god doesn't exist. Someday, incontrovertible evidence could prove such a position wrong but one does not need to consider the question an open one in the meantime.

    Keeping an open mind can mean being able to change it, not pretending their are no facts in the world and that everything, including the question of god and if the world is real, is an open question. The absolutist "agnostic" position eventually becomes the solipsistic one when taken to its logical conclusion.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:30PM (#18232328)

    Saying "agnostic" is a cop-out, and not really an answer.
    I'm holding up a sign that either says "foo" or "bar." Which is it?
    And saying you don't know is a cop-out, and not really an answer.
  • Re:Hmm, so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:33PM (#18232362)

    That would be more of a description of an agnostic. Atheists believe in a lack of supreme being, without any prove that that being doesn't exist.

    No, not quite but still a very common error among religious folk.
    As someone or another has for a sig around here:

    "Atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby."
  • by the_REAL_sam ( 670858 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:42PM (#18232428) Journal
    hubris /hyubrs, hu-/
    Pronunciation[hyoo-bris, hoo-]
    -noun excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.

    "Eventually the geneticist's hubris became evident."

    it would make sense for God to give us a innate tendency to believe in Him

    You're right, it WOULD. But that does not explain why he would leave the remaining 8% in the cold. Nor does it account for people who switch from atheist to religious, or vice versa. It also fails to explain why some religions are mutually exclusive. (A person who keeps the 10 Commandments, for instance, cannot be a hindu or a buddist, since the first commandment rules out worshipping any other gods, and those religions are polytheistic.)

    Back to the argument about atheists who convert, are they claiming that the very genes of such people have changed?

    To carry the examination further, the hypothesis does not explain why the LORD would predetermine the absence of faith, and then punish those who were deprived of the "faith gene".

    I think it is flawed to claim that human free will, in particular where matters of the spirit are concerned, is 100% subject to material constraints. (i.e. protein, tissue and DNA) Perhaps the material (the DNA) is subject to SPIRITUAL constraints. That would really get some people thinking, now, wouldn't it.

    I would be deeply surprised if the experimenters had taken the time (or given the consideration) to examine the DNA of people BEFORE and AFTER they had converted from atheist to religious (or vice versa).

    To claim that religion/non-religion boils down to genetics merely makes excuses for those who don't believe, and it also makes excuses for those who don't help the ones who don't believe.

    The sins of atheists are still sins, and the silence of believers is still silence. If you know there's a person who goes every day without prayer, and rather than saying "it's in their genes, forget about it", it is better to say "there are atheists who have converted; I will talk to them; I will pray for them."

  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Da_Weasel ( 458921 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @10:06PM (#18232638)
    Religion has served it's purpose. It was required during the formation of early civilizations. It was something more powerful than all of us and kept everyone from killing each other. Now (and for the last couple of thousand years) it is instead the reason we kill each other. It gives us false hope, breeds ignorance, and divides us. It tells us that we should believe things without reason. It discourages us from testing those beliefs. It is the antithesis of progress.

    I am not hardwired to believe anything. My beliefs are shaped by my experiences, and observations. I gather evidence, and attempt to be rational when knowledge allows. Through observations of the world around me I have come to the conclusion that mankind is not a creation of god, but god is a creation of mankind. I DO NOT believe your fairy tales. I DO NOT fear your hell. I WILL NOT suffer your god's wrath. I WILL NOT fall prey to ignorance.
  • by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @10:32PM (#18232882)
    So does Acid from what I hear (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide).
  • by Copid ( 137416 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @10:38PM (#18232934)

    I guess my point is, your post had a tone of "What has religion done for me?". I was pointing out something large and obvious.
    Well, it wasn't originally my post, but let me try to make my position clear. I think that people adopting a moral code imposed upon them by an arbitrary and (probably) imaginary external entity is a crap shoot at best. There's no good reason to think that religiosity or following religious teachings necessarily leads to moral behavior any more than flipping a coin to determine one's behavior. There are times when it works out just fine and there are times when it turns out to be an unmitigated disaster. I don't think that religion is necessarily evil, but it certainly is adding an arbitrary element ("The Will Of God") into what should otherwise be a rational and considered process: determining how we should behave.

    A particular religion is often painted as the only source for morality (substitute your own locally popular religion--in the case of me as an American, it's Christianity) when it appears that cultures all over the world have ended up coming up with large overlaps in their moral codes, indicating that we don't really owe that to religion so much as necessity as social beings. I don't think that "Keep Holy the Sabbath" is necessarily something I should be thankful for--at least not in the same sense as I'm thankful for the idea that most people aren't interested in murdering me. Really, I think that Christianity was in the right place at the right time to get credit for Western moral values, and that fact is causing us a lot of heartburn. How many people are so confused about morality that they think that anybody who doesn't share their religious traditions can't possible be a moral being?

    I think that religion in general gets way too much play as The Source of Morality. Listening to the whims of an unmeasurable invisible entity, while often having great results, isn't necessarily the safest way to build a moral code. Sure it's all good and fine when your deity says "Don't steal that guy's stuff" but what about when that deity starts asking for virgin sacrifices or the extermination of the left-handed? When social moral codes are imposed arbitrarily without an opportunity for discussion (at least, not beyond, "Ahhh! Please don't burn me at the stake!"), you're seriously rolling the dice.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by starm_ ( 573321 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:26PM (#18233296)
    That is the biggest problem with religion, it's used all the time as an excuse for immoral acts. It's so ironic considering that their main recruting strategy is to appeal to morality by saying that if we believe we should not steal, we should not kill, we should be nice with others, it means we are a one of them. This is utter bullshit having a sense of community, ethics and morality is quite natural and totally independent of your faith. More often than not, religions end up circumventing rational morality, sometimes in very gruesome ways, instead of making people more ethical.
  • by Brad1138 ( 590148 ) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:56PM (#18233480)
    Is that they are brainwashed to do so nearly from birth. People who don't grow up in religious homes can look at objectively and imo see what a load of crap it is. That being said, I believe church is a good source of "community" and support structure.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shitdrummer ( 523404 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:08AM (#18233586)
    I think religion came about because of humanity's need to find explanation for everything. When presented with a question that we don't have an answer to, humans are more likely to make up an answer using their existing knowledge rather than say they don't know. Not everyone of course, but most people. An example from the past: What causes lightening and thunder? Well nothing I know of can create those sorts of things, it must be the Gods making it. No doubt some people would provide the same answer today, but we now know the real causes of lightening and thunder and the answer is not as mystical as was previously thought.

    This can be evidenced by the pre-curser (or original, can't remember exactly) to Judaism where they believed in Yahwey and Yahwee (spelling?), the Male and Female gods. The theory went that all living things come in either male or female varieties. It requires a male and a female of any species to create life, so if God(s) created life they there must be both a male and female God.

    So I don't think we are hard wired to believe in a Deity, otherwise I've been wired wrongly for a long time. I think it's more our desire to seek an explanation for everything we question, our general failure to admit not having all the answers, our imagination, and attempts at logical reasoning using limited knowledge.

  • by barakn ( 641218 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:26AM (#18233712)
    I find the "Magic Box" demonstration uncompelling. Scott Atran, the perpetrator of the demonstration seems unwilling to think outside of the box, so to speak. Perhaps the individuals harboring "negative sentiments toward religion" are reluctant to place personal possessions or body parts into the box not because they secretly believe the superstitious claptrap they've just been told, but because they now suspect the crazy person who just told them that nonsense to have boobytrapped the box. The answer to the article's question "If they don't believe in God, what exactly are they afraid of?" is that they are afraid of Scott Atran.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <slashdot@castlesteelst o n e .us> on Monday March 05, 2007 @01:13AM (#18234004) Homepage Journal
    When you look to other religions and say "that's ridiculous" at the idea of a wine god or a god with the head of an elephant or spirits and ferries or Zeus or Thor wielding his hammer, have you ever considered one thing.... is your religion any less ridiculous????

    Yes. And there are two facts you're essentially ignoring.

    1: The "religions" that believe in a dedicated god of wine, or the furies, or Thor and Zeus, all died out long ago. So long, in fact, that that the best record we have of them is the written account of Christian Missionaries and Scholars who had little cause to seriously study them. (The Greeks and Romans are slightly better than the rest, but our best grasp of their pre-Christian religion is colored by what might be intentional myths.)

    2: Most of the extant modern religions have a basic theology that is essentially compatible. Where they differ are on a relatively small number of specifics -- is the Almighty humanlike, or divine and unknowing? Are we supposed to live in this world, or try and escape it, or suffer here until we prove ourself? Is sex a good idea or a really good idea? (The former Pope and the Dali Lama -- two of the most different religions we have -- were known to meet and find as much they agreed on as they disagreed on.)

    No one at all should be surprised to find similarites between religions. If there is truth in religion, there is one single objective truth, not half a dozen different mini-truths. If religion is just a myth, then it's a myth likely shared by those who believed it to be true, and even with telephone-style mutations it should still be similar after only a few thousand years.

    I don't think that anybody's religion is absurd; I think that absurdities are introduced into religion by those who wish to pervert religion for their own ends.
  • by askegg ( 599634 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @01:24AM (#18234106)
    Not having an explanation is not a good basis to say "Well then, it must be God."

    The title of that article should read '13 things science hasn't been able to explain, yet...' and many of the digg comments point this out as well. Science is the search for the *truth* and along the way there will be many things we will not fully understand. Only by constant questions, hypothesis, experimentation evidence and logic will we discover the ways of the universe. Religion subverts the process and configures the "I don't know and nobody can explain it, so God must have done it" trap that you have fallen into.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @01:52AM (#18234320)
    Sorry, that doesn't work. No reasonable and informed person would ever choose hell.

    I think you underestimate people's capacity to be stubborn and wrong-headed. People will knowingly do stupid things just so they won't have to back down, or admit they were wrong. It's exactly the same sort of arrogance C. S. Lewis was talking about.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @02:19AM (#18234480)
    You claim it's arrogance, but I'm not buying it. Take me for instance, I was raised as a true believe in a fundamentalist Baptist church. If I was arrogant and stubborn I would still be believing what I believed when I was a teen. Instead I have slowly been won over by the arguments that the Bible is not infallible and God is probably just a myth. BTW, that change in belief happened very begrudgingly at first, so you may be right. Maybe I was pretty stubborn as a Baptist.

    To me none believers seem much more like people using their god given judgment the best they can given the lack of evidence as opposed to the stubborn arrogant gits you are implying. Admit it, if there is a god he sure doesn't make his existence obvious, does he? If he made all the stars, how hard would it have been to put up a few that spelled out "believe in me or go to hell", or how about making a monthly appearance in the skies over Israel reminding his chosen people of their covenant? Yet he does none of these things, so if anyone happens to have doubts about his existence maybe it's not stubbornness or wrongheadedness, maybe it's just a best effort at making sense of the world.
  • by arminw ( 717974 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @02:23AM (#18234498)
    .....Perhaps the material (the DNA) is subject to SPIRITUAL constraints...

    The DNA is a carrier of information in the same way a disk is. The DNA is equivalent to the hardware and the information it stores is the software. Each of us is a software program executing in a hardware body. The former can exist on its own, but requires the latter to become manifest. Software is not physical. Neither is our soul, spirit or mind, whatever you want to call it, made from matter. Jesus tell us that God is Spirit. According to scripture, we too are living spirits, currently executing in mortal hardware. The promise is that one day that software, the real person will get loaded into immortal hardware, commensurate with our now already eternal spirit. The choice we have now is whether we will be with God or away from Him.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @02:28AM (#18234532)
    Ahh, so one reminder seven thousand years ago in a document in an obscure language is sufficient notice when the fate of someones eternal soul is on the line? I think an almighty god could try a little bit harder if he really cared about his children.

    And you're extension to the analogy doesn't make sense either since god doesn't pick up all the none believers after they die give them a stern talking to and drop them off at heaven, does he? Well, maybe he does but that isn't Christianity.
  • by Traf-O-Data-Hater ( 858971 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @02:42AM (#18234610)
    "If the Bible proves the existence of God then Superman comics prove the existence of Superman".
  • Re:there is No god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2007 @03:39AM (#18234878)
    I couldn't help but chuckle a little at the closed-mindedness of your post. The reason this debate has been going on for thousands of years is that no one knows for sure.

    How is you swearing up and down that having religion equates to ignorance any different from a bible-thumping redneck swearing that evolution is a sham?

    The big question is: what if? There could be a God, there could be seven, there could be millions, one for each grain of sand. Regardless of your personal beliefs, there is no way to know for sure.

    No matter how loudly you might say it.

  • not even close (Score:5, Insightful)

    by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @03:59AM (#18234934)

    Atheists believe in a lack of supreme being, without any prove that that being doesn't exist.
    Then by your definition (which I don't share) I am indeed an agnostic. I'm agnostic about God to the same way I'm agnostic about the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, and magic elves. I don't have any proof they don't exist, but I'm just going to go out on a limb and say it's silly to believe in them.

    Your definition is artificially structured to make atheists look like they're making claims of omniscience. When we hear someone say "I don't believe in ghosts|reincarnation|ESP|alien abduction|bigfoot," we know darned good and well that they aren't saying, "I know everything, and I can conclusively say that these things do not exist anywhere in the universe." We KNOW they aren't laying claims to omniscience. We KNOW what they're saying is "I don't see any credible reason to believe in any of these things." I know it, you know it, everyone knows it.

    But if you put the God word into it, suddenly people like you want to leap out and say "Aha! Atheists are arrogant because they think they know everything!" You using juvenile and absurd arguments doesn't make me arrogant, sorry. I don't believe in God in the same way I don't believe in Santa or faeries, or Thor or Shiva. I don't claim to know everything, but I can say "I don't believe in God" without magically becoming arrogant and closed-minded. Stop trying to shift the burden of evidence to me.

  • Re:there is No god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogjobber ( 880402 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @03:59AM (#18234936)
    it's always been interesting to me the number of religions which develop independently across different cultures and which seem to have similar themes. Generally there is a creator or creators and good forces as well as bad. Religions with a single God usually have other characters, such as patron saints or legends of profits, to make it more interesting. The creator or gods or spirits are often "above" looking "down" from heaven, the sky, the sun, Mount Olympus. There is often a Hell or "underworld" and it, conversely, is often bellow. Sacrifices are common across cultures, as are ordained priests or priestesses and temples or churches which are filled with ornate objects to honor the deity.

    I would challenge that many of the similarities you describe didn't, in fact, develop independently. It can at least partially be explained by cultural exchange. For example, our (Western, Christian) image of God as the old white-haired powerful guy and our idea of hell owe a lot to the Greeks. The belief and worship of saints in Christianity can be attributed to polytheistic beliefs that existed before Christianity and were adapted. There are a lot of examples of this. There has always been a high amount of cultural exchange between different societies, even millennia ago. When you compare cultures that had little if any contact with the Eurasia/Africa landmass you see more dramatic differences in beliefs. I do believe you are correct that the different beliefs serve the same needs, however.

  • by rve ( 4436 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:02AM (#18234948)

    Humans are a social species. A person who is alone, not part of a tribe, has no chance to reproduce, and even very little chance of surviving very long.

    For hundreds of thousands of years, not to worship the right God in the right way has caused people to become social outcasts at best, but more likely stoned, burned or bludgeoned to death. To be a fitting member of one's tribe and to worship in the same way as the majority of that tribe has usually protected an individual against such a threat to their reproductive success.
  • by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:31AM (#18235088)

    The Humanist ethics considered the norm in Western Countries are the direct outgrowth of Christian morals.

    There are plenty of other morals to choose from. Choose them if you want to be free of Christian taint.
    Are you suggesting that people only had morality after Jesus? The Greeks and Romans (and Jews and Chinese and Persians and so on) didn't love their kids, cherish their spouses, honor their parents, and have general feelings and observances about right and wrong? The Iliad is older than the Bible, and I remember some morality in there. Didn't Plato touch on this a time or two? "Treat others as you would be treated" predates Christianity by several hundred years. Are you really trying to claim the very existence of morality for your religion?

    Even the "humanist" ethics came from a rediscovery of the Greeks and Romans (i.e. the classical world), which predated Christianity.

    And all your holidays are pagan. Christmas, Easter, the whole bit. The virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection after three days, and other details all existed in religions older than Christianity. So I guess you have to choose something other than Christianity if you want to be free of pagan taint.

    If you want to think you're going to heaven and I'm going to burn, fine, but stop thinking that Christianity sprang up as a completely new belief system when Jesus came along. You didn't exactly invent much, just killed off all the competition once you got the government on your side.

    As far as I'm concerned, Christianity has actually harmed morality. Many Christians believe that you are saved not by works, but by faith. So whether or not you "walk with God" depends not on whether or not you help the poor, show kindness, or are decent, but purely on whether you have accepted Jesus as your savior. Being decent in my book is linked to what you DO, not what you BELIEVE. I don't care if you talk to Jesus and He loves you. I care if you're honest, decent, compassionate, humble, and so on. But to many Christians, those are incidental, and the real issue is whether or not you have accepted Jesus. I hate when evangelicals come to my door, because they just ask "have you accepted Jesus?" If someone asked "do you want to go work at a homeless shelter with me this weekend?" I might respect their religion a bit. But I've never, ever been asked anything by an evangelical that relates to anything other than doctrine. They're just trying to get to heaven, and that isn't a very elevated ethic. It's inherently selfish.

    You want to know what nauseates me? In the movie Passion of the Christ, that table where Jesus was scourged was heavily gouged and blood-soaked, and the men whipping him were casual about it, meaning they did this all the time. This was their JOB--people made a living doing this. What made me cry (yes I cried) was this casual, commonplace cruelty of man towards man--that this is how we treat each other, and that this is acceptable behavior, by which you can even make a living. It's that normal. But not one Christian I've spoken to even noticed this scene. When I asked them, they were puzzled, and had to think about it for a bit before they could even recall this detail. ALL THEY CARED ABOUT was that Jesus suffered and died FOR THEM. That this suffering and dying was commonplace, that others were scourged and crucified that day, meant nothing to them. Yeah, Christians are moral. If you're saving THEIR butt from the fire, they'll shed a tear and sing your praises. Otherwise, it's beneath notice.

  • by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:41AM (#18235122) Homepage
    I'd believe it if similar gene pools showed the same breakdown - here in NZ it's more 50-50

    Good point. That is one objection to the "Humans are hardwired to believe in a supernatural deity" theory.

    Another is that 'supernatural deity' shows cultural bias. There are plenty of people who do not believe in a deity, they believe in deities. Or in spirits, or the forces of nature, etc. So certainly the belief in a 'deity' isn't inborn.

    Perhaps the belief in the supernatural, then? But that too is a cultural construct. The division of the natural from the supernatural is a fairly modern western invention (Enlightenment onward, if I am not mistaken). To (say) spirit-worshipers, there is nothing 'supernatural' about spirits, they are perfectly natural.

    Really the only thing we can say is that most people believe in things that are not scientifically provable. But that says nothing. Science is fairly recent, so it makes perfect sense that many people would believe in things that are not provable by science, if only because they have not even been exposed to it. More interesting are people that have been exposed to science, and also believe in other things. This is perhaps the best issue to consider in the entire matter, and an interesting one (I won't waste space by writing my own speculations here).
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jacksonj04 ( 800021 ) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Monday March 05, 2007 @05:30AM (#18235328) Homepage
    The most devout believers I know regularly question their faith and give it a test, and my local vicar (Anglican), minister (Methodist) and rabbi (Jewish, evidently) say that blind faith is useless because you don't know what you're believing in unless you've proven it to yourself.

    Rationality and religion aren't mutually exclusive - take creation for example. The evidence points towards some form of Big Bang, but there's nothing to explain how a universe worth of matter suddenly popped into being, although physicists have been trying. Lets call this unknown thing 'God'. Now, lets take a piece of scripture such as Genesis. Six days of creation... The six 'days' are very close to the actual order of events, and if you had to explain the creation of the galaxy and all things in it to pre-Roman humans would you really be happy trying to explain the concept of astromechanics, biochemistry and evolution? Nah, much easier to explain it in terms of days. People understand those.

    Evolution next - perhaps simply throwing together a load of matter and nudging it gently (See chaos theory - what we perceive as chaotic may actually be slightly more directed than it appears) is the easiest way to build life. Also note that nowhere in theBbible does it explicitly state that mankind is the only thing in existence, it only says God created man. It never says "And the LORD thought this was enough, so signed off for the day and didn't do any more life".

    You may as well believe - if religion is right then you get a place in the afterlife. If not, by your own argument, what have you lost?

    Yes, I'm being devil's advocate here. But don't assume that you're always right because the evidence points that way. After all, we *knew* the earth was flat until we took a better look at it, and we *knew* illness was caused by bad smells until somebody thought to perfect the microscope. Have a read of "Science of Discworld II" by Terry Pratchett if you can find a copy - it takes a good look at why mankind surrounds itself with stories and gods (Amongst other things).
  • by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:07AM (#18235508)
    For a while now, i've been entertaining the theory that religion is at it's core a refuge from complexity.

    Basically, the world is a complex place:
    - Nature is infinitly varied.
    - Human societies are complicated, semi-chaotic systems.
    - Many life changing events (for example, accidents) result in one outcome or another based quite a lot on luck.

    The harder it is for someone to intelectually concieve and/or emocionally accept that the seemingly complex can grow from quasi-infinite combinations of the simple, the more likelly it is that said person will be overwelmend by the complexity of the results.

    Many people feel powerless and overwelmed by all this. Most of those cannot bring themselfs to live life as a small boat in the middle of a big storm.

    Those are the ones more likelly to believe in a Deity or Pantheon. The belief in the mere exitence in this higher Being(s) gives confort because He/She/They give logic to the complexites of the world ("it is the will of $Deity") thus providing a form of emotional shelter. A Belief also gives a sense of purpose and, when shared with others, can create a comunity of individuals which support each other. Life is simpler if there is a "Greater Truth" which us simple mortals cannot comprehend.

    Hence believers find shelter from the storms of life in the arms of a shared belief on a "Higher Purpose" which acts as a guiding light and an "All knowing, all powerfull $Deity(ies)" which is responsible for making things as they are.

    [PS: I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to fit the emotional shock of the death of a loved one or the fear of death in this theory]
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:54AM (#18235666)

    One belief that C.S. Lewis espoused was that one can only go to Hell if one, in fact, chooses to. Since (to Christians) God is the source of all goodness, if you choose to isolate yourself from God you isolate yourself from all that is good and pure. He phrased it something like this: "There are two kinds of people in this world - those who tell God 'Thy will be done,' and those who God tells 'Thy will be done.' The gates of hell are locked from *the inside*." People who end up in Hell choose to consign themselves to the outer darkness of non-entity rather than submit themselves to God.

    Just about all religions state that if you don't believe in their Deity you won't get to their version of Heaven (consignation to a Hell or Purgatory is optional) independently of you being a righteous person that lived a good life and never hurt a fly (i reckon Mother Teresa has a 90% change of ending in some kind of hell or other).

    So, just out of curiosity, me being a non-believer (agnostic, please do not confuse with anti-religion: atheist) and thus undecided, please tell me which Deity is the right one to belief in. If applicable, don't forget to include the specific profets i'm supposed to believe in (for example Islamism, Judaism and Cristianism are all born from the same original religion but differ in their profets) and which is the right version of the sacred book(s) i should read and the correct language to read them in.

    Also please let me know what kind of Deity condemns good and fair people to eternal damnation simply because they happen to not believe in that Deity (with a weak argument as "it's your fault for not believing in me"), and why should i follow such a selfish and unfair Deity.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2007 @08:09AM (#18235906)
    I'm sick of this "Hell is a separation from god" line that Christians have been using more and more.
    Hell is vividly described in the bible as a place of torture and pain.
    This whole pick and choose method of belief annoys the hell (sorry) out of me.
    Either you believe that the Bible is the word of God and follow every rule...
      or if you feel like ignoring some bits why not ignore the whole thing?
  • Absolutely not. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2007 @08:29AM (#18236034)
    While 92% of americans believe in a personal God, the situation is almost the complete opposite in countries like Sweden.

    So the basic premise is flawed. This is not a universal trait, but a cultural one.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bloke down the pub ( 861787 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @08:58AM (#18236172)

    blind faith is useless because you don't know what you're believing in unless you've proven it to yourself.
    I though that proof denies faith [wikipedia.org]. Be careful crossing the road, folks.
  • by Dekortage ( 697532 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @09:35AM (#18236444) Homepage

    Faith, however, requires belief without evidence and is considered by many religious people to be a virtue. This undermines inquiring into knowing. I am not suggesting this is your view, or the norm, but religion encourages it...

    I'd agree that most organized religion encourages inquiries, because most leaders in organized religion have become trapped in the business of faith. Personally I think the idea of critical thinking comes through pretty clearly in Scripture. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day, and I'm convinced he has the same opinion of 21st-century religious leaders. True religion is not in a place or a denomination (a concept which frankly amounts to a "sect," decried quite strongly in the epistles) but moral life, love of fellow man, and a constant testing of the world around you. I don't trust a religious leader any more than I trust a noted scientist: hear what they say, read/hear what others are saying on the topic, and think about it carefully.

    Both pop religion and pop science offer people routes to mental complacency. In both cases, the average adopter believes they don't need to think further about what they've heard: they've just had the truth explained to them, and their cognitive responsibilities end there.

  • Re:there is No god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by God'sDuck ( 837829 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @10:02AM (#18236692)
    I dunno...most of texts of the Old Testament say, in a nutshell, "work with me and I'll bless you, don't work with me and I'll curse you."

    Harsh as that seems on the surface to many modern minds (rules are t3h 3vil!), isn't that sort of the basic principle of all governance? Pay your dues and get, say, highways and Social Security, ignore your taxes and get a jail sentence?
  • Re:there is No god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ACE209 ( 1067276 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @10:11AM (#18236774)
    thx for the Dawkins quote. That'll be my new sig.

    Anyway this discussion about god does lead us nowhere.
    One day we all see (or not) if it exists.

    I'm just a little bit afraid of religion - not because of the gods but because of what the humans use 'em for.

    I was raised with the stories of Jesus Christ - and it doesn't matter if those stories where made up or even if there's a god or not - they just show a good example of living in peace with each other. Why can't christianity be about that?
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @10:23AM (#18236876) Journal
    The big question is: what if? There could be a God, there could be seven, there could be millions, one for each grain of sand. Regardless of your personal beliefs, there is no way to know for sure.

    I don't see that what you say is relevant to the post you replied to, indeed, it backs it up - that we don't know for sure is all the more reason why we shouldn't be putting so much faith and power into religion.

    Religion is not "what if", and the OP did not suggest that philosophy on "what if" was wrong - the problem is that religion is "This is true and anything else is wrong".

    Note, the post was attacking religion, and not saying that there doesn't exist a god. And the claim was that religion breeds ignorance - whether or not a particular religious claim might coincidentally be true or not is beside the point; the claim is that people are led to believe things "because some book said so", and disregard processes such as evidence and reason.
  • by Peter La Casse ( 3992 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @11:48AM (#18237806)

    As far as science can tell, religion is absolutely false.

    Not true: the domain of science is the natural, and the domain of religion is the supernatural. Science doesn't make claims about things outside of its domain (though scientists, being fallible, sometimes do).

  • by Fastolfe ( 1470 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:06PM (#18238026)

    I hate when evangelicals come to my door, because they just ask "have you accepted Jesus?" If someone asked "do you want to go work at a homeless shelter with me this weekend?" I might respect their religion a bit.

    What an interesting thought. My experiences are exactly the same. Someone walks up to my door and asks me that very question. I want to tell them to fuck off and stop trying to infect others with their religion, but I'm polite about it, accept whatever they're thrusting into my hand, and drop it into the recycling bag.

    But if someone came up to my door and said, instead, "We're from XYZ church down the street and we're trying to get some people to help with ABC event. The event is not associated with our church or any religion; we're just out here trying to get some people in our community together to help out," I would actually seriously consider doing it. I love the area that I live in, and spending an hour or two of my weekend improve that actually does appeal to me.

    Why don't we ever see this?

  • by Copid ( 137416 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @01:22PM (#18239182)

    As a form of directing the populace, it's pretty hard to disagree with.
    Well, that's a big part of the point. Religion is absolutely one of the most effective ways of getting a populace to do what you want it to. History shows that the question of whether or not those actions are moral or right, though, is a completely orthogonal matter.
  • Re:there is No god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by God'sDuck ( 837829 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @02:50PM (#18240444)
    History as it is, I wouldn't call giving humans religious leanings a mistake -- atheist cultures have, thus far, been just as bloody as theistic ones. We just happen to be in a generation where the "global threat to peace" is religious, as opposed to the last, when it was political. And banning Christianity or the like today wouldn't help any more than banning capitalism would have before. It's the ideologues what are the problem, not their ideas.

    That said -- I agree that theologians are silly to disregard findings like this. The findings have no bearing as to whether any given religion is true -- the idea that the religion grew out of an evolutionary mechanism is no more intrinsically valid than the idea that the evolutionary response was selected for by the object (deity) of the religion.
  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @06:03PM (#18243038) Homepage
    It's kind of ironic to bemoan the flawed sample reference and then go on to make other unfounded self-serving conjectures, don't you think?

    Not ironic, and not unfounded. US education is well documented as declining relative to other 1st world nations, and in a disturbingly often not doing so hot relative to 2nd and 3rd world education systems. There is also a strong well documented inverse correlation between education and religiosity.

    I go to a quite rigorous science and technology school and the general populace is more staunchly Christian (and, more broadly, religious) than I remember high school being. How can you correlate low U.S. education to religious belief when those who are highly educated are also religious?

    A Harvard study found the correlation between education and religious attendance to be an astounding negative 86 percent. There are probably a hundred other studies showing basically the same thing. Whether you measure by church attendance or self reported degree of religious devotion, or any other plausible measure of religiosity, there is an extremely strong negative correlation between education and religion. That is a simple statistical fact.

    The fact that there *exist* atheist elementary school dropouts and that there *exist* extremely religious PhDs does not invalidate the extremely strong negative correlation between religion and education. Citing one particular staunchly Christian technology school does not invalidate that negative correlation. It is obviously not a 100% absolute relationship between education and religion, but 86% is enormous.

    That correlation is one of the main reasons many strong Conservatives are anti-education and anti-college. Of course they will generally yell and scream that they are not "anti-education", they will blame it on the conspiracy of "liberal professors" or whatnot. Bright college bound kids tend to be less religious to start with, and then they generally come back from college even less religious than before. This is deeply disturbing to deeply conservative communities... they see that their own kids and their neighbors' kids who have gone to college are not nearly as religious as they are. There is a significant and deeply destructive anti-education undercurrent among the strongly conservative community. It is an extremely unfortunate fact that they too often discourage their kids from going to college.

    I shouldn't need to say this, but I will just in case: I am obviously not saying all conservatives are anti-education. I said that there was a significant undercurrent of hostility among that community.

    I see you have a FreeRepublic link. I've spent some time there. Keep your eyes open there for a month or two, and I guarantee that you will see several independent comments that can not-unreasonably be cited as "education hostile".


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