__/ [Jeffrey Goldberg] on Monday 24 October 2005 03:38 \__
> Roy Schestowitz wrote:
>> I think you raise an intersting point. It has itched my mind for
>> quite some times when I reveal that big professors and, at times
>> Nobel Prize winners, make a mentioning of some up-high man with a
>> beard or superior intervention. I also talk about the best amongst
>> physicists here.
> First I'd like to point out that rates of atheism do increase with
> science education (sorry I don't have a reference for that. If someone
> does, please let us all know). And when a physicist talks about the
> "Mind of God" it is almost always a very vary narrow notion of God.
> But more to the point I am fascinated why so many (otherwise) reasonable
> people are genuine theists.
> I think there are lots of reasons. Here are some. Some mundane and
> others (to me) more interesting.
> (1) People believe because they have built a loyalty to others who
> believe. This is like believing that Chelsea (of which I'm a fan) is
> the greatest football club ever. Fans can be fanatical not from the
> actual content of their beliefs but from the strong bond with others
> that fanatical belief helps cement.
You also allude to family and community here.
> (2) Pascal's wager. Those who fear death and in their panic find it so
> attractive to believe fairy stories that they can easily delude themselves.
> (3) Those who don't understand that Darwinian-genetic theory really does
> *explain* the complex design, and so see in "creation" evidence for a
> mindful "creator".
This, quite ironically, has led to use of the term /intelligent/ design.
> (4) Those subject to mystical experiences. Feelings of things being
> connected in ways that they just can't quiet see, and that often there
> is some obscure purpose for things, often in which the perceiver is to
> play a part. In it's extreme from this is paranoid schizophrenia. But
> like most mental illnesses, the elements exist in more mild forms in
> most everybody.
> (5) Our sense of dualism. Our sense of self (and of free-will) creates
> the illusion that "soul" or "spirit" exists in a way that is
> disconnected from body. I'm not saying that most people on the street
> would articulate Cartesian dualism, but I do think that dualism is
> implicit in our thinking (even for those of us who explicitly don't
> believe in it).
This is related to point (2), but can be listed independently, I agree. You
might as well add factors like illusionary minds, sleep paralysis and so
> (6) Our sense that everything has a cause, complex things have complex
> (mindful) causes, and that any uncased causer would be magic. (This is
> really just a more general case of 4).
> On many of these dimensions people will differ. But the main problem
> with this analysis is that it doesn't explain why levels of religiosity
> differ so much from society to society. Story (1) is certainly
> something that can be reinforced or discouraged within societies, but
> I'm not sure that that is enough.
> I also believe that it is best to approach this question with empathy
> instead of saying, "because they are all stupid loonies."