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Science > Humans 'Predisposed' to Believe in Gods and the Afterlife

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message 1: by Tom (new)

Tom Lichtenberg Here's an article from Science Daily ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/... ) entitled "Humans 'Predisposed' to Believe in Gods and the Afterlife", which seems topic-worthy.

It's a study from Oxford indicating that "people across many different cultures instinctively believe that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lives on after-death."

The key word is "instinctively", and I think the suggestion has some merit. Belief in gods is equated, in this study, to the belief in the all-knowingness of mothers that children 3 and under seem naturally to have.

Also, we do tend to experience the mind as being something 'other' compared to the body, which is likely where the whole idea of the 'soul' comes from, a concept which mirrors the mind-body separateness sensation.

I've always thought that Atheism is a product of conscious thinking, akin to no longer believing in Santa Claus. It is something acquired by intelligent questioning and reflection.

That's my humble opinion, at least. Your thoughts?


message 2: by Cora (new)

Cora Judd (corajudd) | 163 comments Michael Shermer addresses this beautifully and in depth in The Believing Brain. I agree with your ideas. It seems we grow out of "belief" in the same way a baby loses his rooting reflex; we become more knowledge-oriented and less reliant on our first caregivers. But I also think religious belief is a bit like evolution's residual tailbones and appendices. We no longer need them but they have no affect on our ability to survive and reproduce. So they hang around a bit!
However, I have a little problem with this line: "...and that both theology and atheism are reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind." Atheism isn't a belief system. It's a reasoned response to theology. In the absence of religion, atheistic arguments would sound silly and pointless. If that wasn't a science blog, I would wonder if the author was trying to demote atheism since religion wasn't making such a good show!


message 3: by Christos (new)

Christos Tsotsos | 55 comments So religion is lack of education, rational thinking and reasoning?

If you raise a child without god and little education will its mind create god and afterlife as it matures or will it never mature?

I think fear is the route of superstition.

Dunno would treat some of the work with some caution, there is room for a lot of cargo cult science and phenomenology in some of these studies. Precondition plays a huge role. There were ancient societies that were philosophicaly atheistic... some of the papers are a bit iffy. Anyway i will access some of these papers through the uni's library and have a read.


message 4: by Alford (new)

Alford Wayman (wayman29) when only abstract and metaphorical explanations are give to questions of birth, death, life and transformation then it would appear that children are predisposed to have such ideas. When these processes are understood with education and science, one may still use the metaphorical but are not as dependent on it.


message 5: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK But I also think religious belief is a bit like evolution's residual tailbones and appendices. We no longer need them but they have no affect on our ability to survive and reproduce. So they hang around a bit!

Good point and this is more likely to be the case. Centuries of being taught religion and being persecuted for not believing this or that are bound to have left their mark on the brain/psyche. I am suspicious of this study and would want to know more about those who initiated it and who financed it etc.


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