I don't understand how people believe.

Discussion in 'Agnosticism and Atheism' started by Thekarthika, Jan 17, 2009.

  1. Thekarthika

    Thekarthika Member

    So four years ago, when I was 12, I started to not believe in a god. There really wasn't anyone I knew who shared this belief, it was just naturally my belief. Simple as that. But my dad strongly believes in Christianity. Now, in all honesty, he is much more intellectual than I, and very intuitive.
    Now here's my question:
    How can he/everyone else believe in something so outrageous while a twelve year old doesn't?
    I see this as very strange. Yet, I feel highly enlightened and free.

    Know what I mean?
  2. bluntking

    bluntking Member

    ive also about 2 years ago started doubting if there was a god

    but ive never said this to anyone in my family
  3. relaxxx

    relaxxx Senior Member

    I know exactly what you are talking about, I've battled with this for years. My wife has a higher IQ than myself and believes there is a God. Thankfully she does not believe any religion on this planet posses divine enlightenment and knows the earth is billions of years old and believes in evolution. The human mind is extremely complicated, People are smart at different things Some people have better memory, some people can calculate or process information faster, and others are better with logic and reason. Beyond all that we are genetically programed to behave certain ways. Like a baby is programmed to suckle and Dogs are programmed to spin around before they lay down, we are programmed with a tendency to believe in God. It's as common as the brown eye gene but you and me, it's like we were born with blue eyes, the gene is dormant in us. Even so. you can guarantee thousands of your ancestors who contributed to your DNA accepted a belief in God to survive in their social group, to prevent being slaughtered by others, to wage war against other beliefs. Survival of the fittest and survival of a belief. To wage wars and win you need to be highly intelligent, but you also need to be a tool, a follower, a believer. This evolution went on for millions of years becoming a genetically programmed trait. This is why many religious display an almost subconscious like tendency to support wars and eradicate other beliefs.

    Ask the sheep,for their beliefs
    Do you kill on gods command?
    Holy Wars - Megadeth
  4. MaryJBlaze

    MaryJBlaze eleven

    I may find it outrageous to believe that a 12 year old has the world figured out, it doesn't necessarily make it true or false- it just makes one more person with an opinion....

    there's an old saying, stand for something or you'll fall for anything......

    so my dear, if not jesus.....what do you believe in?
  5. Believing in god is a genetic thing? :confused:

    I remember I saw this video a while ago... think he's a total asshole or idiot or not, he's still a politician, and [hopefully :p] has a good IQ.


    Theres also this interview Bill Maher had for Dawkins


    I also started to not believe in god when I was 12 too. go us:D
    I don't know, it depends on how far you get in your beliefs. I guess its just personal belief. I'm stumped
  6. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    As a self-styled Christian heretic, I can only give you my own experiences and my impressions of others'. Most people believe for a number of reasons: (1) they accept what they are taught as children and/or exposed to in their culture. If those are the same, the beliefs are reinforced; if they're different, the door may be open for change of beliefs; (2) they have a need to believe, because their old ways of doing things aren't working out. Classic example: twelve-step recovery groups. They need to take a chance on a Higher Power to help them mend their lives. Sometimes the need can be for meaning in a world that makes no sense; (3) they think religion promotes altruism and good behavior, and want to encourage it; (4) they turn to religion as an alternative to the wordly value system in which a person's worth is based on wealth, power, status, or appearance; (5) they've had a powerful personal religious experience with the sacred that's caused them to view reality in a completely different way and to be "born again"; and/or (6) they find it hard otherwise to understand their own existence and to explain the amazing phenomena of everyday life--much of which science is currently unable to provide a scientific explanation for. What is consciousness? Isn't it remarkable that we have this property of conscious awareness when there doesn't seem to be a clear evolutionary need for it? Evolutionists like Stephen Gould think that the very existence of intelligent human life is an "accidental" result of evolution taking one path instead of another. Other evolutionary biologists, like Dr. Kenneth Miller, a Catholic, are convinced that the universe was finely tuned to make intelligent life inevitable. How did that happen? Cosmologist Paul Davies explores these issues in the Goldilocks Enigma and The Mind of God, and comes to the conclusion--not that God exists, but that an Intelligence is one plausible explanation for them.

    Of course, to make real sense of the question you pose, we need to have some idea about what "God" means. Are we talking the Dude in the Sky, a benevolent force, or some abstraction like "the Ground of Being"? That's one I haven't quite resolved yet (pretty basic, I admit), but at the moment, I'm inclined to the view that God is love, the Great Mystery "in whom we live and move and have our being"--vague, but it works for me. Human concepts of "God" are all, at best, working models of something that's beyond our ability to fully understand. I'm basically a pragmatist. God and religion work in my life, so I go with them. I think a some skepticism is also useful.
  7. lithium

    lithium frogboy

    There are good reasons why intelligent people can hold patently incorrect views and believe in absurdities like gods and ghosts. One of the reasons is indeed genetic, we are programmed to think about things in certain ways, and prone to applying otherwise useful assumptions in the wrong circumstances, because doing so was evolutionarily successful in the past. Game theory approaches to cognitive psychology demonstrate this quite nicely.

    Once an intelligent person has got hold of a flawed view or assumption, it then becomes very difficult for them to re-evaluate it. This is not helped by them being so intelligent: they just become very good at finding sophistries and justifications as to why they believe a certain thing to be the case. Confirmation bias is a nice illustration of this phenomenon. Intelligent people can actually become more entrenched than others in a wrongheaded position like belief in god, because they are very good at defending their views, and start to believe their own rhetoric. Importantly the view comes first, usually from authority figures, and the thinking comes later - by which time it's usually too late, it becomes simply an exercise in confirmation bias.

    People who are brought up with such beliefs find it very difficult to escape them, because they have accepted as true something from authority figures, like parents. Most of what their parents told them was very useful, and we are programmed to listen to and accept what they say. Why should they lie about this? People who encounter such ideas later in life are of course much more likely to see through them, because the critical thinking kicks in before the incorrect idea is accepted and entrenched.

    Yeah, I was about 12 when I saw through it too:)
  8. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Possibly. But your view assumes: (1) that religious beliefs are "patently incorrect"; (2) that at least some non-religious folks have somehow been able to escape the genetic programing that distorts their thinking, and are therefore able to see things "correctly"; and (3) being factually correct is what the dialogue about religion vs. irreligion is all about. Can you provide empirical support for these claims? (I could provide evidence for believing that certain widely held religious views are factually incorrect, but your claim is more general and basic.) Other question: Do you think religion still has value (as it apparently once did) in contributing to human survival? If not, do you have evidence of that? Does the genetic basis of religion have much empirical support in the peer-reviewed scientific literature as anything more than an interesting hypothesis? If not, why are your pet theories better than mine?
  9. lithium

    lithium frogboy

    (1) Yes that is the assumption:)
    (2) Not entirely; we can identify particular mistakes in thinking or cognitive biases which are probably evolutionarily determined, whereby the common belief or reactive judgement is empirically wrong under some circumstances. There is good evidence that this might be the case, and such findings have obvious implications for supernatural beliefs, being often to do with innate assumptions about personhood and agency detection. I can dig out and provide you with references to the publications from experimental psychology journals I was thinking of if you're really interested...

    I can't provide evidence for (1) firstly because it is logically impossible to prove a negative, and secondly because that particular debate would kick this interesting thread horrendously down a sidepath from whence it would likely not return. That particular debate can be and is being debated elsewhere on this site...
  10. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    It wouldn't be proving a negative. It would be backing up an assertion. You obviously can't prove that God doesn't exist, but I wouldn't have asked you to unless you asserted it so boldly. I agree we wouldn't want to derail the discussion by shifting to the existence of God, since that could potentially go on forever, as it is on other threads. It could be toned down a bit though. Is it possible that one reason why a brilliant, intelligent person believes in God might be that they're right? That being said, I suspect there is some truth to what you're saying. I assume that a lot of what I believe is incorrect, simply because I'm human. But the same goes for us all.
  11. Hoatzin

    Hoatzin Senior Member

    I think you believe in God the same way you believe in all the other things you believe in that aren't provable. Once you stop believing them it's hard to understand how you ever did, but I'd say that to ridicule those who continue to believe (as some do) is pretty indefensible.

    I find relaxxx's notion that religion is a sign of inferior intelligence pretty funny though. There are plenty of stupid people who don't believe in a god, after all.
  12. heeh2

    heeh2 Senior Member

    humans are fallible, but fallibility does not remove rationality from human potential.

    do not include "us all" in what you "assume" to be incorrect.

    that is the pinnacle fault of religious institution.
  13. Hoatzin

    Hoatzin Senior Member

    I'm pretty sure Okie was being modest. It's fair to say that a lot of what anyone believes is likely to be incorrect, purely because of the sheer number of scientific theories that have been posited and then proved to be either inaccurate, in need of some fine tuning, or outright hogwash over the past few millennia of human civilisation.

    I don't see what that has to do with religion really. It's certainly not a commonly held view of religions (who mostly do not concede that anything they believe is actually likely to be wrong), and is a very commonly held belief among scientists. It's largely the followers, either of God or of Science (capital S) that think that they've arrived at their beliefs by "reading a book" or whatever else.
  14. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I'm all for rationality. We could use more of it on this forum. My reason leads me to believe in the limits of reason. So you admit that humans are fallible? Are some infallible? The Pope claims to be, but I doubt it. Then what are you arguing about. Unless you have some evidence to the contrary, I stand by "us all".
  15. jrnyman

    jrnyman kermit

    if I remember correctly Jesus said in order to enter the kingdom you have to become as a child. I'd say that if you have peace, joy and love in your life you've already found what it was he was speaking of. And if people are trying to convince you to change so that they can feel better they have a lot to learn from you!
  16. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I read one book by a leading atheist that explores the subject ad nauseum: atheist Daniel Dennett's Breaking The Spell. He provides more plausible, behaviorally grounded explanations for religious belief than you could shake a stick at. The main problem is that showing how beliefs could have arisen in performing this or that psychological or social function isn't quite the same as showing that's why they developed and why people hold them today. For example, when Paul Davies provides a scholarly exposition of current scientific thinking about the origins of the universe, the Anthropic principle, etc., and concludes that Intelligent Design might provide a plausible explanation, are we to dismiss this as just the product of his genetic blindness? And say that somebody like Dawkins, Dennett, or Sagan is somehow immune? Evangelicals often claim that atheism is a result of denial--a defense mechanism against guilt or inconvenient truths, or an effort to escape responsibility. I'm suspicious of pop-psychology theories like that, but I think it would not be difficult to write a book showing how atheism is associated with psychological and sociological factors that are, at best, non-rational. e.g., Dawkins or Sagan resisted religion because of their committment to naturalistic explanations of phenomena, which can be traced to their choice of science as a profession, which is a product of their early childhood experiences, toilet training, bullying by Evangelicals on the playground, etc. Are you telling me that you're an atheist because you didn't get the perception distorting gene, or weren't exposed to environmental influences like the rest of us? Finding non-rational explanations for our opponents' beliefs is an easy way of not having to deal with the merits of their postion. And that itself can be explained as a psychological defense mechanism, acquired, no doubt, to serve an evloutionary function.

    But I don't want to argue the point too strenuously, because I basically agree that religious views along with other opinions are strongly conditioned by, if not determined by, genetic and environmental factors. The closest counterpart I can think of is political affiliation, which is also molded in childhood and shaped by life experiences. I've often wondered how any intelligent person can be a conservative Republican, but I know many who are--and I'd have to admit are more intelligent than I am. And yet I'm still "sure I'm right" about my own political views (although I have an uneasy feeling that I may be wrong about some of them). It's not just a matter of intelligence. A whole range of environmental factors, personal experiences, etc., come into play. We have to act as best we can on the basis of our assessment of the situation confronting us, while realizing our inherent limitations.
  17. relaxxx

    relaxxx Senior Member

    You must be thinking of some other thread because in this one I've sad nothing even close to that notion. I've even admitted their intelligence in fact. I did call them tools and people are tools for other things too, hell, I'm a tool for several reasons but in this thread we are talking about religious tools. Please pay more attention next time.
  18. heeh2

    heeh2 Senior Member

    yes, i believe reason is limited in that it cannot explain things as the origins of the universe, or right and wrong. but this "humans are fallible" does not logically explain why arguments from reason would be incorrect or dismissed.
  19. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    I wouldn't want to dismiss arguments based on reason. We need more of them.Where did I imply that I'm some kind of anti-rationalist? Its just that sometimes we get the arguments wrong. That's where the fallibility comes in.
  20. heeh2

    heeh2 Senior Member

    ....gah....im such an idiot....

    but you didn't have to exacerbate the fact that i misread your post. :smilielol5:


Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice