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Analytic Thinking Can Decrease Religious Belief 1258

Freshly Exhumed writes "A new University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers. The study, which will appear in tomorrow's issue of Science (abstract), finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief among believers and skeptics alike, shedding important new light on the psychology of religious belief."
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Analytic Thinking Can Decrease Religious Belief

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  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:47AM (#39819367) Homepage Journal

    Not analytic thinking, just thinking should work
  • by Corporate Drone ( 316880 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:53AM (#39819429)

    Although I'd agree with you, I think it's necessary to point out that these aren't the normative beliefs of Christianity. As those assertions go, they're over-represented among Christians in the U.S., so it skews our sample set; but that doesn't mean that it's the definitive rebuttal of Christian belief.

    Just sayin'...

  • Re:Right, so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:54AM (#39819433)

    I guess it works on global warmers then.

    Well, if it works as suggested then it will cause those who believe in global warming purely because someone told them it was happening to go and look at the evidence and decide for themselves, in which case they'll keep their opinion intact but will have come to it by a more scientific approach. Win-win.

  • by krouic ( 460022 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:56AM (#39819463)

    Does it increase disbelief or decrease belief ?

  • by na1led ( 1030470 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:57AM (#39819469)
    Some of us are just Brain Washed into believing in things that don't make any sense. To me, it's more of a mental disorder.
  • by na1led ( 1030470 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:00AM (#39819511)
    But God and Religion are two different things. God could be interpreted many different ways, religion is a specific belief in ideas, most of which are obsolete non-sense, based on our understanding today.
  • by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:02AM (#39819533)

    Easy. Accept that the accounts in religious texts were written by people and subject to their scope of knowledge. If there was a group of people 6000 years ago who had only covered an area of a few hundred square miles in their lives, and that few hundred square miles flooded, they would write that the world flooded. Believing that the entire Earth did not flood in no way invalidates the text.

  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:02AM (#39819547)

    I think it's generally caused by indoctrination when they're very young, and it's very hard to break. I think societal pressure also adds to it a lot, but that's been decreasing.

  • by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:03AM (#39819553)

    If you're right, perhaps you could persuade the people who disagree with you by talking to them and using reason. But if you start the discussion by insulting them or the number of brain cells they have, do you really expect to get anywhere?

  • by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:03AM (#39819571)

    I think we should all go watch the south park episode about Mormons:

    Gary: [to Stan] Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life. and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that.

  • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:06AM (#39819605) Homepage Journal

    Even orthodox Jews don't take all the stories in the bible as literal. They study them as lessons to learn. Devout religious belief is about much more than taking the religion's documents literally.

  • by pikine ( 771084 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:10AM (#39819661) Journal

    These people who think they're wise and learned are actually pretty ignorant and close-minded. Even worse, they want others to be just like them, or to respect their position so they can keep enjoying the prestige. When Jesus came to challenge the Pharisees (who are the teachers and law-keepers among the Jews) about their inconsistent moral standard, the Pharisees hung Jesus on the cross through the hands of Pontius Pilate.

    Never let a blind person lead another blind, lest both of them fall into a pit.

    If you're against Christian teaching and you think you're an analytic thinker, I challenge you find out what's wrong about the content of the bible and find an convincing argument why people who believe in Christ are doing it in vein. If you want to show that the bible is made up, or its text is corrupt, I'm going to put you through scientific method process and axiomatic logic reasoning to establish your case.

  • Re:really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:11AM (#39819673) Journal

    Duh is right. Considering that belief is the opposite of thinking, they would have to be negatively correlated.

  • by lattyware ( 934246 ) <> on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:15AM (#39819719) Homepage Journal
    Oh, give it a break. That's one of the weakest arguments out there. Yes, Newton and Einstein were smart guys - smart guys can still be wrong.
  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:16AM (#39819735)
    You might as well say that we should throw out the junk science from Harry Potter. Neither collection of stories represents a science textbook, the only difference is that large numbers of people think that the bible is an accurate record of the history of the world, whereas nobody above the age of five thinks that Harry Potter is real.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:17AM (#39819743)

    This. I've always thought religion was a wonderful thing until you get people involved with it. There are plenty of small churches who do wonderful things for both their parishioners and the community, but you never hear about those churches. You only hear of the giant mega churches constantly asking for money and influencing politics for their own gain by spewing hatred for all those who don't follow in their footsteps. Those are the stains that have plagued religions since their inception.

    I'm currently very anti organized religion, but feel I have to get past what I see on the news and realize the vast majority of churches are good, just not attention whores.

    I still believe in a God though. A neat saying I've latched onto is, "religions are looking at the same thing through different windows." I believe the stories in the bible are just that, stories to make a point.

  • by Keyslapper ( 852034 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:18AM (#39819763)
    Let's be clear, it's not just "thinking" that started religion, it's uninformed, ignorant thinking that started religion in the first place, and willfully arrogant, uninformed, ignorant thinking that kept it going for so long.

    Logical and analytical thinking is putting an end to religion, and it's about bloody (literally) time.

    And no, it is not a gift to be simple, it's just being simple. If you want to be the town idiot, you go right ahead, but anybody trying to learn from the town idiot is just trying to be another town idiot.

    Not trying to draw the flamers, just posting my view.
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:22AM (#39819801) Homepage Journal

    Actually the article seemed rational and logical to me, and I'm a Christian. This paragraph especially:

    The findings, Gervais says, are based on a longstanding human psychology model of two distinct, but related cognitive systems to process information: an âoeintuitiveâ system that relies on mental shortcuts to yield fast and efficient responses, and a more âoeanalyticâ system that yields more deliberate, reasoned responses.

    âoeOur study builds on previous research that links religious beliefs to âintuitiveâ(TM) thinking,â says study co-author and Associate Prof. Ara Norenzayan, UBC Dept. of Psychology. âoeOur findings suggest that activating the âanalyticâ(TM) cognitive system in the brain can undermine the âintuitiveâ(TM) support for religious belief, at least temporarily.â

    Anaylitic thinking isn't needed to tell your mother from your sister. They should study to see if athiests are lacking an intuitive thinking. As it notes, both kinds of thinking are useful.

    I'm not going to bother cleaning up the UTF errors, I wish /. coders would fix that.

  • Re:Right, so (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:22AM (#39819809)

    Actually this is all many of us 'deniers' would ask. If the global warming believers would go over the data themselves and reach their own conclusions based on their own thinking without relying on 'experts' I would have a lot more respect for them. Unfortunately many people tend to treat science as if it were a religion and just believe whatever the 'experts' say without doing any thinking for themselves. As Francis Bacon cautioned, I prefer to stick close to the data itself and view any conclusions based on that data with the greatest degree of skepticism. Even the data itself should be questioned.

  • by Ziekheid ( 1427027 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:24AM (#39819827)

    I suggest you do some reading on 'Occam's razor'. Also, the flying spaghetti monster is as plausible as the existance of the Christian God (or whatever religion for that matter).

  • Re:really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bondsbw ( 888959 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:26AM (#39819849)

    My non-scientific guess is that analytic thinking can decrease belief in anything you haven't analyzed. This doesn't just apply to religion. The same goes for politics, football teams, favorite programming languages, global warming, etc.

    As for religion, I'd bet the majority/vast majority really just believe whatever makes their parents or spouse or whoever happy, or whatever makes life easier. No wonder they drop it whenever they discover something that mildly contradicts their barely conceived ideas.

    I personally consider the possibility of God in light of discoveries related to quantum physics, relativity, evolution, math and statistics... I don't consider these to contradict the existence of God (since they strictly do not), but to explain how little we still know and to understand the tools God could use to work with.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:27AM (#39819861)

    If you're against Christian teaching and you think you're an analytic thinker, I challenge you find out what's wrong about the content of the bible and find an convincing argument why people who believe in Christ are doing it in vein. If you want to show that the bible is made up, or its text is corrupt, I'm going to put you through scientific method process and axiomatic logic reasoning to establish your case.

    Maybe you'll show us what you expect by working through examples with some of the religions that *you* reject.

  • by lattyware ( 934246 ) <> on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:28AM (#39819873) Homepage Journal
    Sure, it's on the table, but beleiving in it is insane. Why pretend you know what causes everything to exist when the reality is we just don't know? I'm an atheist because there is no reason to believe in any religion. When we don't know something, we don't make up an answer and believe in it whole-heartedly. We admit we don't know and try and figure it out.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:35AM (#39819975) Journal

    If you want to show that the bible is made up, or its text is corrupt, I'm going to put you through scientific method process and axiomatic logic reasoning to establish your case.

    The burden of proof is on you. Without any evidence that your book is not just another book of ancient mythology, why should we give it any more creedence than the works of Homer?

  • by Anonymous Meoward ( 665631 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:45AM (#39820127)

    Well, if you have to ask...

    I'm an atheist, and am actually a big fan of word of Jesus. The ideas were revolutionary for morality and ethics in the ancient world. Whether or not Jesus was diving, or even really existed, is unimportant in this respect.

    But, having said that, I'm afraid you can find all sorts of examples in the Bible that contradict each other, especially between the Old and New Testaments (e.g. stoning gays vs. loving one another). Not to mention the conflicting geneologies of Jesus in the gospels. (And I'm sure other posters will chime in soon with more examples.) Furthermore, biblical scholars worth their salt do not believe in the literal truth of the text, since it has been translated, edited, and redacted many times over. Much has been lost, forgotten, rejected (Gnostic gospels anyone?), or just plain ignored.

    Finally, my biggest complaint with Christians in general is that more often than not they themselves pick and choose which portions of the Bible are true. Just look at the anti-abortion types in the States who also want to cut back on Social Security or Medicare -- a position that is clearly not "pro-life", nor follows through with Jesus' adminitions to take care of the least fortunate. If you wish to use Jesus' teachings as the basis of your ethics, fine -- but either be consistent, or be prepared to be exposed as a hypocrite.

  • by saider ( 177166 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:46AM (#39820143)

    The burden of proof is not on me to prove your bible wrong, but for you to go through the "scientific method process and axiomatic logic reasoning to establish your case".

    Until you can do that, don't be surprised if the more scientifically minded do not accept your idea.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:50AM (#39820211) Homepage

    The world's first substitute for science you mean. Why does it rain? The rain god. Why does the sun rise? The sun god. What decides battles? The war god. What decides love? The love goddess. Saying "it's God" instead of "we don't know" is not science.

  • by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:54AM (#39820267)

    Then would the religious folks all go to hell?
    "all liars"

    If the scripture is false, then there is no hell to which they can go. If the scripture is true, then they are telling the truth.

  • Re:really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:57AM (#39820311)

    Duh is right. Considering that belief is the opposite of thinking, they would have to be negatively correlated.

    Just to play the fictitious Devil's Advocate: You must therefore understand everything about every currently accepted theory, as you seem to have no need to believe anything.

    We all have beliefs; some are just a little (or a lot) less plausible than others.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:57AM (#39820315) Journal

    The love of a mother is at least potentially falsifiable. Everything we know about the mind indicates that it is entirely comprised of patterns of neural activity in the brain. With sophisticated enough technology, it's entirely possible in principle to observe those patterns and determine whether love is being experienced.

    Or you could argue that emotions have no physical basis and that my mother could be a philosophical zombie []. This is entirely possible, but since it's empirically indistinguishable from "actual" love the distinction is meaningless. I don't actually care wihch is true, and I'm not even sure it's cromulent to assign a truth value to either.

  • Re:Right, so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guises ( 2423402 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:05AM (#39820403)
    Having considered the matter carefully, I've come to the conclusion that a person who has dedicated a large portion of their lives to the study of climate effects knows more about the subject than I do. In fact, on further reflection, I may have to admit that I am no longer an expert on everything in the way that I was during my teenage years.

    - a (former) convenience store clerk
  • Re:really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:06AM (#39820421) Journal

    I personally consider the possibility of God in light of discoveries related to quantum physics, relativity, evolution, math and statistics... I don't consider these to contradict the existence of God (since they strictly do not), but to explain how little we still know and to understand the tools God could use to work with.

    But, God is omnipotent right? He doesn't need tools.

    See how just a little thought about physics causes you to reject one of the most fundamental claims about God, his omnipotence.

  • Re:really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by teslar ( 706653 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:07AM (#39820435)

    belief is the opposite of thinking,

    Eh? That makes about as much sense as saying the view from my office is the opposite of a banana.

    Belief is the acceptance of something as true (sometimes even though there is no evidence for it). In general, I'd say that a lot of thinking underlies a belief since it has to make sense to those holding it. Of course, to some people, anything that some guy in a big hat (or some ancient book) says seems to make sense without further evaluation, but those are the exception rather than the rule.

    The opposite of thinking is what the guys who modded you insightful were doing.

  • Re:really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:07AM (#39820439)

    Unfortunately that is not correct. Analytic thinking is geared towards determining whether something is true or not, and belief is simply "holding a premise to be true" (thanks wikipedia for the concise definitions!). That is, belief flows from critical thinking.

    Lets examine this real fast: You (I am assuming) do not believe that religions have any merit. Presumably, you have some reasons or rationale for why you arrived at that conclusion. That is, you have a belief, because you had at some point (I hope) done some critical thinking, and your chain of reasoning resulted in a belief.

    Likewise, I have religious views. I have belief in certain things. I, too, have reasons for my faith, and have several reasons for why I hold them to be true.

    I suppose you may disagree with the definition of belief, but I think that that is a good one and if you disagree it would be easiest if you simply clarified your definitions.

  • Re:really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jiteo ( 964572 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:09AM (#39820483)
    There's a different between trust and faith. I trust scientists because I can go over their data and validate their conclusions. I could even (theoretically) perform the same experiments to see if I get the same data. Believing the Bible or my priest or my religious grandma requires blind faith, because there is no data to analyse, and there are no experiments to repeat.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:20AM (#39820625)

    how does zeus fit into this?

    because, there is as much evidence of zeus being god than your view of what god is.

    that's the thing that always made me wonder about religious believers: once you step outside your little belief circle and see others that have dramatically different ways - and they are VERY SURE that they are right, too; this should be the 'aha!' moment that puts doubt in your mind that your story is any more real than theirs.

    you don't believe in their gods. or theirs. or theirs. and they don't believe in yours. isn't this a wake-up call to you, in any way, shape or form?

    or, can you just brush off this bit of logic and still stick to your dogma, insisting fables can still be 'real' ?

  • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:34AM (#39820805) Homepage


    Let's say I'm going to run around the city and start randomly machine-gunning down kids whose parents don't wear a shirt that says "Zorin is awesome". I'd give plenty of warning to people to MAKE SURE THEY WEAR this shirt, then I'd carry out my threat.

    How does warning people I'm going to murder their for not doing something pointless and trivial make me any less of a murderer when I go around shooting kids in the streets for something ridiculous that their parents didn't do?

    This is basically the equivalent of what happened in biblical Egypt. It does not excuse the god in the bible from being a vengeful, murderous entity.

  • by CptNerd ( 455084 ) <> on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:35AM (#39820807) Homepage

    I'm a Christian, so if you need to instantly discount anything I have to say because of that, please go to the next article.

    The biggest problem I have with arguments about belief is the conflation in English of "truth" and "fact". Often times when someone says "truth" they're really meaning to say "fact", as in "actual, provable occurrence". Facts can be measured, scaled, repeated, seen, felt, sensed, etc. Truth and falsity are terms related to the judgements we apply to both facts and non-facts. It is a fact that repeated blows to the head will cause an individual to die. Truth is that beating someone to death is bad. A story can be told that contains no facts, in other words, complete fiction, but the content of the story can contain truths. Fact-fiction and true-false are orthogonal axes because they describe different aspects of our experiences. We tend to want to align "fact" with "true" and "fiction" with "false", but that's a simple way of looking at it. More thought, whether strictly analytical or otherwise, and more experience can reveal the truth as more nuanced.


    Anyway, if you bothered to read this after the first sentence, flame away. If you just skipped to this sentence without reading the middle, you just want to argue at a kindergarten level, you doody-head.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:42AM (#39820903) Homepage Journal

    would decrease belief in the methodology used in this study. Did anybody *read* the linked press release from UBC?

  • by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @10:43AM (#39820917)

    OK, but can we still blame God for hardening Pharaoh's heart? After all, if God hadn't made Ramses such a hard ass, maybe the Israelites would have been let go before the first born had to be killed.

    Exodus 11:10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

  • by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:04AM (#39821213)

    This comment is a perfect example of what this study is trying to show. You are a human, and are required to adhere to the "don't kill people" rule.

    The deity of a religion can do all sorts of stuff that may not make sense to you, and you don't analyze it if you have faith.

    If you have faith that the message is real, you will follow the instructions and save yourself. If you think to yourself, what silly people these are thinking blood above the door will protect them from an imaginary angel? You used analytic thinking rather than faith.

    Set aside your brain, believe in a deity for a minute, and accept that anything the deity does is for the best. I bet you will come to a different conclusion. Put your brain back in, and you will change your mind again. That's what the article is all about.

  • by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:11AM (#39821309) Homepage
    And that pure blood line back to Adam, well sure. But recall, that Cain went to Nod and found a wife there. And mitochondrial DNA is much easier to trace back. Because while we might get half our DNA from dad, we get the energy machinery from mom.

    And that brings up another point in Genesis. If it was just Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel, then how did Cain migrate to Nod? Were the 'other' people in Nod not part of God's little social experiment?
  • by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:27AM (#39821555)

    The researcher quoted is not saying that atheists will have more analysis than intuition. It is hinting at a possible link between religiousness and intuition, suggesting that intuition is more dominant in religious believers.

    That is completely different from intuition being missing from non-believers. Since the measurements have not been done (or at least not known to this person who was quoted), it could be possible to have far greater analytic than intuitive capacity, but suspend it long enough to maintain belief. And just as possible to have greater intuition, but fall back to analysis when given time to think about it.

    I won't belabor the point with extensive citations, but you can search for yourself how religion can enter the person into a meditative state. That is, if you decide to believe (or do so out of custom), you actually turn off your brain for a little while. The analytic portions don't have the opportunity to discard information, or detect contradictions. This allows for the sort of cognitive dissonance we see from time to time. When your religion sparks up, analysis may be shutting down.

    Also, you are an anecdote, you could be the statistical outlier. You could be the only intuitive atheist out there, and as soon as you say you know plenty others I can claim you may know every intuitive atheist that exists. Until this guy does more science it's all just typing.

  • by vAltyR ( 1783466 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:27AM (#39821557)

    They should study to see if athiests are lacking an intuitive thinking.

    I'd be interested in such a study as well, though I predict an opposite result. There is no evidence God does not exist, just as there is no evidence he does exist; therefore, atheism requires just as much faith as any other religion.

  • by hackula ( 2596247 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:34AM (#39821629)
    Giants, people living 200 years, zombies, magic, women-bashing, all the Gospels being written by people who never met Jesus, virgin birth, God being all powerful but unable to do things like forgive humanity without killing himself, God effectively killing himself but disagreeing with suicide, 6000 year old earth if you take it as literal, absolutely content-free rubbish if you do not, God supporting genocide, God killing babies, God telling a guy to burn his son alive but then saying "jk! you got punkd!", Jesus saying basically the same things most homeless guys say, Jesus calling himself God and saying that he is the holy humbleist of them all in the same sentence, the fact that the whole idea of Jesus was ripped off from other cultures like the Egyptians, 4 gospels that often contradict one another, Jesus tacitly supporting slavery by telling slaves to be good and obey their masters, God sending people to hell for their poor choices which he predestined them to make, God letting Satan use Job as a punching bag because of some weird bet, God being the perfect creator but having never created anything perfect, crazy laws like not being able to eat shrimp on pain of death, saying all men need to cut off part of their penis, God being jealous of imaginary gods, if the flood killed everyone except Noah and his family then Noah had to have thousands of children to reach known historical population levels fast enough, Noah built a boat by himself that could carry two of every land-dwelling species at once, the fact that if half these things happened in a fantasy novel you would think they were plot holes. Also, you are the one making the claim; you have the burden of proof! Please, this is pretty much Thinking 101. "For all of you that do not believe in unicorns, why don't you just prove it to me?"
  • by zildgulf ( 1116981 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:36AM (#39821663)
    If you mean logic eliminates God then that is wrong for if you acknowledge you own existence God must exist for God is the essence of the existence. However if the question is whether this God is in the Judeo-Christian form, Islamic form, and/or any other religion's view of him, the answer is "Yes/No/Maybe" for such views are manmade. It is what we can understand, not what it actually is. If someone what to ask me "is God this way or that way" my answer is Yes. God is more than we can understand just as the universe is more than we can understand.

    The problem with people that don't think analytically is that they tend to swallow whatever someone tells them. Analytical thought of God leads to uncertainty and uncertainty often leads to questioning and a loss of faith. But after that you might realize that what you know of God will always be uncertain and will need to be constantly questioned. Most people can't deal with the fact that all these questions lead to the conclusion of "we really don't know about this 'God/Universe/Nature of existence' stuff as well as we thought we did".
  • by tom17 ( 659054 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:52AM (#39821867) Homepage

    Does *not* believing in the FSM require as much faith as believing in him?

    You could put that emphasis on anything that cannot be disproved, no matter how ridiculously unlikely and far-fetched it is.

    It's silly, is what it is.

  • by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:17PM (#39822185)

    I always have to ask this question...

    I know a buddhist, a kind old gentleman that lives a few doors down the block. He is always pleasant and kind, cleans the street in front of his building every morning and always has a kind word for everyone. When I am in the city I see him every morning on my way to work and he always remembers my name and says "Hello," even if I have been away for months.

    I also know of more than one murderer [] that has had a jailhouse conversion [] in the last month of their lives, suddenly finding God right before their execution.

    My question is this - which one, the murderer that converts or the buddhist that does not acknowledge Christ as his Lord and Savior, ends up in heaven?

  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:26PM (#39822313)

    The problem is the nature of belief and how most people horribly screw it up.

    that puts doubt in your mind that your story is any more real than theirs.

    Right there. It's impossible for a religious "story" to be real. If it were we would be talking about facts and applying analytical thinking to it right?

    Why does it *have* to be real? Faith can be defined as a strong in belief in something based on no facts, and no ability to prove that it is true. It is specifically the belief that something is true, despite the lack of evidence.

    My own Faith, which belongs to my own Path, is personal and in no way conflicts with me being a scientist. I recognize it for what it is. The fact I can't prove it is not a source of stress and emotional discomfort to me at all. I don't even bother with the whole proving it part. What's the point anyways? Faith is for me and my journey, not yours.

    Since Faith can't be proven, inherent to its very nature, then all faiths must be equal. It's not about right or wrong, but simply a choice about what feels the best for you. At that point, sharing these beliefs with other people can be easy, enjoyable, and conflict free.

    The conflict between faith and science has always been a construct of human behavior. There is perfect harmony between them, as only humans can exist without harmony.

    I don't need to prove Christianity to anybody else, prove that Zeus existed, prove Moses really did part some sea. Proving my own faith was never a requirement for it to be valid..

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:41PM (#39822569) Journal

    But they were true diagnosed serious medical problems that went away immediately with prayer and haven't returned after many years.

    Oh sorry I missed this bit. That's not evidence. That's coincidence. Atheists experience spontaneous remission of serious medical problems at a rate that is statistically indistinguishable from that of religious individuals.

    All your post shows is that you're one of those who isn't thinking critically.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @12:52PM (#39822753) Journal

    Why does it *have* to be real?

    Because making decisions based on things that are true will work out better than making decisions based on things that are not true.

    Since Faith can't be proven, inherent to its very nature, then all faiths must be equal

    Exactly, they're all equally irrelevant.

    It's not about right or wrong, but simply a choice about what feels the best for you.

    Except that religious folk seem to have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. If you choose to fantasize about a deity, and that makes you happy, that's fine. When your fantasy starts affecting those around you, that's not OK at all.

  • "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." -Stephen Roberts

  • by 246o1 ( 914193 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:34PM (#39823423)

    And killing a bunch of children is certainly more reasonable than just using your God-like powers to spirit the slaves away to the land of milk and honey . . . .

    This sort of thing is why the Old Testament is fun to read and makes for good movies, but is an unreliable source of moral guidance.

  • by ChatHuant ( 801522 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @01:40PM (#39823505)

    It would be similar to a hurricane bearing down on your and your house. You know 2 days in advance that it will be a level 5 hurricane. You can take precautions or not. It isn't the hurricane's fault.

    If you believe in that God, he just does his things. He can't be blamed. He is "Mother Nature".

    Your comparison fails though, because you're describing an indifferent god, which is emphatically not what the prevalent religions tell us. The religious representation of God is someone omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent, attributes nobody attaches to a hurricane. You'd expect such a God to make a moral and loving choice. You wouldn't ask that of a hurricane.

    Mutatis mutandis, it's like excusing some guy that beats his wife by saying "hey, she knew he'll beat her up if she talked to her mother, it's like sticking your hand in a candle flame. She could take precautions or not. It isn't the candle's fault." Doesn't work.

  • by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @03:19PM (#39824887)

    The Old Testament is based largely on oral history, like the Iliad and the Odyssey. And like them, it is flawed with omissions, distortions, and additions to make a better story. There is archaeological evidence that provides support for parts of each. The I&O covers only a couple of decades, and claims only to be a history of the Trojan War, its causes and aftermath. The Old Testament claims to be the history of the universe and the ultimate explanation of everything, complete with a dictatorial moral code.

    The New Testament, with its internal contradictions, is evidence of the fabrication of Christianity and the campaign to establish it as a widely accepted system.

  • by firewrought ( 36952 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @03:19PM (#39824889)

    My question is this - which one, the murderer that converts or the buddhist that does not acknowledge Christ as his Lord and Savior, ends up in heaven?

    As you no doubt are aware, Christian doctrine states that the murder goes to heaven and the Buddhist goes to hell. Theologians explain this twisted outcome with an even more twisted presupposition []: that both men "deserved" to be tortured for eternity the moment they were created. The Christian god does not look at the good and bad each person has done to "weigh souls", and he is under no obligation to provide his creation an "out" from this predicament... in fact (and here's where it gets really weird), mainstream theology says that it would go against Yahweh's very nature to simply forgive you for having the audacity to be born. So there's this complicated workaround by which he tortures his son/an incarnation of himself and does some internal bookkeeping that then allows him to forgive you.

    So to recap, you owe a debt (that cannot be verified) for your bad behavior (that cannot have been avoided) to an all powerful entity (that cannot be seen). Repayment in kind (e.g. living a good life) won't work; it must be in the form of allegiance (to a particular religion, similar in character to thousands of others) for which you will be spared eternal torment and granted eternal bliss (that also cannot be verified) upon your death (at which point you cannot report your experiences to others). That's the "good news" of the Christian message.

    Us analytic types might focus on the particular logic where the "repayment" coincides with joining and supporting a human institution, instead of directly addressing the "badness" that led to the "debt". It's almost as if this is exactly what a twisted cultist would come up with to exert control over a group instead of what one would expect an all-loving, all-wise being to do. How very convenient this philosophy is... and how convincing it is to the child that hears it from everyone he loves and respects in the community. Nothing sales heavenly fire insurance like a little bit of fear.

  • by Jumperalex ( 185007 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @03:27PM (#39824997)

    BINGO!!!! Sadly they cannot get passed their childhood brainwashing which is very effective. Even smart people can be lazy and not want to challenge deeply held views that make them uncomfortable. For them it is just easier to and comforting to insert a supernatural being into the blank space for "the big questions" of life. I know it has taken me quite a while to reconcile some of those thoughts in my own head and I never really ever believed in a god. But I never really considered what it might mean when I die, what came before the Big Bang, etc Obviously I don't have answers to those questions, but it is only recently that I truly contemplated the implications of those questions and accepted that I'm OK with "We Don't Know" and felt no desire to insert a supernatural force into the gaping blank space.

  • by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Friday April 27, 2012 @05:15PM (#39826559) Homepage

    Christianity is religion. Whatever dodge you might try to make, that doesn't change that it is what it is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @06:50PM (#39827697)

    For me, analytical thinking has actually increased my belief in Christianity (separate from 'religion'). If you would like to check out a book that promotes analytical thinking about what Christianity claims, check out Mere Christianity which is a compliation of various radio broadcasts given during WWII by C.S. Lewis (former athiest).

    I read that junk while I was a teenager in the process of figuring out that religion was bunk, and it completely failed to convince me. Lewis provides at best a surface veneer of analytical thinking. The problem is, like all religious apologists I've ever read, he depends heavily on circular arguments and other fallacies. He's good at disguising them well enough to get past the mental filters of people like you who are reading to confirm their faith rather than critique it. However, to someone who is reading with a critical eye, Lewis is transparently awful.

    Consider, for example, one of Lewis' most famous contributions to Christian apologia: "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic". He claims that Jesus could only have been one of these three things, then tries to prove that Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic, and therefore he must have been God. This argument fails so many ways it's not even funny:

    1. False trilemma. There are other possibilities which Lewis never acknowledged, perhaps because they're too challenging to his faith. For example, as we have next to no corroboration of Jesus' existence outside of the Bible (there's only one mention of him in any historical text, and that one is widely suspected to be a faith-confirming interpolation added to Josephus by a monk during the Middle Ages), one very important possibility is that Jesus didn't exist at all and is wholly mythological. Another is that he existed, was an ordinary human who tried to be a religious reformer, and the tales attributed to him by his followers grew in the telling until he was a deity. (Note that the earliest copies of Biblical texts we have date to several decades after Jesus' death, plenty of time for mythmaking.)

    2. Jesus could not have been a liar -- uh, sorry, he could have been. I don't remember exactly what Lewis' arguments here were, but I do remember that they were transparently awful, relying mostly on the reflexive reverence which Christians have for Jesus.

    3. Jesus could not have been a lunatic -- same kind of problem as #2. Many of the acts attributed to him in the Bible actually paint a rather good image of a religious lunatic, if you don't think he's God.

  • by aeoo ( 568706 ) on Saturday April 28, 2012 @01:06PM (#39832489) Journal

    First, the important thing is that those claims are verifiable in a finite way with finite resources.

    The claims of science that are verifiable are of this sort "if you do this, this happens, and if you do that, that happens as a result." Those are the things you can verify. What you cannot verify is the physicalist metaphysics that are tacitcly accepted as true by most scientists. Also what you cannot verify is that the cause effect relationship is eternal, or otherwise underpinned by an eternal rule or law. So while you can verify that if you do this, this happens today and perhaps reasonably next year, can you verify that it's what eternally happens? No, of course not. Science may well be a study of local phenomena rather than universal phenomena. And by local I mean restricted by time and not only by space.

    Science is very useful in its domain. It has a pragmatic purpose. The problem with science is when its claims are stretched beyond this domain. So, universalism is not something science can claim. It's an assumption that scientists often make, sure. Science studies here and now, but it can't study what happens trillions of light years away from here or whatever is beyond the light cone (except from our viewpoint, which may not be a valid viewpoint for such study), and nor can it study the conditions that will be present in this space 100 trillion years in the future. So science doesn't give the kind of eternalistic answers that religions attempt to give. And science often tries to sneak its physicalist metaphysics through the back door, without analysis.

    I am very much down on organized religion. So by no means would I defend religion overall. Most religion is crazy but for reasons that have very little to do with science. Religion is simply incoherent. It has no internal consistency and it has all kinds of purely logical and moral flaws that have nothing to do with science. But science is also flawed. Science often presents itself as the only valid way of knowing something, and that's simply not true.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.